In a television landscape lousy with characters chasing down bad guys, it was perhaps inevitable that a show would emerge where the bad guy is the good guy. With blacker-than-black humor and the immensely talented Michael C. Hall as the lead, it's no surprise that Showtime's Dexter has been a smash with both viewers and critics. This year, for its third season, the show about the part-time cop, part-time-serial-killer killing serial killers has been nominated for three Emmys: Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Guest Actor (with Jimmy Smits as the not-quite-straight-and-narrow D.A. Miguel Prado) and Hall for Outstanding Lead Actor.
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Dexter has taken its time revealing exactly how a Miami Police Department employee can balance a work life and personal life while at the same time murdering evildoers according to an exacting code set forth by his adopted father, Harry. Dexter Morgan has considered himself, alternately, inhuman, a regular guy, a superhero, and simply a complicated fella. This last season found Dexter trying to solve crimes in the area (some pesky nogoodnik has been running around town skinning people alive) while at the same time contemplating marriage and becoming a father. He discovered an unlikely ally in Prado, who you'd think, as district attorney, would have been able to sniff out the killer in Dexter (especially since Dex killed Prado's brother).
In fact, he did sniff out the killer in Dexter... and he liked it. Did Dexter have room in his life for a friend, even a sidekick, and could Prado be trusted? And when would he come up with that darn guestlist for his wedding to his fiancée Rita? Season 3 explored the delicacy of the mundane yet tense issues of friendship.
Four Season 4, which begins Sept. 27, John Lithgow has signed on to play an unassuming suburbanite who has been living a dual life as one of America’s most prolific and deadliest serial killers, likely to serve as both a white whale and inspiration for Dexter. We can't wait.
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Claire Zulkey is the author of the young adult novel An Off Year, published by Dutton. She also writes about television for the Los Angeles Times and AV Club. You can find her writing daily at Zulkey.com.