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The "Heroes" - TV Show Review: Dexter vs. Boardwalk Empire Head-to-Head Comparison
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posted on Nov 2, 2011 at 5:26PM

TV Show Review: Dexter vs. Boardwalk Empire Head-to-Head Comparison

The "Heroes"

By Jeremy Whitley
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H2H ROUND-1: The "Heroes"

H2H USER SCORE
View Official Scorecard

There was a popular term some time ago when characters like Wolverine and Han Solo were created that got thrown around a lot: “anti-hero”. The implication is that this person is not a villain but a protagonist with non-heroic motives; when backed into a corner, they’ll do the right thing, but they’re not the type you should depend on to show up to your birthday party. To say that the protagonists of Boardwalk Empire and Dexter are anti-heroes would be underselling it a bit. Nucky Thompson and Dexter Morgan are not anti-heroes; they’re more like anti-villains.

 

BOARDWALK EMPIRE
Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi)

tv show review and comparison of boardwalk empire vs dexter, image showing main character nucky thompson
(Credit: wbur.org)

Enoch “Nucky” Thompson is a gangster, but he doesn’t look like one and to all appearances, he doesn‘t act like one. What he appears to be is a smart, revered, upstanding member of the community. By God, he’s an elected official and we all know they’re the purest of the pure. So far as the common people of Atlantic City are concerned, Nucky is the Treasurer for the city. He goes out of his way to be kind to people in public, to hold the nicest parties, and to support the exploits of the prohibition league. However, unbeknownst to those good citizens, Nucky is using the prohibition policy he supports in public to make a fortune off of smuggled liquor.

 

As things get worse in the smuggling business, however, this proves to be the least of Nucky’s vices. Nucky rubs elbows with the meanest of gangsters, turns on former allies, and orders the murders of enemies, a wife beater, and even a federal witness. For all his public affirmations of his upstanding nature, Nucky always does what needs to be done in the name of survival and personal gain. No one, not even his brother is safe where Nucky is concerned.

 

Dexter on showtime is compared to boardwalk empire in a head-to-head tv show review
(Credit: full-tv.blogspot.com)

DEXTER
Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall)

Dexter is everything we fear. Dexter seems like the average, nice, concerned citizen. He’s a little bit of a nerd and sometimes seems just a little too into his job of analyzing blood spatter for Miami Homicide. He has a nice girlfriend and she has a couple of kids that he’s fond of playing with. Dexter is the rock that provides stability for his messy and unstable sister in her times of crisis. He lives in a nice little house, on a nice little street, in the middle of a suburban neighborhood full of beautiful, honest families. Unlike Nucky, there’s nothing particularly notable about Dexter. He goes to work early, he gets home late, and he just never looks out for himself the way he should.

 

And it’s all a lie. Dexter is a sociopathic serial killer whose only real source of pleasure -- even glee -- is ritualistic cold-blooded murder. We are forced to watch him kill again and again, never looking away. Not only is he not what we think he is, but that image is a mask he has deliberately created to fool us. He’s not like us. He doesn’t think like us or feel like us. He’s been studying us since he was a teenager, trying to understand why we do the things we do and how he can fool us into believing he’s one of us. He seems exactly like the sort of person you ought to trust. He could be anybody you know. He could be your best friend, your husband, your wife, or your doctor. You would never know until it was too late.

 

But why do we cheer for Dexter? What could possibly make us like the embodiment of our worst fears? The answer is remarkably simple: he has a code. We, the viewing audience, get to hear what it’s like in Dexter’s head. While it’s a very scary place to be at times, it lets us know that while Dexter has no ingrained sense of right and wrong, he does understand them. Better yet, he’s been trained to be on our side. His father was a police officer who, upon discovering what Dexter was, taught him how to use his need to kill for the good of others. Knowing that a number of bad guys never get caught, Dexter’s father taught him to track down and kill the worst of the worst. Rather than being one of the bad guys, Dexter has appointed himself a weapon for good against them. The result is that Dexter becomes beloved for the same reason many superheroes are: he has all the power in the world to hurt us, but instead he chooses to be our defender. We know that the boogieman is out there, but the thought that he’s on our side is pretty compelling.

 

WINNER: Based on the fact the Nucky is a great and complex character, he stands up pretty well. The truth is, however, the writing of Dexter’s inner monologue has made him one of the most compelling characters on television. Dexter takes the round.


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The "Heroes" - TV Show Review: Dexter vs. Boardwalk Empire Head-to-Head Comparison
BETA
HEAD-2-HEAD REVIEWS
Top Reviews>>
posted on Nov 2, 2011 at 5:26PM

TV Show Review: Dexter vs. Boardwalk Empire Head-to-Head Comparison

The "Heroes"

By Jeremy Whitley
 

H2H ROUND-1: The "Heroes"

H2H USER SCORE
View Official Scorecard

There was a popular term some time ago when characters like Wolverine and Han Solo were created that got thrown around a lot: “anti-hero”. The implication is that this person is not a villain but a protagonist with non-heroic motives; when backed into a corner, they’ll do the right thing, but they’re not the type you should depend on to show up to your birthday party. To say that the protagonists of Boardwalk Empire and Dexter are anti-heroes would be underselling it a bit. Nucky Thompson and Dexter Morgan are not anti-heroes; they’re more like anti-villains.

