Dexter Disappoints, But All's Not Lost

December 21, 2011

It’s no secret that the sixth season of Dexter was a disappointment. I don’t know if it was the over-reliance on the religious theme, or the underwhelming performances of Edward James Olmos and Colin Hanks as the big baddies, or the lack of depth in characterization for anyone other than Dexter and Deb.

Or maybe it’s just that awkward phase in a series’ lifetime between beginning and end, reminiscent of a midlife crises, or perhaps more like those awful tween years.

Frankly, I love Olmos. He is capable of imbuing unique charisma and gravitas to a character, as he does in my favorite series, Battlestar Galactica. But his usage this season seems wasted and uninspired. Part of that is scripting, I’m sure. But I think the casting was off, and his character suffers because of that.

Colin Hanks, on the other hand, is appropriately cast for his part, but his role doesn’t seem to work well uniformly. He has the look of sincerity, coupled with that occasional “crazy eye” glare, but the delivery of his part seemed devoid of the passion it needed.

Compare those two to the great execution of the Trinity killer played by John Lithgow in season 4 and it’s no surprise why this season seemed lackluster in the villain department.

A strong point to this season was the exploration of Deborah’s character (Jennifer Carpenter). She had some solid performances, pulling off being tough while fighting off vulnerability. That’s no easy feat.

Unfortunately, I felt there was too much time spent in the therapist room as a cheap way to explore her character. It’s like the therapist becomes a deus ex for the writers.

Dexter’s struggle between dad and serial killer always creates tension, but unfortunately, my suspension of disbelief suffers because of that. How can his son, Harrison, always go to bed happy, even though he has an absentee dad? Furthermore, Dexter seems to be less careful, and he always seems to have time to do a lot of serial killer stuff, and work stuff, and dad stuff.

The rest of the cast becomes caricatured into their stock roles.  That’s expected, as the show is largely narrated by Dexter (Michael C. Hall). This, unfortunately, gives the show a marked lopsidedness.

Still, that didn’t stop season 2 from having interesting characters on all sides, and season 4 from having a great, menacing villain.

Batista and Quinn

Lastly, the religious themes.

On one hand, I actually think the show did a very good job with its depiction of Brother Sam. The part was played very well by Mos Def, but it was also written smartly.

Too often, television shows and films tend to shy away from a relatively stable religious figure. I was half-expecting Brother Sam to waver or refute his own credence in order for the viewer to question his faith.

Instead, I was glad to see his character used, dare I say it, unorthodoxly. Even despite the viewer being ultimately left with Dexter’s rationalization that he embodies the balance between good and evil (the whole “darkness-can’t-exist-without-light” trope), it was refreshing to see a character that (spoiler) dies with the belief that love is stronger than hate and revenge.

I could go on a tangent about what place the media has in portraying religious belief, and lead us to an understanding of open-mindedness by holding an ignostic  position on the matter, but that would not benefit this commentary, and it certainly would not have benefited the series. As such, I am glad they treated the Brother Sam plot in the way they did.

As to the apocalyptic overtones germane to the Book of Revelation; the imagery invoked; and the language used for the remainder of the season, it proved hit or miss. Some of the tableaus were remarkable and horrifying, echoing a certain sense of dread that can come from reading certain Biblical passages.

But other usages seemed ill-fitting or slightly humorous (like when DDK sings some weird Armageddon lullaby to Harrison after stealing him away). It wasn’t good or bad, I guess. It could have been used much better. But it could have been much worse.

Dexter's Wings

Lastly, the hot button issue that ignites a bit of discomfort in many viewers is the quasi-incestuous feelings that developed near the end of the season. It’s kind of odd, but I actually thought the writers were going to bring this in much sooner in the series.  (And they admit they have been thinking about it since season 2).

I’m neither here nor there on that front. It’s interesting enough to explore, I think, even though it is quite a taboo subject, especially in modern culture(s). But considering the characters are not blood related, and are already a bit FUBAR (psychologically) as far as their past experiences are concerned… Well, it is what it is.

The season finale’s cliffhanger has been a long time coming, though, and it will be interesting to see how the writers play this one out. Does Deb try to cover this up, or does she go on a manhunt as Dexter goes into hiding? Seems like the writers have a few options, but let’s just hope that the quality only goes up from here.

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  • Reply Anonymous December 21, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Not sure who’s stupider: Miami Metro PD or the writers of Dexter.

  • Reply Richard Sanchez December 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Ha … they seem to be cancelling each other out :).

  • Reply Mario Munoz December 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    It’s too bad, too, because seasons 1 and 2 were very tight, in terms of Miami PD. It seems like Sgt. Doakes was the only one who acted like a real cop. But now, you have a nervous nelly sneak into the department with a WMD strapped on her back and no one notices? Heh, they need to clean up their act.

  • Reply Richard Sanchez December 21, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    haha … yes, that nervous nelly bio-terrorist was a huge stretch … even in how her and her hubby were recruited …

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