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Main article: Dexter (season 1)
Season 1's plot was adapted from the first novel in Jeff Lindsay's "Dexter" series, Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Subsequent seasons have featured original storylines.
Orphaned at the age of three and harboring a traumatic secret, Dexter was adopted by a Miami police officer named Harry Morgan, who recognized Dexter's sociopathic tendencies and taught him to channel his gruesome passion for thrill killing by giving it a constructive direction: killing people who deserve it. Most have slipped through the justice system, due to loopholes and technicalities in the law or were never apprehended.
To hide in plain sight and to erase his own crimes, Dexter works as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. Although his drive to kill is unflinching (otherwise overcome by a feeling of "emptiness") Dexter is, through extensive instruction from Harry, able to fake normal emotions and keep up his appearance as a socially-responsible human being. Flashbacks throughout the series show how Harry, who died several years before, instructed Dexter on the art of appearing normal, and he follows Harry's instructions as a sacred "Code of Harry".
In accordance with this code, most of Dexter's victims must be killers themselves; people who have killed multiple times with no remorse. Dexter must also have proof that the criminals are definitely guilty before he takes action.
Despite not having any "real" feelings, Dexter dates a woman named Rita, to appear normal. Rita is psychologically damaged from past rape and abuse by her former husband (a violent felon and drug addict) and is too distraught to want to be in an intimate relationship. This suits Dexter, who believes he is unable to fake intimate emotions. Dexter hopes to keep up his façade of normality by distancing himself from Rita. At the same time, he feels genuine affection for Rita and her two children, Astor and Cody. Dexter sets up Rita's ex-husband to look like he violated his parole. While back in prison proclaiming his innocence, he points Rita to a clue to the truth about Dexter.
The first season focuses mostly on "The Ice Truck Killer", a serial killer eluding the Miami PD who is communicating with Dexter through his crime scenes. Dexter's adoptive sister (and Harry's biological daughter), Debra, makes known her jealousy of the perceived preferential treatment Harry gave Dexter, but is unaware of Harry's training or Dexter's tendencies.
Dexter uses his calculated charm to become well-liked by all of his colleagues, with the exception of Sgt. James Doakes (Erik King), who finds him odd (often calling him a "freak" or a "creep"), and openly accuses him of being up to something, as well as harboring vague suspicions that Dexter has some connection to the Ice Truck Killer and even keeping Dexter under some surveillance. The tension between the two is an ongoing plot motive.
Debra begins dating Rudy, who is later revealed to be the Ice Truck Killer at the end of the season. Rudy also reveals to Dexter that he is his biological brother, Brian Moser. He describes additional details of Dexter's early childhood to him, complementing Dexter's vague memories as well as details he has been piecing together over the length of the season. The formative event for the brothers was witnessing their mother and several other people being chainsaw-butchered by a drug dealer and being locked in a cargo container for two days with the dismembered corpses, the floor covered in blood. Brian spent much of his childhood institutionalized. Harry deliberately hid the details about the crime from Dexter, as well as information about his biological family.
Brian kidnaps Debra, with the intention that he and Dexter would kill her together to cement their bond and sever the ties between Dexter and his adoptive family. Dexter instead turns against Brian and ultimately kills him, making the death look like a suicide. Everyone, including Debra, remains unaware of the exact connection between Dexter and Rudy/Brian. Dexter feels some regret over killing Brian, the one person who fully understood him, in order to save Debra, whom he knows would turn away from him if she ever learned his true nature.
The season ends with Dexter and his sister arriving at a crime scene, with Dexter imagining a ticker tape parade for himself, complete with confetti and an airplane pulling a congratulatory banner.
In the U.S., the complete first season of Dexter was released in a four-disc DVD package on August 21, 2007. On January 6, 2009, a three disc Blu-ray version was released.
Main article: Dexter (season 2)
New cast members for this season include Jaime Murray as Lila, an artist who is a former meth addict and arsonist who becomes Dexter's sponsor (and later his lover), Keith Carradine as FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy and JoBeth Williams as Rita's mother Gail. The role of Rita's son Cody was re-cast, and in Season 2 was played by child actor Preston Bailey.
Dexter begins the season unable to satisfy his urges for over a month, due to the constant surveillance by Sgt. Doakes. When the opportunity to kill arises, he has problems executing his victims after having killed his brother.
