Friday, October 31, 2008

Pacing and my problems with Dexter this season

I’ve gone on record on this blog before talking about the genius of Dexter and the elements I love are still there this season.
Michael C. Hall is still brilliant, Dexter is still a wonderful, complex character, a seemingly perfect boyfriend, brother and employee hiding his need to kill. But this season I’ve approached each episode with a ho hum attitude.

And the amazing character references are still there, with Dexter stealing lines from a deluded murderer to convince his girlfriend to marry him, secretly wishing for a confidente, even the little touches of him pushing the barriers with his girlfriend. They are all masterfully handled.

But each episode has moved pretty slowly for me. It’s as if they are repeating scenes to convince of us the decisions the characters are going to make down the road. Dexter and Miguel’s relationship and his decision to trust Miguel. They’ve been building to it in a series of scenes that do nothing else. Where one great scene would have convinced us, they’ve used four. Same with him accepting Rita’s pregnancy.

And the previous structure where Dexter murdered someone every episode has been abandoned. And I understand the need for a show to evolve, but that structure drove the narrative of each episode in the 1st season. While the relationship elements were the secondary plot that intrigued me. Season 1 had the mystery of who was the Ice Truck killer, which is where the first show started. So between the over arching mystery, the murder per episode and Dexter trying to figure out how to balance his secret self with his public persona, there was lots to keep the pacing brisk in the 1st season.
This season, the overall mystery is really muted and not being driven forward much in each episode. The relationship elements have taken over, but they’re not enough to really move the story forward and keep the pacing in tact. And most episodes haven’t had the Dexter murder where he feeds his need.
In addition, the stakes for Dexter are pretty low this season. What does he have to lose? Rita? But even that’s not clear.

Going on record that I hope the show picks up and pulls the pieces together. Because I’ve loved it in the past and it’s just been renewed for another 2 seasons and I want to keep watching.


Amy Ruttan said...

I tried to watch Dexter, the first episode sent me queasy. I'm very easily queased out, especially lately.

But I hear it's so wonderful that I should try it again.

Sinead M said...

Amy, season 1 is a masterclass in crafting an unconventional character and making them appealing.
It's amazing.
But it is pretty graphic.

Maureen McGowan said...

This season of Dexter is still working for me. You're right, that there isn't that urgency they had in the first season... But I'm finding the will or won't he tell Jimmy Smits thing riveting. And I'm not sure I'd be convinced of his decisions if they did it too quickly. And I"m not sure what Dexter will decide. I'm hoping they surprise us. (Secretly hoping Dexter will decide to kill the Jimmy Smits character, or at least the other brother...)

One show I have totally given up on because of pacing is Prison Break. And almost for the opposite reason. That show was interesting in the first season because there was a ticking clock, a big problem, lots of reversals, screamingly fast pacing, AND the characters were interesting.

Now, it's like they just keep following the same pattern of goal, disaster, ridiculously implausible way to get out of disaster, new goal, to the point that it's boring. And no new interesting characters. And few new things about old characters... I'm bored.

Dexter? Not bored yet. But you do like things to be faster paced than I do, Sinead.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Sinead - you have totally hit the nail on the head. There's nothing at stake. Nothing. In the last two seasons it was so life or death for Dexter, every episode husband and I sat back and couldn't stop talking about what we saw.

That's not happening. IT's good, and the Smits delimma is an interesting one, but the build up to the reveal this week was slow and practically anti-climactic.

I'm finding the sister and her story line way more interesting. TO say nothing of Batista and his new love life. Hall is incredible, no doubt about it, but they've made him a pussy cat this year.

It really does come down to stakes. I think you're pacing can be molasses, (not that it should be or you want it to be) if the stakes are life and death. I remeber seeing a scene from a play about two soldiers trapped in a mine field and they were talking about thier lives and every once in a while one of them would take a step or a jump and the freaking tension of that scene was out of control. Pacing, slow as molasses - stakes, super high.

Liu's latest is sort of like that. Slower than her others, but the mystery and stakes are page turners.
I'm chatty today.

Kimber Chin said...

Thank you, Molly.
You just captured the issue I'm having with a manuscript.
There's not enough at stake.

Now... to fix it.

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