tvdinnerdexter.JPG
Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.

As October begins, the spookier side of fall television has started to emerge. AMC's internet sensation The Walking Dead is less

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Dexter and Deli Shez Offer Tantalizing Sides; Struggle With Main Course

tvdinnerdexter.JPG
Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.

As October begins, the spookier side of fall television has started to emerge. AMC's internet sensation The Walking Dead is less than two weeks away from lumbering its way through a second season while dueling network takes on the darker edge of fairy tales, Grimm and Once Upon a Time, are set to debut before the end of the month. However, spearheading the monstrous side of this year's entertainment crop is Showtime's Dexter, which made its scintillating season six premiere this past Sunday evening. Playing off of Dexter's iconic, breakfast-centric opening credits, TV Dinner will also be focussing on Deli Shez Cafe -- a restaurant that offers delivery for the most important meal of the day within a five mile radius until 9 PM.

The Cuisine: Deli Shez Cafe is the unassuming Belltown specialty shop that has found a comfortable niche delivering lighter food items from a pretty wide berth, making it ideal for those cripplingly hungover mornings where you just really, really need an egg sandwich.

The breakfast options don't stretch much further that that, unfortunately, confined to bagels or english muffins loaded with egg and your choice of cheese (american, swiss, cheddar, feta, cream), alongside either ham, turkey, bacon or sausage. Your only other option is to get a breakfast plate, which is just all of that stuff on a plate.

While I'm touting Deli Shez's breakfast options, it also has a similar format with Mediterranean fare. Shez offers the sea-neighboring cuisine's staple proteins of chicken, lamb or beef and staple fixings of baba ganoush, grape leaves and hummus. You can get that either in a salad, a gyro, or, you guessed it, a plate. While at least comprehensive, these options come up a bit lacking when it comes to anything besides something to grab for a light lunch, making their delivery seem a little... excessive.

However, what Deli Shez lacks in exciting entrees, it makes up for in a willingness to deliver eclectic grocery-like items that most restaurants won't touch. Shez is particularly well-stocked in desserts, offering candy bars, baklava and even a cryptic "ice cream" offering that I didn't quite muster the courage to check out. To cut through a groggy night's sleep, Shez also delivers a wide variety of different coffee beverages, including cappuchinos, macchiatos, and caffè breves. Even Red Bull is available for those of a softer stomach.

As mentioned before, Deli Shez is a godsend for the morning from hell, particularly for people who work from home or went a little overboard the night before a big day of cleaning. Besides that, it takes a pretty impressive amount of laziness to reach Deli Shez's $18 delivery minimum, and you're probably better off either spending that money on a more substantive meal or (*GASP!*) making your own damn sandwiches.

The Entertainment: Dexter has had a long, storied run on Showtime so far, featuring the Michael C. Hall-played vigilante serial killer as he struggles to settle down and build a family for himself, despite running afoul of some new, psychopathic nemesis that wants to kill him and his family every year.

While the show is known for its tendency for taut, suspenseful moments, Dexter's does tend to run into some disorganization, particularly amongst its auxiliary characters. The relationship(s) of Detective (now Lieutenant) Batista and Lieutentant (now Captain) LaGuerta seem particularly abrasive with the amount of focus put on them in spite of the show's innate, white-knuckled tension towards the main character. It's not like they're wholly unlikable characters, it's just that they tend to get in particularly melodramatic argument scenes that often don't vibe very well with the show's comically dark tone. It doesn't help that they seem to shuffle romantic involvements between nearly every season, offering the viewer little reason to care about any one of those arguments when placed in context of the show's grand scheme.