To further complicate matters, treasure hunters discover Dexter's underwater dumping ground for his victims. As the police extract body part after body part from the ocean, the media dubs the killer the "Bay Harbor Butcher", and FBI Special Agent Lundy is brought in to catch the "Butcher."
Rita's relationship with Dexter becomes more tense as she and her children are dealing with the death of her ex-husband Paul, who was killed in a prison fight. Paul's repeated suggestion that Dexter was to blame for his imprisonment eats at Rita's conscience and eventually Rita accuses Dexter of setting up her ex-husband. Dexter admits to setting up Paul, but Rita refuses to believe that Dexter premeditated the crime and assumes that Dexter is a heroin addict. He acquiesces to "having an addiction", though he characteristically allows her misinterpretation to go without clarification; in return, she vows to stay with him while he goes through the Narcotics Anonymous program. In this way, Dexter avoids responsibility for Paul's death (though he set the process in motion) and consequently maintains the rationalization that he only (directly) kills people who are murderers. Doakes continues to pursue Dexter until he encounters Dexter leaving a NA meeting. Doakes seems satisfied that Dexter's odd behavior and apparent drug use can be explained by traumatic experiences from a career in law enforcement.
A cult following begins to form behind the "Butcher" when it is discovered that his victims were themselves responsible for deaths. Dexter even finds that a comic-book character was created called, "The Dark Defender".
Debra continues to struggle with the trauma of her experience with the Ice Truck Killer combined with everyone recognizing her as the "Ice Truck Killer's girl". For a sense of safety and comfort, she stays with her brother, another new source of stress in Dexter's life.
Throughout Season 2, Dexter is pursued by Special Agent Frank Lundy, while both Debra's affection for Lundy and her confidence in her own detective skills grow. Doakes' suspicions about Dexter are revived, and he ultimately discovers Dexter's collection of glass slides containing blood sample souvenirs from all of his victims. The possibility of matching the slides hidden in Dexter's air conditioner with the bodies of the Butcher's victims sets up a climactic showdown in which Doakes confronts Dexter at a drug dealer's remote cabin. Despite receiving a gunshot wound in the leg, Dexter overpowers Doakes and keeps him locked in the cage inside the cabin. He begins to frame Doakes as the Butcher after the police discover Dexter's slide collection in Doakes' car while searching for him, making Doakes the prime suspect. Lieutenant LaGuerta, Doakes' former partner, is the only one who believes in Doakes. She finds evidence of Doakes' innocence and takes it to Lundy, but he tells her that the evidence is tainted by her previous failure to report Doakes' telephone conversation to the investigation team. Lundy rejects LaGuerta's case files, though he believes she may be correct about Doakes.
Dexter struggles with his life as a serial killer, thanks to revelations throughout the season regarding Harry Morgan, his adoptive father. Dexter learns that Harry was sleeping with Dexter's biological mother, Laura Moser, before she died and that Harry took his own life after walking in on Dexter in the middle of a murder, unable to deal with the reality of the monster he had created. With his confidence in the Code of Harry and himself destroyed and exhausted from having to maintain his "mask" for so long, Dexter plays out the possible resulting scenarios in his head of turning himself in. Dexter's events on his last day of freedom include having Deb becoming the beneficiary of his will, having a final dinner with her, and taking Rita and the kids out on the boat. During the "last meal" with Deb, he realizes how much she depended on him to resolve her feelings about the murder attempt by the Ice Truck Killer and decides to continue with his original plan of framing Doakes as the "Bay Harbor Butcher."
Near the end of the season, Doakes escapes from the cage temporarily and is recaptured by Dexter. In the season finale, Lila finds the cabin where Doakes is imprisoned and causes a propane tank explosion, blowing up both Doakes and the corpse of one of Dexter's victims, preventing Dexter from being caught. Lila then meets with Dexter, expecting him to accept her love now that she knows his 'dark secret'. She catches him preparing to kill her and seeks revenge by trying to kill Rita's children and Dexter. Dexter manages to save the children and escape and then exacts his own revenge on her after she has fled to Paris. In the closing scenes, Doakes' memorial service goes largely unattended, with the exception of LaGuerta, Dexter, and Doakes' immediate family. Expressing the logic of Dexter's mental world, the final words in the series are a voice-over of his thoughts on the recent events. We hear that he now considers himself the master of the techniques his father taught him. Dexter believes this, combined with the fact that Harry knew himself to be wrong about the code, gives Dexter the right to rewrite that code and to live his life the way he wishes. He also states that he now needs those relationships that he originally cultivated as disguises to fit into society, even though they make him vulnerable. He considers himself, "An idea transcended into life."
