TV Rant of the Day: “Dexter” needs a change-up.

This is what it's starting to feel like for the "Dexter" audience

**This article contains Spoilers. You have been warned.**

I’ve always been a big fan of the Simpsons. I love the Treehouse of Horror episodes, the time Bart sold his soul, and Homer as Mr. Plow. But what I find really interesting about the show is that during every new episode it’s like the reset button has been hit. The Simpsons’ house has had a car drive through it, been in a tornado, destroyed by a Christmas fire, and has had countless other disasters occur inside of it. But with every new episode, the house is back to normal and the family can set about destroying it again, depending on if the plot demands it or not.

And so it is with Dexter.

Every twelve episode season has the character brought through the wringer with the same questions and beats: will he be caught? Who will he kill this season and why? Who’s close to figuring out his secret? And what does he tell retailers when he buys saran wrap in industrial quantities? And then by the end of the season everything is wrapped up nicely so that we can start the same go around in the next season by introducing new characters that are basically rehashed (though slightly different) versions from seasons before (Doakes/Quinn, Crazy English Girl/Miguel, Ice Truck Killer/Trinity Killer). Up until the end of Season Four, I was about ready to give up on the show because I was getting tired of watching stalk, kill, make a mistake, barely escape suspicion, rinse and repeat. And then everything changed.(Spoilers ahead)

Rita died, and for the first time this wasn’t going to be an incident that the show could just easily brush away. But somehow, in these first three episodes, it’s worked hard to re-establish the status quo rather than get fresh material out of it. By the second episode Cody and Astor are out of the picture, leaving Dexter with a baby (making it easy to stalk and kill other serial killers because now he doesn’t have to deal with picking out the right school clothes for Astor), Quinn’s suspicious that Dexter may have something to do with Rita’s death (and as the plot necessitates, has to sleep with Deb, because Lundy, who was also suspicious about Dexter, did as well), and now Dexter has to deal with the issue that the woman who just saw him kill another man might tell on him. And it’s just too bad he can’t shut her up because of the “Code” he lives by. If this sounds like it could be any other season of Dexter, it is. Rita’s death isn’t a changing point, it’s an afterthought.

By now, most of Season Five’s episodes have been written and in the process of post-production, so we don’t really have the option to set things straight this year. However, the curse of Dexter (it’s inability to actually move forward on anything and revert back to square one at the start of every season) is also it’s strength for this little thought experiment, because essentially, after seeing the end of the first, second, third, and fourth seasons, we pretty much know where this one is heading.

Quinn will discover Dexter’s secret (at least that he is “Kyle Butler”) but when he gets the chance to tell someone, it will be Deb, and he won’t have the heart to tell her because he’s slept with her and doesn’t want to hurt her, and it’s all second-hand proof anyway. So he’ll go looking for real evidence that Dexter is a killer and then eventually be caught in a cage where a secondary character (Julia Stiles?) will kill him because that’s the most convenient way to get rid of the problem. (Side note: in Season Two when Doakes discovered Dexter’s secret, instead of burning him alive and blaming the whole arc of the season on his crispy shoulders, imagine if instead he fell into a coma after a struggle with Dexter…then there would always be the tension that he might wake up and tell the world Dexter’s secret. That could’ve provided some suspense, rather than knowing that by the end of the season suspicious character #9 would either be dead or think it’s someone else.)

Dexter will kill a bunch more serial killers of the week, make a bunch of mistakes (he’s gotten really stupid and sloppy over the course of the series), lament about Rita’s death in monologues, and then crack a cold beer at the end of the season (maybe get married again to the babysitter) and prepare for another year at Miami Metro.

So this is what needs to happen: a season where the secret is out and everyone knows. Or an arc that lasts longer than one season and isn’t resolved (i.e. Trinity could still be on the loose, Rita’s death isn’t easily resolved by an “I feel bad” and “Bye Kids!”, Deb sleeps with only one person for two seasons…etc.). I was really excited near the end of episode one when it looked like Dexter was going to go into the great unknown of the open ocean and settle down somewhere other than Miami. It seemed like a golden opportunity, filled with potential, surprises, and for the first time in awhile, no idea what to expect. And then Dexter took a deep sigh, turned the boat around, and returned to Miami. He’s not really one for excitement anyway.

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