I’ve missed all four previous series of Dexter. Surely I can’t jump in now?
Actually, yes you can, just about. Every series is relatively self-contained – at the start of a new run we’re more or less back to the original premise.
Dexter Morgan (Michael C Hall) is a forensics expert for the Miami Metro Police Department. At crime scenes, he brilliantly tells the cops everything about how the murder was done, mainly by analysing patterns in the spilt blood. Dexter is himself a serial killer who has murdered scores of people without being caught.
That’s right. The trauma of witnessing his mother’s murder as a boy left Dexter with an insatiable urge to kill.
So he’s the villain?
Nope. His adoptive father, a police officer, taught Dexter to use his psychopathic tendencies for good, by only killing people who deserve to die. Using the police department’s resources and his own cunning, Dexter finds people who have got away with murder. He then murders them, chops them up neatly and bungs them in the sea. Sorted.
Good times! Sounds a teeny bit implausible, though.
Yeah, probably. But it’s the formula for a cracking thriller: Dexter can’t stop killing people but he’s doing it right under the noses of his colleagues, including his sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), who’s a detective. Surely he’ll be caught soon…
Any laughs in it?
Yes, plenty. Dexter’s inner monologue, heard in voiceover, regularly pipes up with what he’s really thinking, which is very different to what he tells people. Deb’s constant swearing is a joy – she’s like a very thin, American, female Malcolm Tucker. And look out for Dexter’s fellow forensics man, Vince Masuka (CS Lee), a tremendous comic character who can get a pervy kick out of any situation. Even crime scenes. Especially crime scenes.
I like him already. Anything else we need to know?
Well, at the end of series four, Dexter knocked off a particularly nasty murderer known as the Trinity Killer. When he got home, though, he found that the Trinity Killer’s final victim was Dexter’s wife, Rita. So as series five starts, Dexter’s covered in her blood, readying himself to convince everyone he didn’t do it, and then to bring up his son and Rita’s two other children.
So there’s a bit of family drama as well?
Kind of, but it’s usually there to highlight the subtext of the show: that Dexter struggles to relate to women, colleagues and his own children, and lives in fear of them finding out about the real him. So at heart, he’s like a lot of emotionally inadequate men.
Speak for yourself. Any famous people in it?
Yes. Every series there are guest stars: in the past we’ve had Jimmy Smits and John Lithgow playing killers who became Dexter’s rivals, and consequently ended up dead.
So who’s up for a big screen death this year?
Well, Julia Stiles and Jonny Lee Miller join the cast, and one or both might well cop it – or perhaps it’s time to vary the formula a bit.
I’m sold. When’s it on?
Series five starts tonight, 17 June, at 10pm on FX.