Okay… Have I been hallucinating a different season 5 of Dexter than everybody else I know? I literally don’t know a single person that liked the fifth season of that show and perhaps I would be more upset if I was being forced to watch it on a weekly basis instead of on DVD where I can watch most of the season in a couple of sittings (for the obvious reason that I’m not being forced to wait ages for very slow [but in my opinion rewarding] plot development), but as of right now (and there are still four episodes left in the season for Dexter to jump the shark), I am still enjoying Season 5 of this show much more than i enjoyed Seasons 1 or 3. The season certainly has its share of flaws (everything that didn’t involve Dexter personally, specifically the Miami Metro PD stories), but most of them are flaws that have existed from the beginning of the program. Many fans seem to take umbridge with the slower, character driven pace of the season, but I am applauding the series risky decision to focus more on what makes Dexter tick in a world without Rita than having him go up against some bland serial killer (although he’s sort of doing that now) that would never have been able to live up to the standards of Trinity.

After Dexter was able to convince Lumen (Julia Stiles) not to turn him into the police for being a murderer, the long, slow process of Lumen convincing Dexter to help her kill the men that raped and tortured her (and murdered all of those other girls) began. Dexter initially bought Lumen airplane tickets out of Miami after she nearly killed a man who wasn’t even one of the men who had attacked her. However, Lumen didn’t leave, and after Dexter turned down her offer again to help her get revenge, she want hunting again. This time, she succeeded in luring a man to an abandoned factory and shooting him (though she couldn’t be 100% positive he was one of her attackers since she was blindfolded for most of the assaults). However, she didn’t kill him and by the time Dexter showed up (with another one of his victims in his car under sedation), he had tried to run away when Lumen was distracted. Dexter and Lumen tracked their wounded prey through the factory (as the homicide division with Deb at the fore make their way to the factory on a phone call). Dexter was cleaning the man’s wounds (because he couldn’t be sure he met the code) when Lumen’s accidentally dropping her cell phone near the man caused him to call the other rapists to inform them that Lumen was still alive at which point Dexter snapped the man’s neck and set up a very quick crime scene to convince the other cops that there was a gay sex accidental death scenario involving the rapist and Dexter’s original target. Hilarity ensues with Masuka’s explanation of what happened.

Because this rapist was able to tip of his colleagues, at the beginning of the disc’s third episode, a man with a truck turns up at the swamp with all of the barrels. It looked like the man was about to get away with cleaning up the situation when his truck is side-swiped by another car and the bodies go spilling all over the streets. By the time the cops show up the next day, the man has fled but the bodies have been left all over the street. It turns out the truck is registered to Jordan Chase, a motivational speaker that was a personal favorite of Boyd Fowler (the man that Dexter had killed who was holding Lumen prisoner). It was the personal truck of his lead security man, Cole Harman, who Dexter had agreed to kill for Lumen after they took care of the rapist in the factory. Dexter pins the truck bodies on the already deceased Boyd so that he can get to Cole. After Cole nearly catches and kills Lumen at the hotel where Dexter had the murder room set up for Cole, Dexter puts Cole down only to discover at the last minute that his boss Jordan Chase was also one of the men who tortured Lumen because of a favorite phrase of his. There’s actually stories with the Miami Metro PD as well (Quinn is still investigating Dexter and his P.I. snapped pictures of Dexter and Lumen disposing of a body. Deb killed one of the cult murderers at a night club but because of LaGuerata’s mishandling of the situation, two innocent people died and she threw Debra under a bus to save her own skin) but they have felt very inconsequential to the main action of the season with the possible imminent exception of the Quinn stuff.

For the most part, the stuff that was going on in Miami Homicide was as bad as the series has ever been. At least the Skinner investigation from Season 3 had a whole subplot where Debra was coming into her own as an investigator and trying to get respected enough to be made Detective. Deb’s story now is her sleeping with Quinn for almost the entirety of the season, and only in the last episode did it manage to pick up when LaGuerta returned to her old, bitchy ways by blaming Deb publicly for something that was obviously LaGuerta’s fault. It should make for some interesting conflict in LaGuerta and Angel’s marriage because Angel is siding with Debra. Peter Weller has made for an exceptionally skeevy narcotics officer who is under suspension that Quinn has hired to be his personal PI to look into Dexter’s private life. If the stories involving Dexter hadn’t been so compelling, the crappy nature of the Miami stuff would have been so unforgivable (especially considering how well the show had tried to make these stories intertwine with Dexter’s business in previous seasons), but thankfully, as I’ll get to shortly, I now feel like I know Dexter better than I ever have before.

A lot of people really can’t stand how slowly paced this season was, but I personally find myself to be loving it. Dexter has never felt more alive and realized as a character than he does for me right now. Since we’ve taken Rita, Astor, and Cody out of the equation (not that I didn’t adore Dexter’s family) and more often than not Harrison is being cared for by the nanny, we are continuing to get at the root of what Dexter is. The show is back to the moral ambiguity that I loved about Season 2 because rather than seeing the power-hungry, entitled blood lust of a man like Miguel Prado, we are looking at the very obviously hurt and broken Lumen. It was almost immediately obvious that Miguel was going to end up a villain and that what made him so repellant as a partner and so obvious later as a villain. While I worry that Lumen and Dexter will eventually come head to head, the show has done such a great job of making us sympathize with Lumen’s anger and desire for revenge even while exploring through Dexter (of all people) how it’s an empty revenge. She hasn’t yet become as broken as Dexter and his desire to keep her from turning into someone like him makes for very compelling and morally complicated television. I hate to say this but I already care more about Dexter’s friendship/guardianship with Lumen than I did about his dating life with Rita. I prefer my Dexter to operate in more of a moral grey area (instead of the increasingly heroic Dexter we’d seen the last two seasons), and this season has really seen Dexter go back to a darker place.

While there are still four episodes for the show to completely fuck everything up, I’m simply coming to the conclusion that the hate directed towards this season is a mix of A)unrealistically high standards set by the excellent season 4 (since nothing the show had done before was ever nearly that good and fans had forgotten that this is what averageDexter is like) and B ) the show is going with a much slower, much more character driven structure and most people prefer plot over substantive characters. Maybe I’m the pretentious artsy kid (without any artistic talent) but I appreciate the greater efforts for me to create emotional connections with these characters, especially Dexter. I don’t quite think that Julia Stiles is a good enough actress to handle Lumen’s weighty material, but at least she hasn’t gotten as absurdly over the top as Jimmy Smits was back in Season 3. I can’t wait to see how this season is resolved, and I am glad that I didn’t let everyone else’s feelings towards this season negatively color my experience.

Final Score: B+