Friday, September 27, 2013

"Dexter" Series Review

Season 1 was actually spoiled for me.  I was at a friend's house and he put on the current episode at the time (season 2, episode 2) to show me how good of a show it was.  Since I really didn't understand what was going on, he proceeded to tell me what I had missed, and in turn, spoiled the events of the first season.  Regardless of being spoiled, I went back and watched the first season.  The characters, Dexter’s inner monologue with his Dark Passenger, and the entire concept of a serial killer that only killed bad people was intriguing and very well written.  I thought the Ice Truck Killer was a great villain and the big reveal that it was actually Dexter’s brother was very well done.  The first season did a great job of not only entertaining, but overall it set the stage for the future of the series. 

Building on the momentum of first season, Season 2 pulled no punches and threw Dexter right back into the thick of it where it appeared all eyes were on him.  I really did think that he could get caught.  His blood slides representing the trophies of his past victims served as his most prized possession AND the one thing that could destroy him.  Since Dexter was the hero of the story, anyone against him was the villain and this time it was his coworker Doakes.  I remember really hating Doakes but now I think of him with fondness (due to the flashback scenes with him that would be revealed in the seventh season).  He really was a guy you loved to hate, and while his acting was cheesy at times, it somehow worked and the season was a success.  This second season, as well as its predecessor, wrapped up everything nicely, with no strings left untied.

Season 3, while a bit hazy to me, wasn’t as strong as the first two seasons, but I do remember that Jimmy Smits’s character Miguel Prado, was introduced as someone Dexter could trust.  Having zero friends Dexter could confide his secret with, it looked very promising that these two would make a great team.  Ultimately, Prado would turn out to be a loose cannon that needed to be dealt with, just as every other character that knew or found out Dexter’s secret, and Prado’s fate was sealed on Dexter’s table.  Dexter’s kill room had become an important character itself, and as a viewer, I loved the meticulous organization of it and I came to admire it.  Dexter stuck to his code, he continued to avoid suspicion and capture, and while hiding in plain sight tried to do the best that he could to balance his normal life while dealing with his dark side.

Unfortunately, for Dexter, in Season 4, he would come against, what I would consider, his greatest foe.  The Trinity Killer, a serial killer with 20 years of experience (if I remember correctly), was just as, if not more meticulous and cunning than Dexter.  Trinity, magnificently played by John Lithgow, had the perfect cover of a family and his "habit for humanity" type of business.  I believe Trinity represented the future of what Dexter could have evolved into, but not all monsters are created equally.  Dexter had many opportunities to kill Trinity, but Dexter was trying to learn from him.  Sadly, Dexter would pay the price for his hesitation and he ends up losing his wife Rita in the most epic season finale I have ever experienced.  Dexter’s infant son, sitting in a pool of his mother’s blood harkened back to Dexter’s origin that was revealed in the first season and set the stage for what could have been the best stories yet to come.

Regrettably, Seasons 5 and 6 were a total let down.  Season 5 continued where 4 left off, with Dexter dealing with the murder of his wife and not being able to take revenge on her killer, Trinity, because he already killed him without prior knowledge of the aforementioned event of Rita’s murder.  Dexter seemed lost and with him so was the audience.  Dexter stumbled upon a new partner - a rape victim named Lumen.  Her goal was to get revenge on her four perpetrators.  The protege events harkened back to season 2, but sadly, the plot was as weak as the villains as was Lumen as the love interest / victim.  Lumen, with the help of Dexter, achieved her revenge and just walked off into the sunset.  Did this help Dexter to grow as a person or a killer?  Why was he so comfortable with leaving a loose end like that?  I believe this is where Dexter, as a character, began to fall apart.

Season 6 introduced the Doomsday Killer which brought a religious undertone to the entire season.  Would religion be the answer to help Dexter grow?  It would appear not, and the two villains turned out to be one villain as the one villain had his own Dark Passenger just as Dexter did.  Due to poor writing, this revelation was unraveled by the keen observer in first episode of the season when it was actually revealed seven or so episodes later.  This resulted in another weak season, but it did set up a finale where Dexter’s secret was finally revealed to the person he loved most – his sister Deb.  The reveal was slightly tainted as Deb’s main conflict during the entire season was that she believed she was falling in love with her brother.  Sure, they weren’t blood related, but it a bad choice by the writers and it did not work well with the audience.

Luckily, Season 7 moved away from the brother/sister love story fairly quickly and dealt with the matter at hand, that Deb had been lied to her entire life, not only by her brother, but her father as well.  Just as much as the show has been about Dexter, the second strongest character that the audience cared about was Deb, and Jennifer Carpenter really owned her role in this season.  Harkening back and mentioning events from the first four seasons, this season was as strong as ever.  The conflict between brother and sister built the entire way to the ending in the shipping container where Deb was given a choice.  Did Deb make the right decision to kill La Guerta and not Dexter?  It could be argued both ways, but with the final season in the back of my mind, the writers had no intention of killing Dexter and that was their mistake.

In the weakest season and series finale ever written, the television show Dexter and the story of a vigilante serial killer has come to a close.  There were few good things about Season 8, but there was a lot of bad and the bad heavily outweighed the good.  When reflecting on the series as a whole, Dexter hadn’t really learned anything.  He thought love, family and maybe religion would help him destroy and move away from his Dark Passenger, but he was blind to the fact that it was always there and it would never go away.  As a result of Dexter's ignorance, his sister paid the ultimate price, just like Rita had.  With Deb's death, Dexter died as well as he drove into a hurricane.  If the story had ended there, then I would have been happy,  Unfortunately, it’s revealed that Dexter somehow survived and became a lumberjack.  The love that he had for Hannah and his son, Harrison, a love that supposedly turned off his need for killing were both abandoned.  So Dexter chose a life away from the ones he loved, the ones that supposedly made him a better person, so he wouldn’t end up hurting them.  But what about himself?  Who’s going to protect him against himself and killing again?  Is living his life away from the ones he loves punishment for all that he has done?  Sure, he only killed bad people, but killing is wrong and he’s left feeling sorry for himself.  Are we supposed to feel sorry for him too?  As an audience, are we supposed to be happy with this as the end of an eight year journey?  I’m sure as hell not, and I’m very disappointed.  I take solace in the fact that, as a viewer, we got at least four good seasons.  It’s a shame that we also had to get four bad ones that ended the series.