Serial killer Dexter Morgan is not your typical psychopath, and Showtime's Dexter is not your typical television show. Based on Jeff Lindsay's suspense novel "Darkly Dreaming Dexter," Dexter is a binge-worthy series that follows the compelling, (un)ethical journey of a man who is guided by a strict code, rather than by conscience.
Harry Morgan, a well-respected detective with the Miami Police Department, realizes early on that something is amiss with his adopted son, Dexter. Dexter is showing the tell-tale signs of dangerous psychopathy, including antisocial behavior and a preoccupation with blood and death. Rather than commit the child he loves so dearly to life in an institution, Harry hides Dexter's true nature from the world, including from his wife and daughter.
Deep down, Harry knows that Dexter's compulsions are a ticking time bomb that will inevitably seat Dexter in an electric chair. So Harry teaches his son "the code," a set of rules that will guide Dexter's behavior throughout his life. Rule number one: don't get caught. Rule number two: never kill an innocent.
Years after Harry has passed away, Dexter continues to live and thrive by the code. As a blood spatter analyst for Miami Metro Homicide, Dexter is able to hide in plain view. With unfettered access to criminal databases and insider knowledge of active investigations, Dexter satiates his murderous appetite by ridding Miami of its worst criminals. By killing killers who have evaded the law, Dexter exacts his own twisted sense of justice that makes him difficult to track and difficult to hate.
Over the years, Dexter has crafted a convincing persona: a coworker whose fascination with blood is merely occupational; a boyfriend who is capable of emotional intimacy; a brother who understands love and true feeling. But living a double-life has its own set of risks, and his curious behaviors are increasingly difficult to explain to those closest to him, particularly his sister Debra who also works at Miami Metro Homicide. Will Harry's code save Dexter from exposure, prison, or death?
Dexter is filled with mystery, plot twists, and cat-and-mouse chases, making it a highly entertaining crime show. But the true strength of the series is its strong focus on character development. Michael C. Hall is utterly believable as Dexter, making him disturbing, darkly humorous, and strangely likeable. Each of the eight seasons explores new angles on the life of a psychopath, including meditations on trust, loyalty, family, friendship, faith, and love.
Looking for something to read? Try Jon Ronson's humorous and informative memoir, The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry. Also recommended: Martha Stout's The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us, and Kent A. Kiehl's The Psychopath Whisperer: the Science of Those Without a Conscience.
Recommended by Leah Youse