So earlier this week I relented and succumbed to the seemingly relentless pressure to watch Dexter. I have no idea why, when I am recommended something new to watch I just store it in my head for a few years before I can actually venture in. It doesn’t matter too much though, because watching TV all in one hit is much better than having to remember what’s going on each week. The fact that Netflix automatically plays the next episode once you’ve finished the last is perhaps a little too helpful. The only time I actually have to press anything to continue watching is at the end of a season. At this point I try to come up for air and see what’s going on in the world. Not only do my eyes have to readjust, but I have to shave and try not to smell as bad. Then I get to work and wonder why there can’t be any drugs dealers, White House movers and shakers, zombies or serial killers around. The Excel spreadsheets don’t quite measure up in terms of excitement.

Anyway, I was going to write about Dexter. The first thing that people will likely observe about the show is that it puts you in to the head of a serial killer, a serial killer who you’re supposed to empathise with. There’s been a lot of discussion about whether these kinds of media influences shape certain susceptible individuals’ behaviour, and with recent events across the Atlantic this is only likely to intensify. I’m not going to proffer an opinion on that at the moment as it’s a more serious discussion that probably needs to take place in a different context. So I’ll talk about the show.

The first thing I thought as I watched was that although Dexter was interesting, the characters surrounding him were fairly one dimensional. I originally thought that this meant I might struggle with it in the longer term, but what I realised was that this was necessary to begin with in order to help us understand Dexter’s complex character and examine how he interacts with different people. This gives you a solid base to work from when things change and Dexter is presented with new situations and new people. Rita, for example, seems fairly straight forward to begin with but becomes much more interesting when Paul is thrown in to the mix.

Doakes was another example of someone who, to begin with, I saw as somewhat of a joke. To my mind he was a stereotype of a strong, angry, black male with a military background. He was too obvious and fell in to every trap Dexter set for him. However, much later on in some of the scenes where he is alone with Dexter, away from the station, he is shown to be compassionate and to genuinely care what happens to Dexter. You never find out whether he is being sincere or if he’s acting out of desperation, but either way he became a character I cared much more about.

Dexter himself was always going to be the character we were most invested in though, and as we learn more about him we gain a greater understanding of why he does the things he does. He is portrayed extremely convincingly by Michael C. Hall, who really helps to create the impression of a serene killer. This attitude that he portrays so well, helps us to view Dexter’s killing as mundane, sometimes even necessary. The ordered way he carries out his process leaves us less shocked every time and with little empathy for the victims. This helps forge the central dynamic of the show, where we empathise with Dexter on an emotional level yet, on an intellectual level, we’re still fully conscious of the fact that what Dexter is doing is ‘wrong’.

This confusion is aided by the fact that, through certain discoveries and choices, Dexter has a fluctuating sense of certainty and self image. Part of you wants to attribute this to conscience and an intrinsic sort of moral compass, but the less stupid part of you realises that it’s more of an examination of transient standards and the absence of moral absolutes. Dexter comes to the conclusion that the only code that’s worth adhering to is his own.

Your understanding of Dexter is consistently shifting. At the start he is a killer, completely detached from the outside world and having to fake all emotions. This helps us to see him as something ‘other’ than us. There is something fundamentally different about the way he is put together which means that, while we can relate to his feelings of annoyance and awkwardness in social situations, we never have to feel like we could actually be him. However, as the series draws on, we realise that he has very real and very strong feelings towards others. He had essentially projected some of these dysfunctional characteristics upon himself, perhaps in an attempt to rationalise and normalise his urges. At this point our safety blanket, where we felt we could never be like him is essentially pulled away, and we’re left wondering whether there is anything tangible that differentiates him from us.

There is a moment in a cabin where we see Dexter angry and aggressive. Here he’s portrayed in a way that we often see other monsters portrayed; when someone provokes them we see beneath the surface, to an angry, conflicted and malevolent core. This was one of the few moments where I felt the portrayal of Dexter’s character was inconsistent. I understand that he was supposed to be under a lot of pressure, but the way we had seen Dexter react to pressure before always involved internalising that pressure and remaining composed. It felt like the writers were trying to remind us we were dealing with a proper killer. Maybe they felt external pressure to make sure people weren’t too comfortable with the idea of Dexter.

Despite this, Dexter is a great show. It doesn’t need to end every episode on a cliffhanger because it knows that an insight in to Dexter’s mind and his emotional development is enough to keep us coming back. That and the cello in ‘Blood Theme’ by Daniel Licht at the end of every episode.

The best way to start this review is by describing how I currently feel having watched season 2 of ‘The Walking Dead’: ‘Empty’.

There’s a huge list of problems I have with the way that things have progressed this season. Throwing Glenn down a well as zombie bait probably ranks as number one.

