Monday, December 14, 2009

Dexter S4 Finale: Whoa.

Last night was the season finale of Dexter and... wow. What a finale it was. Suspense, intrigue, murder, Dexter almost getting caught (many, many times) and... an ending that sets up season 5 as the season that might finally be Dexter's undoing. (The following contains spoilers for all of season 4, including the finale.)

I posted on the beginning of season 4 of Dexter, and with so much else on I wasn't able to keep up with it weekly, but this season is probably my favourite one so far, and for one very big reason: John Lithgow. WHAT an inspired choice in casting. The hilarious Dick Solomon from Third Rock from the Sun. The sympathetic Roberta from The World According to Garp. The tiny yet evil Lord Farquaad from Shrek. Maybe we saw a touch of his wrath as the reverend in Footloose (ha) but nothing could have prepared any of us for the sheer horror of Arthur Mitchell. On the surface, a church-going family man who has it all. Behind closed doors he systematically locks his daughter in a room, beats his wife, and breaks his son's fingers one by one. Of course, that's only when he's at home in between travelling the countryside in the guise of someone doing a Habitat for Humanity project while serial killing along the way. His M.O. was terrifying: first, kidnap a 10-year-old boy, force him to wear the exact same pyjamas that he'd worn when he was a 10-year-old, moments before he looked into the bathroom one day, saw his older sister showering, she saw him watching her, tripped, cracked her head open and died right in front of him. No... he can't have that happen to THIS little boy. So he'll put him in those PJs, tell him to stay innocent forever, and to insure that happens he'll drug him, throw him in a body bag, and bury him (alive) in cement in one of the homes he's building. Five days later, he'll kill a woman in her bathtub, re-enacting what happened to his sister. A couple of days after that, he'll find a woman with a boy and a girl, roughly the age his mother would have been when everything went to hell in his house, trap her, take her to a tall building, and force her to jump. How does he do that? Simple... just threaten her children. He refuses to push her, because he needs her to commit suicide the way his own mother did. And then, he hunts down a man in his 40s, with a boy and a girl. Doesn't matter if they're actually beating their children the way Arthur's father was beating him... but he DOES need to prove to himself that the guy COULD do that if provoked. So he provokes him. Forces him to punch him just once. And that's it: he bludgeons him to death with a framing hammer. Then he packs up, heads home, and continues playing happy families while terrorizing his own.

Oh, and I didn't mention that at each crime scene he leaves a tiny smudge of his sister's ashes that he keeps in an antique urn. All together now: SHUDDER.

I have been a John Lithgow fan for a long time now. He also, in case you don't know, writes children's books. He wrote one of my daughter's favourites: Micawber, about the squirrel who lives in Central Park and becomes a painter. Last week I was cleaning up her room and came upon the book, upside-down on the floor with John Lithgow's happy face smiling up at me. I flipped it over quickly, a cold chill going down my spine. I'm actually typing this in HTML so I don't have to look at the photo above. THAT is how much Arthur Mitchell has affected me.

So last week, Dexter's mistakes he's been making all season (not focusing on his work, getting caught by Rita for having an apartment, killing innocent people because he's not taking the time to do his homework) finally really start to build and Arthur finds the crack and figures out he's not actually Kyle Butler. Arthur follows him to work, without Dex even noticing (a season ago, Dex would have known in half a second if someone was behind him in a car). Arthur strides into the office, all 7 feet tall of him (seriously, that guy looks SO massive) and Dexter nearly passes out as he sees this guy encroaching on his own territory. Dex stumbles out of his office and stands before Mitchell, who grabs a hold of Dex's name tag and says, "Hello... DEXTER MORGAN." I practically passed out myself. It was one of the most frightening endings ever.

This week I figured he'd find the guy, he'd kill him, he'd realize he's making too many mistakes and maybe he'd decide to quit the life, and next season would be about his vain attempts to try NOT being a serial killer. And yes, the episode had all those elements. In fact, when he finally DID have Arthur on the table, it almost seemed anticlimatic, and even stranger when he let him leave this world listening to a favourite piece of music, with the calming sound of his train set chugging around the room. Dexter carried the body to his boat, dropped the parts into the water, and breathed a sigh of relief that it was all over.

