Reviews

'Dexter' Season Five Premiere

Dexter ponders his lack of humanity and Rita's enormous capacity to love. All true, but nothing new.


Dexter

Airtime: Sundays, 9pm ET
Cast: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Desmond Harrington, C.S.Lee, Lauren Velez,
Subtitle: Season Five Premiere
Network: Showtime
Director: Steve Shill
Air date: 2010-09-26
Website
Trailer
Amazon

Dexter's fifth season picks up directly where the fourth left off: Dexter (Michael C. Hall) clutching his blood-soaked infant son.

His wife (Julie Benz) lies dead in the bathtub, As Dexter waits for the authorities to arrive, his eyes glaze and his shoulders slump. At first it's unclear whether this serial killer shocked at his loss, or at the irony of the situation, namely, that Rita was murdered by a serial killer (last season's guest star, John Lithgow). Unfortunately, the rest of the episode follows Dexter's descent into a routine guilt spiral, blaming himself for Rita's death (he should have "been there" to "protect her"), rather than ruminating on how it feels to be on this receiving end of a serial killing. How a series this smart could overlook the far more interesting angle is as much of a wasted opportunity as it is a disappointment.

Breaking the news to Rita's other two children Astor (Christina Robinson) and Cody (Preston Bailey) proves especially difficult, as they are freshly returned from a trip to Disney World with their grandparents. With a Mickey Mouse hat on his head, Dexter coldly describes their mother's murder to the children like he's giving testimony in court. His efforts are awkward and stilted -- and completely unaffecting.

If this all sounds rather grim, it is. And boring, too. The scene evinces none of the tension we expect, the tension that has suffused the series recently, as Dexter tips between his need to kill and his desire for domestic stability. On some level, we can imagine Dexter feels relief that Rita's gone, as he's spent years lying to her, but the series won't entertain that possibility, leaning instead on his not-quite displayed grief, as if he's like us. He ponders his lack of humanity and Rita's enormous capacity to love. All true, but nothing new.

What does feel new is the turn for Dexter's sister, Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter). Having spent too many seasons in dead-end relationships, she's now finding an identity outside of men -- except, of course, her brother, whose ostensible neediness demands her attention. While Dexter is mired in his own emotions, she's looking after details, escorting him to the funeral home, keeping track of the kids, and even cleaning up the scene of the crime. She says she wants to be as good a sister to Dexter as he's been a brother to her -- as she still believes his lies. But she also sets some boundaries, resisting his suggestion that she take care of his baby, Harrison.

If Deborah can help Dexter with his family, she's less able to help him maintain his lifelong cover. He refuses to cooperate with the FBI and insists on moaning about himself ("It was me!") when talking about Rita's death. Deb warns, "People will misunderstand you," not seeing that he's speaking at least a little bit of truth in such laments. Still, the potential plotting here is uninspired: while it's understandable that Dexter feels a certain amount of guilt, his near-confessions seem a contrived way to gin up tension over whether a cop will take him seriously, and begin investigating his actual crimes. When he's unable to function for Rita's funeral, his seeming self-realization becomes untenable. If he's suddenly feeling remorse that their entire relationship was predicated on his deceits, what he's doing now doesn't go a long way to show it.

Dexter has always treated death somewhat cavalierly. As we watch Dexter now, apparently sincerely unraveling over Rita's death, we might be inclined to distrust his displays, or to feel that he's finally feeling what his victims' families have felt. The very idea of Dexter's sincerity is particularly difficult to pull off (though Hall, who won a Golden Globe last year, again performs the role with unnerving elegance). Dexter's core conflict is growing tiresome, as it's changed so little from season to season. While Dexter may behave abhorrently, the series persists in making him sympathetic, witty and charming, if dishonest.

Dexter is also dishonest. It won't present its central killer so that viewers ever have to contemplate their own pleasure in his brutality. Repeatedly lit from above, Dexter looks like he's wearing a halo. It's ironic, yes, but it's also indicting the culture that produces and celebrates his cunning and his pathology. He is sometimes like us, in his sickness, but we never have to look at that.

4

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image