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Dexter Is Still the Best Show About a Serial Killer Ever Made — And Also the Worst

The infamously uneven Showtime series is now on Netflix. Here’s how to watch it.

Dexter Season 1 promotional image
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From the moment it began, Dexter was something special. This was a show about a serial killer like no other: a show where the killer is the hero. It was also a surprising mix of comedy, drama, and horror, with plenty of gore added in for good measure. At its best, Dexter was smart and surprising while being just pulpy enough to skirt the label of “prestige TV.”

Dexter is also extremely uneven. Plenty of shows start strong only to quickly taper off, but few shows start this strong, taper off a bit, and then manage to follow-that up with an even better season years later, only to immediately nose dive in quality. In other words, if you’re a completionist, Dexter isn’t for you. But if you’re willing to jump around, you’ll enjoy the experience.

So now that Dexter is streaming on Netflix, here’s how to get the most out of the series without torturing yourself trying to watch the worst of it.

Must-Watch: Dexter Season 1 (2006)

Something always seems off about Dexter.


The first season of Dexter is a masterclass in how to tell a story for television. The show is quick to set up its central conceit, which I’ll do my best to summarize here: Dexter is an adult man living in Miami who was exposed to an extremely traumatic event as a child that left him orphaned. It also instilled him with an insatiable desire to murder people. Dexter’s adoptive father somehow recognizes this in the boy and teaches his son to use that desire (he calls it “the Dark Passenger”) for good, by only targeting other murderers. He also teaches Dexter how to cover his tracks and blend in with society.

As an adult, Dexter mostly manages to pull this off, though many of the people he interacts with would probably say there’s something off about the guy. However, when his carefully hidden victims are discovered, it sets off an investigation that threatens to ruin his life. At the same time, someone from Dexter’s childhood returns in an unexpected way, forcing him to revisit the violent event that made him this way in the first place.

This all plays out over 12 impeccable episodes. And if Dexter had ended there, it might still be conisdered the best miniseries of all time. But it didn’t. Seasons 2 and 3 are fine, if largely forgettable. Each season gets its own villain, but you’d be hard pressed to remember much about either of them. So skip Dexter Seasons 2 and 3 and jump straight to Season 4.

Skip to: Dexter Season 4 (2009)

John Lithgow and Michael C. Hall in Dexter Season 4.


Dexter Season 4 is one of the best seasons in the history of television for one simple reason: John Lithgow. While the preceding two seasons featured lackluster villains, Dexter stomped on the gas when Lithgow joined the cast.

Saying much more might ruin the many twists and turns, but it’s worth noting that the season succeeds by taking Lithgow’s status as a the buffoonish protagonist of 3rd Rock From the Sun and weaponizing that against the audience. It all culminates in one of the most devastating twists you’ll ever experience.

How to Watch Dexter: New Blood (2021)

Dexter: New Blood was a surprisingly good revival.


Beyond Season 4, Dexter truly gets bad. It’s a slow decline at first, but an ill-advised romantic plotline pulls the show firmly into unwatchable territory. If you’re still craving more Dexter, however, it’s worth checking out the revival season New Blood, which aired in 2021 and picks up years later with our protagonist having started a new life upstate New York. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before Dexter’s murderous past catches up with him. New Blood also adds Clancy Brown to the cast in a role that comes close to rivaling John Lithgow’s Season 4 performance.

If you want to watch Dexter: New Blood you’ll have to subscribe to Paramount+ (the first episode if streaming for free on the service if you’re curious). As for the rest of the show, you know where to find it.

Dexter is streaming now on Netflix.

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