But how was it over? Arthur's family knows Dexter, has seen him many times and even saw him try to kill Arthur once. Just because they know him as Kyle Butler doesn't mean they can't finger him when it comes down to it. How will he explain how he had been on the trail of Trinity all along and never bothered to mention it to the REST of the homicide department? And what about Debra? She just figured out that Dexter's brother was the serial killer who died mysteriously at the end of season 1: will she put it together that Dexter was the one who did it? And what is the possibility that Dexter is actually her father's biological son and therefore her real half-brother? She seemed pretty suspicious about Dexter being at Mitchell's house immediately after the call went out -- the same suspicions she had when she wondered how that reporter who turned out to be Mitchell's daughter got to the crime scene so quickly.

Dexter figured out that Arthur was going to pick up his convertible. Arthur picks it up, and we see him riding happily around Miami. Late that night, his car breaks down and Dexter shows up in his killing outfit, having pulled off the oil cap. But what's not completely clear is what exactly Arthur did that day... did he leave from the car lot and go straight on the road? Did he make a pitstop right after or right before picking up that car? And could that pitstop have been... the airport?

For just when Dexter vows to walk away from his life and abandon his dark passenger, he arrives home and gives Rita a quick phone call. Her phone rings nearby. She's not away on vacation like she should have been, even though she just left him a message saying she was at the airport. He hears a baby crying, and follows the sound.

And what he finds in the bathroom is the culmination of his life's work, and the result of his personal vendetta against Arthur Mitchell. Just as his own mother had been bludgeoned in front of him as he sat in the rivers of blood that flowed from her body when he was a mere toddler, now his own baby sits in Rita's blood as she lies, lifeless, in the bathtub, where Arthur Mitchell made his final mark. Just as Harry had picked up Dexter and rushed him out of the scene, only to realize it was too late to save him, so too does Dexter grab his son, Harrison, and rush out of the room. Is it too late to save this child? Or does he have both nature AND nurture working against him here? Will his sociopathic genetics cross with what he witnessed in that room and doom him to a life of crime like his father?

And what will Dexter do next? When he calls 911 and Debra comes over, she'll be horrified at what's happened to him. But then she'll wonder why Arthur targeted Dexter in particular, especially so soon after Dexter was at the Mitchell house. Maybe she'll start to question every strange thing Dexter's done, including the extra apartment. Quinn's been noticing Dex leaving work a lot and running around. He assumes Dex is having an affair, but if he begins putting the pieces together, he'll find something much worse. Masuka told Dexter about Rita's transgression: what if he thinks Dex killed her in the bathtub out of revenge? What if several people believe that, since Dexter would know the details of the Trinity killer's M.O. intimately and would know exactly how to position the blood?

Dexter's been sloppy, and now his family has paid the price. It's probably only a matter of time before he gets caught, but the question is... who will be the one to finally catch him? Will it be Debra? Imagine THAT catch-22: finding the greatest serial killer Miami has ever known and wrapping up several dozen cases all at once (including the demise and damnation of Doakes)... it'll make her career. She'll be the #1 detective on the force, and probably find herself on the FBI for pulling off something like that. But Dexter means everything to her, and while her professional life will be at its peak, her personal life will be in a shambles. She wouldn't be able to live with herself having done that.

Season 5 promises to cause most of the characters' lives to unravel. But none will fall apart quite like Dexter's. Season 4 was a brilliant continuation of this man's story, and knowing that the show has only been planned for 5 seasons, will season 5 finally see the death of Dexter Morgan?

What did YOU think of the fourth season?


Unknown said...

