As Dexter villains go, the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow) – with his love of deer, family, opening femoral arteries and his Yoda-like fascination for the show’s hero – was always going to be a hard act to follow.
Wisely, in the latest season the creators of some of TV’s most watchable monsters don’t try to match Dexter (Michael C. Hall) with an equally compelling doppelganger/ nemesis, opting instead to concentrate on the aftermath of the previous season’s shattering denouement.
When suspicion falls on Dexter for having bumped Rita (Julie Benz) off himself, the numbed and psychologically-fragmented blood-spatter analyst has his usual struggle to pass himself off as normal to his community, including his distraught step-children and ever-vigilant colleagues – this time as a grieving widower whose wife has been murdered. And he has to do this while dealing with his own emotional fall-out from Rita’s death: his guilt at having let her die during his cat-and-mouse games with Arthur Mitchell.
During his time-off from acting normal, it’s no longer enough of a consolation for him to let his dark passenger loose on Miami’s uncaught-murderer scene. This time round the pressure is on for him to redeem himself in his own eyes for failing to protect Rita by saving someone else.
Cue narrowly-escaped murder victim Lumen Pierce (Julia Stiles), a woman as blonde and fragile as Rita was and even more damaged, whom Dexter finds captive in the house of one of his serial killer-prey just after he dispatched him.
A witness to Dexter’s latest murder, Lumen is also – luckily for Dexter – a damsel-in-distress with a difference: instead of plunging her into a sleeping-beauty style coma of innocence, her ordeal at the hands of Dexter’s victim (and the victim’s friends, it transpires) has warped her. Now she has a dark passenger of her own…
In Seasons 1 and 4 Dexter is shown to have an ambiguous relationship with the killer he must bring to justice – closer in some ways than his relationships with the other characters, none of whom know him as his psychopathic colleagues do – but in Season 5 the creators of the show take a break from the doppelganger theme.
We are purposely kept at a contempt-inducing distance from Season 5’s murderers, who hunt in a pack so they don’t have to take too much responsibility for what they do and are shown to be in almost canine thrall to their leader, assaulting their victims while looking at him for approval. There’s nothing for Dexter to learn there, either about his past, as was the case with the ice-truck killer, or his future, as was the case with Trinity.
Instead the emphasis is on the growing bond between Dexter and Lumen as they learn more about each other. Will they graduate from rescuer-rescued to master-apprentice or will their friendship fizzle out as Lumen gets over her ordeal? And the inevitable question: will there be more between them? Has Dexter finally met someone capable of knowing him and accepting him for what he is or is he condemned to hide what he is from other people forever?
Meanwhile, police politics rears its two-faced head in LaGuerta’s (Lauren Velez) department after a botched arrest requires someone to take the fall for it and once again Dexter’s clandestine activities attract attention from within the force. It’s all in a day’s work for Miami’s most principled psychopath.
Released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 5th September 2011 by Paramount Home Entertainment.
Watch the Season 5 trailer…