After a relatively hit or miss fifth year installment, the Dexter season 6 premiere serves as a welcome breath of fresh air to the series, by not only fulfilling the lofty promises made by producers that this season would return the hit drama to the familiar thematic form that garnered such critical claim early on, but by also gracefully maturing every element of the program through the masterful handling of an extremely difficult (and often misused) televisual faux pas.
Wrapped in a 12-month “time jump,” Dexter, our favorite knife wielding vigilante, is relieved of any and all emotional repercussions from the horrific death of his wife Rita, and the misguided pseudo-love of Lumen. These story-arcs, while certainly serving as concussive conclusions for anticipatory character growth (through forced responses to the presented environments) ultimately led to a progression standstill that started with the series’ core focus, Dexter, but then continued throughout every other facet of the series.
While the stereotypical time jump is typically used as a proverbial “get out of jail free” card to artificially establish some forward momentum to a series, without having to actually execute a coherent arc to sidestep whatever issues were ultimately becoming problematic, the producers of Dexter decided to make one of the most earnest uses of a “time jump” ever seen on television by completely redefining each character and clearly representing that evolution has occurred, even though we were not witness to it.
By kicking off the season premiere with a story revolving around Dexter’s high school reunion and a love once lost (and now, murdered) - which leads to everyone’s favorite blood splatter analyst reveling in his perceived success and “busting a move” on the dance floor - it’s made clear that while a story may have an emotional connection to Dexter, it no longer inhibits his ability to satisfy his Dark Passenger. The notion that Dexter must simply survive these situational occurrences is replaced by a renewed drive to adapt to them.
And adapt, he does. By not only figuring out the best way to overcome whatever obstacle may stand before either of his personalities, but by also earnestly establishing the necessary relationships needed in order to do so. Even though many of these relationships serve no other purpose than to help drive Dexter’s core desires, the fact that he’s “using” these relationships and not simply “abusing” them certainly helps progress the character into an extremely compelling position, all while allowing for further occurrences of growth and depth for each new circumstance.
Taking on another complicated matter, but showing another example of the series’ new-found confidence in its ability to execute a story-arc, no matter the subject matter, is the positioning of Dexter as someone who’s attempting to become more spiritual, but without the need to attach any specific religious affiliation in order to do so. While this element is only slightly touched upon in the premiere, the subsequent episodes delve into it further. Though, the mocking of God, as his victim attempts to explain the “rules” of his faith, certainly speaks to the fact that Dexter isn’t attempting to find a divine creator, but to better understand himself and the world around him.
Returning to some familiar elements of past seasons, the official “big bads” of season 6 were only briefly noted in the premiere. While it’s always wonderful to see Dexter come face to face with someone that’s positioned as his equal, there was a sense that it felt a bit rushed last season. Even though these two spiritual warriors (that will be better understood in next week’s episode) provide an interesting take to their killings, it’s going to take some time before enough is established to make Dexter take notice of their actions, and, more importantly, connect them to their victims.
To say what transpired during the course of Dexter season 5 was problematic would be largely unfair, though the unfortunate signs of what may result from it were clearly present. The series, as a whole, was attempting to push through the inevitable growing pains that any show its age feels. What made this transition even more complicated was that Dexter was coming off of a series high (with season 4) and the producers where attempting to fill the void left by showrunner Chip Johnson.
Instead of using Dexter as the vehicle to covey the story (which, in turn, would have provided the needed closure and growth that many would have wanted), they decided to use Lumen as a supplemental avatar. While not a terrible idea on its own, it was certainly a departure from what the series originally started out as… and where the series should be going – especially at this age.
Fortunately, Dexter season 6 appears to be a step in the right direction that will not only help rectify some of the major problems that arose from last season, but will also make sure that Dexter, as a series, is perfectly positioning itself to continue for the foreseeable future.
Dexter airs Sundays @9pm on Showtime
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