Miami. It’s been a while (November 27th to be exact) since I’ve returned to your blood spattered streets of serial killing blood spatter analysts, foul mouthed female detectives, and annual rise of mysterious murder sprees. After the superlative fourth season, I went on to watch a number of other series that with the sole possible exception of Mad Men really failed to live up to the very high standard set by the final disc of that season. It took me a while to come back to Dexter because I was watching so much else (and the period where it seemed like the only activity I was participating in was Skyrim or Star Wars: The Old Republic), but I’m glad I did. Everyone I know in the Dexter fandom has almost nothing but bad things to say about Season 5 of this series, and while I’m too early in to make judgment calls about it’s total quality, it began with three exceptional episodes and only the fourth one seemed to be simply average. For these four episodes, we got a slower, more character drivenDexter that allowed me to dive into the mindset of this man I’ve been cheering on for four seasons now.

After Rita’s murder at the hands of Trinity in last season’s shocking finale, Season 5 picks up moments after Dexter’s horrific discovery of her corpse in the bathtub as the police arrive on the scene. A completely in-shock Dexter tells the detective on the scene that “I killed her” (meaning that he felt responsible for her death by not killing Arthur Mitchell when he had the chance) which leads to people suspecting for all of two episodes that perhaps Dexter had murdered Rita (it goes away quick enough but Quinn still seems to have a hard on that Dexter is the mysterious Kyle Butler that Trinity’s family always talks about). After Rita’s death, Dexter is overwhelmed with guilt about her murder and decides to run away and leave everything behind (including Astor, Cody, and Harrison). He makes it pretty far until he comes across a bait shop where he brutally murders a man who was being a douche bag. This act (which Harry tells Dexter is the first human thing he’s done since Rita’s death) causes Dex to realize he must return to Miami and be a part of his children’s lives. This doesn’t quite work out though because Astor blames Dexter for Rita’s murder and after several heart-wrenching break-downs, Astor and Cody decide to live with their grandparents leaving Dexter alone (except for Deb and Harrison).

As Dexter is working through his unique version of grief over Rita’s murder, he comes across a man who has been murdering women and leaving their bodies in formaldehyde filled drums in the swamp. Dex stalks the man and kills him (not without a rather hilarious failure on his first go around involving a tranq gun) hoping that this will fill the emptiness he’s experiencing without Rita. It doesn’t, and unfortunately for Dex, it only brings new complications into his life when one of Boyd Fowler’s (the man Dexter just killed) victims sees Dexter killing Boyd. It turns out she’s a young runaway named Lumen Pierce (Julia Stiles) that Boyd had locked up and tortured and raped for a long period of time. Dexter doesn’t let her go at first for fears that she may turn him into the police, but after an escape attempt (and Lumen’s refusal to get into a car with a group of men because she has been raped in the past) that leads Dexter to show her the swamp filled with dead women, Lumen decides to give Dex a break (although not until after she stabbed him with a knife first). There’s also a subplot with the Miami PD involving ritualistic decapitations with some possible religious cult but I don’t care about that story at all other than that Deb and Quinn finally made the beast with two backs.

As I’ve said, I haven’t seen enough of the season to know what rabbit holes it ultimately goes down, but as of the beginning of Season 5, I do not understand where all of the hate comes from. The season premiere (and even the second episode which might have been a little better) was one of the best episodes of the entire series in my honest opinion. Dexter can be so propulsively plot-driven that it was refreshing to see the show slow things down a bit and really take the time to look at Dexter from a tragic personal perspective. Michael C. Hall gave his strongest performance yet in the scenes where he murdered the man in the bathroom and came to terms with what really happened to Rita. There was so much rage and an animal intensity from a man we normally only see at his most reserved and quiet. Also, the writing in the scene where Dexter tells Rita’s children that she died was the show at its most darkly comic as Astor and Cody bring Dexter Mickey Mouse ears from Disney World that he is wearing as he informs them of their mother’s murder. I don’t mind that the season started off with more of a slow burn because I’m starting to form emotional characters with Dexter that haven’t really been present since the second season which was almost entirely about the dichotomy of Dexter’s nature.

Here are some final thoughts on the season so far. These whole cult murders that Deb and the rest of Miami Metro homicide are investigating seems like it has the potential to be the worst recurring villain the show has had since the Skinner back in Season 3. It seems almost cartoonish to me at this point. I like the darker path that they’re taking Angel Baptista down because other than being a drinker and a womanizer, he hasn’t had much character development. I can’t begin to say how happy I am that Deb and Quinn have finally started to get it on. They’re sexual and romantic chemistry has been on fire ever since he was first introduced to the series and I always enjoyed watching the back and forth between the two of them more than I ever enjoyed her real boyfriends (except maybe at times with Frank Lundy). Of course, this now probably means that Quinn is going to be murdered (either by a criminal or by Dexter since he’s investigating him) since Deb’s boyfriends are more cursed than the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. All in all though, I’m very hopeful about this season and I’m sad that everyone seems to dislike it so much. I guess that means it’s going to just start taking a nosedive in terms of quality very soon.

Final Score: B+