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Dexter’s Third Season Actually Enjoyable

Posted by Mr. Feeny on September 28, 2009

This is your only warning. If you haven’t seen Season 3…or any season really…of Dexter, there will be a lot of SPOILERS in this post. None, however, on the Season 4 premiere.


I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the first episode of this season yet, but I wanted to make a little comment about the third season. Since I started Dexter two months ago, I kept hearing that the third season really took a dive. The quality really dropped off. My favorite TV critics were saying how Dexter should just stop now and that Season 3 was nearly unwatchable.

What the heck are they talking about?

Sure, it’s not as good as Season 1 or Season 2. There were definitely some problems. But I still thoroughly enjoyed it, and will now be adding it to my Top 10 Current Shows List. It didn’t lose anything. It progressed Dexter’s development along and provided a good degree of excitement.

The main criticism I heard going in was that we didn’t learn anything about Dexter. That everything just remained static. Although Dexter is basically the same person at the end of the season as he is at the beginning (plus a wife and kids), that doesn’t mean he didn’t take a big inner journey. He just came to the same conclusion with which he started.

Dexter’s conflicts are easy to trace. Season One: How does he fit in and how does he value the people in his life? Season Two: How much does he value the code and his own freedom? And now, Season Three: How much can he trust friends and how much responsibility is he willing to take? To make it even simpler…the first season is about figuring out where he belongs, with help from his serial killer brother. The second season is about honoring the code, even if it means getting caught. And the third season is about letting someone into his life, but recognizing limits to that friendship. What a clever idea, to have Dexter open up to his first real friend, train him to kill, and then be forced to eliminate him. Brilliant.

How can you say Season 3 didn’t cover anything new? We never got to see Dexter really have a friend. We never got to see Dexter teach someone how to kill. And, with the possible exception of his brother, we never got to see him kill someone who meant something to him. Miguel was his best man!

That’s the one problem I have with this season, and why it ranks third for me. The pacing was very odd and unbalanced. In the early going, it dragged on and on. The first three or four episodes went no where. It just built up this friendship with Miguel. But the last episodes were too rushed. How long have they known each other and Dexter decides to make him Best Man over Angel? And the same episode Miguel makes his first kill, he goes on to secretly kill Ellen Wolfe? There was no progression or development. How did Miguel gain that much sudden confidence and skill? So the beginning was too slow and the ending was too fast.

But boy, oh boy…that middle. One of the best scenes in all of Dexter was the end of S3:E5. When Miguel reveals that he was setting Dex up to kill someone. Not only did Miguel know Dexter’s true nature, but he embraced and encouraged it. That threw me for a loop. But it made sense. That’s why Jimmy Smits was in every other scene. That’s why their friendship seemed so sudden and almost forced. Miguel was playing Dexter. He wanted to get close to him. That one scene redeemed a lot of those first episodes.

It’s also not a huge leap to think Miguel would support Dexter’s killings. His brother was just stabbed, a serial killer is on the loose, and he’s watching time and time again as guys he’s tried to convict get off. While his outward appearance might seem respectable, underneath he was seething. And just dying to get out. Much like Dexter. But Dex plays by the rules. Miguel couldn’t. Dexter kills to feed a need. Miguel kills out of passion. Which could justify why he went to kill Ellen so quickly (though I still think that was sloppy). But it fits his character.

And that’s why this show is one of the best on television. Including the third season. The characters are incredibly well defined. Smits did a stellar job as Miguel and should have gotten a supporting actor nomination (rather than guest actor). Especially when he flipped into the villain. Who knew he could play cold vicious criminal so well? The side stories, about Debra’s informant and Dexter’s marriage and Angel’s relationship. I could care less about that stuff. Maybe to some it weighs down the story. But I only care about Dexter and his bloody realm. And that was spotless, as usual.


6 Responses to “Dexter’s Third Season Actually Enjoyable”

  1. Blu said

    I enjoyed Dexter S3 as well. I was really hoping for a powerful ally for Dexter to confide in. Obviously it was far more dramatic to pit Dexter against Jimmy Smits instead of having them ally for the duration of the series. I’ll be looking forward to S4 once its available:)

    • Mr. Feeny said

      I didn’t even mention how good it was to put Dexter in the victim’s spot…and have him truly figure out what’s important in his life. I think too many critics gave up on it early on.

      • Blu said

        Doesn’t the show automatically cast Dexter as a victim?
        He has a violent childhood trauma which presumably is the reason he is what he is. He can’t feel emotions and only gets by in life by faking or mimicing them for the benefit of others.
        The only reason we root for Dex is because he preys on badder bad guys who don’t live by Dexter’s now flexible code. If the show were just about following a serial killer and that character only killed off good guys we would root for the authorities to capture him every week. Such a show doesn’t exist though.

      • Mr. Feeny said

        I suppose they cast him as such, but I’ve never considered Dexter a victim. That happened years ago. He had the choice to not be a killer. Instead his father fostered it. As for feeling emotions, I don’t buy that either. Over the course of three seasons he has felt emotions. He cares for Rita and her kids, and now Harrison, more than anything. If he put forth the right amount of effort, he’d feel emotions toward more. But Harry accepted him not.

  2. Blu said

    I hope they don’t try to domesticate the killer out of Dexter.

  3. […] by Mr. Feeny on November 17, 2009 Last month, I reviewed Season 3 of Dexter and took a decidedly different stance than most of the other critics I follow. […]

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