Despite my marked lack of experience dealing with zombies trapped in one of my sources of fresh water, I feel that there are a number of areas in which the group could have improved their strategy. If there’s a zombie down your well, that’s game over as far as the drinking water is concerned. Board it up and find somewhere new to get your water (they had a couple of other wells anyway). Even the uninitiated would recognise the hallmarks of a zombie as being the open and festering wounds that riddle their bodies. If you think you can pull it out and the water’s still going to be Evian pure then you should probably have died in season 1.

Having felt a pressing and urgent need to liberate the zombie, cruelly trapped at the bottom of the well, our intrepid team of morons try to bait it with a joint of ham. It proves an unsuccessful lure and the team decide that live bait must be used instead. Everyone looks to Glenn, who seems to understand the fundamental idea that if the zombie-bait endeavour is to succeed he must get in the well.

For those starting to feel sorry for Glenn at this point, don’t. If he’s not smart enough to realise that ‘living bait’ includes, but is not restricted to ‘human bait’ then, quite frankly, I hope he gets torn to pieces. Tracy Jordan, or perhaps even a cast member from ‘Jersey Shore’, could have been counted on to come to the realisation that, with an abundance of chickens on the farm (along with various other livestock and anonymous, marginal characters), then it is perhaps unnecessary to feed Glenn to the zombie.

I won’t spoil the final outcome of ‘operation zombie water purifier’, but needless to say, it wasn’t clever.

This scene represents the larger problem with season 2 as a whole. The characters just don’t seem to have considered the details of the situation they’ve found themselves in, given that their lives, and the lives of their children, depend upon it.

This is where any sort of review of season 2 gets tricky. Despite having identified a catalogue of errors associated with the survival savvy of the characters, when I reflect upon what I have seen I am only reminded of the empty feeling I referred to earlier. It’s not, as you might expect, a reaction to the unending and soul destroying stupidity of the characters, it’s actually down to some great acting and excellent character development.

Despite plenty of eye-catching blood and guts, ‘The Walking Dead’ is at its heart a show about people. It gives us a visceral insight in to the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists as the situation they are placed in forces them to re-evaluate their morality. Hopefully most of you are aware that morals are in no way absolute. However, the plasticity of the group’s attitude to life, death and the way we interact with others leaves a huge impression.

A major element in this is the development of Carl. As a young boy growing up in this world he has quickly moved from fearful and afraid to cold and, at times, cruel. As his character develops, you feel as if you are watching the birth of a different kind of person, a kind of person who could only exist having not fully experienced the world that was. You’re forced to consider what value our continued existence has if we’re reduced to emotional husks, whose only joy is derived from the pain of others.

This is why you will ultimately forgive ‘The Walking Dead’ its failings. It may be far from perfect, but if pounding on the remote for the next episode as soon as you see the credits roll is a measure of success, then ‘The Walking Dead is very successful indeed.

So I’m writing a blog about films and TV shows now. Basically, I just saw The Great Gatsby trailer and wanted to have a quick talk about it. As there was no-one convenient around, I thought I’d send it out in to the great void of the interwebs.

The first thing that you may wish to note (notepads not provided) is that I am a massive Leonardo DiCaprio fan. I caught J.Edgar on a flight out to New York a couple of weeks ago and thought that overall it was pretty average. The prosthetics really distracted from the storytelling, especially with the copious amounts of cutting between the prosthesis-laden ‘present day’ and moments in J.Edgar’s past. However, DiCaprio’s acting ability still manages to shine through. He’s been pretty good in almost all of his work since Gangs Of New York. So, as the initiated will have gathered, I’m pretty excited to see him have a go at Gatsby. This is despite everyone else I have spoken to on the subject being against it. My mother, in particular, was not amused. Upon seeing him appear in the trailer she made a noise somewhere between a banshee dying and a squirrel throwing up.

At this point I can tell what you’re all thinking: ‘Enough already with the Leo, I wanna hear about Tobey Maguire!’ All I can tell you about him is that before Spiderman 3 I was fairly indifferent to him. He had an average, gecko on Ritalin kind of appeal. Then this happened: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4tDbEuMxys

Spiderman and Tobey Maguire were, from that moment on, completely dead to me. I shall say nothing more about either of them.

Carey Mulligan, on the other hand, is incredibly talented. Seeing her and DiCaprio starring next to each other is an incredibly exciting prospect, a more beautiful version of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie perhaps. Just as importantly, I think she’s the perfect fit to play Daisy. She has the ability to manipulate while maintaining a look of perfect innocence that many others have aimed for and almost all have fallen short.

Baz Luhrman is the great unknown quantity in all of this. He’s directed some first rate poop like ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Australia’, but ‘Romeo+Juliet’ was, at the very least, a good effort. His output to date has all been incredibly well shot and has maintained a vivid and coherent aesthetic. Is Luhrman an upmarket Zack Snyder, utterly reliant on his source material to produce anything of any worth? I don’t know, but I do like the occasional bit of footage of a yellow car tearing around New York in the 20′s.

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