Just Finished Dexter Season 5 (2010)

dexter-season-5 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.

Just Finished Dexter Season 4 (2009)

dexter season 4 Never let it be said that I abandon a show I enjoy. I reserve that kind of treatment for programs that turn a corner I just can’t abide (Weeds and Desperate Housewives, I’m looking at you). Still, it’s been quite a while since I’ve watched a season of Dexter. Way back in 2009 I reviewed the first and second seasons of this Showtime series about a serial killer who only kills killers. At some point I also watched the third, but apparently didn’t write about it. I’d been thinking about catching up, especially since the series is over now, and then it appeared on Netflix Instant!

I was pretty jazzed and started burning through the season, but slowed way down as I got closer and closer to the finale because, at that point, it was the last one on Instant and because the end of an episode of Entertainment Tonight or something spoiled the surprise death at the end of the season back in 2009. Not wanting to stop on such a crazy, sad cliffhanger, I held back. Then Netflix shifted a bunch of things around in the beginning of the year and I found myself able to watch all eight seasons. It seemed like the perfect time to get back on that horse!

Because it’s been a while since I actually started watching this season, I almost forgot about how funny that first episode is. Dexter’s a dad now and lives with his wife Rita and her two kids which totally puts a damper that whole sneaking around and murdering bad guys thing he’s into. Obviously, that’s a crazy thing to relate to, but I think all parents have a thing they wish they could devote more of themselves to while struggling to deal with the normal problems of their day.

In addition to being funny, though, this season was super intense. This time around Dexter found himself tracking Trinity, a killer with a very specific cycle of murders he’s been committing all over the country for decades. As it turns out, season two guest star Agent Lundy (Keith Carradine) has been hunting this killer for a while, which brings him back into everyone’s lives, especially Deb who falls for him all over again.

But, things don’t work out so well for them and soon enough we find out that John Lithgow is Trinity. How great was the casting on this part? For a whole generation of people, Lithgow is just the silly dad from Third Rock From The Sun. So, seeing him as this wildly complicated, emotionally devastated human being who seemingly keeps it together enough to lead a relatively normal life — wife, two kids, job, charity participation — but really has this insane monster living inside of him. Oh man, and everything that happened with the reporter Christine? Man, that was bonkers.

Speaking of Lithgow’s greatness, I was surprised by a lot of the guest appearances big and small in this season. I recently wrote about how huge of an Arrow fan I am, so seeing David Ramsey was a nice surprise. It’s been so long since I watched season three, I completely forgot about his character altogether. I also must have looked up Christine actress Courtney Ford a half dozen times because I knew she looked familiar, but could not remember why. She appeared on one episode of How I Met Your Mother and also spent some time on Parntehood. She’s strangely transfixing. And finally, Jake Short from Disney’s A.N.T. Farm played a potential Trinity victim towards the end of the season. That’s one of the Disney shows I kind of hate, but I thought he did a great job.

One of the biggest thematic questions this season, one that Dexter struggled with by way of his talks with his dad Harry, was how similar he is to Trinity. Both have families, but as Dexter learned, Trinity doesn’t actually treat them very well. What Dexter learns by comparison to someone so like himself is that he actually does love his family. He wants to be a good dad and does care about his kids, though it might be a bit twisted around in his also-damaged brain.

All of this comes to a head in the last few episodes when Dexter finally gets Trinity to crack and basically unleashes the wild dog inside. Dexter doesn’t exactly handle himself with the kind of rigid formality that Harry taught him and, guess what, the poo really hits the fan. Not only does Trinity figure out who Dexter really is, but his attempt to frame a guy for the Trinity murders falls apart, putting the cops back on the case. With so many groups and people hunting each other, you just know someone has to get hurt and that’s exactly what happened. I won’t spoil the victim here, because I don’t want to continue the cycle, but it was a biggie.

Actually, I will get into SPOILERS, but only for this paragraph and because it’s kind of a funny story. So the big bit of craziness at the end of the season is that Trinity actually murdered Dexter’s wife Rita before Dexter dispatched him. I actually started thinking that the big spoiler I knew — that Rita was going to die — might happen at the end of the fifth season and that I had put all this extra dread on this season myself. I mean, there was five minutes left and she went on vacation, right? Wrong! Bam, they got me even though I knew what was gonna happen. Well played show, well played.

Dexter offered yet another emotional roller coaster of a season that I strapped in for and really enjoyed. Plus, the writers really set things up for the show to hit a lot of different points in the coming seasons. I’m guessing everything moving forward will be about family, Dexter experiencing his from a different angle and Deb trying to figure out if something’s wrong with her brother. For me, the beauty moving forward is that I don’t know ANYTHING about what happens in the next four seasons, so it’s all spoiler-free from here! Unless you spoil something in the comments, which would not be cool. Don’t be jerks, gang!

Halloween Scene: Dexter Season 2 (2007)

After burning through the first season of Dexter, I went through the second even quicker. Going in, I didn’t have super high hopes because Rickey told me the characters got on his nerves. On the other hand, I got about six comments on Facebook from people telling me how excited they were for me to jump into the second season. I completely loved it. The characters that I was getting a little tired of like Doakes and Laguerta both still bothered me, but they had such different character arcs this season over last that they didn’t really bother me as much. I also loved Deb’s arc which took her from scared former victim to strong woman, from someone looking for a quick bone to someone looking for a real relationship.

