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.

Halloween Scene: Dracula 2000 (2000)

I believe I saw Dracula 2000 in the theaters with my friends. I would have been about 17 at the time and had been watching horror movies extensively for a year or so at that time. If memory serves it was the first feature length version of the Dracula story that I ever saw. I’d seen or heard enough through cartoons and TV to understand the basics: some people encounter Dracula who winds up surrounded by vampire chicks, but wants another woman who’s harder to get. Meanwhile, some humans of the Van Helsing family are trying to stop him. My problem with the Dracula movies I’ve seen is that they follow the template too closely. If you’ve seen the original–or even Nosferatu–then you’ve pretty much got the gist. I had this problem with the last two Drac movies I watched Count Dracula And His Vampire Bride and the 1979 Dracula. Just absolutely boring.

I did not have that problem with the unfortunately named Dracula 2000. Any movie with a year in the title, especially the year 2000, just comes off as gimmicky and corny, doesn’t it? Anyway, the story this time around is that Van Helsing trapped Dracula years and years ago, but when he did their blood mingled, granting him a portion of immortal life which he uses to make sure no one accidentally brings Drac back. Of course, that doesn’t work out as one of his workers winds up telling her boyfriend and his crew of criminals about Van Helsing’s secret vault. They break in and grab the casket, thinking it’s an elaborate safe, and wind up resurrecting the original vampire. From there Dracula (played by an almost unrecognizable Gerard Butler) amasses his trio of hot lady vamps (Vitamin C, Jennifer Esposito and Jeri Ryan) and stats stalking Mary who happens to be VH’s daughter. Joining Mary on the side of the angels is Johnny Lee Miller as Van Helsing’s young protege.

I like this flick because, while it does stand on the structure of a traditional Dracula movie, it also updates things, including setting and special effects. Those other two movies I mentioned were both made in the 70s but set in the Victorian era which is ultimately another boring trope you’ve seen several times. D2K is set in modern day London and then New Orleans, features some pretty impressive wire-fu stunts and takes advantage of technology without relying on it too much. There’s only one CGI scene I can remember that looked cheesy (when Dracula turns into a wolf), which is pretty impressive considering how bad some of the movies from this time look now.

Director Patrick Lussier, who also did My Bloody Valentine 3D, also seemed to have fun with the movie. I guess there was a bit of a trend of combining horror and action around this time with big budgets like Brothers Grimm and Van Helsing, neither of which I’ve seen. It’s fun to see some money put behind one of these classic stories set modern times with the inclusion of big technologically impressive prisons, smaller secret hiding places and an arsenal of vamp-killing weapons. It’s also fun to see such a well-known cast. Nearly every role is filled with a name or at least a “that guy.” The crew of bad guys alone includes Omar Epps, Danny Masterson, the drunk roommate from Dead Man On Campus, Sean Patrick Thomas who was also in Halloween: Resurrection as my favorite character and Esposito. Nathan Fillion plays a priest. IMDb tells me Shane West was even in the movie, but I can’t remember who he played! And, to add a connection to the flicks that came before it, Christopher Plummer plays Van Helsing.

I remember being pretty blown away by the reveal of Dracula origins when I saw this in the theater. SPOILERS I guess if you haven’t seen it. We’re shown that Dracula was actually Judas, the man who, according to the Bible, betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. This explains why silver hurts vampires. Kinda neat, right? I thought so, and still do, though I see a few problems with it now. If the whole eternal life thing is supposed to be a punishment from God, why does Dracula wind up causing even more trouble for humanity? Wouldn’t it have been better for him to just die and go to hell? On the other hand, maybe humanity was intended to be punished for allowing the son of God to be murdered? I’m not sure. Maybe it was better explained and I missed it, but I thought it was an interesting take on a story I’ve read and seen hundreds of times.

I highly recommend watching Dracula 2000. I’m usually pretty skeptical about these early 00 horror movies because most of them are pretty bad. Sometimes you stumble across something like Halloween: Resurrection that isn’t great, but not as bad as you thought it would be. I’d say that D2K is actually a good vampire movie, with a new spin on the Dracula mythos, a solid cast and enough fun on the screen to keep you entertained. I’d say it’s probably one of my favorite Drac movies ever! Has anyone seen the sequels? I know they’re by the same director, but I assume the budgets were nowhere near as high. I think that, like this one, they’re available on Netflix Instant so maybe I’ll give them a whirl.

Computer Movies: Hackers (1995)

Oh man, you guys, I LOVE Hackers. I was really excited about the idea of computers and the internet without really getting in the the technical side of them. So, when Hackers came out in 1995, I was in. In the theaters watching that with my friends. Man, the Angelina Jolie nip reveal is much more prominent on the big screen. That’s really all I remember from the actual theater experience. Hey, I was 12, gimme a break. I would go on to purchase Hackers on VHS. I can’t tell you how many times I watched it, because I honestly don’t remember, but when the missus and I watched it after we got power back (it had been sitting around from Netflix) I was tossing out lines and scenarios like I had just watched it yesterday. And hell, I still loved it for different and similar reasons.

When I was a kid, I was blown away by what computers and the internet could do, now that I’m older, that fascination has been replaced by a quaint interest in how cool a 28.8 modem was at one time. Or how you had to go to elaborate pay phones in China Town to hack. As far as the story goes, it’s still pretty solid. Fledgling hacker Joey stumbles upon a virus that Fisher Steven’s The Plague has created. This sends him and his friends down a rabbit hole that sets the little guys up against the big guys in a battle of technology with a dundering computer crimes official (related for some reason to the Secret Service, is this really how it was?) trying to chase them both down.

Of course, it’s not a perfect movie and if I was watching it in 2010 for the first time without nostalgia backing the movie up, I’d probably think it was a fun artifact that’s generally pretty silly. All the silliness can be broken down to two individuals and their ridiculous performances: Johnny Lee Miller as Dade Murphy/Zero Cool/Crash Overdrive and Stevens as The Plague. Miller tosses out every line like he’s a Christian Slater-impersonating robot, just shouting and awkward. As a kid I thought he was rad, but I’m older than him now and it just seems crazy. Stevens’ character is just ridiculous. He’s a soda drinking, skateboard riding, trenchcoat wearing, virtual reality game playing little goober who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else in the room. I can’t tell if this is a script problem (like, was the scene where he appears on a street riding his skateboard and holding onto a car through sewer steam in the script or a director choice? man that scene was lame, though, again, I though it was cool when I was a kid) or what, but man, he’s pretty bad all around. But, that just makes it SO much easier to hate him.

One other thing that irked me was how ridiculous the law enforcement professionals were portrayed. Now, I get that they’re supposed to the the bad guys in an anti-establishment story like this, but, aside from one dude who thinks the hacker manifesto is cool, they’re just out of control, breaking into peoples’ houses without a care in the world, not caring when Plague is in Dade’s room and smashes his boom box with a bat and using AK-47s to apprehend teenagers. Ah well, I’ll chalk this one up to fun nostalgia with plenty of rollerblades and outdated tech.