Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dexter Gets A Friend In Season Three!

The Good: Decent performances, Interesting character direction, Good flow for the season
The Bad: Somewhat repetitive plot progression, Lack of ramifications from prior seasons
The Basics: In the third season of Dexter, Jimmy Smits joins the cast and moves Dexter’s character to a new place . . . before surrendering the potential it built.

Like most serialized shows, Dexter made a good attempt to make seasonlong arcs and the concept of the show is an initially engaging one. However, the show lacked ambition to truly change itself and grow for the character. As a result, the seasons have a tendency to bring in significant guest stars who last only a season and the idea is that Dexter will grow only so far before that guest star is jettisoned at the end of the season and the show is pretty much restored to what it was at the beginning. The third season of Dexter really starts that tradition with the addition of Jimmy Smits to the cast.

The concept for the third season is a clever one and it pushes Dexter in a smart new direction before it mortgages the growth on the one front. The idea for season three of Dexter is that he develops a seemingly normal friendship with an upstanding citizen, the lead prosecutor in Miami and in the process he finds acceptance. Discovering that Miguel Prado has some of the same values he does, Dexter grows close and he manages to grow his relationship with Rita. Of course, in keeping with the formula, things have to fall apart with Prado before the end of the season and it’s somewhat unfortunate that the formula prevents genuine, sustained growth for the series.

Dexter has settled into a good routine following the death of Doakes and having no one on his trail. His relationship with Rita is pretty much repaired as Astrid and Cody have essentially adopted him as their father. When Rita gets pregnant, Dexter feels a tremendous pressure to marry her and have a normal life with her. To keep himself level, Dexter goes hunting for Fred Bowman, “Freebo,” and in the process, he accidentally kills Oscar Prado, the youngest brother of Miguel and Ramone Prado. Trying to justify the death of Oscar to himself (Debra discovers he was a junkie with some debts), Dexter draws the attention of Miguel. Attempting to divert attention from himself, Dexter is drawn into a friendship that quickly comes to a head when the revenge-seeking Miguel witnesses Dexter coming out of the garage where he had just killed Freebo.

While Dexter and Miguel keep the Miami Metro Police Department chasing their tails looking for Freebo, Debra starts using a C.I. from one of the new detectives on the squad. Her relationship with the informant begins to yield results as she begins the hunt for a serial killer in Miami who removes flesh from his victims. As Debra searches for the Skinner, Dexter tries to keep Miguel in line as the ambitious prosecutor butts heads with the determined District Attorney. When Miguel begins to go rogue, Dexter is forced to choose between maintaining his friendship and keeping himself and his family safe.

The third season of Dexter oddly distances itself from some of the elements that made the show popular and successful up until this point. Coming off of the climactic events of the second season (reviewed here!), it seems odd how there is only one new person in the Miami Metro and how LaGuerta is not riddled with more trust issues. In fact, that the season is not plagued with Internal Affairs investigations surrounding Doakes and that Dexter is able to get so far with Miguel Prado is somewhat troubling from a larger series context.

That said, the character of Miguel Prado works initially because: 1. Jimmy Smits can act and 2. He comes to the show with vastly different motivations than Dexter. Prado is not just “Dexter Lite.” Instead, he is a man who seeks justice above all things and while he has been devoted to law and order, he has become frustrated with the bureaucracy. Unfortunately, the demands of the show seem to move the character into a faster than realistic degeneration. It would have been far more interesting to have a slow arc where Miguel truly relied upon Dexter as a mentor for a while before his own ambitions and sense of entitlement took over.

As well, fans of Dexter will find that the formula in general is becoming a bit stale and predictable in the third season. While Dexter does his serial killing and explores how he will modify the Code his adopted father left for him, the Miami Metro Police Department works a season-long case involving yet another serial killer in Miami. As a result, Dexter does astonishingly little actual police work to help his sister and Batista in season three and his character is pretty much relegated to covering his own tracks (save a one-episode case wherein Dexter figures out that the sympathetic victim might actually have been the killer of the week).

