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Dexter: The Complete Third Season'

(Showtime; US DVD: 18 Aug 2009)

Dexter (voiceover): But if you play a role long enough, really commit, does it become real? Could I become real?

Dexter (voiceover): I’ve never been great at conflict resolution. Not without a blade and several rolls of plastic wrap.

The third season of Showtime’s Dexter appropriately begins with a fake out at the dentist’s office. We see a bright light and a surgical glove and immediately think of Dexter’s (Michael C. Hall) killing rituals. Much like the opening credits of Dexter eating breakfast while purposely referencing blood and killing, the opening of the season reinforces the overarching concept of the series: look closer and below the surface, things aren’t always what they seem – a theme that is clearly at the core of the season. 

The first season focused on his cat and mouse game with the Ice Truck Killer, a fellow serial killer who allowed Dexter the opportunity to be who he was, albeit still carefully and meticulously. The second season introduced more direct chaos to his life, particularly as it related to his relationship with girlfriend, Rita (Julie Benz), and her two small children through his reckless involvement with Lila, as well as in Sgt. Doakes’ discovery of Dexter’s crimes. The third season offers even more instability to Dexter’s relationships when his unplanned killing of the ADA’s brother leads to an unlikely friendship with ADA, Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits), and the revelation that Prado figures out who Dexter really is.

Season three finds Dexter dealing with Rita’s unexpected pregnancy and their subsequent engagement. His façade of normalcy has gotten more and more credible and Dexter begins to believe that he can truly live the life he has created for himself. 

As his personal life is experiencing great changes and adjustments, Miguel insinuates himself into Dexter’s life and uncovers his secret. To Dexter’s surprise, Miguel is not repulsed by him, nor does he offer any judgment. On the contrary, Miguel is fascinated by Dexter and looks to him as a role model in doling out real, effective justice to the point that he insists on aiding in one of Dexter’s kills. The immediate rush of their kill is enough to hook Miguel and a new level of recklessness is introduced in his more emotional and unskilled approach. 

Just as Dexter is accepting that Miguel may be his only chance at a real friendship and he begins to embrace their bond, Miguel breaks “Harry’s code”. The code is what Dexter has clung to in order to manage and control his instincts as far as he can. The fact that Miguel kills over a personal vendetta, despite whether or not the person deserved it – the crux of the code involves killing those who are a danger to others – is at the heart of what makes Dexter as full a character as he is. A serial killer with a penchant for killing only bad guys could have easily fallen prey to vigilante tropes, yet Dexter’s fundamental inability to clearly process and feel emotions makes him a more interesting character. 

Surprisingly, despite Dexter’s difficulty in handling his and other’s feelings, he has certainly experienced some emotional growth since the first season. When first introduced, the series made a point of emphasizing Dexter’s lack of sensitivity and affection and his difficulty in expressing the proper emotions or delivering the appropriate social cues in many day-to-day situations. However, as he has become fully enmeshed in Rita’s life, he has also taken on a fatherly role to her children and has exhibited strong protective instincts for them. 

His worries and anxiety over his unborn child also show further growth in his character. Because this growth has been so gradual and Dexter’s voiceover narration fills in the blanks, the series has again managed to add more to a character that may have otherwise become too one-note or unsympathetic.

The code that Dexter kills by makes his actions more palatable, if that’s possible, and in turn, makes for a more interesting character. However, Dexter is still a killer. While Dexter doesn’t offer much in the way of relatability for the viewer, we do have a complete enough picture of his past to understand and even sympathize with his struggles at times. As the season ends with Dexter’s wedding to Julie, his legitimacy as a normal guy continues to grow and develop, leaving room for further examination in the next season. 

The bonus features include cast interviews with Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Lauren Velez, and David Zayas, available by playing he disc in a computer. The extras also contain Showtime’s standard inclusion of episodes from their other series. This time, the set comes with the first two episodes of season one of The United States of Tara and two episodes from the third season of The Tudors.


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J.M. Suarez has been a contributing writer at PopMatters since 2008. She's happy to talk about TV any time, any place. Really.

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