Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Dexter" season finale recap: "The Big One"

Spoilers for the season finale of "Dexter" below. Don't click through if you don't want to know.

Coming into season five of "Dexter," I was uncertain how well the show would fare in the wake of last season's shocking twist ending, in which Dexter learned that his wife Rita was murdered by the Trinity killer. The first few episodes of the season were OK, but a bit murky and confused.
Then the show introduced the character of Lumen, played beautifully by Julia Stiles. As the show followed Dexter's attempts to help Lumen avenge her rape by a gang of sociopathic men, the season found its way. We've seen Dexter attempt to bond with someone who understood him before, but inevitably that person turned out to be psychotic (Lila in season 2; Miguel in season 3) or not strong enough to handle Dexter's dark side (Harry).
In Lumen, the show had found a character who knew the truth about Dexter, was drawn into his darkness, yet remained three dimensional and sympathetic throughout the season -- and lived to tell about it. I was very pleased that the season finale didn't have Jordan Chase (Johnny Lee Miller, another of the season's fine guest stars) murder Lumen. It would have seemed a little repetitive and stale to have Dexter lose another woman he cared about so soon after Rita. Better to have Lumen move on from her darkness and try to live a full life far away from Dexter.
I also really liked the confrontation between Debra and the "vigilantes" (whom we know to be Dexter and Lumen). I always thought Debra would be sympathetic to the plight of a woman who had been kidnapped and tortured, and might be tempted to let that person go. I also liked the device of having Dexter and Lumen obscured from Debra's view as she decides what to do with her revenge killers. I'm still not entirely sure that Debra doesn't know who those killers were. Her statements to Dexter in his lab, about not truly understanding someone, could apply just to herself, or to Quinn or, maybe, to Dexter and Lumen. As the show moves forward, it would be increasingly unrealistic if a cop as astute as Deb didn't become suspicious of her brother. I think it's totally plausible that she is starting, slowly, to unravel who he is.
Overall, this was a strong finale to what was, ultimately, a fine season. It was a smart move to not try and come up with a villain to top John Lithgow's Trinity in season four. Instead, we got multiple fine performances from an array of excellent characters. Aside from Stiles and Miller, the season featured excellent work from Peter Weller (brilliantly hammy as a disgrace cop), Shawn Hatosy, and a too-briefly-seen Scott Grimes.
I even liked some of the Quinn story -- a minor miracle, considering that I was horrifically bored by the character in past seasons.
Not sure where the show will go next, and part of me hopes next season will be "Dexter's" last but, for now, I'm satisfied. What did you think?

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