Fortunately, the plot familiarity takes a back seat to the generally good character work of the season. In the third season, the principle characters of Dexter include:

Dexter Morgan – A serial killer who works as a blood-splatter analyst, he begins to move toward a normal life. His safe relationship with Rita turns decidedly unsafe for him when she gets pregnant. He exhibits a strong protective instinct when he recognizes a child predator hanging around Astrid. When he is exposed to Miguel Prado, he is able to make an actual friend and soon he and Rita are doing things as a couple with Miguel and his wife. But Dexter falls back on the first rule of the Code Of Harry when Miguel begins killing people who do not meet the Code and begins to menace LaGuerta,

Miguel Prado – The top prosecutor in Florida, he is an old friend of LaGuerta’s. His family begins to fall apart when the seemingly upstanding Oscar is killed. His marriage is strained when he starts to join Dexter on his nocturnal activities. When he and his wife decide he should run for District Attorney, Miguel feels threatened by defense attorney Ellen Wolf and he decides to take her out, which strains his friendship with Dexter,

Debra – After twenty-seven days of pushing her vices away, she sees the opportunity for advancement. She uses the CI, Anton, to get information that shows Oscar Prado was a junkie and embarrasses LaGuerta as a result of her exposing that lead. She falls off the wagon on the anniversary of Harry Morgan’s birthday when Batista takes her off the Prado case. She is harassed by an Internal Affairs detective who seems to have a personal beef with the new detective in the squad, Harrington,

Angel Batista – Has some run-ins with hookers as he is separated from his wife. LaGuerta promotes him to Detective Sergeant, which puts him in effective charge of most of the squad right under LaGuerta. After nearly getting busted by Detective Barbara Gianna, he begins pursuing her romantically. In trying to protect Gianna, he pushes the limits of his own ethics,

Masuka – Becomes obsessed with being taken seriously. He asks Dexter to proof an important article he wrote for a forensics trade magazine. When none of his coworkers come to hear him deliver an important speech, he changes his entire bearing. He reverts to form after being legitimate, with more respect from his coworkers,

Rita – Gets pregnant. When she gets moody, she loses her job, but Dexter steps up to support her, Astrid, and Cody. She befriends Sylvia Prado and Sylvia gets her a job working real estate. As she and Dexter move toward their wedding, she gets more and more emotional,

Quinn – A new homicide detective, he is under investigation by IAD. He puts Debra in touch with an informant to try to get her information on the Freebo case. As Debra sniffs around him for Detective Yuki, he is forced to reveal that his informant is not actually registered. He is excellent with witnesses and gets results that infuriate Debra,

And LaGuerta – Frustrated by the fact that the Prado case puts her back in touch with “the one who got away,” Miguel Prado. When it looks like Miguel Prado might not be the man she thought he was, she befriends Ellen Wolf. Her friendship with Ellen Wolf leads her to trust Dexter with forensics she does not want on the books and puts her in the crosshairs of Dexter’s new friend.

Jimmy Smits rules Dexter Season Three. His bearing, accent and character are unlike anything he has ever played. In fact, at the beginning of the season, Smits as Miguel Prado is unrecognizable as the famous actor. It is only when Prado begins to loosen up that he starts to deliver some of his lines with the ease and charisma Smits possesses inherently.

Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, and David Zayas all give solid performances in the third season of Dexter. The primary, regular actors in Dexter all know their roles at this point and they deliver consistently.

On DVD, the third season of Dexter includes featurettes that are mildly informative and it’s surprising how few extras Showtime produced. That said, the source material may never be better than it is on this season.

For other works with Anne Ramsay, please visit my reviews of:
Six Feet Under - Season 5
The L Word - Season 2
The L Word - Season 1
Woman On Top
Mad About You - Season 3
Mad About You - Season 2
Mad About You - Season 1
“The Emissary” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“Elementary, Dear Data” - Star Trek: The Next Generation


For other television works, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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