Holy crap: The Dexter season finale

Posted by Dan December 14th, 2009 at 11:16pm In Dexter

DexterIf you saw Sunday’s season finale of Dexter, chances are you haven’t quite been able to get it out of your head yet.

Do I need to say spoiler alert?  I don’t think so.

The image of Rita’s lifeless body in the bathtub — the final victim of the now-deceased Trinity Killer — was jarring to say the least. Even for me (as someone who had been mildly spoiled via Facebook), I was pretty shocked that they would brutally and abruptly axe a character that they had cultivated for the show’s entire four seasons.

While Rita never earned the title of “beloved fan favorite,” what made her valuable to the viewer was her constant presence. In fact, her presence (if not her actual character) was critical in anchoring Dexter in society. Dexter may be a slightly withdrawn, mumbling, blood tech specialist, but at least he had a cute blonde girlfriend/wife. If he’s with her, he couldn’t be that bad, right?

Now that Rita’s out of the picture, Dexter’s left untethered from respectable society. I mean, I don’t know how they’re going to deal with kid/stepkids situation, but after all the social progress he’s made over the course of the show he’s dangling on the edge of a dark abyss. It appears that next season is going to be incredibly intense, as Dexter’s personal responsibilities will take a backseat to his bloodlust.

As disturbing as that final scene was, I really like Rita’s murder as a way to energize the series. Consider previous season finales. The first two finales essentially wrapped up the preceding season with a nice bow. Last season, the show ended with Dexter’s wedding (if you recall, I thought the whole finale was a bit of a snooze). Considering they had already offed the season’s main villain (Jimmy Smits), the season finale essentially served to tie up a few loose ends (of which there were plenty — it was an off season due to all of its wandering storylines) and marry Dexter off.

At the end of the third season, I really didn’t care what was in store for the fourth season. I wasn’t excited about the idea of seeing Dexter juggle married life with his extracurricular activities (I had visions of some sort of macabre, screwball version of a family sitcom). However, perhaps I owe that season finale a debt. Because the show has invested so much in his relationship with Rita (and exploring Dexter’s confusion over whether his family was a “cover” or if it was for real), Rita’s death means that much more.

What this all boils down to is this: “Well done, writers. Now you’ve got a hell of a task ahead of you.” Everyone’s talking about the finale (which scored record-high ratings for Showtime), so the fifth season premiere will present a variety of dark options for our hero. Rita’s ghost will loom large (as if Dexter needs another one of those following him around).

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