Monday, December 13, 2010

It Wasn't A Bathtub of Blood, But Dexter's Season Finale Was Still Full Of Strong Emotions...

**Warning: if you haven't yet watched the season five finale of Dexter, "The Big One," you may be at equal times confused and spoiled by this post**


"It's inevitable that this would happen," Jordan Chase (special guest star Jonny Lee Miller) tells Dexter (Michael C Hall) in the season five finale when he drops him down the stairs and into the empty cabin room in which he is already holding Lumen (Julia Stiles). And he was right: everything in the season five finale was exactly what was expected but that didn't make it any less thrilling to finally watch unfold. We don't always need a bathtub full of blood; sometimes things can happen exactly as you imagined-- exactly as they "had" to-- and still be chock full of strong, shocking emotions. "The Big One" was one of those times.


First and foremost, it was inevitable that someday Dexter would come up against a killer as great as he. It just never should have been Jordan Chase.

With the opening menacing phone call, we got a picture of two men who were desperate but in very different ways. But as much as Dexter has been getting more and more in touch with his emotions this season, he still managed to stay cool, calm, and somewhat collected, even if a bit more stressed. He was used to it, after all: the hunt, the racing of the clock. He knew what it felt like to have so much at stake. Jordan was the one who was unkempt-- his tie askew, his hair flopping on his forehead, and his palms presumably clammy on that steering wheel. He was not a formidable opponent in the least, especially considering he never got his hands dirty before, so to escalate now was bound to be a sloppy first time.

Therefore when Dexter ended up in that cabin alongside a tied-up Lumen, it seemed too easy; he had to have something up his sleeve. And he did, quite literally, stashing one of his knives to swiftly take down his nemesis. It's amazing that he can kill a man with one forceful thrust and yet he can't seem to master the art of driving...

Where Dexter leaves room for mistakes, though, is in taking his time with his victims, talking to them, showing them their victims. They won't feel remorse; they can't; they aren't evolved in that way, and so the time spent as part of the ritual tends to put him in harm's way in every season finale. But thankfully this year there was Lumen-- Lumen who doesn't live by a code; Lumen who doesn't care about the ritual; just Lumen who needs her revenge. And boy, even when quick, was it sweet!

It was also inevitable that Lumen was going to have to go her own separate way once Jordan was safely at sea. After all, her Dark Passenger was the cute little nickname Dexter assigned her need for closure for the atrocities that had happened to her. But revenge is not the same as a deep, psychological need to kill. Dexter lumping the two of them together simplified the situation greatly; he only saw what he wanted to see.

Dexter should feel proud: though Lumen is leaving, it is not out of rejection. He opened himself to her; he let her in; he passed down his knowledge to her as any mentor would. And she was grateful. But all students must graduate at some point, and her "I'm the king of the world" face on the boat was her time.

I wouldn't say it was inevitable that Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) would turn into the great detective that she is now, nor that she would be able to keep her emotions in check as much as she has this season. Starting from her flippant, casual attitude toward her relationship with Quinn (Desmond Harringon), and culminating in her honed-in ability to follow up with even the most vague leads to locate Jordan's camp of horrors, she has stepped up her game in all arenas. Where she once was someone I was literally waiting for to die each season, she has now emerged as not only a worthy opponent (or ally, given her apparent admiration for vigilante justice) for Dexter himself, but also as one of the more complex and therefore interesting characters.

You can read more of my thoughts on Deb's evolution here.

There was a brief moment while screening the episode in which I remembered the LA Times profile on Carpenter a new friend sent me to check out. In it she talked about how she wanted to do comedy, to showcase her range, and when we talked about what we thought she'd do after Dexter came to an end, I said she'd probably have a baby. Especially after Hall went through his cancer treatment, I could see the desire to start a family sooner rather than later be strong for the couple. So during this moment, specifically when Dexter and Lumen were discussing how they'd take care of Jordan's body and Deb was slowly making her way into the cabin, I believed it was finally the end of Deb-- at the first moment no one wanted to see her go. I thought Lumen, on a high or in some sort of survival attack mode, would try to protect Dexter's secret from getting out by taking out the one who had found them. But that would have set Dexter reeling again, and we'd have to start season six seeing him grieve for another woman, and well, there's just no need for that.

Carpenter can still have a chance to show off range within this series, though. The flicker that came across her face while telling Dexter that Jordan was missing but that because of her "crazy" vigilante theory, she thought he could be dead was proof that going forward, she may have a new outlook on the law. She may find herself conflicted-- not with the decision she made to let those vigilantes go but instead of her own powerlessness within Miami Metro. If she comes up a case she can't close, and let's face it, she always seems to, she may find herself imagining ways to settle the score outside of the law. And those thoughts may scare her, or they may invigorate her. Either way, it will give her something to do.

You know, other than Quinn.

Speaking of...At the beginning of the season Quinn only had a theory about what Dexter was really up to-- and what he was capable of. It was one everyone shut down immediately, and as time went on, he realized it was just better to leave it alone. By the time Stan Liddy (special guest star Peter Weller)'s body was found, he knew enough to keep his mouth shut, even if the wheels were once again turning in his brain. Suddenly his petty theft at crime scenes didn't seem so bad in the way of dirty cops! His fate could have been sealed; he could have been framed the way Doakes was in season two. But instead Dexter called an unspoken truce by changing the blood results on Quinn's shoe. Was it part of the code that he couldn't take an innocent life, or is he just trying to protect his sister once again?

Whatever the motivation, the possibilities are now blown wide open for season six. Will it pick up immediately where five left off and actually show us what it's like for Dexter the single dad spending the summer with three kids and his Dark Passenger? Or will we see him after having just shipped the kids back to grandma's, desperately fixing for a new kill? Are Quinn and Deb in it for the long haul, and will Quinn again try to buddy up to Dexter as a way of attempting a repayment? Will Lumen make a return, realizing she needs some sort of excitement in her life, or will Dexter try to fill the void she leaves with some other new partner or doubling his body count or what?

I hate that these seasons are only thirteen episodes long. Sure, that means that all of the episodes are crisp and strong, since the writers don't get burnt out mid-way through, but they come and go so quickly and leave me with a giant void in between seasons. I have not anticipated an episode of television as greatly as I did both this season's premiere and finale, and with the way Chip Johannessen raised the bar with both episodes and all of the ones in between, it looks like I will be starting the countdown to season six right about now.

Dexter may have worried over the fact that he seems to lose those he learns to care about, but he never has to worry about losing the one that loves him the most, aka ME!!!

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