Dexter Shakes It Up

By its seventh season, most shows are running out of ideas, so you often see radical changes — like adding a kid or changing the format or  bringing in a lot of  new supporting characters, and the show is never really the same. DEXTER is in its seventh season, and the producers have changed the format in a big way — but without ruining the show. In fact, the series has been revitalized, and I am impressed by how good DEXTER has been this season.

Last season’s umbrella story of the Doomsday Killers was interesting, but I think  it stumbled in the execution; there wasn’t quite enough meat to the story of the aspiring serial killer played by Colin Hanks and his mentor, played by Edward James Olmos. (Perhaps casting two such well-known faces also got in the way of suspending our disbelief. But then again, it worked with John Lithgow in season four.

This season’s big change is that Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) now knows that her brother, Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is a killer. This is a brilliant change that at once changes the show’s dynamic and highlights the basic premise of Dexter performing a necessary evil. One of the reasons that audiences can still root for Dexter after all he has done is that he only kills bad guys. As he put it, he takes out the trash before it putrifies. He does something we all deep down wish we could do: punish the bad people who deserve punishment.

It has taken Deb a few episodes to come to grips with her brother’s… er, hobby, which is to be expected. I never felt like there was chance that she would turn him in. Dex has tried to let his sister in on his process, but she was too revolted to see what he was trying to do. It took the encounter with the hideous Speltzer (Matt Gerald) for Deb to realize that there could be some value to what he does. (He did save her life using his methods.) She realized that if she had not stopped him from tracking Speltzer, his latest victim would be alive, and Speltzer wouldn’t have gotten away to create more terror — for Dex, specifically. Deb’s hallucination of being trapped in a bathtub full of blood was a little too on the nose, but it did help her realize what had happened to Dexter’s with, Rita. And she did get angry enough to want to kill Speltzer in broad daylight!

Speltzer went on to kidnap Dex and chase him with an axe while wearing his bull helmet, but it takes more than horns and a bad attitude to take down Dex. The main villain of the season seems to be the Russian mobster Isaac (Ray Stevenson), who is scary because he always seems so calm and in control. (Except when it comes to his son.) In a way, he’s Dexter’s darker reflection: smart and patient. And a dedicated father.

I like the way Hall plays Dexter so cool and confident. He always seems unflappable, even when he’s got killers on his own tail. Of course, the calm narration may or may not be real; it’s Dex talking to himself, after all. But he has been rattled by Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski), hasn’t he? But who can blame him, since she’s drop-dead gorgeous.

“What I know about you makes you a completely different person,” Deb told Dex. He insisted it changes nothing, which is sort of true, but not entirely. Kind of like the way the show has changed, but not really.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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