To Dex or Not to Dex

Unfortunately, this blog has become a place ideal for rants. But everyone needs an outlet. The latest rant? Dexter. Dexter, Dexter, Dexter. The criticisms leveled against Dexter this season, in my opinion, are not unfounded. The show lost its bite around the time that it became a standout hit. The fourth season was fantastic and demonstrated that the show was still willing to go there. But since then its storytelling has been tame and riskless. It leaves the viewer with little concern that Dexter’s quiet existence will be interrupted and that anyone in his life will discover his secret. And six seasons in, that’s surprising. The show needs a radical overhaul but with two more seasons on the way, I have little faith that the show is willing to divert from its formula. Michael C. Hall’s acting remains a reason to tune in, while the rest of the show crumbles in his wake. While many people have abandoned the show for all of these reasons, I still find glimmers of the show that I used to like in this incarnation.

From the very beginning of this season the show beat viewers over the head with the season’s premise: “Dexter tackles religion, both at work and personally.” And for me, this just failed. I’m not sure if it could have been addressed better or if they did too much at one time. Dexter questions religion not only to get Harrison into a good school, but also because as he investigates Mos Def, he finds in him a spiritual guide. At the same time, the big bad(s) of the season is convinced that the apocalypse is nigh.

Last night’s episode in particular, is probably the closest the show has come to jumping the proverbial shark. It seems inevitable that a show on for this long might be tempted to re-examine the relationship between its leads, namely Dexter and Deb. Friends eventually explored Rachel/Joey for lack of other pairing options. Who hasn’t dated who on Gossip Girl? But the creep factor here is a little much. First, the therapist was pushing the idea too hard. It was almost like she did a waking-style Inception in Deb’s mind. So I was hoping that this was the catalyst for Deb quitting that crazy lady’s care and possibly realizing that she should go down a different avenue with men (not her brother). Second, I feel it odd that shows tend to develop romantic relationships around characters almost immediately after their real life relationships fall apart, and for me that is every bit as distracting as the incestuous vibe. (Examples: House’s Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer, arguably Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki when Leonard and Penny inevitably get back together). If this wasn’t bad enough, Deb starts actually having dreams about Dexter. The show needs to put the kibosh on this…stat.

Then, to be nitpicky over something I don’t normally pay attention to: the show decided to dumb Dexter down A LOT in this episode. Honestly, I think they did a disservice to his character. It is established that when Dexter is on the trail of someone he wants, he tends to ignore people, logic, and pressing events in his life outside of the kill. He will sneak away at any given alibi (including camping trips) to do a quick kill n’ dump. But in this episode he gets exposed to poison gas and is then warned by the paramedic to go to the ER because the side effects will present themselves, especially during physical exertion.  I suppose Dexter believed his Dark Passenger would help him rally? He continues on with a plan to eliminate Travis, luring him to the docks. Right before he attacks, he is hit with a bloody nose. Nevertheless, unstoppable Dexter charges and is subsequently overtaken by Travis and is left in a canoe full of gasoline canisters; Travis was just moments away from setting the swamp, and Dexter, on fire. For some reason, he allows Dexter to fully regain his senses (and tells him off like so many Bond villains). Somehow Dexter has regained his superhuman adeptness and manages to untie his hands and leap from the canoe, all the while holding his breath as he swims underneath the swampy ring of fire. I guess adrenaline counteracted the poison’s side effects…unless they miraculously disappeared. Even this I could have chalked up to Dexter’s never-ending bouts of good luck. But attacking Travis after he refused to go to the ER and also refused to acknowledge that physical exertion was a no-no, was an insult to the character’s supposed intelligence.

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About Staciellyn Chapman

Grad student at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. This blog is an attempt to condense the craziness that is my TV viewing habits (with the occasional aside into film, music, and general life).

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