Television’s favorite monster, Dexter [Showtime, Sundays, 9/8C], us back and even though he’s got a new and nasty serial killer to deal with, his biggest, most ominous challenge just may be fatherhood! Season opens with, among other things, Dexter’s [Michael C. Hall] sleep deprivation causing him to screw up in court; misplace the body of his latest victim, and flip his SUV. Could things get much worse?
How about the introduction of a serial killer who kills three women of very specific types, over a very specific period of time – and then moves to a different city to repeat the pattern? Now, just suppose that he’s in Miami to celebrate a scary anniversary of his first three kills. And suppose that FBI uber-profiler Frank Lundy [Keith Carradine] is back in town following him – much to the surprise and consternation of a certain female detective who might just be Dexter’s sister [Jennifer Carpenter].
Tack on some hilarious fatherly miscues by Dexter; crazy and yet, somehow wonderful romances for Sgt. Batista [David Zayas] and Lt. Laguerta [Lauren Velez]; evidence of some strange [i.e. extra-legal] goings on with Quinn [last year’s new guy on the squad, played by Desmond Harrington], and a series of murdered tourists. Are we having fun yet? You betcha.
Maybe it’s just me, but Rita’s [Julie Benz] daughter, Astor [Christina Robinson], seems weirdly aloof. It might just be that she’s having trouble dealing with her new sibling – but maybe she’s beginning to develop a Dark Passenger of her own. Which would be strange, if only because Cody [Preston Bailey] seems to be a very typical, cheerfully mischievous kid. Of course, she could also be finding that having Dexter as a father is a bit different than his being her mom’s boyfriend.
The interesting thing is that four episodes sent out for review, contain all those events, but none of them plays out in quite the way you might expect. In a normal procedural, for example, the Trinity Killer [John Lithgow], who is a genuinely creepy character because he seems gentle and kinda shy, would be the main focus. Instead, he’s woven into the season in small bits that pack a cumulative punch – just as all the other arcs of the series are developed.
The show continues to explore themes like nature vs. nurture. Is Harry’s natural daughter Debra any more decent than the adopted Dexter? Both have relatively structured codes for behavior; both tackle the grisliest murders [though they have much different methodologies for dealing them]. And what about the walking case of sexual harassment on legs that is Vince [C.S. Lee]? He does his job extremely well, but it appears the guy has a compulsive need to hit on any reasonably attractive woman he encounters – both at work and away from it.
What about the way that Dexter really enjoys being a father figure to Cody and Astor? How is it that a “monster” [as he describes himself] can find enjoyment in being a good father? It could be part of Harry’s Code – he also feels protective and supportive of Debra and to a lesser extent, he treats his colleagues as if they were family, too. He’s even said as much – if not in those exact words – and admits that that sort of thing baffles him. It seems that Dex might want to be a good person almost as much as he needs to unleash his Dark Passenger. Talk about a quandary!
One of the best things about Dexter is that the possibilities are almost limitless. The series weaves so many character arcs and murder mysteries through the course of a season, that the only way the show can work is if the writing is consistently amazing. Which it has been for three-and-a-third seasons, so far.
What is genuinely impressive is that the series has departed, story-wise, from the Dexter novels after the first season and yet it is as rich and tonally in synch with the books without having to use them as source material. So much so, that Dexter’s creator, Jeff Lindsey is a fan.
So far, Dexter remains one of the absolute best shows on TV.
Final Grade: A