Dissecting Dexter’s Intro

image

[GIF Credit: anditsgettingmoreandmoreabsurd]

If you are not familiar with the Dexter series, the opening sequence immediately sets the stage for the world of duplicities you are about to enter. Even if you are going into the show blindly and have no idea who Dexter Morgan is, the tone of the titles is sure to “set [your] teeth on edge.”

The theme song, written by Rolfe Kent, is eerily upbeat despite what we are about to see. It reminds me of the soundtrack of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, setting the stage for crime, mystery, and investigation. Simply put, it sounds like something that Igor from Young Frankenstein should be creeping around to, or what should be playing during a game of cat-and-mouse, which Dexter often depicts. One thing is for certain: I get the goose bumps every single time I hear the first few bars.

image

[GIF Credit: anditsgettingmoreandmoreabsurd]

The first image we see is a mosquito, which Angelina Karpovich calls a “curiously apt metaphor for the protagonist” (30). Both feed on human blood and often go undetected until they strike; however, men “more often than not kill mosquitoes” (30). Interestingly enough, Dexter is the hunter and the hunted, yet he appears in total control of the first sequence we see before each episode. Dexter swats the mosquito after closing in on it carefully and watching its every move. The hint of a smile we see in the background conveys his bloodlust and the satisfaction that comes with stamping out the lesser in a ritual that we will eventually hear him call “taking out the trash.”

Next is the title in thick block letters, which Karpovich suggests are meant to represent “Dexter’s constant meticulous planning and the rigid boundaries he has set up in his life” (31). The logo conveys the precision with which Dexter performs; however, the blood spatter, or what appears to be blood, indicates that not everything is tidy all the time.

image

[GIF Credit: babegocrazybreaktherules]

The sound of Dexter’s fingers scraping along the stubble of his neck is unnerving, as is the sound of the razor against his skin. It is by no accident that his hand falls at the base of his own throat as he places the razor to his skin, eliciting the image of strangulation and/or a threat. We see our first drop of blood running down his neck and splattering into the formerly pristine white of the sink, which “invoke[s] sterility” (33). Dexter cleans up his own blood and we see the blood overtaking the white of the tissue he uses. The theme of red (or passion and danger) overcoming white (purity and innocence) begins to emerge. The blood droplets also serve to remind us of the blood slides Dexter collects from each of his victims.

image

[GIF Credit: babegocrazybreaktherules]

In such close proximity to a shot of blood we see Dexter cutting up his breakfast ham. When I first saw this sequence, I was convinced it was flesh, although I knew at the time that Dexter was about a serial killer. Once I recuperated and realized it was only ham, I could not shake the feeling that the eeriness of the music and the blood and the near-strangulation we saw beforehand was meant to carry over into his breakfast-making ritual. Clearly we have a killer on our hands. The way he tosses the ham into the frying pan suggests carelessness, and the mundane (and slightly impolite) way he chews conveys no enthusiasm. This lackadaisical attitude carries over into the messy way he cracks an egg, which will later echo the ease with which he can crack serial killer cases (for who better to understand the mind of a serial killer than one himself?). The way he prods the yolk with his knife and twists it is meant to make us squirm and we do until it is the ketchup falling into his plate that makes us question whether or not it is blood on his plate.

image

[GIF Credit: babegocrazybreaktherules]

The scraping of the knife and fork and the dragging of the partially-wet yolk across his plate had me saying “eww” the first dozen or so times I saw it. No matter how many times I have seen the intro, I have always found my eyes drawn toward the screen because it is just so eerie and so well-planned. I still cringe at times, but mostly I smile and chortle as if I’m a serial killer myself. But that’s beside the point. Next we see a slow-motion coffee grinder (which Dexter does by hand, mind you). After an instant, the whole coffee beans are pulverized by his tight grip on the grinder.

image

[GIF Credit: babegocrazybreaktherules]

Cutting into the orange with a serrated knife, against the red background, although an innocent act, is tainted by the knowledge, or at least of the suspicion, that we are dealing with a dangerous man. We come in for a close-up of the splitting flesh of the fruit to discover that he is cutting into a blood orange, the guts of which appear like fresh flesh being smashed into the juicer. Now how is that for duplicity?

image

[GIF Credit: babegocrazybreaktherules]

It is back to the bathroom for the theme of strangulation to continue – the taut floss around Dexter’s fingers inhibits circulation. His dirty fingernails serve to remind us that not all is pristine, yet his flossing is an endeavor to clean and perfect himself. The tightly gripped shoelaces around his hands conjure the idea of strangulation once again and the shot of his defined bicep confirms that he is in shape, and even more likely to be dangerous.

image

[GIF Credit: babegocrazybreaktherules]

Nearly suffocating himself with his white T-shirt, his features barely visible through the fabric, the face of Dexter Morgan is revealed, relieved from some unknown source of stress. Karpovich suggests that it is indicative of his struggle to fit into society by his morning routine; however, I am not so sure that it is a struggle. Dexter seemingly has perfected his lifestyle. His sinister gaze in subsequent shots confirm suspicions, if the preceding evidence was not already enough, and the hint of a smirk appears on his lips.

image

[GIF Credit: babegocrazybreaktherules]

Next we see Dexter all dressed and presentable, leaving his Miami apartment, seemingly winking at us because he knows that we know, and it is now time to embark upon the episode. Serving as the initiation sequence to the mindset that watching Dexter requires, we are now ready to take everything both at face value and with its double-sided implications. Karpovich suggests that we have seen the “inside” of Dexter’s apartment and mind, but him leaving his apartment at the end of the sequence initiates the time where Dexter is forced to put up public face after preparing himself for the day. We will not see Dexter’s sinister look again until he is in the privacy of his home.

image

[GIF Credit: anditsgettingmoreandmoreabsurd]

The lines of the morning routine are blurred and condition our brains to accept the parallel dialogue which we are to watch the show with – of that which is said and done, and that of Dexter’s voice-over. Everything Dexter says and does is meant with duplicity, and the complimentary dialogue allows for dramatic irony and wicked humor. In nearly every scene where Dexter interacts with others, we perceive a certain tension that Dexter feels every single day as he leads his double life. Despite the fact that he is a serial killer, and we are not (or at least most of us are not), we find ourselves rooting for him and ultimately empathizing for him. After all, we are all human.

image

[GIF Credit: joeydeangelis]

Works Cited

Karpovich, Angelina I. “Dissecting the Opening Sequence.” Dexter: Investigating Cutting Edge Television. Ed. Douglas L. Howard. New York: I.B. Taurus, 2010. 27-42. Print.

WATCH: Opening Sequence

This week’s treatment will focus solely on the introduction to our beloved serial killer show, Dexter.

In case you’ve forgotten, here it is!