Showtime’s hit serial killer series Dexter kicks off it’s all new season in less than a week. About to start season the show chronicles the exploits of a serial killer who only kills other serial killers. Based off series of novels by Jeff Lindsey the show was an instant hit and now stands as Showtime’s most successful show to date. The show as been nominated for multiple awards over it’s first four seasons and star Michael C. Hall won the for Best Performance in a Television Drama Series at this year’s Golden Globe awards. Now with the much anticipated new season about to air it’s the perfect time to recap the events of Season Four.
WARNING SPOILERS CONTAINED THROUGHOUT
1) Living the Dream
Having married his long time girlfriend Rita (played by Julie Benz) at the end of the previous season Dexter Morgan is trying to make his new life as a working family man work. His new baby is keeping him up and lack of sleep is starting affect his work. Dexter mixes up his files when he testifies at a trial, resulting in a brutal killer going free. Meanwhile special agent Lundy (Keith Caradine,) formerly of the FBI and one time love interest of Dexter’s sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter,) returns to Miami to track down a serial killer he was never able to catch. Lundy’s prey is dubbed the Trinity Killer and has been killing across the country for over 30 years. Dexter sets out to correct his mistake and take the killer down who’s trial his messed up. He’s successful in his kill but when he drives back from the murder site he falls asleep at the wheel and wrecks his car.
The season started off in high fashion, starting with showing how home life has complicated Dexter’s routine. No longer having the freedom of living alone means that Dexter barely has any time to satisfy the urges of his “dark passenger.” Trying to balance his work, family and homicidal urges begins to look like an impossible task. This attempt at finding balance in his life became the central theme of the entire season. This episode also introduced John Lithgow as the Trinity killer, who at this early stage was seen killing a woman in a bathtub with hints at much more to come.
2) Remains to be Seen
Following his car crash Dexter cannot remember what he did with the body of his latest victim. He tries desperately to retrace his steps before the body is discovered and he exposed. Dexter is both helped and taunted by images of his adopted father Harry, who had taught him the code of conduct by which he lives. Debra’s partner Quinn (Desmond Harrington) begins a relationship with a nosy reporter named Christine Hill (Courtney Ford) who seems to be using Quinn to fish stories about homicides in Miami.
This episode really started to show the more prominent role that visions of Dexter’s mentor Harry were to play in the show. During the first two seasons Harry was seen only in flashbacks. The third season saw the first use of Harry as a somewhat critical hallucination that Dexter would react with. However Dexter talking to Harry became a regular fixture of this season, and at times seemed to be used in place of Dexter’s voice-overs which were used more sparingly here than in previous seasons.
3) Blinded by the Light
Dexter finds that suburban living brings with it a whole new set of complications to his already complicated life. When a neighborhood vandal goes uncaught the neighbors start a nightly watch, patrolling the streets and setting up intensely bright motion-detecting flood lights. Meanwhile Dexter starts to become intrigued by the Trinity killer and how long he’s been able to kill without getting caught. Debra’s relationship with her current boyfriend comes under strain when her feelings for Lundy being to re-emerge.
This episode planted the early seeds of Dexter’s near obsession with Trinity and how he lived and killed. It also marked the rekindling of the relationship between Debra and Lundy which could have been forced but actually worked it’s way back into the story rather well. Dexter also begins to show more emotional sides than is typical, as his anger toward the neighborhood watch causes him to smash a flood light.
4) Dex Takes a Holiday
With Rita and the kids out of town for a few days Dexter has the chance to return to the routine that he’s been forced to abandon. He stalks his latest victim, a female police officer who murdered her own family and staged it as a home invasion. Meanwhile Dexter’s co-worker Sergeant Angel Batista (David Zayas) and his boss Lt. Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) disclose their romantic relationship to the top brass, which does not go as smoothly as they had hoped. The episode climaxes with the shooting of Debra and Lundy. Debra survives but is forced to watch the man she loves die in front of her very eyes.
Aside from the shooting of Lundy at the end this is actually the one episode of the season that’s a bit of a throw away. It’s still a good and enjoyable episode, certainly entertaining to see Dexter back in his element doing what he does best. However it doesn’t do a great deal to move the season story forward. The relationship between Batista and LaGuerta kind of came out of nowhere. The two actors have good chemistry and make it believable, but the whole idea just seems kind of unnecessary.