I sure hope the police don't go searching too much when they get to the crime scene at Dexter's house. And Deb's right to be suspicious of Dexter getting there too fast. But like you said, there really isn't an explanation for Dexter calling himself Kyle Butler and trailing Trinity for so long. He can't pass that off any other way. In fact, that may be part of the big season premier. I could also see Dexter leaving the kids with the grandparents and going on a rampage of unfocused revenge.

fb said...

the fourth season was my favourite, and that's saying something because i absolutely loved season one!

i stared at the TV, my mouth literally gaping, for a good 30 seconds after the final credits rolled. i wasn't expecting that at ALL.

two things bothered me about the episode (otherwise i thought it was flawless):

1) when the mitchells' house was raided, dexter (kyle) was inside with them. presumably, he ran out of the living room to make it into the garage and into the coffin. mrs mitchell and her children didn't think to mention to the police that there was someone else in the house with them 20 seconds ago and now he's vanished? the same someone whom they saw beating their husband brutally on thanksgiving? it rang false to me that it was glossed over like that, but i wonder if it'll come back to haunt dex next season.

2) when arthur's car break downs, and he pulls over on a dark stretch of road, and out pops dexter ... really? he just HAPPENED to know arthur would break down RIGHT THERE? he wasn't following him (arthur's shown driving and there are no cars behind him), and he wasn't hiding in the car, because he would have been there the whole time and seen arthur kill rita. so how the hell did he know where to find arthur? it seemed contrived.

(also, wasn't the mustang white? this one was black, and it threw me off--although i thought the mechanic said something about a paint job when arthur was driving off, but i didn't hear clearly.)

minor quibbles aside, i was chilled to the bone by the episode. poor dexter ... just when he's starting to believe he can fight his dark passenger and feel real love for his family and protect them ... my heart broke for him.

i'm so excited for next season! there are a million different ways this could play out and i'm really curious to see where the writers go with it. there's no way dexter can avoid suspicion in rita's death--there are so many elements conspiring against him: elliot the neighbour will say he was violent towards him after finding out about the kiss; masuka saw the kiss, so he can corroborate that; the mitchells could ID him as kyle butler, which sets up a whole "why are you running around using a fake ID?" scenario; the sheriff's office has it on record that he punched the guy whose car mirror he snapped off, and arthur, who actually committed the crime, can never be found, let alone charged with it. not to mention deb might start getting curious/suspicious after discovering the truth about dexter's past.

i've read in various places that next season is supposedly the last, and while i don't want it to end, it does set up the possibility of going out with some sort of mind-blowing ending (although, how they could top last night is beyond me!). i kind of want deb to find out the truth and be torn as to what to do ... but i also kind of think dex has suffered enough (with what happened to his mother and now rita) that he deserves a happy life. i'm torn!

one thing that popped into mind was that at the end of the season 3 finale, where dexter and rita are dancing at their wedding, and his arm is mangled after his encounter with the skinner, the blood seeps through his cast and stains rita's white wedding dress. foreshadowing?

PS: And what is the possibility that Dexter is actually her father's biological son and therefore her real half-brother? in the first season episode father knows best (the one where dex, deb, rita and brian/rudy clear out dexter's deceased father's house after dex discovers he's the heir to his estate), it is confirmed that the man (joseph driscoll) and dexter are biological father and son, after dexter takes some blood from his dead body and has it sent to masuka to test for DNA against his own.

Nikki Stafford said...

wistex: Wow, I never thought of a revenge rampage, but that would be something for sure!

fb: what a fantastic memory you have! You're right; he did do that DNA test and I'd forgotten about that.

As for the quibbles: I think when the police came in and forced them to the floor, then presumably forced them all up again roughly and showed them pictures of Arthur and told them he was a serial killer, they were probably too much in shock to remember Dexter being at their house. But they'll remember when they get back to the police station. I have no doubt.

As for the car (yes, he had it painted black and the guy was yelling at Arthur that the paint wasn't yet dry when he was driving away), I was a little confused by that, too. I didn't see Dexter's car anywhere nearby and assumed he was in the trunk, and that still could be the case IF Arthur killed Rita BEFORE he went to pick up the car. Rita goes to the airport, Dexter heads out to set up his kill scene, Arthur heads to the airport, gets Rita and the baby, lures them into the car and takes her back to her house, does the whole deed, Dexter figures out the car's paint job thing, and then he goes to the shop and hides in the trunk, etc. That's one scenario (though how he would have gotten into the trunk without someone seeing him would have been a trick).

