Emmy Contender: Dexter

Drama: The freshman class

The best way to catch a killer is to think like one. That explains why Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is such a prized employee of the Miami Police Dept.

Hiding in plain sight as a serial killer with a moral code, he’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, wrapped in a hyper-conscious ball of emotional anxiety.

Showtime values Dexter as well. Based on Jeff Lindsay’s series of morbid novels, “Dexter” has led the cabler to new heights, snaring its highest ratings for a series premiere at the time of its October debut.

The show’s bloodline can be traced back to a New Yorker book review that caught the eye of executive producer Sara Colleton.

“As soon as (executive producer) John Goldwyn and I read it, we knew we had something,” Colleton says. “It’s a genre idea that’s a flip on the detective story. It’s very rich thematically because of who Dexter is and where he fits into the world. He’s the classic antihero who allows us to deal with fundamental questions of humanity.”

Indeed, “Dexter” revels in the two-sided nature of humanity. Hall’s character upholds the law by day and dispenses his own brand of vigilante justice by night.

“He’s like an Italian coffee press,” says executive producer Clyde Phillips. “When you push down on the plunger, bubbles seep up. That’s why his deepest, darkest emotions arise when he’s around his girlfriend Rita, her children and his sister.

“Like any grand literary villain, Dexter isn’t a literal psychopath or even a literal hero. He’s a character that allows us to look at ourselves.”

Adds Colleton: “What we try to do, as subtly as possible, is illuminate human behavior for him. Dexter is assembling a composite of human feelings. Sometimes he mimics them and other times he surprises himself by actually feeling them.”

Still, as much as Dexter wants to be like everybody else, he’s fully aware of why he can’t be. Methodical, cunning, and possessing a pitch-black sense of humor as razor sharp as the tools he kills with, death is simply in Dexter’s DNA. And you can’t help what’s in your blood.

THE WRAP

Best episode: “Episode 112, because the payoff is so good,” says Colleton. “This is when Dexter makes a moral choice. He can choose his real blood brother or his foster sister. He can choose good or evil, and he chooses good. When Dexter puts his forehead to his brother’s forehead, it’s a beautifully acted moment, and it’s wonderfully directed by Michael Cuesta.”

Underappreciated character: “Over the course of the year the characters get in your head and start talking to you in the writers’ room,” Phillips says. “We felt that Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) wasn’t getting her due, and once we realized what a wonderful actress we had, her storyline took off.” Adds Colleton: “I’d love to see more of Lauren Velez next season, too.”

Great line: “There are no secrets in life, just hidden truths that lie beneath the surface,” says Phillips, referencing a line spoken by Dexter in “Crocodile.”

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