Top positive review
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Easier to Like than Breaking Bad
on 28 August 2014
If I describe this excellent series it will sound worse than it is so please do not be put off from trying it.
Dexter, a forensic `blood splatter analyst' for the Miami Police, is a secret `controlled sociopath'.
A sociopath is a person with a currently untreatable mental condition whereby they have no conscience, remorse or sympathy to restrain selfish, destructive or violent impulses.
It is easy for someone like that to become a criminal and many do. However, many others, the controlled sociopaths like Dexter, while realising they are different, learn to live mostly unnoticed among us, mimicking our behaviour so as not to stand out. Such people are restrained in their conduct not by any solid sense of morality or sympathy for others, but by learning that life is easier if they work within society's laws and morality; or at least, to seem to do so enough not to be caught.
In Dexter's case his adoptive father, a policeman, recognised early on that Dexter was a sociopath, but instead of disowning him taught him to direct his more violent and destructive impulses in a way that is, arguably, better both for Dexter and for society than if he had become a straight criminal. By night he secretly tracks down and eliminates murderers, rapists and such like he encounters in his day job as a scientist with the Miami Police Department who are clearly guilty but who cannot be convicted under the law with all its procedural safeguards.
I know that probably sounds terrible, but, as I have said, it will sound worse than it is so please do not be put off from trying Dexter. You may well find you like him; indeed while you might not expect to like a serial killer, Dexter is actually easier to like than the hero of `Breaking Bad' with which this series is often compared.
Particularly good among the cast, in this first Season, are Julie Benz (here playing a very different character from her other best known role as Darla the vampire in Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel) as Dexter's shy, vulnerable girlfriend Rita and Jennifer Carpenter as Dexter's policewoman sister Debra [wrong spelling of the name in my opinion but let that pass]. Both are attached to Dexter but neither knows about his darker, secret life. Like many sociopaths, knowing most people could not take the truth about him, hiding in plain sight has become second nature to Dexter.
Anyone who becomes interested in the subject of controlled sociopaths may want to check out Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding In Plain Sight by ME Thomas (a pseudonym) and her blog 'Sociopath World'. She is a former assistant professor of law who is a diagnosed sociopath herself. She said that this first Season of Dexter while not quite 100% accurate is was so close she suspected there was a sociopath among the script writers (she suggested if one of the writers had a CV that looked 'too perfect' it would probably be them). She thought later Seasons became somewhat less accurate as a portrayal of a sociopath but that it was still a good programme.
The novel on which this series is based, Jeff Lindsay's 'Darkly Dreaming Dexter' is also really good.
PS While standing by my above comments about Season 1 and the first book 'Darkly Dreaming Dexter', I found the second book too gory for me, although cleverly written, and by Season 3 of the TV programme I was beginning to tire of Dexter's girlfriend Rita as the character did not seem to develop. I am not sure I shall watch all 8 Seasons of this programme that were eventually made, although they all do seem to have mostly favourable reviews on Amazon.