Six seasons down. Six days left. Where have we been, and where are we going now? Here’s a detailed sweep through the past six seasons of Dexter with my own take on which seasons were strongest and why season seven will be stronger! (An in-depth opinion piece with spoilers. Read more after the jump!)
1. Season 1. Dexter’s maiden voyage set the stage for a dangerously likeable and conflicted character whose madness drew us in faster than he could say “Tonight’s the night.” A key theme to this season was Dexter’s discovery of the method to his madness: the birth of his Dark Passenger at the death of his mother—and loss of his brother, who isn’t content to do his own sinister work alone any longer. He represents who Dexter could have been without Harry. “Born free” but reined in by the Code and a budding sense of humanity he can’t quite fathom, Dexter is anchored by Rita and especially Debra, and he proves that he is too fond of Deb to surrender her to his pleasures. The storyline was tight, suspenseful, and provocative. In season seven, we’ll see how much Debra will be able to ground Dexter—and if she’ll cling onto the sacrifice Dexter made for her in seeing to Brian’s getting “put down.”
2. Season 2. Dexter isn’t finished with his past, and his past isn’t finished with him. Not to mention he’s far from alone in his business, with Lila West and James Doakes bringing their special, violent fascinations with Dexter to the table. Doakes is determined to catch his Dark Passenger while Lila is determined to cure it. Both start to pry at the arsenal of masks Dexter once employed for personal protection, and defenses are wearing thin as his self-composed underwater graveyard is uncovered. Cue the “Bay Harbor Butcher”… whom the Miami PD will discover is not James Doakes come season seven! It looks like his name will be making a well-deserved comeback that’s going to put Dexter in hotter water than he’s already in. I really enjoyed how this season had me hating Lila, half-hating, half-loving Doakes, and buckling over from Dexter’s readiness to call it quits. In the end, though, he reclaims his identity, his sense of belonging to his family, and presses on as the master of “compartmentalization.”
3. Season 3. Season three dove into some interesting territory that could have been executed better. The writers had their hands full in trying to follow up season two with something equally as gripping and breathtaking. What was interesting was watching Dexter struggle with the concept of becoming part-daddy, part-demon—calling into question his true ability to “compartmentalize,” which he prided himself in after Debra rescued him from Lila’s burning apartment in season two—as well as entertaining the ideas of trust and friendship in his connection with Miguel Prado. And seeing Miguel completely destabilize and use as well as distort Dexter’s Code (by killing off his opponents) was a pretty interesting game of cat and mouse to follow. Miguel’s cow-blood promise ultimately had nothing on Debra’s dedication to Dexter, who asked her to “stand for him.” He’ll be asking that same question of her again in six days…
4. Season 4. John Lithgow’s terrifying turn from comedy to horror as the Trinity Killer has definitely earned himself immortal glory in the Dexter world. Not to mention his inclination to the word “c**t” is right up there with Doakes’ “Surprise, Motherf**ker!” (which is the title of season seven’s sure-to-be-stunning finale—good move, writers). In this season, we get a real sense of foreshadowing about Dexter’s imperfection and ability to fail, as he keeps the murderous Arthur Mitchell around long enough to learn from his ability to “maintain” a “happy” family… and long enough for him to shatter Dexter’s own family. Dexter also fails in season six by neglecting to secure a kill room for the Doomsday Killer; by making a grand show of things in the church (a known source of evidence in the Doomsday case), he exposes himself to Debra for who he really is, shattering her innocence to his true identity. Season four also accentuates the brokenness in both Dexter and Debra. In fact, they both say the exact same phrase at different points in the season: “It doesn’t matter what I do, what I choose… I’m what’s wrong.” Debra utters this in her devastation and guilt over Lundy’s death, and Dexter over his discovery of Rita’s death. In season seven, we will see a renewed guilt and devastation in both characters that will really draw them together, even as they fight through the high tide of their drastically differing motives. The slack tide of innocence always “passes too quickly.”
5. Season 5. Everyone was in complete and utter shock entering into this chapter. The writers of Dexter don’t shy away from addressing the most painful and anxiety-inducing scenes in Dexter’s story (that much we know from the two-minute sneak peek of the season seven premiere). “Too soon” was definitely a dominating thought as Lumen’s damaged character came onto the scene. Then came the I Spit On Your Grave sort of revenge killings that unfolded with the unlikely duo of Lumen and Dexter. Also, the romantic turn of their short-lived relationship seemed to be based in their vigilante partnership—it’s as though the love came with an unsaid expiration date. Dexter did, however, learn a viable lesson in being a father and reaching out to Astor in her own darkness; I’m very excited to see her return and development in season seven. The only other question now is, will Debra find out who was with Lumen behind that sheet of plastic where Jordan Chase was killed? Will she still think that those “kind of f**ked up” killings were “kind of beautiful”?
6. Season 6. While season six also came under some harsh criticisms from those who felt (and reasonably so) that the season was dominated by a lack of consistent thematic development (the theme of religion was certainly a bit scattered), a misuse of phenomenal guest stars (namely Mos Def’s stunning Brother Sam), and a crutch-like fixation on the tableaus of Travis Marshall, the Doomsday Killer, there are a good deal of gems to be found throughout this part of the story. For instance, Brian Moser’s fearsome return in “Nebraska” was a true ride for both a fast & loose Dexter. That was a very thrilling little departure that hints at Dexter’s ever-latent wild side (which will likely be explored in season seven, with Dexter being vexed to the point of breakdown). What I also appreciated about this season was the show’s incredible development of the character of Debra, who comes into new power as lieutenant, grapples with her unaffectedness from an on the job kill, and discovers that her love for her brother is deeper than she ever could have imagined. These developments, of course, are going to make season seven maddeningly fascinating and suspenseful. How will her feelings and authority play out in light of the Dark Passenger, exposed?
7. And here, we, are. If I were to rate the existing seasons from strongest to weakest, I would say: 4, 1, 2, 6, 3, and 5. From my perspective, season seven will rise to top them all—with remarkable guest stars, fresh challenges, high emotions, and a revitalized energy that builds on the strengths of old seasons and reaches out to new territory… this, is gonna be good.
“Life doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be… lived.” And Dexter is in for a serious hell of a living in all that’s to come! Which season do you think was the best so far? And do you think that season will meet its match with season seven? Tell us how insatiably stoked or scared sh*tless you are below!