“Want to know a secret?” Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) asks his baby son as he slips him a night feed. “Daddy kills people.” Tiny Harrison doesn’t realise it but his slayer pop has just voluntarily revealed his after-hours hobby for only the second time in his adult life. The first was to last season’s apprentice-gone-bad, Miguel Prado.
As the fourth series starts, Dexter, an everyman with a despicable twist, is severely sleep deprived. It’s an extra stress he doesn’t need on top of tending to his new family – a wife, two step-kids and his own offspring – and his job as Miami’s best-respected blood spatter analyst. Plus there’s the constant nagging from his inner Dark Passenger, who needs frequent murderous booster jabs.
Our dedicated killer of killers might not have to wait long for his next shot. Straight away, he gets a sniff of his new nemeses, John Lithgow’s fantastically brutal Trinity Killer. Trinity, as the name implies, murders in threes and his latest cycle begins tonight. Already, it’s looking like this could be Dexter’s toughest but most satisfying case to date. And let's not forget that it's through hunting and comparing himself to other clever, warped killers that Dexter gets to know himself. As ever, this season will be as much about self-discovery as it is a cat-and-mouse chase between killers with opposing MOs.
As will become clear, Dexter needs to up his game. Happily, this means series four never coasts or slumps. Trinity’s first scene reveals a nonchalant but sinister killer who’s methodical, focused and complex... and unrepentantly barking. Subsequent episodes just keep on adding layers and dialling up the tension.
There will be no rest for the blood guy, on any front. He’s become an archetypical husband and dad, ducking and hopelessly second-guessing female emotions he doesn't understand. Plus he's juggling family and work, but trying desperately not to let his inner bloke drown. While most fathers' me-time consists of fishing weekends and a beer after work, Dexter lets loose by cutting up killers and dumping their tarp-wrapped body parts in the sea. Part of the show’s genius is making us believe his hobby isn’t so different – morally - from fishing.
Not only do we root for Dexter, we imagine ourselves covering his back. Though, we mostly like him because of who he offs: almost always serial killers on the loose. Watching Dexter, your views on capital punishment quickly become irrelevant. He transcends these considerations. Partly, that’s because he’s fictional and so therefore a harmless vehicle for morbid escapism. But it’s also because he works so hard for his kills. Dexter could be just a regular mass murderer, picking his victims at random. But he plans every attack with forensic precision and is entirely sure of his victims’ guilt before he begins plotting. It’s hard not to love and respect a guy who manages to focus his urges for the greater good, as he sees it. Dexter Morgan: father, cop and functioning psychopathic killer. May he should just get some shuteye and keep up the good work.