Of course, that little detail pales in comparison to how petty those arguments feel when contrasted against Dexter's daily struggles with not being found out as one of the most prolific serial killers in world history. Stuff like this happens all the time on dramatic television. It's a common pitfall of the "gritty procedural/workplace ensemble" dynamic we see in shows like CSI or NCIS. In the end, how much do we REALLY care about two fairly affluent, middle-aged co-workers' doomed fling when we've just seen someone's son or daughter graphically tortured to death just a few scenes prior?

the fifth season seemed to suffer from not only this, but ironically enough, the strength of its unforgettable fourth. Starring John Lithgow as the legendary "Trinity Killer" who forms and unlikely (and deeply unsettling) friendship with our own murderous protagonist, this year held a series of strong, bold episodes that furthered Dexter's character in a way he could never return. While that made for some truly compelling viewing at the time, it also made good on its promises -- killing off or alienating a lot of show elements that kept the narrative coherent.

It's here that we see the flipside of a boon I've commended from shows like Breaking Bad or (to a much lesser extent) Pan Am -- where a diverse ensemble can take a show to new crowdpleasing levels, protecting itself from a central protagonist that might not reasonate with a wider audience. While Dexter promised this at first with a wide body of enduring characters, recent "plot developments" have loosened the show's old chemistry, forcing the show to ask its audience to suddenly pick up new allegiances and relationships that hadn't been given enough time to grow organically within the overarching story.

In the beginning, every one of the show's subplots had a pretty cut-and-dry path relating to our lovable, serial-killing hero, even if he wasn't directly involved. Considering the show isn't named Dexter & Friends, this made sense. However, over the course of a few seasons, a lot of weird crap has gone on that has pulled a lot of the focus towards characters that the audience hasn't been given a whole lot of reasons to care about, besides the all-important "hasn't been killed off by the writers yet" characterization.

While a few shows can recover from big dramatic shake-ups in prestigious form, Dexter's fifth season frankly ended up looking like a wounded, skeleton crew of a show. The season's arc was primarily held together by a notoriously-hard-to-take-seriously "motivational speaker turned murderous cult leader" villain and recurring guest appearances from the likes of Julia Stiles, Jonny Lee Miller and even a wimpy, rushed-feeling sideplot from Robocop himself, Peter Weller. We got to exorcise some of Dexter's demons and get an extremely limited view of the drastically changed relationship with his son, but mostly the season focussed on the meandering vengeance plot of Stiles's character, which was rather unceremoniously dropped just in time to wrap up the season. Following a climactic season that would change the very composition of the show for the rest of its run, season five ultimately seemed like filler: a year for the show to reset the game board, so to speak.

Admittedly, the sixth season carries some of the same doubts -- LaGuerta and Batista are once again back in the tiresome dating game and many new faces decorate the premiere from everyone to noted celebrity child Colin Hanks to rapper Mos Def (or is it Yasiin now?) as Dexter gets ready to confront a "religion professor turned murderous cult leader" this time around.

The promise that comes from this season is that nerdy television demi-god Edward James Olmos will be playing said mastermind, promising an invested adversarial relationship that seems to mirror Lithgow's terrifying reign more than The Good Guy sFrom Hackers getting iced by this chick. With Sunday's premiere, that promise seems especially alluring.

With an especially primary look on an adapting, increasingly efficient Dexter trying to find out what role spirituality will play in the life of his son, we see the nuanced insularity that made the show so great. Indeed, if Olmos' gravelly treatises on Murder, Spirituality and You can reach the skincrawling heights of Lithgow cutting women up in a bathtub, Dexter will have no problem rebounding from a rather unfulfilling dud.

The Pairing: Despite offering plenty of alluring extras and treats that competitors might not have access to, Dexter and Deli Shez might let that get too much in the way of offering an alluring, dependable entree. With Deli Shez, it's breakfast muffins that rate just a few notches above those you'd find at a gas station and light Mediterranean fare that hardly justifies the cost of delivery. With Dexter, it's a once-layered protagonist whose limelight within his own show seems to becoming increasingly nominal. These aren't problems that are impossible to fix, but I'd want to see some fundamental strengthening of the two properties' main dishes before I could recommend either with any enthusiasm.

 
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