5) Dirty Harry
Debra recovers in the hospital but the damage to her by Lundy’s death is far worse than the gunshot wound she’s being treated for. Dexter believes that the Trinity Killer is responsible for the shooting of his sister and he begins his hunt in earnest. Meanwhile Rita discovers that despite marrying and moving in with her Dexter has kept his own apartment. This causes Rita to start to doubt Dexter’s commitment and sincerity. The episode culminates with the revelation that Trinity is not the lone drifter that Lundy and Dexter had assumed, he has a wife and children just like Dexter.
The surprise revelation about Trinity’s home life kicks off Dexter’s fateful choice to observe and learn from Trinity rather than kill him straight off. When Dexter sees Trinity return from a kill to a home with a wife and two children who welcome him he feels that he is glimpsing into what his own future can be if lived correctly. It gives Dexter a hope to finally silence the nagging voice of Harry that constantly tells him that he can only hurt the ones he cares about.
6) If I Had a Hammer
Using an assumed name Dexter sets about getting as close as possible to Arthur Mitchell, the Trinity Killer. Dexter joins a local home building project that Arthur is involved in and begins to ask him for general life and family advice, trying to uncover the secrets behind his successful management of family and murder. In the background Miami Metro has now become convinced of the legitimacy of the Trinity Killer and begun a full on investigation.
Dexter begins to poke and prod at what appears to be Arthur Mitchell’s perfect life, getting as close as he can to the dangerous killer. Dexter assumes that he’ll have plenty of time because the Trinity killings usually have months if not a year between cycles and Arthur has just finished his latest cycle of killing. Dexter still intends to take out Arthur but his growing obsession with leading as good a life as he can causes him to delay and try to learn from Arthur’s example.
7) Slack Tide
Dexter’s attempt to find things for the kids to do gets him roped into an overnight camping trip with young Cody. Prior to that trip Dexter works on getting closer to Arthur and starts to see the cracks in the Trinity Killer’s mask. Dexter begins to question if Arthur has truly balanced a family life as well as it appears. Dexter manages to sneak away from the camping trip to take out his latest mark, but in his rush to juggle everything he does sloppy work and violates the Code of Harry.
A strong episode that actually isn’t all that well followed up on. In this episode Dexter kills an innocent man. Though he had killed some one other than his intended victim in the previous season, that had been a self defense situation. This time it was entirely his own fault. It’s a heavy moment that is somewhat glazed over in later episodes. Dexter seems to get over the mistake a little too easily after his initial reaction. The season quickly put the focus back no Dexter’s link with Arthur rather than truly paying off the lapse in judgment that Dexter suffered from here.
8) Road Kill
Dexter tags along with Arthur on an out of town home build and gains even greater insight into the Trinity Killer’s mind. Arthur’s facade appears to be quickly crumbling as he recounts the traumatic events that initiated his life as a killer. Back at Miami Metro Debra is able to determine that it could not have been the Trinity Killer who shot her and Lundy. This puts her back on the Trinity case (she had been taken off because she was thought to have been a victim) but leaves her with few places to go in finding Lundy’s killer.
This episode really starts to show how layered Arthur Mitchell is, and just how deeply disturbed he truly is. Dexter has shown over the previous seasons a lack of emotions and just a need to kill. For Arthur his need to kill is driven almost entirely by his fragile emotional state. That contrast makes the relationship between the two all the more tantalizing as they are at once so similar and so fundamentally different from each other. Lithgow won the Emmy Award for best actor in a guest staring role for his work in this episode.
9) Hungry Man
Dexter makes the risky choice to spend an early Thanksgiving with Arthur Mitchell to better observe him before joining his family for their own Thanksgiving. What Dexter observes is a total contrast to the perfect family image that the Mitchells project. Arthur’s wife, son and daughter live in complete fear of him and his rage when things are not just as he wishes them to be. Yet when Dexter makes his move against Arthur his family jumps to the monster’s defense. Back at home Dexter’s frequent absence causes Rita to start to gravitate towards their single neighbor, resulting in a kiss witnessed by Dexter’s co-worker Masuka (C.S. Lee.)
The true depth of Arthur’s control over his family is revealed in this episode. Whereas before Arthur had been a beacon of hope of what Dexter’s life could be it becomes a warning of how badly he could damage those he loves. It brings back the question of whether or not it is possible for Dexter to ever have a positive impact on his family or if he should just isolate himself for their sake. The impact on Dexter’s family life already becomes evident in Rita’s immediately regretted kiss with the neighbor. The big surprise however was the ending reveal that Quinn’s reporter girlfriend was actually Arthur’s grown daughter.