 

BOARDWALK EMPIRE
Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi)

tv show review and comparison of boardwalk empire vs dexter, image showing main character nucky thompson
(Credit: wbur.org)

Enoch “Nucky” Thompson is a gangster, but he doesn’t look like one and to all appearances, he doesn‘t act like one. What he appears to be is a smart, revered, upstanding member of the community. By God, he’s an elected official and we all know they’re the purest of the pure. So far as the common people of Atlantic City are concerned, Nucky is the Treasurer for the city. He goes out of his way to be kind to people in public, to hold the nicest parties, and to support the exploits of the prohibition league. However, unbeknownst to those good citizens, Nucky is using the prohibition policy he supports in public to make a fortune off of smuggled liquor.

 

As things get worse in the smuggling business, however, this proves to be the least of Nucky’s vices. Nucky rubs elbows with the meanest of gangsters, turns on former allies, and orders the murders of enemies, a wife beater, and even a federal witness. For all his public affirmations of his upstanding nature, Nucky always does what needs to be done in the name of survival and personal gain. No one, not even his brother is safe where Nucky is concerned.

 

Dexter on showtime is compared to boardwalk empire in a head-to-head tv show review
(Credit: full-tv.blogspot.com)

DEXTER
Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall)

Dexter is everything we fear. Dexter seems like the average, nice, concerned citizen. He’s a little bit of a nerd and sometimes seems just a little too into his job of analyzing blood spatter for Miami Homicide. He has a nice girlfriend and she has a couple of kids that he’s fond of playing with. Dexter is the rock that provides stability for his messy and unstable sister in her times of crisis. He lives in a nice little house, on a nice little street, in the middle of a suburban neighborhood full of beautiful, honest families. Unlike Nucky, there’s nothing particularly notable about Dexter. He goes to work early, he gets home late, and he just never looks out for himself the way he should.

 

And it’s all a lie. Dexter is a sociopathic serial killer whose only real source of pleasure -- even glee -- is ritualistic cold-blooded murder. We are forced to watch him kill again and again, never looking away. Not only is he not what we think he is, but that image is a mask he has deliberately created to fool us. He’s not like us. He doesn’t think like us or feel like us. He’s been studying us since he was a teenager, trying to understand why we do the things we do and how he can fool us into believing he’s one of us. He seems exactly like the sort of person you ought to trust. He could be anybody you know. He could be your best friend, your husband, your wife, or your doctor. You would never know until it was too late.

 

But why do we cheer for Dexter? What could possibly make us like the embodiment of our worst fears? The answer is remarkably simple: he has a code. We, the viewing audience, get to hear what it’s like in Dexter’s head. While it’s a very scary place to be at times, it lets us know that while Dexter has no ingrained sense of right and wrong, he does understand them. Better yet, he’s been trained to be on our side. His father was a police officer who, upon discovering what Dexter was, taught him how to use his need to kill for the good of others. Knowing that a number of bad guys never get caught, Dexter’s father taught him to track down and kill the worst of the worst. Rather than being one of the bad guys, Dexter has appointed himself a weapon for good against them. The result is that Dexter becomes beloved for the same reason many superheroes are: he has all the power in the world to hurt us, but instead he chooses to be our defender. We know that the boogieman is out there, but the thought that he’s on our side is pretty compelling.

 

WINNER: Based on the fact the Nucky is a great and complex character, he stands up pretty well. The truth is, however, the writing of Dexter’s inner monologue has made him one of the most compelling characters on television. Dexter takes the round.


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6 Comments So Far …

  1. Joey Boots Joey Boots says:
    Boardwalk Empire is the best show on tv in the last 20 years! I like Dexter, but it's kind of common. It's good, but B.E. is really unique. Steve Buscemi is also the best actor on tv!

  2. RitaS RitaS says:
    Thank god for dvr's... these two shows are the best on tv...great rivalry!

  3. PhotoCrater PhotoCrater says:
    Buscemi crushes it - but I think Dexter's a better show.

  4. Life In Melody Life In Melody says:
    Boardwalk Empire is by far my favorite show, with Dexter running a close second. However, I find Debra Morgan to be a more engaging, interesting, relatable female lead than Margaret. Especially in Season 2 of BE, where I felt Margaret's character was significantly weaker than in the first season.

  5. Ruyman Ruyman says:
    Great, great episode of a tferiric show definitely the best currently-airing show on television. Looking forward to another A+ season of Boardwalk Empire. I also missed the significance of the title of the episode, "21." Unless it has to do with prohibition/drinking age? But I don't believe there *was* a legal drinking age in most states before prohibition. Anyway I agree, I only wish this episode could have been extended, because I wasn't ready for it to end when it did.

  6. H.Dumansky H.Dumansky says:
    Hahah, My laptop crashed when I was browsing www.head-2-head.com last time I was here. And for the past 2 months I have been looking for this weblog, so thankful I located it once again! :D best regards!

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