Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dexter: Season Five

FULL SPOILER REVIEW - Don't read this if you haven't watched! 

Season 5 of Dexter was quite the roller coaster ride- and I mean that literally.  It initially started slow with anticipation, and we as the audience were unsure where it would take us.  Somewhere around Episode 5 or 6 the ride begin to quicken with tension creating a highly enjoyable plot line.  And yet, at the end, the very last episode of the season was more of a long exhale rather than keeping us on the edge of our seats.  The roller coaster ride was over and all of the characters in the show were just fine.

Let's look back first at some of the weaknesses before getting to the strengths:

- Dexter is emotionally challenged, but it really felt like he did not grieve over Rita at all.  The first few episodes started slow in order to allow the audience to grieve, yet I don't think Dexter actually did the same.  It was a difficult task since they decided to start Season 5 exactly where Season 4 left off, but I found myself thinking about how little time had passed since Rita's death by the end of Season 5.

- The Santa Muerte case was never actually finished!  Deb shot one of the brothers, but the other guy just disappeared.  I get that this case was setting up Deb to come to the realization that "some people deserve to die" but it was pretty much unnecessary if that was the only function.  I'm fairly certain watching the barrel girls rape DVDs would be enough to justify that train of thought.  I almost wonder if Dexter finds the other brother next season and does what Dexter does best.

- Quinn's investigation of Dexter was quite odd.  He had a feeling about Dexter being Kyle Butler over some black and white sketch that kindasorta looked like Dexter.  Then, once he starts to get real information, he's decided that he doesn't want to know what Dexter is up to because he doesn't want to betray Deb's trust.  Forget the fact that he was actually correct about Dexter being Kyle Butler and the fact Liddy was filtering factual information to Quinn.  There's no follow up to that sentence, the show just decided to forget it.  The only thing keeping Quinn from squealing on Dexter was his love for Deb.  Quinn played a dangerous game of bluffing by keeping his mouth shut once he was arrested for Liddy's murder, and while it did work out, this whole scenario did not seem to match up with Quinn's past as a cop who really looks out for himself.  I'm not saying characters can't change, but I am saying something about this whole character arc seemed pretty convenient and unauthentic.

- Lumen's reason for leaving.  Lame.  I'd probably prefer her to leave, but at least come up with a better excuse (or just have her disappear.) 

Ok, how about the strengths?  There were quite a few strong moments during Season 5.  In no way did I expect them to follow up Season 4 with as strong of a season, but somewhere in the middle I began to believe these two season were on equal footing.  Of course, the lack of a twist ending or great final reveal left Season 4 as the superior storyline, but Season 5 had some strong moments:

- Dexter and Boyd Fowler were brought into the ER after tranquilizing each other.  They lied for each other to the medics both knowing that they individually had something to hide.  Once they both were able to get up, they escaped from the hospital in dramatic fashion.  Of course, it didn't take Dexter long to track down Boyd and slice him up.  This event led to him meeting Lumen- the woman held captive in Boyd's house who witnessed Dexter murdering Boyd.  The season really picked up from this point forward.

- Episode 8, "Take It!" is one of my favorite episodes of the entire series.  In this episode, Dexter and Lumen are now fully partnered up as serial killers.  They go to Jordan Chase's seminar looking to kill Cole Harmon (Chase's bodyguard and also one of the members of the barrel girls rape troop.)  Great moments include Jordan Chase calling Dexter up on stage when Dexter was trying to sneak out and kill Cole, Dexter sneaking into Cole's room because he thinks Cole is killing a women- when in fact, Cole is having violent intercourse with said woman, and Dexter finally admitting to Lumen exactly who he is and what he does on a regular basis.  The pacing and twists of this episode is exactly what I and millions of others love about this show- this episode is "Tom Brady in the snow" great. 

- While I wasn't exactly a fan of Astor showing up out of nowhere, I did love when Dexter beat the holy hell out of her friend's stepdad.  Once he found out that the stepdad was abusing Astor's friend, Dexter cornered him in an alley and called out vital organs as he punched them to incapacitate the stepdad.  It was pretty classic Dexter and gave us a look into the violent side of Dexter without him murdering anyone.

