Narrative implausibility, or, why Dexter Morgan is the world’s stupidest serial killer
Anyone who consumes fiction must have some very high hooks on which to suspend their disbelief. This is especially true for fantasy and sci-fi aficionados – you can’t buy into that malarkey about magic and spaceships unless you’re willing to accept the impossible.
However. Suspension of disbelief only stretches so far.
I pondered this during the week while catching up on the fourth season of Dexter, which was pretty excellent (and horrifyingly bleak) – except for some sloppy writing which pulled me out of the world. Mildly spoilery examples follow.
So in one instalment, Dexter sets up a kill room in a hotel bathroom. Because cheap hotels, as we all know, are bastions of privacy. Later in the episode, Dex stalks his victim to a construction site and prepares to attack. Suddenly, the victim attempts suicide! But Dexter rescues him at the last second, aided by onlookers who rush in to help. Onlookers who Dexter apparently didn’t notice while he tracked his victim; onlookers who apparently would’ve done nothing had Dexter attacked the victim before the suicide attempt.
Contrast this with Avatar (WHICH I LOVED), a film populated with blue-skinned cat-eared aliens who live on a planet overhung by huge floating mountains. How did the aliens, who evolved on a world light years from Earth, evolved to be (for all intents and purposes) exactly the same as Homo sapiens? How do those rocks float in the air? You might ask a billion questions like these – but ultimately the answers don’t matter, because the little details serve the story. They aren’t its sloppy byproducts.
It goes back to that old saying: audiences will believe the impossible, but not the implausible. I can believe blue cat people live on floating rocks. But I can’t believe a so-called genius serial killer would make such dumb mistakes.