And of course, you’ve got this season’s overall plot which focused on Dexter’s at-sea dumping area getting discovered and a big search for the identity of the Bay Harbor Butcher. Wow. This thing was tense, wasn’t it? I really wasn’t sure how he was going to get out of it, even when Dex was convinced. I also loved him bouncing between women and how drug user’s anonymous allowed him to talk about his murder addiction out in the open. And, of course, you’ve got the further mysteries behind his adopted father’s life and death. I was hooked by all that stuff.

I really can’t say enough good things about this show and I feel like the hour-ish long format and 12 episode seasons fits just perfectly. And, unlike say Weeds, which is a show I’ve grown to hate, I feel like the Dexter seasons are really well played out and all the beats make logical sense, unlike Weeds with all of the “what would be the one way that this thing could work out and we’ll never talk about it again?” storytelling style.

Oh, also, I loved Keith Carradine as Agent Lundy. I don’t have a lot of experience with the dude, but his voice was driving me crazy. He sounded SO familiar. Then I looked him up and it turns out that he’s David Carradine’s half brother and he sounds EXACTLY like Bill from Kill Bill. It’s crazy.

I was just about to jump into Dexter Season 3 on NetBox, but, unfortunately, it’s not on there, so I’ll have to get the discs. Gah, that will take forever!!!

Halloween Scene: Dexter Season 1 (2006)

I have a long history of being too cheap for premium cable. As a kid, the only pay channel we had was the Disney Channel. I remember relishing the days when HBO, Showtime or Cinemax would have those free weekends (I remember staying up REAL late one night to see Striptease and being pretty disappointed). In college we got HBO on our cable plan at some point and that was fun, but aside from that, the movie channels have not been a part of my life. So, I watch all the premium channel stuff (like Weeds, Sopranos and Big Love) after the fact. Luckily, Showtime seems to be slowly making their original shows available on NetBox. And, being the horror junkie I’ve turned into this October, I just couldn’t resist a 12-episode show about a serial killer killer.

Here’s the basic premise of the show. Dexter is a blood splatter expert for the cops. I think he’s part of the CSI team essentially, working in the same office as the cops. Is that how it actually works? I have no idea. Dex’s sister is a cop who moves from vice to homicide, while a killer keeps murdering prostitutes, draining their blood and leaving their bodies chopped up for the cops to find. He’s also playing games with Dexter. Why? Because Dexter is also a killer himself. See, his foster pops saw the darkness inside of Dexter and trained him to only kill animals or people who needed killing, bad people. And Dexter, to this day, still follows the rules that Harry set in place. Harry, interestingly enough, is played by James Remar who was also in The Warriors and Band of the Hand.

Overall, I dug the first season of Dexter. There’s a few characters that really got on my nerves and seemed fairly one-note. You’ve got Doakes, the detective who hates Dexter. The dude’s kind of a meathead and if you take away an affair he has with a cop’s wife, all he does is give Dexter shit. There’s also Laguerta, a lady cop who’s in charge of the precinct (or whatever it is), but keeps giving Dexter’s sister Debra shit for no actual reason. With little else to them besides this “we’re badass” vibe they have, these characters get to be pretty annoying and boring.

Aside from them, though, I found the rest of the characters really engaging. Dexter definitely has elements of Patrick Bateman, but isn’t a complete nut. In the flashbacks we see Harry explaining the rules to Dexter and Dexter reflecting on the rules in the present. He also talks about the urges he used to have. What I found a little curious is that we don’t really get a sense of his urge to kill in the present day. Yes he kills a lot of people, but you don’t get the sense that it’s something he’s drawn to, just something he likes to do. Maybe that’s something that gets addressed in later seasons. Speaking of the flashbacks though, Remar does kind of oversell the role, spreading on a bit too heavy while the writers also have him showing up every single time young Dexter is about to lose control. It just comes off as a little too coincidental.

I mentioned Dexter’s fellow serial killer who’s playing with him earlier. That’s the overarching story for the season and I found it to be a fascinating one even though I called the culprit before the reveal (though not WAY before). See, not only is this other killer playing a game with Dexter, but it’s a game that opens up doors to Dexter’s youth and we find out even more about him. It’s a fascinating look at what it would take to create someone who is constantly presenting a mask to the world and doesn’t feel anything when he’s not killing.

I also really liked the character of his foster sister Deb. She just seems so real and charming and it’s rough watching what happens to her towards the end of the season. I’m also a big fan of the goofy forensic examiner Masuka who’s awesomely lude and inappropriate. And Angel, another cop, balances things out by being just a rad dude.

The season finale was an intense one that not only brought an exciting end to the ongoing story, but also put Dexter in a reasonable amount of danger. It also changes the status quo a bit as Doakes is keeping an eye on Dexter after he shows up at several crime scenes unannounced. That should definitely put a damper on his extra curricular activities.

One other thing I want to note is how amazing the set designers make the blood look. You’ve got it spewing from people, on walls, carpets and even turned into art in Dexter’s office. There’s even a cool way that Dexter sets up an aparatus that looks like red straws to demonstrate how people were attacked and how their blood sprayed out. It’s really interesting and gross stuff.

I can see how the show might get a little Weeds-ish where the writers just start wrapping sidestories up into nice little packages that are way too neat and air-tight, but I hope not. We shall see, I’m starting the second season tonight!