You think serial killers are bad? Kids are evil. Kids are deadly. Kids kill shows.
There's a long-standing joke that the arrival of an adorable moppet reliably poisons a show. This even has a name: Cousin Oliver syndrome, coined by jump-the-sharkers in reference to the seventh Brady kid, who arrived just as the whole bunch capsized.
Well, this season Dexter has a kid. But fear not. Yet.
This isn't a tousle-haired wisecracker. It's a mewling, weeping, hungering, shrieking, keep-everyone-in-the-house-awake-at-all-hours infant. Last season, Dexter feared his son would turn out to be a demon. Instead, he's a human alarm clock; a Dexter-sleep-deprivation machine.
As Dexter yawns and stretches and tries to come alive, happiness abounds elsewhere in the Dexterverse. Masuka is cracking dirty. Angel has apparently split with last season's Officer Gianni and is now sleeping with Lieutenant Laguerta. The heretofore tragically underused Quinn — haunted last year by that half-assed plot about corruption — lays his sweet lucky charms on a hottie reporter. And perennial romantic loser Deb is ensconced with sensitive Anton, so — wait! What? It's the return of Creepy Agent Lundy! Remember him, from two seasons back, and his improbable–slash–queasily Oedipal love affair with Deb?
Lundy's lurking around the station once again, hoping to catch "the most successful serial killer" ever — an elusive ghoul called the Trinity Killer, played here by John Lithgow in ham mode. This is a classic good-news-bad-news situation. The good news is that we get to see the excellent John Lithgow play a serial killer. The bad news is that so far he mostly does it naked.
Dexter, meanwhile, is sleepily trying to dispatch a more garden-variety lowlife, but he keeps nodding off on the job. (The episode's best moment — a series highlight, really — is the mock repeat of the show's famous opening, this time with Dexter barely able to drag himself through his morning routine.) He blows a big case on the witness stand after mixing up his notes, then sets about catching the creep and chopping him up, all the while trying to find time to pick up little Harrison's ear-infection medicine.
A parent-colleague found this sleep-deprived Dexter story line haunting and hilarious. Still, you might wonder just how long they can stretch out the gag before Dexter's yawns turn into your own. It's only episode one, and Dexter already looks ready to crash — literally, it turns out, as the show ends with his car going end-over-end. Has this baby spelled the end of Dexter?
Well, presumably not in this roadside wreck. As for the series as a whole, we'll find out.