[WARNING: This article contains major SPOILERS from seasons 1-4 of Dexter. If you’re not caught up till the end of season 4 then stop reading now. You have been warned!]

Nearly six months after the shocking Dexter season four finale, we’re beginning to hear murmurs indicating that season five pre-production is in full swing.

The most interesting, and certainly a source for speculation, comes in early reports that Bourne actress Julia Stiles may appear as a Dexter season five regular.

EW suggest that Stiles is in late-stage talks to come aboard the critically acclaimed show in a major role – though no specifics are known about the character she’d play.

[Update: Julia Stiles is confirmed to have signed on for Dexter Season 5]

You might be thinking that Stiles will take-up the killer girl shoes of season 2’s Lila or become the next “Big Bad” (of the Ice Truck Killer or Trinity Killer variety) but the producers appear to have something else in store.

Showrunner Chip Johannessen was very direct about this particular point:

“We’re not going to have a single Big Bad this season. We don’t want to try and top John Lithgow, so we’re going to change up the forces that Dexter’s going to be dealing with.”

According to previous details given by executive producer Sara Colleton, it doesn’t sound as though Stiles will be a direct love-interst either – at least not yet:

“Anything is possible, but I don’t think Dexter will be in the mood for dating or love anytime soon. That’s not even on our radar right now. He very much loved Rita and they were in a good place right before she was killed so that wound will take quite some time to heal.”

Personally, I’m guessing that, given his full-time job and part-time serial killer hobby, Dexter is going to need some help with those three kids he’s got at home. Maybe Stiles will be a nanny? Specifically, a live-in nanny that creates new hurdles for the late-night vigilante to avoid?

The Julia Stiles casting news comes on the heels of an earlier report by EW that mentioned a previously deceased cast-member would return for the season five premier.

Julie Benz, who played Dexter’s wife (until she became the final victim of Lithgow’s Trinity Killer), will return in the first episode of the upcoming season to “help Dexter deal with his newfound feelings of loss and grief — emotions he has never really felt before,” according to a rep at Showtime.

Given the season’s focus on Dexter’s grief, it’s increasingly obvious that, if you were hoping Rita somehow survived Trinity’s attack – you’re out of luck.

Similarly, if you thought it’d be fun to see her in Harry-like phantom form, Colleton and the other producers apparently don’t agree with you:

“We reserve those for Harry. If you have too many things like that it becomes gimmicky.”

So how will Rita return?

Personally, I’m guessing her presence isn’t going to be particularly surprising – I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Dexter show-runners utilized a flashback or dream sequences. Bringing Rita back is just as much about giving Dexter closure as it is about giving the audience closure.

Regardless of how you might have felt about Rita, she was a major character, and a significant part of Dexter’s life – a character we never got to say goodbye to. However she might appear in the season premier – you can bet it’ll be designed to give Rita and the audience an opportunity to say goodbye.

What do you think about the casting of Julia Stiles? What role do you think she’ll play? How do you think Rita might return?

Dexter is scheduled to return on September 26, 2010.

Source: EW