Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Peter Labuza
April 10, 2012 10:30 AM
  • |

Killer Improvements: 5 Ways 'Dexter' Can Learn From 'Justified'

Erica Tazel in 'Justified' Prashant Gupta/FX
Use Characters as Necessary

How often has “Dexter” forced us to view almost unforgivable subplots? Every season, characters like Quinn or LaGuerta run through the most strained narratives, which are perhaps included due to some contractual obligation. Meanwhile, as “Justified” has beefed up more interesting characters, it has dropped others. Raylan’s ex-wife has disappeared from the season and it’s unlikely she’ll remain a large part of the show.

In his recap of March 27th episode "Measures," Scott Tobias noted that the installment marked one of the few appearances of fellow cop Rachel (Erica Tazel), who's never given much of a role. I’m all for more of Tazel’s work in the show, but why give her a whole season-long arc? "Justified" has avoided such checklist style writing, and hopefully it will continue to.

Foreground Your Background

"Dexter” may take place in Miami, but it’s something the show often forgets. Sure, Dexter uses his boat to discard his victims, and the cops always talk about getting tacos, but otherwise, there’s no reason "Dexter" couldn’t take place in New York or Los Angeles. Week in and week out, “Justified” is set in eastern Kentucky, and constantly stays true to its “dirty south” vibe. Yost has made this a sticking point of the series (despite Elmore Leonard’s frustration over Raylan's hat, which he feels is "too Western" and worn by the characters too often). It’s not just the drug culture, but also the accents, the quality and style of the criminals, and the cracking dialogue that has kept the atmosphere one of the show’s biggest pleasures.

Damon Herriman in 'Justified' Adam Taylor/FX
Go Crazy

One of the clear standout episodes of this season of “Justified” was February 14th's “Thick as Mud.” Instead of focusing on any of the major characters, the main plotline followed Dewey Crowe as he raced around town robbing stores in order to pay a criminal to return his kidneys. It was bizarre, exciting, and also filmed in a very different style from the rest of the series. “Justified” took a complete chance on dedicating an episode to a minor character, which shook up the usual procedure of the show, and it was a total blast.

“Dexter” needs to go crazy, not just for one episode, but to revamp what we come to expect out the series. “Dexter” too often plays it safe, sticking to what has brought the series a large audience for six seasons. Last season’s finale finally seemed ready to signal a shift with Deb discovering Dexter murdering someone. Let’s hope that’s the beginning of something very different.

You might also like:


  • Brad | April 11, 2012 4:08 PMReply

    Dexter will always be the best show

  • Ben miller | April 10, 2012 2:36 PMReply

    Problem with Dexter is, it's predictable. You know every season what is going to happen. You almost need a check list ticking things off as you go along. With justified, you just don't know where the story is headed. Characters agenda and motivations are slowly drip fed throughout the 13 episodes and by the time their time has come, you realise you're rooting for them. Take Quarrell's for example. He is a psychopath and he has pretty lost it. But we really want him to live through till next season. I somehow doubt that'll happen though. Now that's good writing. Dexter has just become lazy and routine

  • Sean | April 10, 2012 1:55 PMReply

    Raylan Givens. Walton Goggins.

  • Bob Westal | April 10, 2012 12:34 PMReply

    Is Raylen really an antihero the way Dexter is? The way I see it, people just keep making him pull on him all the time. But, seriously, in a classic Western, he's a straight up good guy hero though admittedly beset with human flaws like all good characters. The only issue is that he never brings any back-up with him, forcing him to draw all the time. Good thing he's such a good shot!

  • Peter Labuza | April 10, 2012 2:28 PM

    Certainly Raylan and Dexter have different impulses and different goals, though I think Raylan's actions have become more questionable over the seasons. I think the connection between the two shows is less what they are about than how. Both shows are essentially higher quality cop procedurals, and they center around unconventional heroes, who have a darker side (the first scene we meet Raylan in the seires, he essentially forces a man to attempt to shoot him so he can kill him). And the Dexter character is still the best part of "Dexter," and even managed to find some interesting things to say about faith with the character in season 6 with his relationship to the Mos Def character (sadly that was it, which is why there are so many things that need fixing).

  • Dustin | April 10, 2012 11:38 AMReply

    Rayland Gibbons!?!?!? Really!?!?!?!
    Raylan Givens is the character you're referring to.