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Talk about justice and everybody will refer you to a court of law. However, the administration of justice in the modern legal system is currently lacking hence leaving a lot of doubts to the citizens. A criminal walks scot free after a lengthy trial due to lack of evidence but in reality all he requires to win a case is money to hire the most sought out criminal attorney to represent him and he is back in society.
Fortunately, there is always a proviso to any rule hence the establishment of lawless groups that seek to represent the wronged in society. These vigilante groups, as they are famously known, take law into their own hands in an effort to maintain justice. The lawless persons date back to the old days of Robin Hood and they continue to make headlines to date. They operate within their own set laws and though illegal, they act in the interest of the society.
That was the idea behind the famous American Television series, Dexter. Based on the novel by Jeff Lindsay, the series revolves around a forensic analyst working for a police department in Miami. However, he has another life that greatly contradicts his normal career in the police force.
He is a serial killer who trails criminals who have gotten off the hook from the justice system and murders them. The role is well played by the main character Michael Hall acting as Dexter Morgan. This paper will critically analyze the character development of Dexter throughout the series and how it has been used to draw positive feedback from the audience (Frederic and Vandome 12).
In order to understand Dexter’s character, it is important to look at the plot. Dexter is a story of Dexter Morgan who appears as an easy going and diligent forensic analyst. His colleagues like him including his boss LaGuerta. Surprisingly, nobody is suspicious of him apart from one colleague, Sergeant Doakes, who claims that Dexter appears creepy. The series begins with a flashback of Dexter living with his adopted father, Harry Morgan.
Dexter began showing some sociopathic signs in his behavior at a tender age. Harry, a legendary detective, takes this opportunity to start training him instead of taking him to a mental institution for help. He justifies his actions by arguing that Dexter needs to avenge his mother’s death who was killed in his presence by cold blooded murderers. The training gives Dexter the ‘know how’ of avoiding the long arm of the law after committing a crime.
He follows a specific code that he refers to as the ‘Code of Harry’ to clear any trail that would link him to the crime. However, Dexter is not an ordinary serial killer that we are used to. He only murders criminals who have escaped the long arm of the law in one way or another. More so, he conducts a detailed investigation on his victim to prove that he was guilty of the crime charged (Owen 3).
The Audience Reception
In the first episode, Dexter admits that he finds satisfaction in killing a man in a cruel way and be home to receive his letters from the letter man. These are words of a dangerous man but surprisingly, the audience loves him. The audience’s reception towards the series was overwhelming and several arguments can be attributed to this.
Maybe the viewers were tired of watching the usual series with possessed transgressive characters going unpunished or that the series provided a different story line that was morally right to the society, yet unlawful. That has not been established but the series has won numerous awards as a result. Ironically, the audience loves the character Dexter, in spite of his outstanding role as a serial killer.
Dexter’s Character Development: His Vigilante Appeal
One would wonder why a dangerous character such as Dexter would receive a high liking from his fans instead of spite. He operates outside the legal jurisdiction and ironically, he works in the same police force that upholds the law. This contradicting character appeals to his audience.
A scene in episode one clearly shows his disregard for the law process when the prosecution fails to prove a case against a criminal due to a faulty search warrant used when searching his house. Dexter finds his way into the suspect’s house to search for leading clues and he exclaims loudly in his thoughts that he is glad he does not have to use a search warrant to find what he wants.
When conducting any investigation, he involves the audience who take sheer pleasure at neglecting all possible hindrances that would be encountered in a normal investigation. The audience is thrilled at his skills of picking up a suspect. The audience believes in Dexter’s intuition.
They sit back and enjoy while Dexter mutilates the body and clears off any evidence. The guilt conscience of the audience is washed away with the notion that Dexter is socially right in his actions and he is just doing what the police would be too scared to do. On the other hand, Dexter always finds sufficient evidence to eliminate the suspect and the audience seem to enjoy the action even more.
Dexter’s character does not allow him to be remorseful after committing a crime. This character allows the audience to adapt to the belief that his actions are right and just. He is not an ordinary criminal.