Season 2 premiered on September 30, 2007. On July 17, the first two episodes of the season were leaked on the internet, and on December 4, the last two episodes were also leaked.On November 4, 2007, the Writer's Guild of America started a strike, but writer Daniel Cerone stated in the L.A. Times that Season 2 had already been completed in anticipation of the WGA's action.
The complete second season of Dexter was released in the USA and Canada on August 19, 2008. It was released in Australia and New Zealand on August 21, 2008. The season 2 Blu Ray was on May 5, 2009.
Main article: Dexter (season 3)
Rita discovers she is pregnant and Dexter finds it hard to choose when she asks whether she should keep the baby or not. After some consideration, Rita informs Dexter that she will keep the baby and raise him either with or without his help. It also takes some time for Dexter himself to cope with the idea of actually having a child (an acceptance helped by the fact that he now sees Astor and Cody as his children and therefore to be protected), and he ends up proposing marriage to Rita, which, after a couple of initial refusals due to Dexter's early ineptness, she happily accepts.
While stalking a murderous drug dealer nicknamed "Freebo", Dexter stumbles upon a fight between Freebo and another man, whom he is forced to kill in self defense. This victim turns out to be Oscar Prado, brother of ADA Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits) a prominent assistant district attorney and old flame of Lt. LaGuerta. Dexter assists on the case, and Miguel confides in him and grows to trust him. Dexter is able to track down Freebo and kills him, but as he leaves he encounters Miguel, who has followed a lead to the Drug Dealer's location. Dexter tells Miguel he had discovered Freebo and killed him in self defense, but instead of reprimanding him, Miguel thanks him and offers to help him cover up the crime. However, Dexter refuses, knowing that his "kill room" would betray his story of self defense.
As Dexter and Miguel cooperate to conceal Freebo's true demise from everyone else, the duo end up becoming close friends, as do Rita and Miguel's wife Sylvia. While the Prados assist Rita during a medical emergency, Miguel searches for Dexter, who was on a cruise ship killing a murderer Miguel has complained about. Miguel realizes that Dexter committed the murder and praises Dexter for killing another murderer and offers his aid in the future. Trying to discourage Miguel, Dexter proposes a risky operation to free an infamous Aryan Brotherhood leader, who continues to commit crimes while inside prison, to kill him. Miguel agrees with the idea and the plan succeeds (despite the alarm sounding during the escape), and Dexter starts to recognize Miguel as his first and only true friend, to the point of inviting him to be his best man at his wedding.
Throughout Season 3, Debra starts working more seriously to earn her detective shield, but due to her untimely comment about Oscar she is cut off from the Freebo case. She starts working with a new partner, Joey Quinn, to investigate a serial killer with the habit of skinning his victims while alive (labeled "The Skinner"). She also starts a relationship with Anton, one of Quinn's confidential informants who starts working with her. However, Yuki Amado, a female Internal Affairs officer, starts pressuring Debra to give her information on Quinn, promising to help her become a detective in return, but Debra refuses to cooperate, despite Yuki's claims that Quinn cannot be trusted.
A notable change from previous seasons is that instead of flashbacks involving Dexter's adoptive father, Harry, fantasy scenes are used. Harry instead offers guidance, ideas, and guilt; leading to revelations on Dexter's future.
Camilla Figg, an old friend of Dexter and his family, is dying of terminal lung cancer and asks him to end her suffering, which he (who had never purposely killed an innocent before) reluctantly agrees to do. On the occasion, Camilla reveals to Dexter that she knew that his brother was the Ice Truck Killer and as she expires, congratulates him when he confesses to her that it was he who killed Brian.
Miguel and Dexter's partnership takes a new step when Miguel offers to be the one to kill their next target, a former football player turned gambler who to pay his bookie commits murders on the bookie's behalf. With some reluctance, Dexter accepts, and after preparing the trap and teaching him the basics of his "code", he witnesses Miguel killing the victim without hesitation. However, the next day, Ellen Wolf, a ruthless defense attorney and old courtroom adversary of Miguel's, goes missing, and Dexter, suspicious, discovers that Miguel has killed her. After some investigation, Dexter also discovers that Miguel has been manipulating him since the beginning and never trusted him at all.
