Retcon This: Dexter Season 6

In the ever-evolving landscape of fandom, there are simply some things that should not have happened. In Retcon This!, we examine some of the more questionable aspects of our beloved geek properties.

It should go without saying, but SPOILERS FOR SEASON 6 AHEAD.

Two years ago I’d have told you that Dexter was one of the best shows on TV. Now, I’ll just say it’s a show that’s on TV.

That’s not to say that it’s gotten bad, per se, it’s just that after the show’s sixth season I can see the cracks and blemishes rather than delight at the twists and turns like I used to. Since the beginning of season four I’ve started every season going “please let’s not set up the ‘Dexter is trying to learn something’ formula again.” While season four’s lesson of “How do I balance being a killer with having a family?” was handled better than any of the other previous “lesson” themes (season 2: How do I have a relationship?; season 3: How do I have a friend?; season 5: How do I rebuild my life?) what has followed has become a series a formulaic storytelling that’s relied heavily on restoring the status quo when Dexter realizes that whatever lesson he’s trying to learn isn’t really worth learning. He doesn’t need to worry about relationships because he loves Rita, he doesn’t need to have a “serial killer buddy” because others haven’t grown up with The Code, he doesn’t need to emulate Trinity because Trinity is a monster who doesn’t love his family like Dexter does and he rebuilds his life by grieving, feeling loss and moving on.

Infographic of all of Dexter’s kills through season six, by Shahed Syed (dehahs on DeviantArt)



Which brings us to season 6, or “How do I raise a child when I don’t have faith/religion/a system of morals?” As with the previous seasons, a threat rises to challenge Dexter that’s the epitome of what he wants gone wrong (like the Crazy Girlfriend, the Crazy Best Friend, the Extra-Crazy Serial Killer and The Girl Who Has Also Been Damaged). It was at this point that I began to wonder if Serial Killer Central gets word every year that Miami is in need of a new guy and just assigns someone to the territory. I’ve never been to Florida but if Dexter is any indication its serial killers per capita ratio is the highest in the nation. While I know the series kicked off with a “big bad” to have a season long confrontation with, isn’t it about time we moved past that? Haven’t we built up enough in Dexter’s world and supporting cast that what happens to them should be driving the season’s story and not the “Serial Killer Analogy for What Dexter Is Going Through” that’s ham-fistedly dropped in?

If we must have a Big Bad that Dexter chases around all season to the exclusion of almost everything else, can they at least be more interesting than a mixture of the Saw movies and the worst Bible studies class ever? I get that serial killers are a kooky bunch, but The Doomsday Killer’s whole shtick was that by setting up elaborate murder dioramas he was going to bring about the end of the world. Really? There’s crazy and there’s “what the fuck,” and DDK passed WTF about three exits ago.

Of course, no discussion of DDK can be complete with out the “shocking reveal” that it was just one guy and not the two guys that we were shown all season. Big ups to PoP!’s Jason Kerouac for pointing out that possibility on an episode of the PoP!-Cast early on in the season. I don’t know if I ever would’ve caught on to that myself, but once it was pointed out it became so glaringly obvious that every episode that went by without it being revealed that Edward James Olmos was just a hallucination became a giant irritant. How many times can Colin Hanks have a conversation with someone in his sisters yard with no one around? Even worse than dragging out the reveal was the fact that, once it was made, EJO leaves DDK for good. I’m not a scientist, but studies have shown that an Olmos is worth about three Colin Hanks.

Lackluster Big Bad and Shocking Reveal That Was Drawn Out Too Long aside, let’s look at some of the other missteps of the season. Batista and LaGuerta’s marriage just evaporates? Why, did they just not know what to do with them? I was hoping we’d get some sort of insight into that over the course of the season but no dice. Even LaGuerta herself becomes a background character this season. Sure, she shows up to torment the newly promoted Deb with her one woman “I’m Supporting You/I’m Holding You Back” show but other than that she’s become a non-entity or a prop in the incredibly uninteresting “Matthews Slept With Someone He Shouldn’t” story.

