Unlike with the previous season of Dexter, I burned through the fifth pretty quickly. I actually got so wrapped up in the season that I didn’t realize how close to the end I was until it was just two episodes away. Be warned right away that this review is rife with spoilers.
The season picks up right after the end of the previous one with Dexter having just discovered his wife Rita dead in the bathtub and his son Harrison crawling around in the blood thanks to Trinity. Since Dexter had already dispatched the murderer before discovering what he did to his wife, this season doesn’t revolve around revenge, but instead healing in a strange way as our her tries to figure out how this new life of his will work as a single dad and obsessed murderer of bad guys.
While there are several different cases being worked by Dexter’s cop co-workers, the majority of his story this season revolves around meeting a young woman named Lumen (Julia Stiles) who he inadvertently saved from a guy named Boyd. Dexter thought Boyd was your basic serial killer who would leave dead girls in industrial barrels. Turns out, though, that Boyd was just one of several men who would get together, abduct women, torture and assault them and then toss them aside. Dexter’s not sure what to do with Lumen at first but he soon comes to realize that she now has a similar desire for murder that he does because these men created her own dark passenger. They kill together and even wind up developing a romantic relationship.
Of course, this is supremely screwed up for a normal person, especially when you think that his wife was just murdered. But Dexter gets something out of this relationship that he never had with Rita: complete honesty and openness. Dexter not only shares his methods for dispatching his victims with Lumen, but also brings her into the kill room and shares his deepest secret with her. For him, that’s the ultimate in sharing with another person, the ultimate union. While he had to hide his true self from Rita, he showed Lumen everything.
But Dexter’s still got a life to lead. He finds a nanny for Harrison and also deals with the tribulations that come when trying to help a couple of kids deal with their mom’s murder. The season is handled in such a way that it allows for Dexter to interact with them, but not to the point where they’re constantly around and he has to sneak around them.
I want to highlight a few performances that really stuck out this season. I thought Desmond Harrington really upped his game as Quinn this season. It helped that he had a lot meatier of a part this time around as Deb’s love interest. He still carried the bad blood he had with Dexter into this season, but also brought in Liddy (Peter Weller) who was ultra creepy in a skuzzy way that’s different that all the other creepy, gross dudes showcased this season. Anyway, I really bought everything that Quinn went through during the season and thought his strong, silent routine in the finale was stellar. I’m excited to see what they do with him moving forward now that Dexter got him off for the suspected murder of Liddy. Sure these plots are tied up nicely, but it didn’t feel contrived.
Then you’ve got Johnny Lee Miller as motivational speaker Jordan Chase. As it turned out, Chase didn’t just get people pumped up to better themselves, but did the same thing for his rapist pals. I’ve only seen JLM in Hackers, a movie I love, so seeing him as this chameleon-of-a-villain was a departure for my concept of him. It’s interesting how similar this character is to John Lithgow’s Trinity. They’re both outwardly good people who seem very in control, but have a truly ugly side underneath. And yet, the comparison didn’t hit me until close to the end of the season. Then again, that’s the same thing we’re dealing with in Dexter, so the show continues to examine his pathology from different angles.
Finally, the season basically rested on Stiles’ shoulders and boy did she have to run the gamut of emotions on screen from cowering victim to emboldened embodiment of vengeance. That could not have been a pleasant character to share headspace with, but she committed fully and it shows. As I mentioned in my post about Season 4, I didn’t actually know anything about the events of this one, but I imagined that she couldn’t or wouldn’t stay in Dexter’s life for long.
The people that made this show really knew how to do a season finale didn’t they? There’s always a kind of ticking clock feeling, like you just can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen. I kept wondering what Deb was going to do when she stumbled upon Dexter and Lumen and really thought she was going to kill Lumen and Dex would slip away. Then she just walks away because she feels for Lumen! But, there were still like 20 minutes left of episode and, especially after the last finale, I just KNEW something bad was going to happen. That scene on the boat with her riding up front made me super nervous. It couldn’t just end happily, right?
After she finally killed the last of her tormentors, you’ve got to wonder if Lumen will still have the desire to kill or if she just needed vengeance. The problem there for Dexter is that he does need to kill, so if she’s done with it, where does that leave them?
And that’s basically what happened. After healing herself with Dexter’s help, she’s ready to move on, but murder is a part of him and she has to leave. It would have been easy to have Deb shoot her on accident or something strange come out of left field, but this is the more honest and emotional way to wrap this story up. As Dexter says at the end, her dark passenger is gone, but his isn’t leaving anytime soon. I actually thought I was pretty clever writing all that as I thought about it in the last 20 minutes of the episode and then they basically came out with most of it.
The season ends with a Harrison’s first birthday party, a celebration of life which acts as a counterpoint to the bloody death the season started with. Dexter’s broken up from Lumen leaving his life, but I imagine the experience of this season actually went a long way to not only heal him from Rita, but also showed him what a more honest relationship can be like. It makes me wonder if he’ll ever be able to get rid of his own dark passenger and move into a more normal life. I guess I’ll see.