I've been watching the hit Showtime series "Dexter" on DVD and have been tracing the genealogy of this "lovable" serial killer.
The "Dexter" series, based on a 2004 novel entitled "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" by Jeff Lindsay, does, I think, owe a debt of gratitude to the Ripley series of novels by Patricia Highsmith. To quote Wikipedia, "her recurring character Tom Ripley — an amoral, sexually ambiguous con artist and erstwhile murderer — was featured in a total of five novels, known to fans as the Ripliad, written between 1955 and 1991."
I got hooked by the 2000 movie "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (starring the dream cast of Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett and directed by the esteemed Anthony Minghella). I ended up reading all five installments of the Ripliad. "Ripley's Game," a pale but acceptable follow-up by a different director that starred John Malcovich, was released in 2002.
Now we have "Dexter." Both Tom Ripley and Dexter Morgan are sociopaths who operate out of the normal bounds of accepted behavior. Ripley, however, only kills to get ahead and to protect his secrets. One kill inevitably leads to another. Dexter is drawn to killing and enjoys it -- it is the only thing that makes him feel -- but is taught by his cop foster father to channel his urges into killing only serial killers.
So, you are probably telling yourself, why should I watch such a disturbing program as "Dexter"? Well it stars "Six Feet Under's" Michael C. Hall (as a blood spatter analyst), has a strong supporting cast, is set in scenic Miami, and is essentially a mystery suspense series. But I must warn you that a strong stomach is a necessity when Dexter gets down to business. It's not that we see much -- it's just the thought of it. If you prefer a more elegant killer, you might want to check out Ripley in book or video form.