Dexter, Season 5

Now that I’m finally caught up on this magnificent show, I have a bold statement to make: Dexter is my favorite drama on television right now. I look forward to it more than Fringe, more than Mad Men, more than Parenthood. Dexter takes the cake—and in the case of this season’s finale, he eats it, too.

I had doubts about this season. Last season’s finale was beyond epic and emotionally draining and gruesome and every other intense adjective you could possibly think of. Plus, Julie Benz’s Rita added a certain happiness, a specific innocence to the show that no one else could really bring to it. I thought that the show would be missing something, and that it would lose that glimmer of hope, because no one’s eye would be there to reflect it.

The season started out slowly, with relationship problems happening everywhere. Dexter ran solo, had a hard time finding a nanny, and put a wrench in Deb and Quinn’s budding relationship. But as the season progressed, it picked up speed and went places I never thought it would go. By the end of the season, I was wondering if the show had in fact proceeded to top itself yet again, as the producers and actors insinuated at last year’s Comic-Con panel.

To be honest, I think another actress could have played Lumen just as well. Julia Stiles is fun to watch, but she wasn’t the be-all, end-all of the season, though she did have that Dexter-like disconnectedness about her. The Lumen character, however, was something special. She brought out things in Dexter—and in Michael C. Hall—that we as long-time fans had never seen before, and the results were mesmerizing. I applaud the writers of Dexter for pacing Dexter and Lumen’s relationship properly, too. It took 10 episodes before they even connected on a romantic level, and all the while sexual tension was building between them, but it wasn’t getting in the way of their vigilante missions. Dexter became human around Lumen; he was free to be himself, he could protect someone because he knew he was being protected back, and he could live his life the way he was used to. He thrived, he breathed, he even smiled more often. In short, he was happy, and with no secrets. Even though Lumen and Dexter parted ways at the end of the season—her Dark Passenger took a permanent leave of absence—this new side of Dexter, the one that clings to his humanity, wants to be more present. I hope that next season, it’s going to manifest itself in the way he cares for his children—and that glimmer of hope will return in Harrison’s adorable little eye.

I also will continue to beat a dead horse as far as Jennifer Carpenter is concerned. Each season, she finds another way to be staggeringly heart-breaking and even easier to root for. And as a cop, Deb is really excelling. Her instincts are even more carefully honed, she seems to have recovered from all of the darkness in her past (or she’s at least using it to her advantage), and she also seems to have found a partner in life and crime that really suits her. Carpenter and Harrington have incredible chemistry together; I hope that relationship stays strong next season. I care more about it than I do any of the other ones (i.e., LaGuerta and Batista? Who cares, unless they have a kid.) The most notable achievement for Carpenter this season was definitely the plastic-wrap standoff between her and the vigilantes in love. That scene, where she lets Dexter and Lumen go free and anonymously, encapsulates just how much she’s grown as a cop, and displays her maturity and self-assurance, which she didn’t have at the start of the series. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.

I feel so much pride in this show—I’m a fan, but I’m also a student in the ways of its complex narrative. I don’t know how they managed to recover from such a devastating blow last season, but they certainly did. I wonder who Season 6’s guest stars will be. Knowing Dexter, the familiar faces will be even better than Robo Cop, Kat Stratford, and Former Mr. Jolie.