There’s so much to be delighted with in the Dexter’s season premiere that it’s almost hard to know where to begin. Fortunately, the writers know how to structure a good story and made sure the episode’s most important scene was also its first and best. The Trinity murder is one of the most brutal, disturbing scenes I’ve ever watched on television. It really is so well done that I could spend an entire post picking it apart. But, as there’s a lot to cover, I’ll just say that the scene’s brilliance hinges on its being so grounded. This isn’t some puppet directing people through elaborate death traps. It’s an old, naked, dead-eyed man hold up a mirror to a girl’s face while she bleeds to death. Wonderfully creepy as this image is, it’s how the scene fits into the series as a whole that makes it brilliant. For a show about killing killers, the writers have shown remarkable restraint in never showing us anyone but Dexter committing murder. The payoff is worth the wait. We get a kill every bit as ritualized as Dexter’s, a fact highlighted by his use of the arena in this episode. These are both men who try to turn death into something artful, and they both relish the horror this brings out in their victims.
The connection to this season’s mirror (pun intended) is immediate, but I think the creators can be forgiven the rush; after hitting it out of the park with Miguel, this season really needed to give us a good reason to care about its core relationship. The downside to this is that it’s a familiar pattern. Each season someone comes along to appeal to Dexter’s dark passenger, and, so doing, threaten the best parts of him (Deb, Rita, the kids). We’ve already seen the passenger’s brother, lover, and friend. This time it seems we’ll get the mentor: a killer even more prolific than Dexter and, presumably, even better at blending in. As the pressures of everyday life continue to pile up on Dexter, he’ll inevitable begin to ask himself, how does he do it. This is an interesting enough premise to get me excited (particularly with the most direct Harry parallel to date) but it is going back to the well for the fourth time. Lets just hope the writing and acting are up the challenge.
The twist that may elevate this season’s plot is that Dexter may not be tempted by the possibility of leaving the better parts of him behind, but by the notion of integrating them and his shadow-self. Last season ended with him realizing everything he has to lose, and I really can’t see him deliberately pulling away from his humanity again, but it’s only episode one and his life is already out of balance. The murder may have been what led to the crash, but Dexter was a wreck even before that. Rita’s as sweet as ever, but she’s obviously asking too much of her husband. This is Dexter’s failing, not hers. His public personae has been built on satisfying the expectations of others, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that this has led to him trying to be super dad and super husband. The temptation this time may be in “having it all” rather than in embracing evil.
Keeping the old apartment? That seems a little risky for Dexter. Rita was a single mother for long enough to understand the family finances. Hopefully they write this out sooner rather than later.
Why can’t the subplots not suck? I admit that the show can’t be 100% Dexter, but I can’t seem to care about Angel-Laguerrta or Deb-Anton. Hopefully they do a better job relating these stories to Dex than last season.
Woo, Lundy’s back!
My prediction: Dexter decides to stop killing at the end of this season. I’m confident that they can pull off the temptation story a fourth time, but then I think we’ll need something new. As they’ve already played the manhunt card, the only twist left would seem to be quitting. Add to this the inevitability of Deb finding out, and the apparent life less of “you can’t have it all” and you’ve got a solid for giving up the killing.