While the relationship between Dexter and Miguel begins to unravel, so does Miguel's marriage when Sylvia begins to suspect that Miguel is having an affair and confides her fears to Rita, who in turn confides in Dexter.
Dexter and Miguel then begin to dance around in a game of who has leverage over whom, whilst the police investigate the death of Ellen Wolf. This game of leverage ends with Dexter realizing that Miguel cannot be allowed to run loose any longer (at which point Dexter decides to kill him using the Skinner's Modus Operandi) and with Sylvia, convinced that Miguel is having an affair with Lt. LaGuerta after seeing them leaving LaGuerta's house together, ordering him out of the house. Miguel uses his position to help the Skinner escape and evade police custody in return for his agreeing to kill Dexter.
Striving to discover the truth about Ellen Wolf's death, LaGuerta ends up obtaining evidence linking Miguel to the crime, while Miguel himself discovers that LaGuerta was investigating him and decides to kill her, but Dexter discovers Miguel's plot beforehand and captures him when Miguel comes to LaGuerta's house looking for her. Before killing Miguel, Dexter confesses to him that he was the one who killed his younger brother Oscar (in self-defense when intending to murder Freebo instead).
After Miguel's body is discovered, he is immediately identified as a victim of the Skinner, just as Dexter planned. But Miguel's other brother Ramon is still suspicious of him. After pointing a gun on Dexter during a dinner with Rita, he is captured by Angel and Debra. During a visit to him in jail, Dexter helps Ramon put his demons to rest offering advice and personal relation to Ramon's life.
However, on the night before his wedding, Dexter is captured by the Skinner and manages to break free by taking advantage of a moment when the Skinner is distracted, intentionally breaking his hand in the process to escape. After a short but vicious fight, Dexter manages to snap the Skinner's neck and make it look like suicide by throwing his body before a running police car. Dexter gets his broken hand put in a cast and attends his wedding. He admits to himself that his wedding vows, "to be the best husband and father [he could] be", were absolutely true. The season ends as a drop of blood from Dexter's cast falls upon Rita's wedding dress as they dance.
The complete third season of Dexter was released in the USA and Canada on DVD and Blu-ray on August 18, 2009.
Main article: Dexter (season 4)
Dexter is now a married family man, and Rita has given birth to a baby boy named Harrison. The family has moved to the suburbs, where Dexter struggles to reconcile his new life as a family man with his killing urges. Special Agent Frank Lundy returns, having recently retired from the FBI, and is hunting the "Trinity Killer" (John Lithgow) who he believes always murders three people in a very specific sequence: a young woman in a bathtub, an older mother of two falling to her death, and a father of two bludgeoned to death. Lundy also states that Trinity's pattern has been repeated in various cities across the country dating back over decades. The character of Christine Hill (Courtney Ford) is introduced, a journalist who begins a relationship with Detective Quinn.
Lundy begins working with Debra to capture Trinity before he completes his cycle. Debra renews her relationship with Lundy but shortly after an unseen assailant shoots them both, killing Lundy. Debra explains the idea of the Trinity Killer to the department, but she isn't allowed to work the case since she is one of his victims. With Masuka's help, Debra discovers that Trinity did not shoot her. Since she is no longer considered a Trinity victim, she is put in charge of the case.
While investigating Lundy's data about Trinity, Dexter determines Lundy was killed because Lundy had determined when and where Trinity would claim his third victim. Dexter stakes out the building, and witnesses Trinity bludgeoning a man on a security camera (the third victim in a killing cycle). Dexter is unable to stop the murder, but he does follow Trinity to his home where he is surprised to discover that Trinity is a family man named Arthur Mitchell. Using the alias Kyle Butler, Dexter attends the same church as Trinity and eventually befriends him. While investigating the reasons behind Arthur's crimes, Dexter learns how he manages to consolidate his family life with his killing urges and utilizes that knowledge to deal with issues in his marriage with Rita.
