Deeply Disturbing Dexter: Season 4 Review

SPOILER ALERT!

THAT FINAL SCENE! Poor poor Rita… AND baby Harrison! When clear articulation fails the senses, FUCK will always suffice. So, what the FUCK? Days later my unprepared, unexpecting psyche is still in a literal state of consternated mourning for Dexter’s darling. The twist of all twists has left me shrouded in a weird cloak of… darkness?, which continues to pervade my person. Inscribing Dexter’s hard-earned ‘normalcy’ with a cycle of tragedy – the same horror that provoked his Dark Passenger into consciousness – in so graphic a manner, is hard on the mind. Following in the footsteps of his unfortunate father, little Harrison Morgan has been “born in blood.” Or has he? It remains to be seen. But in the meantime, the point of ponderance is the Dexter of the moment, and I live in the hope that casting my thoughts in written word will provide some sort of therapy for the deep disturbance that has permeated my core since witnessing poor dead Rita soaking in a bath of blood. Here’s hoping.

If ever there was a visual definition for the term ‘manic stress syndrome’, Dexter season 4 would be it. Flippin’ hell! Watching one episode is like being on a roller-coaster ride with forty thousand loop de loops; draining, in an adrenaline-junky-addicted-to-Dexter-serial-murder-is-totally-fucking-cool-and-necessary kind of way. Try four episodes in one night. The result: shell-shock. I expect to dream about babies swimming in blood for years to come; it’s the price one pays for living vicariously through the dark passenger of delicious Dexter. A worth-it price – make no mistake.

The first episode’s brilliant parody on the usual title-sequence sets the tone for a rip-roaring season of electrifying insanity. Season 4 sees Dexter involved in the practise of a daring juggling act; with home, family, marriage, fatherhood, job and murder kept in the air by an elaborate scheme of lies that threaten to bite dear Dexter in his rather delectable derrière. The cherry on the complicated cake that has become Dexter’s life is the Trinity killer, superbly acted by John Lithgow, with whom Dexter becomes dangerously entwined. As Dexter wades through the labyrinth of his consciousness, the insatiable demands of his dark passenger force him to make poor judgment calls. The son abandons the father’s code and consequently Dexter’s cover as ‘normal human being’ is put at risk. As the season progresses and Dexter’s control begins to disintegrate, the trouble that has been brewing for episodes reaches a climax in a fast and furious finale.

Some heart-palpitatingly awesome scenes are spawned from Dexter’s strange-and-infuriating-but-nonetheless-captivating relationship with Trinity; a relationship initially inspired by Dexter’s bloodlust and thereafter confounded by a confusion of wonder, veneration and ultimately scorn. Dexter acts as stalker cum pupil with Trinity cast as his oblivious teacher but this context quickly dissolves and Trinity takes over the role of hunter. Top of the season’s ‘List of Magnetic Moments’ has to be Trinity waltzing casually into the Miami Metro Police Department with a patronising sense of smug that sends Dexter into as much of an ‘emotional’ tailspin as a sociopath can ever be. Upon seeing Trinity in his place of work, Dexter’s sixth sense, rooted in his own sociopathic insolence, initiates a memorable expression of surprise, fury and utter horror. A face-off between killers in a controlled environment – it’s thrilling stuff and serves as a testament to the show’s exceptional writing. And this is just one example of the tangible chemistry that exists between Dexter and Trinity, and is translated onscreen with great finesse and extraordinary accomplishment by both Hall and Lithgow respectively. The Dexter versus Trinity vibe ensures that the audience’s spine is chilled with glorious and repetitive effect: the scene where Trinity gifts Dexter with the murder weapon used on his most recent victim; the resounding frustration of Serendipity stepping in to confuse Dexter’s all-too-late decision to let Trinity drop from the roof to his death; Dexter protecting Trinity’s son from a father’s psychotic wrath – these are all scenarios acted with devilish deviance, resulting in riveting viewing.

The plot twists are unimaginable… until the show requires you to imagine them, in which case small clues are left and seasoned viewers will soak them up with eager anticipation. Dexter’s narrative continues to shine through the show’s typically formulaic elements (quirky detective, hero with dense workmates, convenient plot contrivances) and ever more cognisant of Dexter’s darkness, the audience further invests in the character. And stuff becomes all the more personal. The season is charged with a pervading atmosphere of intense claustrophobia that assimilates into audience awareness, making sitting on the edge of a proverbial seat par for the Dexter course. As Dexter’s fabricated existence closes in on him, viewers are left tense and uncomfortable by their favourite killer’s uncharacteristic agitation. Incited by an impending sense of doom, the audience spends much of the time championing serial murder, which merely serves to emphasise the universality of the Dark Passenger metaphor… that we all have one; that evil, in various shapes and sizes, is intrinsic to human nature. The ironic moral high-ground on which Dexter places himself in relation to Trinity is a metaphor for the moral high-ground on which the audience places itself in relation to Dexter – as if our sins are more tolerable. The show’s ironic tone is enforced by a necessary violence that functions as a satirical representation of society – so Dexter kills with literal force, but do words not have the same potential to murder identity, soul and self-esteem? As unquestionable purveyors of violence and murder by both mind and mouth, who then are we to call ourselves better? Are we not all guilty? Dexter questions the notion of moral high-ground, a concept the show aims to render redundant.

Let’s never forget that the very reason we relate to Dexter Morgan, blood spatter analyst-cum-serial murderer, is because he gets to do what we wish we could. We lust after the hold Dexter’s Dark Passenger has over him as it affords him the right to behave with unrestrained abandonment. If we are honest with ourselves, we do not want Dexter to win the battle over his Dark Passenger; we much prefer the real Dexter – the bad Dexter – to Dexter the family man who is trying to be the ‘good guy.’ We want Dexter to be bad because we live our lives trying not to be. It’s called vicarious living. Not that we all want to bludgeon our neighbours – that only occurs on the occasion – but sometimes we want to say a big old “fuck you” to the societal constraints that dictate behaviour. In the show, Rita is set up as the only device that will set Dexter on the ‘straight and narrow’ but the point is that Dexter cannot be ‘normal’, he cannot stop killing and the death of Rita serves to emphasise this reality. And although I will miss her, Rita’s death works perfectly within the context of the show; it kills the hope that good guy Dexter will reign supreme over his Dark Passenger – and we would be disappointed if he did.

The resounding question left scrolling across every viewer’s mind is whether Trinity did in fact kill Rita, or was it perhaps a love-jilted neighbour, someone from Dexter’s past or even another killer wishing to gain Dexter’s attention? The possibilities are endless. Rita doesn’t fit Trinity’s M.O at all but perhaps anger was enough of a motivator? So many questions and at least three more seasons confirmed in which to answer. Bring it!

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