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e follows a code and his actions are morally right according to the society. In episode 5 for example, Dexter trails and murders Jorge Castillo, a human trafficker who kills people for money (Dexter Wiki 5). His wife, Valerie Castillo who is the husband’s accomplice in carrying out the evil deeds is also eliminated by Dexter.
An investigation conducted at the police department exposes her evil deeds and not even the police officers show any remorse. Most of them are more than willing to shake the killer’s hand. The episode seems to contradict its title, ‘Love American Style’ as there is no love portrayed in the entire series. The episode enhances the belief that even the police department appreciates Dexter’s work and would act the same way if they were not tied by the law.
The public shows their support in the scenario which saw Oscar, one of the witnesses during Castillo’s murder, drawing a sketch of the murderer. He makes a sketch of Jesus in place of Dexter. The hilarious comparison between Jesus and Dexter plays a huge role of convincing the audience that Dexter’s actions are morally right.
Throughout the series, it is apparent to the audience that Dexter has a compassionate character, though he vehemently denies he does. Dexter tries to convince the audience, through the voiceovers that he is not a normal human being but his love for his sister, Deb and his girlfriend, Rita tells a different story.
His attempt to strictly follow the ‘Code of Harry’ is ground enough that he loved his father by doing what would have pleased him if he were still alive.
Nevertheless, Dexter does not seem to recognize his capability of loving and does not even bother to understand it. He hates his victims and he is happy when he has accomplished his goal of eliminating them. The audience seems to relate with Dexter’s unique character. He lost all the love that he would have given to the universe after the death of his mother and who can blame him? The society appreciates the fact that certain circumstances in our lives can twist us to adapt to an unusual way of living.
It also brings to light the two sides that exist in our life, the humane and the monstrous side. The humane is more prominent but both sides should be governed by some sort of ethics. The audience therefore is able to relate to the monstrous side of Dexter due to the fact that it is governed by a moral code unlike other serial killers (DePaulo and Wilson 12).
The failure by the police department to make a connection shared by Dexter and his audience justifies the vigilante action. This is evident throughout the series and especially in the first episode when Doakes accuses a rival dealer for double homicide. He is proved wrong when Dexter conducts his private investigation and unearths the dealer’s ex girlfriend as the culprit, nullifying Doakes’ earlier investigation.
The ice truck killer incidence on the other hand faults the police department who are convinced that the innocent man was guilty (Dexter Wiki 7). This was not until Dexter exposed the real killer hence saving the innocent man’s life. These episodes win the audience’s hearts as it is clear that the police department puts innocent people behind bars. They support the vigilante actions taken by Dexter to uncover the truth.
What stands out is the audience’s preference of Dexter’s character which by any standard is worse than other characters in the series. A good example is Rita’s husband Paul who the audience fiercely despises. Paul is very abusive, an action that makes Rita miserable. Dexter’s character is worse than Paul’s but the audience root for Dexter (Larson 13).
Though Dexter’s character enjoys a wide range of support from his fans, it is not free from criticism. Critics argue that the reason behind Dexter liking is his provocative nature that makes him appealing. They argue that the series has a high female audience who enjoy watching a sweet and handsome man doing what he does best.
The notion is that females are attracted to handsome bad men. The character has also been criticized for encouraging actual crimes in the society. The recent murder by Mark Twitchell is connected to the character of Dexter. Mark stated that he related to Dexter Morgan. Another culprit, Andrew Conley, stated that he felt like a ‘Dexter’ and he had killed his victim using one of the methods used by Dexter to eliminate his victims (Greene, Reisch and Robinson 24)
The series takes a different turn from the usual crime series such as Law and Order and CSI Miami. These series relies only on the police department to uncover a suspect. They are characterized with major hindrances as they have to follow the legal procedures put in place to deal with a suspect.
This is not the case with Dexter which gives him multiple options to seek justice. The audience justifies Dexter’s action by proclaiming that the death of the criminals is ‘Good riddance to bad rubbish’. The series is captivating and sure to make you glued to the seat and engage in the investigation process.
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Owen, Rob. TV Review: ‘Dexter’ is dark humor in shades of gray. Pittsburg Post Gazette. 29 September 2006. www.post-gazette.com. 3 August 2011. Print.