Dexter – Season 5: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

As part of my winter catch up I marathoned through Dexter’s fifth season and decided to write my overall thoughts on this killer but frustratingly formulaic series. Spoilers for the entire season.

I loved Dexter’s first season. Instantly I was intrigued by the premise and was fascinated by Michael C. Hall’s performance as the titular character.  But like many others I found the following seasons typically a let down. With a premise that holds so much potential over time I’ve realized that the show will never be as good as it could be. It’s very much a formula with every finale wrapping the season up tightly with a little bow making the last episode fairly anti-climatic. With the first season it felt acceptable, and was in fact quite enjoyable seeing Dexter’s fantasy of being cheered on by everyone around him, but with season two it was a disappointment.  Season three continued the trend pretty closely with a neat, fairly boring finale (though I’m less harsh on it than most critics as I enjoyed the idea of Dexter gaining a friend and somewhat liked Miguel Prado, or at least the idea of him).  And then came season four, which although I felt took time to get going (the only thing from the first few episodes I recall was a fairly random plot of Dexter crashing his car due to sleep deprivation) it knocked the ball at of the park towards the end with what was a thrilling finale, and best yet one that left things tremendously messy for Dexter, quite literally.

With the shocking death of Rita (one that needed to occur considering how boring her character became) Dexter finally had the chance to become that better show and move out of it’s all too familiar formula. Sadly it didn’t do this and instead reverted back almost instantly despite promises of no big bad, which is exactly the direction the show went in.  While not exactly bad, I found this season to be fairly bland.  Rita’s death while at first presented as a major event, ended up being more of an asterisk to Dexter’s character, having it only be mentioned every now and then.  It’s only real use was presented as giving Dexter his “motivation” throughout the season, however I’d argue to say he would have done pretty much all the same actions had Rita still been alive, except maybe he wouldn’t sleep with Lumen.

Lumen overall I found to be a little too much like an alternate version of the Miguel storyline.  Julia Styles was fine as her, but she didn’t really add anything.  It did feel a bit too much like she was acting at times rather than truly inhibiting the character, but I suppose that could be a problem when one is paired up with Michael C. Hall almost exclusively.  Her acceptance towards Dexter’s true self was refreshing nonetheless, and I did enjoy seeing her play sidekick, even if it did feel a little as if their teamwork came too easy.

The big bad of the season ended up being yet another let down, as most would when compared to the Trinity Killer.  The motivational speaker concept was intriguing and I liked that setup to Jordan Chase and his team, but it fell apart with their back-story, which never really lead up to anything.  Why Jordan enjoyed watching these women be tortured didn’t come across clear to me.  Assuming he’s just crazy and evil isn’t enough.  For someone who had such a clear, repetitive procedure and particular type of victim I would have wanted a captivating reason why he does it.

The finale returned to typical Dexter fare with no real loose ends.  Lumen is avenged and decides to leave, thus making her fairly pointless in the end.  Unless her character returns at a further point and causes some kind of trouble in the long run she comes off as just a random departure for the show.  I suppose this clean slate ending might be for the best as yet another new showrunner takes over for the series next year and this time he has own choice at how Dexter should progress, but I’ve learned to not get too invested in that idea.  Dexter isn’t a show that tries to move out of its blueprints, it’s comfortable right where it is.  And between the writers claiming it’s over once Debra learns Dexter’s secret and Showtime’s head exec saying the series has a “long life” ahead of it, sounds it’s going stay in that routine.  While the show is no longer must see TV, it still makes a good and easy marathon run, if only to see Michael C. Hall doing his thing and the occasional great kill.

Points of Remote Interest

  • I completely forgot that Batista and Laguerta got married.  I wish I stayed in such ignorant bliss.
  • First time Quinn actually became interesting, that is until they cut off the catching Dexter storyline and made that whole plot mute.  I seriously hope Quinn being accused of Robocop’s death is a loose thread that continues next year as it was written off far too quickly and unbelievably.
  • What a great year 2010 was for Peter Weller.  He was one of the more enjoyable aspects to the season, minus his death.  Earlier he was the main guest on what might be not only be the best episode of Fringe, but one of the best examples of a pitch perfect stand alone within a typically mythology run series.  I’m talking of course about the time travel based episode “White Tulip”.  The man who once played Robocop also made an appearance on Psych, though that was his weakest role out of the bunch.
  • Seriously why did we spend so much time early on with Batista and Laguerta? Dexter is very clearly a singular character focused series based around Michael C. Hall.  Any scene that doesn’t feature him (or John Lithgow) is almost always a chore to watch.  I understand Hall can’t be in every scene, but then the show actually needs to develop good supporting characters or at least plots that go somewhere.  Deb’s case in the first half of the season is completely dropped, as is the subplot of the officer that attempts to take her job.
  • I find the parallel between Dexter and Mad Men’s use of its child characters fairly interesting.  Both shows include a young boy who is frequently recasted and unimportant to the plot, and an older sister whose singular actress is given more work and prominence each season.  Difference is Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper) is pretty amazing and a fantastic actor in her own right, while Astor is just annoying.
  • Next main character Dexter should kill off (even though they won’t): Deb Morgan. Laguerta would also be acceptable.
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