Monday, December 13, 2010

Dexter - Season 5

I did not like this season of Dexter. It wasn't awful, because a show where Michael C. Hall plays a serial killer is always going to be at least passably entertaining. But whereas the boring third season felt like a hiccup more than anything truly worrisome after the fairly awesome fourth one last year, this felt more like the show beginning a true decline. Dexter's bag of tricks just isn't exciting as it used to be. And now I'm suspicious that John Lithgow's amazing job was maybe just an illusion masking a show that's been running out of really good ideas for a couple years now.

The previews leading up to this season and the beginning made it seem like the story might be more organic this time, growing out of the troubles that would arise after the fourth season's surprisingly vicious conclusion. It kicks off just a moment later, with Dexter being questioned by the police and struggling mightily on the inside. But it's not long before that plot is shut down before it can begin, the kids are shipped off so they're less of a nuisance, and we're right back to another big bad on the horizon as Dexter tracks down some bad guys while Peter Weller plays an ex-cop on his tail. Of course they got a special guest for this part, because it's much easier to get rid of a problem like that when it someone who doesn't have an actual relationship with Dexter and a spot on the regular cast list. A big difference this season is that Dexter rescues a victim of this season's boogey man and actually gets her on his side, although it's really just a twist on the same idea from seasons two and three, Dexter gets a friend and we're supposed to wonder if he can keep them. So while Julia Stiles plays the part well and it does provide for some interesting situations, it's not a true game changer like the show pretends it is.

The supporting cast around Dexter continues to be pretty boring and disposable, as the writers keep trying to keep us interested in what they're up to, but they haven't been fun in a while. Masuka's gimmick isn't funny anymore, forcing Angel and Deb into relationships with worse characters really doesn't help them as individual characters, and the homicide unit's side case that runs for most of the season is somehow even less compelling than usual before it gets dropped so the show can pretend that Dexter is in danger of getting caught by someone who knows him. All of this would have been fine if Dexter's stuff was up to its usual standards, but there just seemed like an excessive amount of shortcuts and overly convenient bouts of luckiness and unluckiness just to get the characters through all the story beats they wanted to. It just felt sloppy this year, and while many individual scenes were as raw and thrilling as the show can get, the whole was less than the sum of the parts. It was too easy, like the writers cared more about getting us from scene to scene without making sure it made sense or was even remotely believable. It's sad to see a show you used to love turn into something ordinary, and with the series being as successful financially as it's ever been, I don't see Showtime deciding to end it. Which means the only chance we really have of a proper ending coming reasonably soon is probably for Hall to decide he wants to do something else. Here's hoping that happens.

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