If you are a faithful and long-term Geekscapist, you know by now just how late I am to most parties involving TV viewing. It took forever for your collective cries to get me to watch Battlestar Gallactica. I have yet to watch Veronica Mars. I haven’t watched any episode of Undeclared, Freaks and Geeks or Spaced. The only shows that I really watch are Heroes, Lost and BSG. The rest are really lost to not having enough time. But because of your enthusiasm (not to mention my dad and step-mom becoming huge fans), I finally added the first season of Dexter to my Netflix queue.
Let’s get the Captain Obvious Award out of the way first: holy shit! Every piece of praise that is dropped on that OTHER show that people call “the best show on television” actually APPLIES to Dexter. The engrossing season long story archs? They don’t live up to the hype with that OTHER show. They do in Dexter. The complex, captivating and hugely entertaining lead? It’s nonexistent in that OTHER show. It’s in your face with Dexter. The incredibly well sketched and evenly treated, compelling supporting cast? This may be the strongest thing going on in Dexter. The evidence is in the amazing quality of every episode. Unlike every other show on television, there are no “filler episodes” here, in which every scene and every episode work towards a whole. Dexter is the best thing I have watched in years.
So of course, my mutant geek gene kicks in halfway through the first episode. I sit up straight on the couch and say out loud: “Why aren’t these guys doing a Daredevil movie?” It’s perfect. It’s TOO perfect. There’s no way it wouldn’t work to make the most kick ass Daredevil movie possible. Why hasn’t Hollywood thought about this? Have they?
It’s easy to spot from the beginning. Dexter follows a superhero story structure very similar to double D’s. You have the social and moral responsibility angle, the dark vigilantism, a strong and involved supporting cast, a crime mystery backdrop and an engaging, parrallel origin story with a strong father figure. The similarities are too obvious to miss.
On the surface, Michael C. Hall is a dead-ringer for Matt Murdock: the hair, the build, everything. But beyond that, the duality of the two characters and their constant proximity with the justice system is staring you right in the face. Dexter spends his days working for the Miami Dade PD. Matt Murdock spends his waking hours as a New York defense attorney. By night, they both take justice into their own hands as shadow lurking vigilantes.
One thing that the makers of the last Daredevil film didn’t seem to grasp is something pretty easy to see when you read it on the four-colored page: Daredevil is NOT Spider-Man Light. They got the shadows right, and the alleys and rooftops, but that’s where the rest of the movie started to fall apart. If anything, Daredevil is closer to DC’s Batman than anything (someone behind a studio desk just sat up straight at the mention of ANYTHING being like The Dark Knight’s Batman). Daredevil is the Marvel universe’s urban detective, and like The Caped Crusader, Daredevil is constantly battling with his responsibilities as the guardian of his domain. Without superpowers beyond mortal men, Bruce Wayne and Daredevil must rely on their intelligence and instincts. Batman has the advantage in gadgetry, Daredevil in enhanced senses. But like, Dexter, they are both detectives who unravel crimes using their wits.
The role of Matt Murdock’s father is very similar to that of Dexter’s. Both characters flashback to the father figures in their lives on many occasions and look to them for moral guidance or past lessons. Like Dexter, the death of his father was a character shaping moment in the young vigilante’s life. Matt Murdock vowed to bring his father’s killer to justice, leading him down the road of vigilantism. Dexter murdered the nurse attempting to shorten his dying father’s life, leading him down the path towards vigilantism.
In both cases, the hero REFUSES to go after an innocent person and strictly believe in their own code of justice. Dexter only kills the guilty. Daredevil only brings the guilty to justice. When I saw Daredevil allow that mobster, in the early scenes of Mark Stephen Johnson’s Daredevil, to be hit by the subway train, I buried my head in my hands. This cinematic representation of Daredevil was vindictive and flawed way beyond any form of retribution. It didn’t matter where the story went from there. 2003’s Daredevil was already unrecoverable. The most the character could hope for after that glaring inconsistency was “hey, look kid, we’re still wearing the same costume, right?” I knew that I would have to wait a little longer to see Daredevil on the big screen.
The supporting cast in Dexter plays out like the best Brian Michael Bendis, Greg Rucka or Ed Brubaker comic book script. In the comics, Foggy Nelson, Dakota North, Ben Urich and numerous other helpers and confidantes help Matt Murdock bring the guilty to justice. They all have unique voices, attributes and roles to play. Similarly, the characters from Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter novels come to the small screen breathing lives of their own under the careful writing of the Dexter team. Why can’t James Manos, Jr. write a kick ass Daredevil movie? The Dexter scripts are filled with mystery, action, drama and a packed supporting cast. Sgt. Doakes, Debra Morgan, “Angel” Batista and Lieutenant LaGuerta are all three dimensional, engaging characters that help move the narrative and mysteries forward while enhancing our perception of our main character. When Angel spends an entire episode telling Dexter that he’s trying to find the best gift for his wife, only to reveal that it’s a failed reconciliation gift in a gut-wrenching scene at Angel’s wife’s home, the viewer soon realizes that the supporting storylines in Dexter might be better than the main ones. These aren’t just the character moments seen in other shows. These are full fledged and engaging storylines.
Finally, you’ve got the story structures. How much do I even have to say on the subject besides taking the main characters from Dexter and moving them to Manhattan’s west side? The villains that Dexter goes after are street level criminals and organizations that prey on the weak and the innocent. In every sentence in this article, you can replace the word Daredevil with Dexter and get the same results. Structurally, every episode of Dexter is made up of an A storyline and criminal of the week, supported by the ongoing B storyline stringing viewers through the season. Beyond that, you get flashbacks to Dexter’s development as a young outsider and personal pieces from his supporting cast. What else do we want (and get) from our Daredevil comics every week if this isn’t it?
The 2003 feature film was an attempt at a superhero movie with detective elements that fell short of either. Dexter is a compelling detective crime drama with elements of super-heroism written in the structure of TV’s best mysteries and comic books’ best storylines that delivers on both promises and MORE. I know that a year ago, after seeing Gone Baby Gone, I argued for Ben Affleck to be given the writing and directing reigns of the Daredevil films at Sony. That’s still a pretty damn good choice. But after seeing Dexter, it would be even easier to supplant the talent involved in this series every week and put them on the one Marvel hero that we’ve seen on the big screen who has come the closest to being one and done.
So now I ask, is Hollywood blind? What’s the hold up? The geeks are waiting.