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TV Review: Dexter, Now With Real Emotions!

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Showtime’s Dexter and it’s title character have faced many challenges and changes over four seasons. Dexter (Michael C. Hall) the man grew into his role as a husband and father, and started using the ghost of his dad, Harry (James Remar), as a conscience-slash-debate partner. Dexter has gone from a psychopath with no emotions, to a devoted, caring provider. It has been so rewarding to watch the developments, and so it was disturbing when everything in Dexter’s life was thrown so out of whack.

The disappearance of Harry until late in the episode also raises some interesting questions, as it has never been clear why Dexter talks to his dead father, though since he started only after exhibiting the first signs on humanity, I believe that probably has something to do with it. His missing human side, until the breakdown in the bathroom, coincided with the absence of his father. It’s a great replacement for the flashback scenes Remar used to be in, which had grown stale.

Last season ended with Trinity (John Lithgow, in an Emmy winning performance) killing Dexter’s wife, Rita (Julie Benz). Dexter returned home to find his baby son sitting in a pool of Rita’s blood. Last night’s fifth season premiere “My Bad” is an emotional drama, taking Dexter into inner struggles he wasn’t aware existed. With real emotion comes the risk of real depression, and he feels that and more with the loss of Rita. Swallowed up by guilt at not having killed Trinity sooner, regretting that darkness he thinks he brings to people’s lives, and feeling inadequate in his place in life, Dexter goes through things his character certainly never expected to experience. It was a truly memorable performance for Hall the actor, who was superb.

It also leaves Dexter at a major crossroads. Clearly, he has to stop killing if he’s going to keep his family safe. He now understands the consequences to other people if he ever gets caught, and he doesn’t like it. As season four neared the end, it seemed that he might even try to give up his bad habits, though he insists that he has no control over them. His Dark Passenger won’t go away, and he has to deal with it somehow. He clearly is a much better person than Trinity, but he may soon have to choose between the two personas he maintains. I think it might be pretty intriguing to see a non-killer Dexter at some point.

Dexter truly loved Rita, and only in her death could he confess everything to her, and show her what he truly was. I found myself wishing that she took over as the ghost he speaks to. She will be missed, and her departure from the show will be painful to audiences, just as it is to Dexter himself. She brought out the best in him, and now that role will have to fall to someone else. It won’t be easy to replace her.

The rest of the cast got some meat to work with, too. Dexter’s sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) has to deal with the brunt of the arrangements for Rita. At least that distracts her from her investigations, which had turned up Dexter’s blood relation to the Ice Truck Killer from season one. Deb is too smart for her own good and if anyone does eventually catch Dexter for his murders, my money is on her. Love can only blind a person so much.

With Dexter checked out, Deb is left helping with his baby, planning a funeral, and trying to get Dexter to speak with the F.B.I., which is investigating Rita’s death. Dexter is numb from shock. He never has to process feelings before, and is overwhelmed by them, leaving Deb to worry at the lack of emotional display. It’s no wonder that she has a bit of a break, culminating with her rolling around on the kitchen floor with her partner, Quinn (Desmond Harrington).

Quinn joined the cast in season three, and I’ve viewed him mostly as a dull, unworthy replacement for his predecessor, Doakes (Erik King). That started to change late in season four, and Quinn actually has something useful to do this year. No one has really suspected Dexter of any misbehavior since Doakes was killed and blamed for the bodies Dexter had dropped into the ocean. Now as everyone in the department seeks to comfort the blood spatter analyst, Quinn is taking a hard look at him as a suspect. This is one murder that Dexter hasn’t committed, but it can’t possibly be a good thing for the serial killer to be investigated.

There are plenty of other subplots, from the flashbacks to Dexter’s terrible first date with Rita, to Rita’s daughter, Astor (Christina Robinson), having to display acting talent, with her mother dead. While it isn’t clear what will become of Astor and her brother, I’m assuming Dexter will take them in, as he has shown plenty of protectiveness towards them. But these are minor parts that enhance the whole, not drive the story.

All in all, “My Bad” is a surreal experience of an episode, taking a break from ongoing story lines to delve deeply into a truly unique character’s head. Taken as a stand-alone piece, it is truly a remarkable hour. Added to what’s come before, it provides a splendid showcase of the best parts of a great series, as well as stretching the actors in new and exciting ways.

Tune into Dexter Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on Showtime. If you haven’t discovered it yet, it’s one of the best shows currently on television. It provides more varied shades of gray than an old black and white television set.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com