Last year, fans of Showtime’s hit series Dexter were left in shock. After witnessing an entire season of truly wonderful performances and anxiety-filled storytelling, a sense of calmness set in as Dexter plunged his knife into the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow). But with Trinity’s dying breath and allusive rhetoric, the meaning of “it’s already over” had not yet been fully revealed.
With the revelation that Rita had been Trinity’s final victim, the world wondered what would come of everyone’s favorite blood-spatter analyst. As Dexter season 5 began, a dulcet tone appropriately accompanied the season premiere. From that, the given appearance of this season would be a sense of reflection for Dexter. Given what resulted from his brash temptation with fate, it appeared to be an earnest endeavor.
Of course, as this season continued, Dexter began to show signs of transitioning through the infamous 7 stages of grief, albeit with killing. Through this murderous reflection, Dexter stumbled across Lumen (Julia Stiles), a woman who presented the famed vigilante with an opportunity for redemption.
Now, with companion in tow, Dexter set out to exact revenge on Lumen’s would-be assailants. Unfortunately, with Dexter focused on things ahead, he unknowingly left himself open to attacks. With Quinn still questioning Dexter’s innocence in regards to Rita’s death, he hired the corrupt Stan Liddy to keep an eye on Dexter. Conversely, Deb has once again found herself unknowingly on the trail of her serial killer sibling, as the recent string of murders in relation to the “barrel girls” had raised suspicions about an experienced vigilante coupling.
With Deb inching closer to finding out her brother’s deep-dark secret, Lumen currently awaiting slaughter, Quinn questioning Dexter’s actions and Jordan Chasing having to confront Dexter’s dark passenger, there are only two things that are certain…
Anything can happen and no one is safe.
Dexter's situation grows desperate when he discovers that Lumen's been set up. Despite knowing he's being baited into a trap, Dexter risks everything to make sure he doesn't fall into the same mistake again. In the Barrel Girls case, Debra lets her personal feelings lead her instincts once she concludes that vigilantes are more than just a theory. Quinn finds himself in a troublesome situation, which only Dexter can help him out of.
The term “acceptable” rarely finds its way into television reviews. While that particular word represents - for all intents and purposes - an adequate reception, when it is actually put into practice, it often brings with it a notion of disappointment. This disappointment stems from having inflated expectations, especially when it is often unwarranted.
With that, the Dexter season 5 finale was unfortunately acceptable.
Throughout this season, the theme of redemption was extremely apparent. If not with the numerous philosophical innuendos, than defiantly with the heavy-handed grandiose statements that were consistently uttered by many of the characters. It is with this same heavy-hand that the character of Lumen was developed, executed and concluded.
For all the many seasonal story-arcs that Lumen received, the character served no other purpose than to allow the character of Dexter to slightly evolve past his current state. Sure, the implications that Dexter now knows he can be seen and loved for the person he truly is and the notion that his dark passenger may not be permanent will have positive effects on subsequent seasons, the drawn-out nature by which those realizations were acquired made the season, on some level, feel empty.
Lumen, as a whole, slowed this season down. Including Lumen in Dexter’s killing process was an intriguing plot, but when executed, it was generally over-emphasized and drawn out. This seasonal flaw served to replace actual angst that the series is known for with artificial tension stemming from Lumen’s inability to emotionally progress at an acceptable rate, given her present surroundings.
If the disposable nature of Lumen’s character wasn’t obvious throughout the season, it was most certainly evident by the manner in which they wrapped up her character. With a simple look and a brief revelation to Dexter, Lumen was gone. While Lumen could certainly return in following seasons, her character served its purpose for this season and is no longer needed. If her character were to return, I would take that as a sign that the producers were unable to adequately development a rich story-line for their current season.
Fortunately, the character of Lumen did bring with her one redeeming aspect, Jordan Chase. The casting of Johnny Lee Miller as the character of Jordan Chase was a wonderful decision. While his character started out as simply a wealthy control-freak, the revelation of the character’s back-story and his transformation into an eccentric psychopath propelled Jordan Chase into an intriguing and suitable nemesis for Dexter. Even though Chase’s final moments were brief, they were executed with such emotion that it resonated perfectly with the viewer.
While Deb deciding not to pull back the curtain was a beautiful example of her characters growth, the fact that it was too obvious of a metaphor of her unawareness of her brother’s “extra-curricular activities” left the sentiment moot. On the other hand, the character of Quinn – who had numerous fluctuations in his feelings for Dexter – went through many stages of evolution throughout this season and when the season 5 finale concluded, the audience was left in the dark about how exactly he currently feels about Dexter - a wonderful touch that could easily be missed.
In this past season, particularly these final episodes and specifically in the season finale, Quinn and Deb had more realistic and rewarding character evolution than Dexter and Lumen combined. With Quinn and Deb having half the screen time of Dexter and Lumen, it shows that the producers are able to still deliver rich storylines. Unfortunately, I feel that what resulted in the season 4 finale forced everyone to attempt a more overt approach with Dexter in season 5. Instead of continuing with the repercussions of Dexter’s activities, the season focused more on the positive consequences that his actions have. While endearing for a single season, it will quickly become stale if continued into the next.
As I originally stated, the season finale of Dexter was acceptable. While there were hints of genius, it was generally not up to the high standards that one has come to expect from Dexter. Of course, one could say that about this season as a whole. So, in that aspect, the finale was exactly what one could expect.
Perhaps the fault lays not in this season’s execution, but with my gluttonous expectations for exquisite storytelling.
While you’re here, feel free to check out some of our previous Dexter coverage:
Showtime to Renew ‘Dexter’ for Season 6’Dexter’ Season 5 Premiere Review & DiscussionSR Pick: ‘Dexter’ In 60 Seconds’Dexter’ Has Nothing on These Serial Killers‘Dexter’ Season 4 Finale Review & Discussion
Dexter airs Sundays @8pm, on Showtime