After about two weeks or so, we’ve finally done it. I’ve finished Season 5 of Dexter. I was incredibly hesitant to begin this season when it began, and I feel like my hesitancy to start this was part of what led me to take months to get through all of season 4 of Doctor Who because I didn’t want to begin an awful season of a program I really enjoy. All of that worrying was for naught however because while it never quite reached the highs of Season 4, I’ve never exactly considered Dexter to be a premier program in the first place. It’s always occupied the guilty pleasure zone of my TV viewing and Season 5’s morally ambiguous and deliberately paced storytelling actually felt like the show was trying to take itself seriously for the first time since Season 2. At the end of the day, Season 5 wasn’t quite as engaging as 4 or even Season 2 (simply because of the slowness of its plot), but at least the show was operating in some semblance of mature serialized storytelling that was missing in the much less impressive Seasons 1 and 3. Having drawn this season to a close, I am now not incapable of understanding why this season is so disliked (it moves very slowly but I sort of enjoyed that) but I have come to the conclusion that I disagree with the general public on the quality of this good if not great season of Dexter.

After discovering that Jordan Chase was one of the men that raped and tortured Lumen, Dexter and his new-found partner begin the hunt to take down motivational speaker/serial rapist extraordinaire Chase. However, it’s easier said than done because Chase is surrounded by no fewer than four bodyguards at all times and he’s nearly as crafty and predatorial as Dexter. Dexter and Lumen take the opportunity, while planning how to get at Chase, to take out the remaining man who had assaulted her, a banker named Alex Tildon. The Miami Metro finally complicate matters when Deb begins to realize that one of the girls who was raped in the Barrel Girls case escaped because there were 13 DVDs of assault victims but only 12 actual victims. Jordan lures Dexter and Lumen into a trap by hand-delivering them Alex while simultaneously tipping off Debra that Alex had a connection to his now dead security chief Cole. Fortunately, Dexter and Lumen had moved the kill room to a vacant house nearby but Deb found footprints (a man and a woman’s) that matched prints at another scene which confirmed her vigilante theory.

After allowing Lumen to be the one to kill Alex Tilden, Dexter and Lumen have sex and begin a weird (and I wasn’t really a fan of it becoming romantic) sexual and romantic relationship. There was also a whole subplot about Astor and one of her friends returning to Miami and Astor’s going through this whole bad-girl phase but it mostly had to do with Rita’s death and her friend’s stepfather being abusive but that was only important in terms of Dexter’s development of actually being able to care about other people. The noose is tightening around Dexter and Lumen not just because of Jordan Chase but also because of Stan Liddy, the P.I./ex-cop that Quinn had hired to investigate Dexter but fired because of his relationship with Deb. Liddy was continuing his investigation anyways because he thought that busting Dexter would be his ticket back to the force. After installing security cameras in Dexter’s home (and catching Dexter and Lumen practicing killing someone), Liddy kidnaps Dexter to force a confession out of him, but Dexter stabs Liddy to death, but is forced to leave his body when it turns out that Lumen has been kidnapped by Jordan Chase. Of course, the police eventually find Liddy’s body (though Quinn, not Dexter becomes the prime suspect). Dexter eventually tracks Jordan down to the summer camp where his raping spree began (though Jordan never actually did any of the raping. He instigated the others to commit the crime) and after initially being taken hostage by Chase himself, Dexter and Lumen get the drop on him and murder him. However, Deb was on Chase’s trail and actually catches Dexter and Lumen in the process of disposing of his body. She lets them go because she feels the woman had the right to her revenge (and couldn’t see their faces through a plastic sheet) after watching the DVD’s of the torture. Dexter helps to clear Quinn of any involvement in Liddy’s murder, but after killing the last of the men that tortured her, Lumen decides to leave Miami because her dark passenger is gone. Not even the return of Astor and Cody can cheer up a depressed Dexter who mourns the loss of the only person who could ever understand him.

I had sort of mixed feelings about the disc because there were more noticeable flaws this time around but simultaneously, it also provided some of the highest points of the season. I couldn’t buy Dexter and Lumen as a romantic couple. I get that she was the only person who ever really understood the dark passenger side of Dexter that didn’t either A) reject him (his father) or B ) go power-hungry over it (Miguel Prado). Yet, Julia Stiles is such a stilted and unconvincing Lumen that I couldn’t buy the emotional chemistry between her and Michael C. Hall (even though in real life, she was supposedly responsible for breaking up his marriage with Jennifer Carpenter). Also, I still didn’t feel like enough time had passed since Rita’s death for Dexter to truly be ready for any sort of romantic connection with another woman. Had Lumen been a character in Season 6, perhaps I would have bought it more but so soon after losing Rita, I just can’t buy it. Similarly, the show has become far too predictable in the basic set-up of its seasons. I could have telegraphed you every single event in the finale (without actual details) simply because every season of Dexter ends the same way. He comes close to getting caught; the big guest star of the season either dies or leaves; he catches and kills his bad guy. The show really needs to start shaking this formula up because otherwise the show won’t have any life left in it. What’s the point of watching Dexter anymore if I know how every season is going to end from the get-go.

However, despite those complaints, this last disc did do several things right. Debra had basically no character development the whole season, and she’s my favorite character behind Dexter, which is ironic because in Season 1 just seeing her on screen was enough to make me cringe at her terrible acting and boring story. She’s grown… a lot. Finally, in this disc, she had real stuff to contribute to the story and watching her let Dexter and Lumen go (not knowing she was talking to her brother) should be a major milestone for her character and her no longer seeing the world in such stark black & white terms. That moment was a far cry from her actions in Season 2 when she had a dogged determination to catch the Bay Harbor Butcher (also her brother) at all costs. I’m not saying I agree with her decision to let Dexter and Lumen go, but at least it shows that Debra is a dynamic and evolving character. LaGuerta isn’t dynamic. Her character is just schizophrenic and the show can’t seem to make up their mind whether they want her to be likeable or a complete bitch. I think the show just changes its mind whenever it wants to create tension. Also, I was happy to see the season end on a more cynical note. After going through all of this struggle to help Lumen get revenge for what happened to her and to also help himself cope with Rita’s death, Dexter ends the season as heartbroken and shattered as it began, and I can’t wait to see where he goes next season.

I’m going to start watching the fifth season of Doctor Who now. I had originally planned on taking  a longer hiatus between the Matt Smith and David Tennant years, but after talking to a new friend that I made here in NYC, I decided to just give Matt Smith a go anyways. I’ve actually already watched the first disc of the show since I started writing this review, so I can gladly say it was a good decision to give my favorite time-traveling Time Lord a new chance. I’ve only got one season left of Dexter to go before I’m finally all caught up on this series and ready to go when Season 7 starts next fall. It’s weird that the show is reaching its seventh season and it’s just another example of things that I got into at the beginning of college getting older and making me feel really old in the process. I turn 23 tomorrow. And that shit is just something I am not really ready to deal with yet.

Final Score: B+

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