The Saga of Masuka’s Interns was almost interesting, but the disappearance Brea Grant’s character left me puzzled. Computer Game Intern (and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you work in game design and are apparently that successful at it you can’t just show up and be studying crime-scene forensics on a whim) almost had an interesting story and I kept hoping for some kind of reveal that he and Grant were working together but instead his solution to the Missing Hand Problem really was that neat and tidy, making it more than a little unbelievable.

“What? Ewwwww! You’re my brother, I don’t think of you like that!” #ShitSaneDebSays

By far the biggest and most horrifying turn of events was Deb’s sudden realization that she loves Dexter. Not just loves, but Loves. I’ve been known to have emotional reactions to television shows (my stories, as I like to call them), so I may have yelled “EWWWWWW GROSS MAKE IT STOP!” at my TV during a certain dream sequence. I get that Deb has every issue in the book, but the fact that she can decide that she’s in love with her adoptive brother with a single suggestion from The World’s Worst Therapist is kind of mind-boggling. It’s not like she and Dexter met when they were teenagers, they were raised from or near birth (depending on when Deb was born) as brother and sister. I find it really hard to believe that any amount of bad relationships would make someone turn a wandering eye to someone like that. It’s a shame because while they did their level best to sell Deb as a legitimate leader, her erratic nature over the course of the season meant her most valuable contribution was yelling “Holy Frankenfuck, Snakes!” at the beginning of almost every episode.

My initial annoyances aside, the season ended with a couple of genuine cliffhangers, which I’m hoping will shake the show out of its annoyingly repetitive cycle. I can’t imagine how they’re going to stretch Deb seeing Dexter kill someone across two seasons, but given how unstable she’s been portrayed all season maybe he can just Jedi mind-trick her out of it. I do wish that over the course of six seasons they’d given Dexter a bit more confidence in who he is and what he does so that a potential confrontation with his sister would have more drama. If Dexter was convinced that what he does is necessary there’d be less room for he and Deb to go “Oh, we can cure you.” That route has been tried over and over again and it’s time for fresh ground. While season six may have been a mish-mashed train wreck, maybe that’s what we needed to get there.

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Thacher E. Cleveland is a contributing writer & columnist for PanelsOnPages.com, co-host of the Super-Fly Comics & Games PodCast, novelist & comic creator. Originally from New Jersey and previously from Yellow Springs, Ohio, he currently lives in Chicago. You can find him on Twitter (@demonweasel), tumblr, his personal website and even on Google+

Comments (3)

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  1. Lee Rodriguez says:

    You’re not wrong, but I did enjoy this season more than the last. I think Dexter learning a lesson (or trying to) is a good device because without that, he’s got no direction. As viewers, we’re treated to what is hopefully the more interesting parts of a character’s life, and for Dexter, those are these moments of discovery. Is it a little ham fisted that there’s almost always a coincident parallel? Sure, but the juxtaposition is often interesting. And not for nothing, I really liked the Dexter/Brother Sam relationship and was totally bummed when he died.

    I still love Dexter. It’s been a bit formulaic. You’re totally right. But, for me, it’s still a pretty damn good formula. That said, I’m interested to see where they go with Dexter and Deb… and I really hope it doesn’t involve nekkidness, because yes, Miami Metro has the worst therapist on Earf.

  2. Tito Cruz says:

    Agree with a lot of what you’ve stated Tad. The thing with Dexter learning a lesson or having a particular lesson be a theme for a season is that it makes him less of a monster. We are essentially rooting for a serial killer here. The lesson’s make him more human (if that makes sense).

  3. Ben Gilbert says:

    I’m still only partially through Season 4 (thanks for spoiling the end of that season, Joel McHale), and based on what I’ve heard and read, I’m still on the fence on whether I’m going to continue past it. Dexter’s story is enthralling, but I just don’t care about most of the supporting characters. Angel and Masuka are the only supporting characters I find interesting. I loved Doakes and Rita, and we all know what happened to them.

    For me, a great show has to balance a strong ensemble cast of characters with the “WTF” moments, and Dexter just doesn’t seem to strike that balance, at least past the second season. After being subjected to Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and, yes, the first five seasons of Lost, Dexter seems almost slight by comparison.

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