BuddyTV would like to introduce Fan Columnist, Alison
Stern-Dunyak, a big Dexter fan. Find out why having Dexter as your neighbor might not be so bad. If you're interested in writing about your favorite TV show, click here for details.
Main characters on TV shows used to be reliably good guys, from Detective Joe Friday on Dragnet onward. But the last decade has seen the anti-hero take center stage. And let's face it--they make watching much more fun.
Some point the finger for the original "guy we should love to hate but instead we just love" at Tony Soprano, so let's start there. For several memorable years Tony killed, cheated, stole, extorted, and terrorized. But we didn't really want to see Tony get whacked did we? Not me--he was too much fun to watch.
Vic Mackey of The Shield broke the law so many times that he inspired the acronym WWVMD (What Would Vic Mackey Do?). (Nothing good, I assure you.) Originally a good guy, Walt White of Breaking Bad has gotten so deep into the crystal meth business he even allowed his partner Jesse's girlfriend to die of an overdose because she threatened the team's freedom. The girl's air traffic controller father allowed his grief to distract him so much that two planes collided over Albuquerque, causing several innocent deaths. Jack Bauer of 24 has crossed the line so many times I've lost count.
And there are non-violent anti-heroes we love: Don Draper of Mad Men, Gregory House of House, the main characters on Nip/Tuck.
But then there's Dexter Morgan of Dexter. Recognized as a sociopath by his adoptive father Harry, Dexter follows a code set out by Harry to guide his evil impulses toward good. Sort of. Think of it--would society actually benefit from a passel of cold-blooded killers running around acting as judge, jury, and executioner? Granted, the show (and the books they're based on) set up the murders as justice--Dex kills only other killers, people worse than himself. This season threw Dexter's sense of self into a quandary, however, when he killed a photographer who wasn't actually a murderer after all. The real killer was the photographer's assistant, and the real law caught him.
But if you're like me, you don't want to see Dex caught by anyone. Not by the law. Not by his sister Deb. Certainly not by his wife Rita, who is becoming annoying merely because she's suspicious of her (um, serial killer) husband.
Maybe it's the charm of Michael C. Hall as Dexter. Maybe it's the carefully constructed mix of black humor and suspense. Maybe it's how darn good Dex is at his "job," because competence is always attractive. Maybe it's what my mother (an English teacher) told me about how the best protagonists--especially the ones with a bad streak--have an energy that keeps you riveted to the screen.
I wouldn't actually want a real Dexter living next door to me. After all, what happens when he makes another mistake and kills someone not validated by the code? But that's real life. In my TV life, I'll keep rooting for Dex. He might be doubting himself right now, but I'm not.
-Alison Stern-Dunyak, BuddyTV Fan Columnist
(Image courtesy of Showtime)