Well, it's been a long haul but I finally finished watching all 5 seasons of Dexter yesterday. I have to say that it's been an up and down journey. The series started wonderfully with a first season that was just incredibly tight and polished but stalled with the second which finally meandered its way to a conclusion. If you want to see a more in depth look at what I thought of the first two seasons, click here. As for this post, it'll cover S3-5.
After I had started to despair upon watching S2, many people told me that S3 got better and that was true enough. Quite frankly, there weren't many places for the show to go other than up at that point, though part of the disappointment was due to just how stellar it had all started. I liked the S3 storyline with the Prado brothers quite a bit and Jimmy Smits pulled off a great performance as Miguel. The sad part is that you just knew the bro-ship between him and Dexter wasn't going to last. The entire show is based off the premise that Dexter, as a sociopath, can't really relate to people. It wouldn't make any sense for him to have a permanent best friend to share his hobby of stabbing people with. I'll admit that I didn't quite see the fact that Miguel was batshit insane coming, and that seemed a bit off to me. I just can't imagine that he took to butchering people so easily, yet had never had any practice earlier in life. Not to mention that it can often be hard for public figures to hide all trace of their crazy, and it tends to leak out in dribs and drabs. Still, it was set up pretty well with a nice twist to boot that Ramon wasn't the crazy brother and more had been playing the foil to Miguel his entire life.
All positives aside, the one thing I really didn't care about Season 3 is there was a real pacing problem near the end. Usually at the end of a story arc like this, you want rising tension. The last few episodes should pull you in and make you not want to stop watching. It's here where Dexter missed the boat, and I'm really not sure why the writers chose to short circuit the rising climax. It would have probably been much better if the skinner had kidnapped Dexter and stuffed him in the trunk rather than it being a bachelor party stunt. It completely destroyed the rising tension. Not to mention the death of Miguel also came way too soon. Usually you want to save that sort of confrontation until the end, but in this case Dexter got him onto the plastic sheets with relative ease and there was really no major sense of peril with just the skinner running around.
Season 4 went back to a Season 1 like story plot, where the entire season revolves around a serial killer running amok and stories weaving in and out of that plot wagon. I usually like this sort of setup better, even though it's pretty cliched by now. John Lithgow plays the Trinity Killer, who based on his number of kills would probably make him the country's most successful and long-running serial killer ever. It was a great casting job since I know I can't be the only one who finds John Lithgow sort of creepy even in the best of times. There's something about his look that would give me the willies even when he was playing comedic roles and I could easily see his pasty ass as a serial killer. Season 4 also brought back Special Agent Lundy for as long as it lasted. I was really hoping for more of a cat and mouse between Lundy and Dexter, sort of like what happened with Sgt Doakes in Season 1, but more of a mental cat and mouse. It's sort of sad or pathetic that the FBI's foremost expert on serial killers had Dexter running around under his nose and at no point did he harbor any real suspicions there was something fishy.
Season 4 was also where my opinion of Dexter Morgan started to shift a bit. As far as I'm concerned, Season 4 was where Dexter fell from grace. He had so many opportunities to take down Trinity, and passed it up each time for the most ridiculous reasons. His selfish need to personally kill the guy rather than let the police catch him was a sign of a narcissistic personality disorder that is off the scale. Any sense of practicality or common sense was wiped away by his obsessive need to wield the knife and as is almost always the case in these sort of morality tales, he isn't the one to pay the price for his sins. I'll admit I have a very bad habit of searching out and reading online sources for a show I'm watching and spoiler'ing the show for myself. Because of that, I knew Rita's death was coming and I was just curious how it would be handled. It also gave the writers yet another chance to remind the audience that Dexter is not a normal guy. It's no doubt he was upset at Rita's death, but you couldn't tell at first if he was grieving for her or simply pissed that Trinity had one upped him. His attempts to communicate her death to the kids was almost comically ridiculous and you wonder if he is really that emotionally blunted, how he's managed to survive in blend in at all up to now. You'd think he'd know enough to actually fake some emotion even if he didn't actually feel it.
And last we come to Season 5, which is probably my favorite after the first season. We have another overarcing Big Bad whose plot weaves in and out amongst the characters and ties the whole thing together. In this case, a Rape-Kill club run by a motivational speaker who is probably only slightly less smarmy than the real thing. I had been all set to loathe Dexter given what had happened at the end of season 4 and his inhuman stumblings at the start of season 5. Up to this point, you could always have rationalized Dexter's actions but there's no way not to lay the blame for Rita's death at his feet. He had so many chances and options to avoid fate, but his arrogance and pride ended up costing her her life. It's why his development in season 5 seemed almost unnaturally rushed. All of a sudden, it's like Dexter discovered how to be a human being almost overnight. Maybe the writers realized there would be a moral blowback coming and needed to deflect the wangst by giving him a pet the dog moment with Lumen. He certainly showed way more humanity with her than he ever had with Rita, which makes you wonder where it all came from. Maybe Rita's death just broke a dam within him or maybe it's just an example of writers bending reality to get the result they needed. Either way, it was compelling and I'm sure it's not the last we've seen of Lumen, though I figure she's more likely to return in a future season only to be butchered rather than to become Dexter's new significant other.
And so ends Dexter until the 6th season starts in a couple of months. I hate waiting for a show from week to week so I'll probably do my best to forget Dexter even exists until the entire season finishes airing and I can snag it all at once. It's clear they want to do a Harrison = serial killer in training storyline, but it's unlikely they'll get the chance unless this show runs for another 3 seasons or they decide to try a time skip. The latter might actually be sort of interesting and would certainly shake things up. We can start a pool to guess how many more dysfunctional relationships Debra will have had in the interim.