Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Visual Imagery in Dexter

Some television shows turn the opening credits into a work of art itself.

Take Dexter, a show about a serial killer and his regular life. The opening provides us with images that appear violent, terrifying, threatening. These images, however, are merely Dexter getting ready for his day. Shaving. Cutting an orange. Making coffee. Tying shoes. The imagery is violent and frightening, but the actions are decidedly ordinary. The opening credits of Dexter highlight, perhaps, the closeness between mundane civilization and raw brutality.

The opening credits of Dexter reveal a playfulness of imagery that is a part of the show. In one scene, Dexter the serial killer is cleaning out somebody's house with another serial killer (Dexter doesn't know he's a serial killer, but the other serial killer knows Dexter is). We see images of the two pulling out rope, ripping off duct tape, tying up garbage bags--all images that connote to their violent realities.

Michael C. Hall deserves a lot of credit for the visual beauty of Dexter. Though Hall was fine in Six Feet Under, I didn't notice anything special in him. In Dexter, he's occasionally terrific, particularly in the facial expressions. His look at Rita when she tells him she can tell he's a good person. His look of childish anxiety after he commits a not-so-wise violent act. His look at the camera at the end of one episode as he shuts the door.

My favorite moment comes at the end of an episode when Dexter meets Neil Perry, who appears to be the Ice Truck Killer (which has shaken Dexter in disappointment), who knows Dexter. Dexter looks at him in quiet sadness, and says "Hi." Perry looks at Dexter and says "Who the fuck are you?" In this simply line (as the audience knows well) Dexter's entire world changes--and he looks at the camera with a look indescribable mischievous glee as the episode ends.

These visual moments make Dexter a joy to watch.

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