Just as the credit sequence of Mad Men deliberately recalls imagery from Hitchcock films and TV series, invoking both the iconography of the late 1950s and the paranoia of Hitchcock's thrillers, so the opening credit sequence of Dexter recalls the opening titles of both Se7en (dir. David Fincher, 1995) and American Psycho (dir. Mary Harron, 2000). From Se7en, the opening of Dexter inherits the themes of fragmentation and extreme precision. Just as the serial killer of Se7en remains unseen until the end of the film, Dexter Morgan is revealed only at the very end of the opening sequence, after a series of fragmented and disorienting close-ups. While the opening sequence of Se7en portrays the precision and menace of a serial killer's deadly actions, the opening credits of Dexter suggest that the very same careful and clearly deadly precision is present in every aspect of the protagonist's life.
Dexter's debt to American Psycho is even greater, and indeed the series is so playfully aware of the parallels with Mary Harron's film and Bret Easton Ellis' novel that Dexter uses the name “Patrick Bateman” as an alias in the show. The film adaptation of American Psycho, fully aware of the audience's expectations, opens by focusing on drops of blood-red liquid before revealing that the liquid is in fact a sweet sauce being poured onto a dessert, and thus delaying the horror of an encounter with actual blood until after the opening sequence. Similarly, the blood-red colour of Dexter's title card may or may not be actual blood; the credits intercut actual blood (in the shaving sequence) and flesh (the breakfast bacon) with things which look like dripping blood and mangled flesh, but turn out to be ketchup and an orange.
The opening of Dexter is a study in the sinister side of everyday actions: shaving is disruptive and dangerous, preparing breakfast is bloodthursty, a healthy appetite is somehow highly suspect. Yet, crucially, Dexter's morning routine is not intrinsically different from most people's – he may be a serial killer, but he still puts his shoes on one at a time. The credit sequence foreshadows Dexter's murderous rituals and yet provides a point of identification for the viewers through a focus on seemingly-everyday behaviour.
Like Copycat (dir. Jon Amiel, 1995), a film about a serial killer who is “inspired” by extra-textual events, Dexter assumes its audience's familiarity with the serial killer genre. Unlike any of the previous entries in the serial killer cannon, Dexter then inverts the generic conventions to make the protagonist not only sympathetic, but the central figure of audience identification. Through this identification, the audience is made complicit in Dexter's crimes; significantly, the process of audience identification begins in opening frames of the credit sequence.