10) Lost Boys
Dexter realizes too late the Arthur is even more dangerous than he first appeared when the Trinity Killer kidnaps a 10 year old boy. It becomes a race against time for Dexter to find where Arthur is keeping the child before it’s too late. Rita confesses to kissing the neighbor to Dexter but it seems to illicit almost no reaction, giving her doubts once again about the man she married. Meanwhile the homicide squad at Miami Metro discover that Quinn’s girlfriend Christine is related to the Trinity Killer and bring her in for questioning, with Debra determined to break her.
This episode gave more moments that lent a certain amount of sympathy to the character of Arthur Mitchell. This might not have been the episode that got Lithgow the Emmy but his work here makes it clear why he took home the award. To be able to garner sympathy, even for a moment for a monster as despicable as the Trinity Killer takes a very skilled performer. Hall as Dexter shows a level of near desperation in his hunt to recover the boy that really shows how the character is evolving. Dexter might always have tried to save the boy but in earlier seasons it would have been more calculating, and here audiences can see how more human like emotions are starting to take root.
11) Hello Dexter Morgan
Thanks to Debra’s tireless work the Miami Metro Police are closer than ever to catching the Trinity Killer. Dexter refuses to allow anybody else be the one to take down Arthur and he sets about framing another killer for the murders. Dexter knows the frame job won’t hold up but he just needs it to stall the department until he can make up for his earlier stallings and finally kill Arthur. Debra confronts Christine about the shooting of Lundy, and Christine confesses to the killing just before taking her own life in front of Debra’s eyes. Arthur goes on the offensive against the man he’s known as Kyle Butler and is able to discover Dexter Morgan’s true identity.
This is the episode that reminds viewers just how dangerous the Trinity Killer is. With the last few episodes having shown so much of his damaged side and a certain lack of control it’s easy to forget that Arthur Mitchell is also very intelligent. It’s something that seemed to have slipped Dexter’s mind as he falls for Arthur’s trick and allows himself to be uncovered by his deadliest adversary. The most rewarding aspect to this episode is how well it shows Dexter’s budding humanity. Dexter punches the neighbor who kissed Rita out of anger and jealousy, and the horror on his face when Arthur walks into the precinct is not out of concern for himself, but for his family whom he has just jeopardized.
12) The Getaway
With Arthur now knowing Dexter’s true name Dexter realizes how much danger he has just put his family in. The need to eliminate Arthur becomes desperate, and in his desperation Dexter becomes sloppy. A hit and run car accident lands Dexter behind bars where Rita has to bail him out. After months of searching Debra uncovers a number of women that her father had affairs with, one of them being Laura Moser, Dexter’s biological mother. This quickly leads Debra to realize that Dexter’s brother had been her one time fiance, Brian Moser the Ice Truck Killer (the main antagonist of the first season.) Dexter finally manages to finish his business with Arthur only to return home and discover Rita dead in the bathtub in the manner Arthur would dispatch some of his female victims. Dexter finds his infant son crying in a pool his mother’s blood, just as Harry had found him following his own mother’s death.
To call this episode packed is probably a bit of an understatement. Yet despite all that’s going on it’s paced perfectly and never feels like an overloaded episode. Deborah finally learns about how Dexter came to be adopted by Harry, something that the show had been heading towards all season long. How this information will affect Deborah’s behavior towards Dexter in the future remains to be seen, but it’s certain to change the dynamic somewhat. The death Trinity was something that the season had built towards for quite a while and the scene when it finally happened was carefully played as bittersweet. In a way the moments of sympathy that the writers were able to generate towards Trinity made final revelation all the more heinous.
Of course the biggest shock of the entire season was the twist ending of Rita’s death, an event which seemed to divide the fans. All were shocked by it, some even seemed to angered. Regardless of the fan reaction there is no doubt that Rita being gone will change nearly everything for Dexter. More than any other character Rita had been Dexter’s tether to normalcy. She may have started out as a cover back in the first season, but by this point Dexter’s feelings for here were genuine. Rita was ultimately the person that Dexter was trying to change for, and with her gone it’s an open question if Dexter can maintain the mask he’s so carefully constructed to conceal the monster within himself. The death of Rita will also likely put Dexter under more and closer scrutiny that he’s yet to endure. This is also the first major casualty of Dexter’s actions. In the previous three seasons he had gotten by relatively unscathed by what he was doing. His loved ones were put in danger a few times but the only thing close to a major loss was when Dexter was forced to kill his own brother at the end of Season One, but that was a choice me made. Now someone that Dexter cares about has died because of his action, or rather in-action since he delayed killing Trinity for so long. With so much changed by this one character death the upcoming season has a great deal to live up to.
The new season of Dexter begins Sunday the 26th on Showtime and picks up immediate from where Season Four ended.