TV Review: ‘Dexter’ Displays Signs of Creative Blood Loss

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CHICAGO – Did “Dexter” die when The Trinity Killer murdered Rita? It was such a daring, brilliant move for what was one of TV’s greatest shows at the time. But that was three seasons ago now, and while I personally liked the 5th season quite a bit, audiences seemed to turn off a bit. The sound of frustration turned deafening with the 6th season, easily the worst in the show’s history, and now the award-winning drama is starting its 7th chapter amidst questions of whether or not its jumped the shark. The first few episodes of the new season do little to alleviate this longtime fan’s feelings that the show should have ended its run before now. Television Rating: 2.5/5.0
Television Rating: 2.5/5.0

It’s really a shame that “Dexter” feels creatively languid because there are some interesting ideas that the writers are exploring here but the cast and overall tone of the show seems to have lost that zip that made this must-see TV for undeniably four and arguably five seasons. Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) has reached a point in his life that he never wanted to get to and I couldn’t help thinking that the show isn’t sure what to do now. In case you missed the season finale of last year, turn away now…Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) walked in on Dexter in the middle of murder. Now what does Dexter do with his Dark Passenger revealed to the only person in the world who may not turn him in or betray his safety? Could Debra even save Dexter in ways that his father (James Remar) never could? Or will Dexter have to hide his true self yet again?

Photo credit: Showtime

The writers smartly waste no time and refuse to allow anything urgent happen in the off-season as the show does something unusual for it by picking up immediately in that final cliffhanger. Perhaps that’s one of the plotting problems that I had with the season premiere in that season six was undeniably the show’s most creatively lackluster and season seven starts in exactly the same place. In most seasons past, the writers of “Dexter” were allowed something of a fresh slate each year. Repercussions existed and references have always been made to past seasons, but the crew got to start somewhat fresh every year with new guest stars and usually a new villain.

Photo credit: Showtime

While much of the drama in the first few episodes centers on Debra’s morbid discovery and the MANY questions it raises, there are other arcs. Remember that Chicago cop who came in to help out at the end of last season? Poor Mike Anderson stops to help someone changing a tire and discovers a battered body in his trunk. He’s shot and the ensuing investigation leads the Miami P.D. into the shady world of the Ukrainian mob and a strip club that is clearly a front for much more. Ray Stevenson and Jason Gedrick guest star in clearly villainous roles as Angel (David Zayas) and Quinn (Desmond Harrington) are stuck doing most of the investigative work. Meanwhile, Dexter still has issues with Louis (Josh Cooke), the intern who tried to sell him on a serial killer video game and now wants to make his life Hell and LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) stumbles upon something crucial at the first crime scene that could change Dexter’s life forever. Masuka (C.S. Lee) is primarily still comic relief.

Masuka’s cracking jokes, Angel & Quinn are solving a case that is simply uninteresting for now, and LaGuerta is scheming. It all feels so stunningly familiar, like a mystery writer who is recycling plots late into his career. I’ll admit that the writers do delve into some interesting elements of the new Dexter & Debra dynamic but even those scenes are lacking in intensity. I’ve long championed both Hall and Carpenter but this should be where they’re truly shining and one gets the feeling that it’s just too late; that even the actors know that something’s wrong. And remember when “Dexter” used to be darkly funny? That’s sadly missing this year as well at least at the start.

Is it over? Has the bloody shark been jumped? I wouldn’t got that far yet. There’s potential still for this season to turn around as the program basically reboots itself. Think about it. For six years, “Dexter” has been about how a serial killer hides the truth from the world while enacting vengeance on those who deserve it. If the person closest to Dexter even suspects his secret, the show has to redefine itself. With that kind of creative change proving daunting to the writing staff, maybe these are just growing pains into the next phase of this once-great show.

“Dexter” stars Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Desmond Harrington, C.S. Lee, Lauren Velez, David Zayas, and James Remar. It returns on Sunday, September 30, 2012 on Showtime at 8pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

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I have to say, I strongly disagree with this review. This is coming from someone who absolutely hated last season, and i didn’t have high hopes for this one. I’ve seen two episodes so far, and they are streets above anything from last year and even the year before. The Dex/Deb dynamic adds something new to the show, and new is something this show really needs, since it’s had the same formula for years. It does have some of the same problems as usual, like the useless supporting characters, but I feel it’s a huge step in the right direction. I normally agree with you, just not this time.

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