Watch This: Dexter never topped the cat-and-mouse game of its first season

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: HBO’s The Casual Vacancy has us thinking about other book-to-TV adaptations.

Dexter, “Born Free” (season one, episode twelve; originally aired 12/17/2006)

An awful finale on top of an awful final season has curdled the legacy of Showtime’s Dexter, which is a shame—in its early goings the show was capable of genuine highs. Few episodes of Dexter make that as clear as the season-one finale, “Born Free,” the conclusion to the series’ most consistent and tightly focused narrative. Largely adhering to the original Jeff Lindsay novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the cat-and-mouse game of Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) and the Ice Truck Killer (Christian Camargo) makes for compelling mystery that peels back more sides of Dexter’s psychology the longer it goes on.

The arc pays off in …

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