Last night, I finished watching Dexter Season 6 on DVD. Without cable, I wait every summer for the DVD release in August to see this show. I have read the first five novels by Jeff Lindsay who created the original character of Dexter Morgan. I love Dexter Morgan. He reminds me a bit of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, but Ripley is not nearly as self-aware as Dexter. Another character Dexter reminds me of is Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data wants to be human, which is exactly what Dexter wants.
The sixth season begins with an episode jam-packed with office politics, two murders, and life turning upside-down for Debra Morgan, Dexter’s sister, which hints that she’ll play a more prominent role this season. In fact, I’d say this season explores two things: the relationship between Debra and Dexter from Debra’s point of view, and Christianity. We see Dexter’s son, Harrison, has grown into barely a toddler who speaks only sporadically (it occurred to me during the last episode that the child actor portraying Harrison was probably too young to learn lines), but needs a nanny and a pre-school. The nanny turns out to be Battista’s sister and there’s a subplot with her and Masuka’s intern. The pre-school is run by a Catholic church which brings Dexter face-to-face with Christian beliefs. He also meets Brother Sam (Mos), a former thug who has dedicated his life to God and helping others. Dexter’s not a church-going man and doesn’t really think he believes in God. A question that brings up (at least in my mind) is whether or not Dexter possesses a conscience. As the season progresses, that question hovers around Dexter but isn’t resolved.
As usual for this excellent Showtime series, things get complicated. Debra receives an unexpected promotion to lieutenant over Battista who LaGuerta, who’s been promoted to captain, had been championing with Deputy Chief Matthews. This promotion creates tension among them (not Battista, though) and a subplot that threatens to destroy Debra’s career if she doesn’t handle it right. Then there’s Quinn who rampages through this season fueled by alcohol and emotional pain. Masuka has a group of interns during the first episode that he narrows down to one, and his misadventures supervising the intern add a bit of black humor.
The main event sort of sneaks up on Miami Metro Homicide as they begin to investigate staged, ritualistic killings with a strong Christian overlay that eventually is linked to the Book of Revelations in The Bible. Each murder seems to illustrate an event in a series that will lead to the End of Days. In recent years, the villains on this show have provided the most interesting characters, people with depth and inner conflicts. For this season, Miami Metro discovers they’re hunting a duo, perhaps master and apprentice, that represent the two witnesses in Revelations. These killers challenge Dexter in a way he’s not been challenged before, and brings out a side of him — father — that’s also new. Colin Hanks and Edward James Olmos are perfectly cast as the villains, and I was especially impressed with Hanks.
For a season of engrossing characters, suspenseful action and wondering what could possibly happen next, only one thing took me outside of my viewing experience in a bad way. It also shocked me because the writers of this series have done an excellent job in every other way. My one complaint involves a subplot with Debra going to the department psychologist for sessions after she’s cleared for duty (after a shooting). My problem is not that Debra has psychological issues or that she goes to a therapist, but what the therapist does and does not do during sessions that lead Debra in a self-destructive direction. I wondered if the psychologist would end up being the villain (or one of them) in season 7.
To be specific, a therapist would not let a client act on something that is unsafe for the client or illegal. Usually a therapist will acknowledge the client’s desire to act but keep the discussion focused on the client’s motivations and emotions — why do you want to do that? How does that make you feel? Several times, I found myself actually writing the therapist’s responses in my head and was shocked when the lines proved to not even follow protocol. This is the problem with therapist characters on TV and in movies, I think. For the sake of the story, the ethics that guide a therapist go right out the window. The only one I’ve seen that is ethical, competent, and follows accepted therapeutic practice (as much as I know of it) is Dr. Kruger on Monk. The therapist on Dexter makes a suggestion about Dexter and Debra’s feelings for him that is totally out of line. Therapy is not about what the therapist thinks is going on but what the client thinks. As a result, Debra starts down a path of psychological self-destruction. I submit that the very last scene in the last episode of this season would be equally, if not more powerful, without the idea the therapist planted in Debra’s head.
Having said that, I still have no problem recommending season 6 to anyone who loves serial killer stories, complicated characters, and a fascinating main character. I look forward to season 7….