Riding With The Dark Passenger: Looking Back at Dexter (‘Dexter,’ Episode 101)

1 of 2

Dexter at work. (Dexter, Showtime)

Showtime’s “Dexter.”  It’s one of the best, most binge-worthy, most controversial shows ever!  Let’s book back at the very beginning — then onward to the rest of the series.

“There’s something strange and disarming about looking at a homicide scene in the daylight of Miami. It makes the most grotesque killings look staged, like you’re in a new and daring section of Disney World: Dahmerland!” – Dexter Morgan

Dexter Episode 1 Dexter – A Brutal Introduction

Michael C. Hall as the anti-hero, protagonist (and antagonist), marveling at a neatly packaged kill. (Dexter, Showtime)

When I first read Jeff Lindsay’s book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, one of my first thoughts was, “This would make a great movie!” At the time, I had no idea that any such plans were underway. I had just picked the book out randomly when I bought it, not knowing quite how great it would be. Still, it never occurred to me that it would be on television. I also didn’t think it would be so binge-worthy.

So, how was the first season of Dexter? I’m interested in exploring this, without comparing it to the book. I’ll just say this: The first episode of Dexter was, and still is, one of the greatest premiere episodes ever to grace television. It was immediately clear that Dexter would be creepy, generally pretty smart, and showcase some of the sickest, zaniest pitch black humor ever put on screen! This was a show that wouldn’t hold back — it would be raw and real, even if you’d occasionally have to suspend disbelief.

The basis premise is fascinating unto itself. Dexter Morgan is a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department, but also a serial killer in the area. He’s not just any serial killer, though. He’s a vigilante serial killer, who intends to only go after the “bad guys” — or others much like himself. Dexter uses his keen insights into forensic science — and his deceased police detective father Harry’s moral “code” — to help him get away with killings. Obviously, it’s a fairly unique story. In fact, it would be hard to copycat the premise without anyone crying foul.

Looking at the Story’s Specifics

More from 1428 Elm

The premiere has us immediately locked into Dexter’s world, as he kidnaps a foul, child-murdering Priest named Father Donovan. Dexter takes him to an isolated cabin somewhere in the Florida Everglades, to interrogate him about the murders of some young boys. It’s a startling introduction, and immediately adapts us to the show’s darker tones. Before long we are introduced to Dexter’s signature practice of strapping victims to a table, putting a sample of their blood in a slide (as a trophy) and killing them in a semi-ritualized style.

The immediate result, in my opinion, ought to be a mixed bag of thoughts and judgments. It’s clear that, while Father Donovan is a sick man who arguably deserves what he gets, there is also clearly something wrong with Dexter’s brand of justice (and possibly ANY brand of justice). It’s immediately clear that what Dexter does isn’t particularly normal, either, and is in some ways just as sinister as a child-murdering pervert.

There’s even a basic question we can ask: Did Dexter have to kill him, any more than Donovan had to kill those kids? In an age of armchair internet lynch mobs — who howl for blood in comments sections on true crime posts –, questions like these are very important. I think Dexter is smart in this regard.

Other Featured Killers In The Episode (Besides Dexter)

Dexter, looking ready to get a head in life. (Dexter, Showtime)

We are introduced to two other interesting killers in this episode. One is Jamie Jaworski (Ethan Smith), a hotel valet who has made at least one snuff film. The other is the infamous “Ice Truck Killer” (at this point unidentified) who refrigerates his victims to eliminate blood from the staged murder scenes.

Dexter deals with Jamie Jaworski in his usual style — making it clear that this show may contain more than one Dexter kill per episode. Then, with the Ice Truck Killer, we get a glimpse into Dexter’s ability to appreciate another killer’s handiwork.  This becomes a fairly regular theme throughout the show’s run. Also, for many audiences, the forensic science aspect of Dexter would be as interesting as his murderous side.

Toward the end of this episode, we learn that, somehow, this killer has a connection to Dexter. As an ice truck passes Dexter’s car, a severed head is thrown at his car. Then, later, Dexter finds a segmented doll in his fridge, looking very much like thebody parts of the murdered prostitutes.