Dexter is one of my favorite television shows. Ever. Of all time. My mother first excitedly told me about the show, “A blood-splatter analyst who is a serial killer.” I thought this sounds like an awful premise for a TV show. Little did I know that Dexter would prove to be way more than just a slice of life.
I do not share CrimeCents’ conflicted feelings on whether to enjoy watching Dexter take justice into his own hands. Of course the family members of his “victims” will suffer the tragedy of untimely and unexpected deaths, but to me the potential innocent victims he saves makes the decision worth it. It’s a moral dilemma with a Minority Report feel: Will there even be more victims? Will this person ever kill again? Dexter only knows one way to be sure, and I’m ok with that.
However, it’s later in the series that really examines the true dangers vigilante justice and makes you question Dexter’s true identity as a killer. Without giving away any spoilers, the series plays with the notion of guilt and innocence very well when some of Dexter’s “victims” may not be as clearly guilty as the baddies he has previously taken to his table.
Quite possibly, the crux of whether you can truly empathize with Dexter’s killings could be based on your opinion of the death penalty. Even though I’ve read all the studies and I know that it has no real deterrent effect and it is essentially more expensive than life without parole, I’m not opposed to the death penalty. While the chance that an innocent person could be put to death bothers me, it bothers Dexter even more. And that is why I can appreciate Dexter.
I think we can all agree that our criminal justice system is far from perfect. There are so many places for something to go wrong, so many rules. People make mistakes and offenders fall through the cracks. But Dexter doesn’t have to play by our rules. He has his own rules to follow. He takes guilt and innocence into account and studies his “victims” to ensure that they really are the worst of the worst. And for them he saves the ultimate punishment.