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'Dexter': Predator and prey

October 12, 2008 | 10:01 pm

Dexter140 Through the first two seasons of "Dexter" we got to know our eponymous hero (Michael C. Hall) as a soulless killing machine who followed only one code: the code of Harry, his father. But during the second season Dexter found out that Harry's code wasn't necessarily the best credo out there, as his adoptive father wasn't all he seemed. With Dexter's girlfriend, Rita (Julie Benz), now pregnant in this third season, Dexter's suddenly found himself with a new rudder. He's killing for two, as it were. 

I'm finding that "Dexter" shares some similarities with "The X-Files" in that the magic of the show is composed of the business and personal aspect of its leads, and on both counts I prefer the personal.  What I like about Dexter is that he has his own business to attend to, so while I still am not sure what's going on with Lt. Maria Laguerta (Lauren Velez) and Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits) and this Chickie Hines case that we only hear about secondhand, I enjoy it when Dexter does his own freelance murdering. 

Tonight Dexter's work and personal life found a new path in what I have found to be by far the strongest episode of the still-newish season. Dexter's predatory instinct was heightened due to a threat to the homestead, in the shape of a sexual predator who had taken a shine to Astor, Rita's daughter. While domestic Dexter isn't always my preferred Dexter (ever notice how he speaks in a different voice around Rita and the kids?), I like this combination of Dexter taking on a protective role at home, especially if it means that Dexter has to go outside the Code of Harry and kill a man who isn't a murderer -- but as Dexter pointed out, "You stepped into my world, and that's a place where I get to decide who gets to live and who doesn't."  Plus, as he mused earlier, "We are what we are."  And in the case of pedophile versus murderer, murderer wins. Yay! 

It seemed like this episode we saw a lot more of the kind of writing that makes this show special. While Rita was pondering his family's medical history, Dexter mused internally, "Mom was killed by a chain saw, brother was killed by, well, me." Or when Dexter said, "Sorry," to Miguel about his brother's death, he followed it up with an internal "... that I killed him." 

Even some of my less-favorite characters on the show had highlights on tonight's episode. I liked Dexter's sister Deb's (Jennifer Carpenter) profane excitement over Dexter's unborn child and even laughed out loud when she shrugged and mouthed, "I liked it!" to the informant who wrote a song about her that began with the word "puta" (which even I, in my zero years of Spanish, know).  I see a forbidden love on the horizon.  I'm still not sure how I feel, meanwhile, about Miguel Prado's (Jimmy Smits) character, especially the way he's latched on to Dexter, but their drunken conversation about fathers was a nice moment for the two characters.

In a perfect world, Dexter would find a new job, one that involved more interesting colleagues or that perhaps encouraged and challenged his murderous tendencies, but as long as Dexter keeps his edge even as he settles down, I'm happy. 

-- Claire Zulkey

(Photo courtesy Showtime)