The series opens with Dexter driving down a Miami street at night. His narration tells us that "tonight's the night" and we quickly come to realize that when he says he "is hungry for something different now" what exactly he means by that.
Mike Donovan will be the first victim of for us to see get "Dextered". He is attacked from behind, as he gets into his car, and ordered to drive. When they arrive at a seemingly remote location, Dexter confronts Mike with a grisly scene of three dead young boys
"Open your eyes and look at what you did" Dexter orders him, but Mike does not want to see, Dexter yells at him to "look or I will cut your eyelids right off your eyes." Mike does look and so do we. A softer side of Dexter emerges, more like his tone when we first met him, driving alone and talking about life in Miami. He speaks of the effort he went to dig up the boys and clean them.
Mike pleads for mercy, but it will not be coming. He says he couldn't help himself for what he did and begs saying "you have to understand." Yet another side, more sinister and yet slightly sardonic materializes and Dexter says "trust me, I definitely understand."
Dexter tells Mike he could never kill a child, not like he has done. When Mike asks why, Dexter drives a syringe deep into his neck, telling him "because I have standards" and Mike collapses perhaps unconscious, perhaps dead, onto the floor.
This has all happened in the first 5 minutes of the show and already you find yourself hooked. You will probably also find yourself liking Dexter. You know he is a killer, you know he has killed before, you know he will kill again, and yet, there is an honor about him.
Mike awakens to find himself taped to a table, face up. Dexter uses a scalpel to cut his cheek and a pipette to collect some of the blood. He places a drop onto a slide and covers that slide with another and appears to be taking a sample for some reason. All of this while he calmly tells Mike how he is going to cut him up and put him into several trash bags.
The actual killing and dismemberment is left to the imagination, and next we find ourselves on Dexter's boat with his narration telling us that even he does not know why he is the way he is. He tells of his foster parents, Harry and Doris Morgan, letting us know that "they're both dead now," and with beautiful satirical humor quickly adds "I didn't kill them, honest."
We get to see a flashback to Dexter's youth when Harry has discovered that his foster-son has not only killed a neighbor's dog, but several others as well. This sets up the fact that his foster father knew early on that Dexter was a troubled young man.
Dexter arrives to his apartment, quickly closes the door and heads immediately for his wall unit air conditioner where he removes the cover, reaches inside and opens a case. Here he carefully files the slide with Mike's blood sample, along with quite a number of others. We all now know why he took the blood in the first place, and we have confirmation that this scene has already played out many times in Dexter's life.
The "code of Harry, my foster father is satisfied, and so am I" he says while putting the sample away. We learn Harry was a Miami cop who taught Dexter how to avoid being caught.
Much of our insights into Dexter will come from these running monologues, and we learn here that he has a foster sister, Debra. He describes her as "the only person in the world who loves me," He also says "I don't have feeling about anything, but if I could have feelings at all I'd have them for Deb" Arriving at a crime scene, we learn for the first time that Dexter is a member of law enforcement, he is a forensics technician. Not just any technician, but a blood splatter expert.
The crime scene he finds himself at is extremely unique in that there is absolutely no blood. Not one drop. Something almost unheard of and this causes a strange reaction in (up until now) very calm Dexter as he reels from what he sees and has to flee the scene.
At the police station where he works, Dexter seems quite at ease with all the staff, moving around, handing out donuts and making small talk. He also has a woman in the file room who provides him with case files (presumably where he gets his ideas for his next victim).
He disagrees with a cop, Sgt. Doakes who Dexter gives the creeps, over who committed a murder. While at the crime scene, Dexter's description of the killing, as evidenced by the blood splatters on the floor and walls, suggests it was not a drug deal gone bad, but rather a crime of passion.
We quickly meet who will be Dexter's next victim, Jamie Jerworski, a parking valet who has apparently murdered a young wife/mother and escaped justice on a technicality. Dexter tells us he can quickly recognize any killer. Using the code of Harry to ensure that Jamie is guilty, Dexter breaks into his home and searches it, finding the proof he needs.
While conducting the search, we see another flashback where Harry and Dexter talk about his desire to kill things other than animals. Just as quickly back in modern day Miami, we meet Dexter's girlfriend, Rita. She was saved by his sister on a domestic violence call, introduced to Dexter and he tells us that in her own way, Rita "is as damaged as me."
Due to her violent past with her husband, she has no interest in sex and that works very well for Dexter. She has two small children who seem to love Dexter very much and it is strange watching him interact with them all, knowing he absolutely feels nothing toward any of them.
Ironically on his date, he finds himself at the edge of another, no-blood crime scene. The body, as before, carved up into smaller pieces, but not one drop of blood. This body is unique in that the killer has apparently taken the head with him.
In a longer flashback with Harry, we see that no one, not even Dexter knows what causes him to have his urge to kill. Harry understands that while they can't stop it, they can maybe channel it, use it for good. Harry tells him to "remember this forever, you are my son, you are not alone, and you are loved."
While discussing with Deb the crime scene from the night before, Dexter stumbles on his first solid lead about the other killer in the show. This one is using some sort of access to extreme cold to conduct his killings, which is aiding in there being no blood. Dexter seems almost in awe of the beauty and simplicity of the plan. He quickly recovers to theorize that a refrigerated truck (probably stolen) is being used for the murders.
Dexter lets Deb pitch the theory to a briefing of the Metro Miami Police about the truck, but it does not go over very well. We see some of the tension between Sgt. Doakes and Dexter in Lt LaGuerta's office as the debate continues over whether the case Doakes is working was drug related or a crime of passion.
Meanwhile Dexter moves on to capture and restrain Jamie the valet, who admits his guilt to Dexter and also explains he has no remorse. Dexter is interrupted in his work with disposing of Jamie by a phone call by Rita who wants him to come over to visit. He calmly explains he is "finishing up a project" but he will be by later.
After completing the job, Dexter begins to drive to see her, but is confronted by a refrigerated truck which leads him to follow the truck. Coming to a dead end on a closed bridge, the truck turns back on Dexter and the driver hurls a severed head onto Dexter's car. While discussing the details of how he came to find himself in the situation he is in, the Lt. confirms that the case of Sgt. Doakes was closed when the arrested the boyfriend. It was a crime of passion.
Dexter finally heads to Rita's where she has apparently grown more comfortable and is interested in maybe taking their relationship to more intimate level. Dexter is anything but comfortable with the idea and is "saved by the bell" when a call comes from Rita's son, Cody (sleeping over next door) saying he is throwing up and she has to go get him.
Arriving home, Dexter finds a chilling item on his refrigerator door. The head of a doll and it was not there before. Inside the freezer there are the parts of the doll, cut up just like the dead bodies of the women killed by the other killer. Dexter views this as an invitation, describing it like an offer to come out and play. Dexter reveals that he does, saying "Yes, I wanna play, I really, really do."
And with that, our first episode comes to an end.