- I actually enjoyed Dexter making incorrect assumptions about who was spying on him.  It's fully understandable that he would think Quinn was spying on him, but in fact it was Robocop (Peter Weller) keeping a creepy eye on Dex.  Their confrontation was pretty tense- especially when Dexter left Liddy's body in the fan (not to mention Quinn showing up at the crime scene and Dexter trying to keep the van quiet so Quinn would leave.) 

- While Lumen's excuse for leaving was pretty dumb, Dexter's reaction to the news was pitch perfect acting on Michael C. Hall's part.  He really is a great actor and does a great job only allowing emotions to bubble to the surface from time to time (as emotions are supposed to be foreign to Dexter.)

So where does the show go from here?  Deb pretty much has to catch Dexter next season.  I'm wondering if Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter's divorce will play into where the writers will go.  Would they be more likely to kill Deb off?  As I mentioned earlier, will Dexter tie up that Santa Muerte case with an investigation of his own?  Will Deb actually learn Spanish?  Will Quinn be an issue for Dexter, or does he drop all of his suspicions due to Deb?  Will Masuka finally be caught for being the sexual deviant he is?  Who the heck will be babysitting the kids while Dexter is out killing- that nanny is already suspicious!  So many questions!

In hindsight, here is how I would rank the 5 seasons of Dexter:

1) Season 4 - John Lithgow was amazing and this was the best season of the show.
2) Season 1 - How it all started.  The cat and mouse between Dexter and the Ice Truck Killer was phenomenal.
3) Season 5 - I fully enjoyed this season.  Johnny Lee Miller did a great job as Jordan Chase and it was interesting to watch Dexter go to the end of his rope to save someone.
4) Season 3 - Jimmy Smits was fantastic in this season and while "The Skinner" had a weird side plot line, this season was still very solid.
5) Season 2 - Lila just doesn't do it for me.  This season was still entertaining, but Lila was annoying and I now miss Sgt. Doakes.  That guy drops the F-bombs in the most appropriate of ways (ya know, forceful like Samuel L. Jackson.)

So there you go.  That's my review.  I love the show and am glad to hear that Showtime has renewed it for a Season 6.  It does make me wonder how long the show can continue without getting too crazy, but I'll leave that to the writers to worry about.  Until then, I can just be happy that a great show like this exists.


Brandon said...

Something definitely has to happen next season with Quinn. Since season 3 he's filled Doakes' role of being the only cop to be creeped out by Dexter, and it's built up over time. He knows that Dexter probably killed Liddy, but he doesn't know Dexter was in the van. Does he know Dexter knows he was behind the investigation? When he thanked Dexter for faking the blood work at the end of the show, there didn't seem to be any fear, so he probably doesn't.

I actually liked Lumen's reason for leaving, although I might have accepted any reason for making sure her character doesn't come back. It showed how different she is from Dexter, that Dexter once again can't 'convert' people to be like him (echoing the failure with Jimmy Smits), and made him think that something one day might heal him.

Tony B. said...

Great points Brandon. The finale left me thinking that things just worked out a little too well after a series of crazy situations that would be impossible to wiggle out of in reality. I think that was my main issue with Quinn being ok with Dexter in the end. Hopefully something boils over with the two of them next season.

I guess Lumen's reasoning was ok, but it started to get into the whole "let's explain this away to the audience." Julia Stiles was telling us rather than showing us that she needed to leave (luckily, Michael C. Hall did the opposite with his great acting.)

Let's hope for another great season next year!

GMoney said...

Hmmmmm in hindsight, I think that this was the least impressive season to date just because there was really no huge threat/scary bad guy. In essence, Dexter was just killing dickhead businessmen.

1. 4
2. 2 - Doakes killed it that season
3. 1
4. 3 - Most people hated Smits but I liked him
5. 5

Tony B. said...

I felt like Jordan Chase was essentially the main villain who filled that role this season. His motivational speeches were pretty creepy and his celebrity status added some drama to whether or not Dexter could pull off killing him. I stand by my rankings (but keep in mind I fully enjoyed every season- the worst Dexter season beats out 90% of all other TV shows.)

At least we agree that last season was the best. That was tremendous television.