By day, Dexter Morgan is a blood-spatter analyst in the forensics branch of the Miami-Dade Police Department; by night, he’s a serial killer.
A character for whom the term “antihero” might have been invented, he preys only on other serial killers: he’s both a perpetrator of brutal crimes and an irresistible dispenser of justice.
Dexter is a twistedly original series, and one of the most intriguing central characters television has ever seen – and that’s clear from the very beginning:
A feeding mosquito is smacked into a red smudge. A razor cuts through bristles and a droplet of crimson blood hits gleaming white porcelain. Thick slabs of fleshy bacon are chomped hungrily between a perfect set of teeth. A serrated knife slices the skin of a blood orange, producing a fine red mist, before the fruit’s glistening innards are squeezed out.
Dental floss is wound around fingers like a garrotte. Cords are pulled tight – and revealed to be a pair of bootlaces. The outline of a face appears beneath a white shroud, before the T-shirt is pulled down to reveal a handsome but expressionless façade, with darkly glinting eyes. Then the same man emerges half-smiling from his front door into the Miami sunshine, just like any ordinary person.
These opening titles sum up in one elegant sequence all that is great about Dexter.
Highly stylised and beautifully shot, they look fantastic. Just like the series, they’re slick, funny, intelligent and playful, and constantly wrong-foot the viewer. And the references to murder, drawn as they are from such mundane rituals, point to the dark-comedy heart of the show.
They also tell us that the devil really is in the detail. Dexter’s morning routine seems to be as rigorous and regimented as the planning of his next murder and the preparation of his prospective crime scenes (all polythene-covered and, like his victims, taped down).
We get up close and personal with Dexter in these opening credits. It’s one of the cunning things about the show, too, that with Dexter both star and narrator, we’re always in his head, watching the world through his eyes. And it’s frightening how compelling his point of view becomes.
Dexter’s policeman foster father recognised the darkness within him at an early age, and it’s his meticulous tutoring that has curbed Dexter’s childhood urges to kill indiscriminately, and taught him how to survive in the real world. Dexter has learned how to appear ordinary – when to laugh, how to make jokes, when to show concern. In public, he always wears a mask, and when he steps outside the sanctuary of his home at the end of the title sequence, that mask is firmly in place.
If you’re a fan of ground-breaking television – thrilling, challenging, witty and beautiful – and haven’t had a chance to get your teeth into Dexter (or let him get his claws into you), then prepare yourself with a two-minute taster in the form of the best title sequence ever.
Finally, might I also recommend you listen to Daniel Licht’s haunting closing music, Blood Theme – it really is a killer tune.