Dexter is one of the very best tv shows of the last few years and after much acclaim and a heap of awards – not to mention esteemed guest actors such as John Lithgow, Julia Stiles and Peter Weller – now comes the release of its sixth season on DVD. At this late point in any show’s life it can be a struggle to keep things fresh and moving forward, and we’ve all witnessed once great shows lose their sense of purpose or fall into self-parody.
Maybe the show’s makers had these pitfalls in mind when they announced that they’re planning for the show to reach a conclusion over the next couple of seasons, and with this sixth it seems the writers are set on making some changes as they steer things toward a possible final end.
Over the last few seasons the show’s great strength has been in finding new ways to develop and explore the psyche of its anti-hero, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall). A blood splatter pattern analyst for the Miami Metro Police, Dexter also moonlights as a serial killer, bringing a ritualised vengeance on those he sees as deserving retribution. Ironically, as he forces others to confront themselves in their final moments, he continues to struggle with the internal ‘Dark Passenger’ that drives him.
Through the series Dexter has shifted from a self-interested loner to a husband and father who now struggles to reconcile his darker impulses with concern for those around him. Only a few have had any awareness of his dual nature, and the tricky fun of the series is how close Dexter can go to the brink of having his double-life exposed before everything crashes down.
The season begins with a shake up of the Metro Police team: having discovered her superior Matthews’ name on a call girl’s client list, LaGuerta swings herself a promotion to Captain. Her relationship with Angel is strained after their divorce and his disappointment is worsened when he is passed over for Lieutenant by Debra Morgan.
Meanwhile all heads are turned by the Doomsday Killers, Professor James Gellar (Edward James Olmos) and his student Travis Marshall (Colin Hanks), who intend to summon the end of the world through a bizarre series of murder scenes loosely based on the Book of Revelations, including a grotesque Four Horseman of the Apocalypse unleashed on the streets of Miami.
Dexter investigates Brother Sam (Mos Def), an ex-drug addict and murderer now reformed as a local minister, whom he believes may be connected with the killers. With his car-repair shop Sam attempts to shepherd other ex-convicts into better lives, a calling that Dexter is drawn to as the antithesis of the punishment he exacts on his victims. Through his relationship with Sam, Dexter finds himself questioning his beliefs and what kind of father he can be to his son.
It’s been the development (and sometimes nasty demise) of the regular characters that has set Dexter apart from the reset-to-formula pattern of many other shows, but it’s arguably with this season that the show’s writers have slipped up; the regulars all have enough screen time, but either run back and forth in order to satisfy the plotting or have no significant role to play.
Overall the whole thing lacks the edge and tension that have characterised the best of the previous seasons, and it’s the gothic-horror of the central Doomsday Killers plot that feels the most inconsequential.
This isn’t to say that the other aspects of the show aren’t at their usual high standard, with the directors and actors doing their best to hold things up, particuarly Michael C. Hall who again manages to balance the tricky humour and darkness of the show with his character.
Mos Def puts in an excellent performance as Brother Sam, though because of the plot-rigging Edward James Olmos isn’t given much more to do than sulk around in the shadows and do a spot of painting. Colin Hanks, a slightly creepy clone of his dad circa-1985, is given a role I can’t even imagine Nicolas Cage pulling off satisfactorily, leaping blindly from passive and tortured to completely nuts.
In the final episodes there are certainly some big revelations that should tempt you back to see how they play out. The DVD release has some decent but brief featurettes looking at the dissection of a ‘kill room’ scene, as well as interviews with the cast and the season’s guest stars.
If you’ve not yet caught any of Dexter, find yourself the first season and catch up on the whole series. This isn’t the season to pick up the show, but having come this far I’m waiting to see if it can recover and bring itself to a satisfying close.
Check out our exclusive competition for Dexter Season 6 right Here.