Review: Dexter - Season 5 (18) / Developed by: James Manos Jr. / Starring: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Lauren Velez, David Zayas, James Remar, C.S. Lee, Desmond Harrington, / Release Date: Out Now
Dexter seems to be following the pattern established by the Star Trek movies in that every odd numbered season is mediocre. A big problem faced by Dexter’s fifth season is the fact that Season four was quite frankly amazing and was powered by a terrifying performance from John Lithgow. Season five is not quite the let down that a lot of people claimed it to be however. Watching it all in one go on DVD now it’s certainly enjoyable and has some great moments but I can see how on a weekly basis people may have lost interest.
If you don’t know the premise of Dexter by now; it follows forensic blood specialist Dexter Morgan who works with the Miami police department and just happens to have a sideline in sociopathic serial killing. Dexter’s mother was murdered in front of him when he was a toddler and he was guided by his surrogate father; Detective Harry Morgan (who occasionally still appears to him as a kind of spiritual guide) to channel his urges into killing the guilty. This is further complicated by the fact that his sister Deborah works for the Miami police as a homicide detective. People get suspicious of Dexter but they don’t seem to last very long. The fifth season picks up after the cataclysmic events of the finale of season four and finds Dexter understandably devastated by the Trinity Killer’s final victim. Dexter has to take on the responsibility of sole parent as well as keep his own urges in check and avoid the increasingly suspicious Detective Quinn. Whilst dealing with his grief Dexter ends up murdering a dim witted road worker and this leads him to Lumen (guest star Julia Stiles) who has been a victim of a horrific rape and torture ordeal. This presents Dexter with an interesting quandary which sadly they don’t spend much time on. Lumen has witnessed Dexter in full on serial killer mode and is a threat but he can’t get rid of her because she is as much a victim as he was at a young age. Eventually Dexter nurses Lumen back to health - much to the Ghost of Harry Morgan’s disapproval - and the two set out to bring her captor(s) to 'justice'. Meanwhile back at the police station, the homicide squad investigate a killer who beheads his victims and leaves their tongue-less heads on display in the Puerto Rican community. Batista and La Guerta’s marriage hits a rocky patch as La Guerta continues to do anything to stay on top. Quinn and Deborah begin an ill advised affair as Quinn hires a sleazy ex-cop to start watching Dexter.
I think the main problems with Dexter are that it has now settled into a formula. Every season you know there is going to be a ‘big bad’ serial killer even worse than the last, which is going to be the plot arc for the next twelve episodes. You know someone is going to have suspicions about Dexter and you know he is going to come closer than ever before to getting caught, and man does he ever get close in season five. The other problem is that outside of Dexter himself and whoever is the semi big name performer they get to guest star, none of the other characters are that interesting. La Guerta and Batista were never that interesting as characters in the first place and their marriage is so annoyingly contrived and boring that during their scenes I would often go make a drink because I just was not interested. Plus you have Deborah Morgan who on her own is kind of interesting and likeable, but her turbulent love life combined with the previously mentioned marriage of convenience sometimes makes the whole thing seem like CSI Miami written as soap opera. If you are familiar with the Dexter books written by Jeff Lindsay then you know that the books differ considerably and are even more morally ambiguous. The third book Dexter in the Dark is certifiably insane with its plot and involves cults, the supernatural and Dexter teaching his adopted kids to be murderers. I’m not saying that’s where the show should go, but what I wouldn’t give for them to mix it up a little. Still we have three seasons left so there is still time for them to wow me into silence.
What stands out in this season of the show are the guest stars. John Lithgow left some pretty big shoes to fill so you get Julia Stiles acting her socks off and making me wish we saw her on screen more often than we do. Lumen is a tragic figure that bonds with Dexter and they set off on a doomed crusade which will not end well, much as you hope it will. They give Lumen some wonderful moments where she reflects on her simple life before her ordeal which are heartbreaking as they show a memory of a life that has gone forever and Stiles revels in the bruised soul of the character who is now driven by a need for vengeance. Jonny Lee Miller shows up late in the game in a pivotal role which is chilling in its duality and whilst Miller is no Lithgow he makes the most of the role often stealing entire scenes from the rest of the cast. Best of all though is Peter Weller as a shady ex-cop who is sent to follow Dexter by the suspicious Quinn. Weller is having a whale of a time here, blackmailing every one he comes into contact with and playing on peoples frayed nerves with aplomb. He gets all the best lines and I would have loved to have seen more of the character. Michael C.Hall continues to impress as the main character, he continues to reveal more and more depths to Dexter and subtly humanises him as the show goes on, even more impressive considering that Hall was fighting cancer during filming of this.
Season five is not as bad as some have made out (and season six sounds frankly terrible) but it is a show that needs to really start going somewhere. The end of the show hints at something… something possibly discovered by a key character but refuses to commit to it because that would just be too much of a shake up. The final four episodes of season five are certainly some of the best and most thrilling that the series has done and for that alone it’s still worth watching. Please though kill off some of the station personnel because they are starting to grate.
Extras: Making of a scene, Sounds of the splatter, Dexters Kill Room, Interview with artist Ty Matterson, twenty questions and photo gallery.