Dexter visits Arthur at his home and discovers that Trinity will be traveling to Tampa on another building project, which could be the start of another cycle. Dexter decides to make the trip with Trinity to ensure this doesn't happen. In Tampa, Dexter and Arthur visit Trinity's childhood home. Arthur reveals that at the age of 10, he spied on his older sister in the shower out of innocent curiosity. His sister, who is startled when she sees him, falls and slips, shattering the glass shower door, cutting open her femoral artery, leading her to bleed to death. Arthur's parents blame him for his sister's death. His mother committed suicide and his father died soon after his mother; Dexter assumes Arthur murdered him. Trinity's victims therefore die in the same manner as his family. During Thanksgiving, Dexter learns that Arthur has been terrorizing his family in their own home, locking his daughter away in her bedroom and physically abusing his son. Trinity's son snaps and begins destroying Arthur's trophies, finally destroying the urn containing Trinity's sister's ashes, which provokes Trinity to nearly strangle his son. Dexter garrotes Trinity with a belt and drags him to the kitchen but is interrupted by Arthur's wife and daughter. Arthur goes to see Christine Hill, who is then revealed to be his daughter.
Later Arthur kidnaps a boy while being pursued by Dexter. Dexter does some research and finds out that Trinity's pattern begins with an abduction first; the boys disappear days before the first bathtub death. Dexter locates where Arthur is holding the boy. He arrives late to confront him, but he deduces that Trinity is planning to bury the boy alive at the Four-Walls build site. Dexter arrives just in time to save the boy from the cement pool, but Arthur escapes.
Debra begins to investigate Christine in Lundy's murder, as she knows too many details. With the help of Qunin, she has Christine's toothbrush analyzed at the lab by Masuka. The results dictate that Christine is related to the Trinity Killer. Christine is interrogated at the station regarding her involvement in Lundy's murder, and following a search of her apartment, Batista and Debra surmise that she is the Trinity Killer's daughter. They let her go for lack of evidence, but she eventually confesses to Debra. Christine secretly contacts Arthur Mitchell, but Arthur refuses to help her and instead disowns her for killing Frank Lundy without Arthur's prior knowledge. A distraught Christine seeks forgiveness from Debra, but after Debra refuses to forgive her, Christine pulls a gun and commits suicide in front of her.
LaGuerta and Batista have renewed their relationship and—in danger of losing their jobs for lying—decide to marry. They confront the Deputy Chief, and say that if he files perjury charges against them, he will be seen as an anti-marriage, anti-family, and anti-love person. He is furious, but cannot file the charges because of the future implications against him.
Dexter decides that he must draw police attention away from Arthur, so he finds a man whom he can blame - Stan Beaudry. Dexter sneaks into his home and plants a comb, toothbrush, and the framing hammer that Arthur used to bludgeon the man in the office building. He sneaks into Beaudry's truck, kills him, and plants Lundy's Trinity files on the passenger seat.
Arthur begins to follow Dexter, and soon learns his true identity. After Dexter learns this, Dexter follows Arthur to a bank but hits a car on the way. He captures Arthur and takes a large envelope off him containing money. When he leaves the van, he sees the other driver talking to the police. He quickly hides the envelope and confronts the man. Dexter—irritated by the driver—smashes his cellphone, and is detained by the police. By the time he is released, Arthur is gone.
Meanwhile, one of Harry's informants takes Deb to the house of the informant that Harry left her for. Deb immediately recognizes the house as the home of Brian Moser, the Ice Truck Killer. The informant says that the woman's name was Laura Moser. Deb looks for information about Laura, and finds out that Dexter is her son, and the brother of the Ice Truck Killer. Deb confronts Dexter about his true identity, and Dexter feigns surprise. He says that Brian must have tried to get to him through Deb.
Dexter tracks down Arthur and captures him. Arthur wakes up in the basement room where he held the missing boy. He kills Arthur with a framing hammer and dumps the body. He returns home and picks up a message from Rita on his cellphone. She had to come back home to get her ID. After listening to the message, he decides to call her back, only to hear Rita's phone ring from within the house. After finding Rita's phone, Dexter soon hears Harrison crying, and rushes to the bathroom, where he finds Harrison sitting on the tile in a puddle of blood. Rita appears to be dead in the bathtub, presumably murdered by Trinity. It was later confirmed by John Lithgow in an interview with Michael C Hall that Rita's death was indeed Trinity's handiwork
Showtime has renewed Dexter through a fifth season, which will premiere on September 26, 2010.
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