Everyone’s moving on. But not Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall). Then again, do we really want him to change?? No, we don’t! At least, this reviewer does not. And we don’t want to see the show change either, but unfortunately the sixth season premiere alters a lot of what we have come to know and love from the serial killer series.
After five years, some may say it’s sad that the titular man behind Dexter is still out stalking and slicing bad men in the shadows of night, disposing of their body parts in garbage bags tossed off the side of his boat, while his young son sleeps at home, watched over by this babysitter or that one. But while everyone around Dexter moves forward with their lives, getting promotions, getting more serious in their personal relationships, and sometimes just changing their appearances, the one constant we can always count on is Dexter. To do the job no one else wants to do. To do the job no one else can do. It’s a solitary effort, and one that would certainly seem more depressing– if the man himself was the type to care about society’s pressures. But thankfully he was never that type.
Dexter’s sixth season begins with a number of changes. Out is LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) as Lieutenant; the P.R. maven is moving up in the ranks, not necessarily due to her own merits but her particular brand of craftiness when it comes to personal relations once again. Soon she will have to name her replacement, but that may prove to be a tougher decision now that Angel (David Zayas) is now her ex, and Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) is about to be crowned a local hero.
Out is also Dexter’s foreign nanny, trading her in for the younger model of Angel’s little sister (Aimee Garcia), while shifty Quinn (Desmond Harrington) makes a return appearance when Dexter is too caught up in personal issues of his own to really focus on the once crooked cop now living with his sister. The season six premiere, “Those Kinds of Things,” truly shines a spotlight on the differences that take place over time, though, when Dexter steps into his high school reunion to take down a former prom king who he believes killed his high school sweetheart-turned-wife.
Every season of Dexter has an underlying theme, and it would be well enough if this year saw Dexter struggling with the fact that he seems to have reached his evolutionary peak while everyone around him is passing him. Instead, the show is using the “wanting something more” aspect to launch a conversation about religion. It starts small enough– with Dexter looking at pre-schools for Harrison and ending up at a Catholic one where the nun giving the tour asks him to what religion he subscribes. But subtle subtext does not seem to be on the menu this year. Almost immediately after we meet Edward James Olmos and Colin Hanks’ characters– two men hiding behind their own “code” as they kill those who do not repent their sins to their satisfaction.
While the introduction of these worthy foes perfectly sets up the parallels to Dexter himself, it is done completely off his radar. Dexter is too distracted by his immediate concerns pulling him from both sides to be tracking these guys before their big kill lands at Miami Metro’s feet. Yet, the audience is allowed in on what they are doing first. It feels unfair; we have always taken the journey with Dexter– it has always been because of Dexter that we have been let in on this darkness and these evil doings– and now we are somehow impossibly one step ahead of him.
We’re not going to lie: it is also extremely bizarre, and somewhat out of character, for Dexter to want to enroll his son in a Catholic pre-school when he himself only lives by Harry’s Code. Though the episode explains his reasoning– the school comes highly recommended from a trusted co-worker– it feels a bit forced, as if the show is trying to give Dexter a teaching moment before the time is really right. This journey with Harrison sets up Dexter’s journey all season– to learn if there is something more out there, to decide if he needs to be repentant for his actions in order to be saved, to figure out what he wants his son to believe. Add in the fact that Dexter’s victim suddenly starts spewing “I am God’s child and he will protect me” speak at the eleventh hour, on Dexter’s operating table, and a once “show, not tell” series starts beating its audience over the head…much the way Dexter beats this particular victim.
Dexter has always been bold for leading its viewers to the blood and enticing them to save a drop for themselves. But this season it appears the show is going to be outright preaching a lot more, and though it’s a bold move– a bold change– just like when the religious zealots themselves do it, the additional presence is not entirely welcome in our lives, let alone our favorite show. It may be a rocky start, but we know Dexter Morgan knows how to take care of that!
Dexter returns to Showtime on October 2nd at 9pm.
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