The other possibility is that that entire scenario played out and Dex managed to get to the car place and remove the oil cap, but then he tailed Arthur (very discreetly) in his van the entire time, and again, Arthur had already killed Rita that morning and Dex hadn't gone back to the house to find her. How the baby would STILL be sitting right there is beyond me, but a 5-month-old wouldn't be moving very far and he might have eventually fallen asleep.

Also, did you notice Arthur's car seemed to have died on the same stretch of road where Dexter's car rolled in the first episode? I wonder if that could have had some significance.

Unknown said...

Nikki, I agree that it was the same stretch of road from episode 401, as for significance? Not sure, probably just conducive to night shoots.

As for an endgame, either Dexter rides off into the sunset a changed man ... or he dies at the hand of Deb. I see no shades of gray on that one. But I do hope that it happens next season.

Oh, it also struck me last night as very reminiscent of the season 1 finale of 24. Both left me with my mouth hanging open.

Sarah said...

Arthur didn't have to go to the airport at all--Rita came home to get her ID.

I think it went down like this: Arthur found Dex's (now Deb's) apartment, and through that must've found Dexter's new address. He went there after Dex left to go to Arthur's house and hid out. Rita, forgetting her ID, went back, where he murdered her. He then went to the car lot to pick up the Mustang.

Meanwhile, Dex has figured out about the car in the shop, taken the oil cap off and hidden in the trunk.

One thing I don't get is how Harrison was sitting in pools of blood. Trinity ALWAYS cleaned up, I would be surprised if he changed his MO that much. And there's NO WAY he could possibly have known about Dexter's history after knowing his name for just a day. Deb has known him for 25 years and JUST found out about the shipping container.

fb said...

nikki: what lost is to you ... dexter is to me. ;)

thank you for the clarification about the car changing colours -- my hearing is pretty lousy at the best of times and unless the volume on the TV is at 963 or so, i have a lot of difficulty hearing dialogue if there's any sort of background noise (like squealing tires or an engine revving!).

and yes! i did notice it was the same stretch of road dex had his car crash on. interesting. maybe it's meant to show us that this time, dexter is in control of the situation?

i particularly remember that season 1 episode, because it had deb, rita and even brian/rudy bopping around to foghat's "slow ride" in the father's house and dexter, after much coercing from deb and rita, did an incredibly uncomfortable and stilted dance alongside them, which made me HOWL with laughter.

wistex: i'm in total agreement -- this sets up the ultimate fork in the road for dexter. either he's so scarred from what just happened that he resolves to give it all up and save harrison from a fate similar to his own ... or he channels all his rage into being the best serial killer he can be (heh) and pushes all 3 of his children away, thinking he truly is a monster and they're better off without him. if that happens, deb HAS to be the one to find out, you're absolutely right. the question is, what will she DO if/when she finds out? because it's a fork in the road for her, too: does she protect her brother, the only person who she can count on, the only family she has, or does she do the right thing as a cop and turn him in?

(and what a testament to the acting skills of both michael c hall and jennifer carpenter that i TOTALLY forget that they're married in all their scenes together -- they are absolutely convincing as brother and sister!)

sarah: i like your timeline, that makes sense. dexter must have been in the trunk, there's no other explanation that makes sense to me (although nikki's right ... how the heck did he do that without anyone seeing?). i don't think arthur knew dexter's history at all (he knew dexter "accidentally" killed a man whilst hunting, that's it). which, in a strange way, comforts me, because it means he couldn't've told rita (i know she's fictional, but i can't bear the thought of her finding out her husband and the father of her son was a violent sociopathic murderer moments before she herself was murdered).

i don't think harrison sitting in the pool of blood was staged or planned by arthur, i think it was meant to be coincidental in terms of what arthur did but intentional in terms of what it reminded dexter of, if that makes any sense.

and OOOH! supreme nitpick alert! when deb was researching laura moser and found the article about her death, it said she died on october 2. not true! she died on october 3. i know this for 2 reasons: 1) it's my birthday, so naturally, that date sticks in my mind and 2) in season one, there was a WHOLE EPISODE (seeing red) focusing on brian/rudy making sure dexter remembered the significance of 103 (10/3 = october 3) where he set up the hotel room (103), left the bible open to the 10th chapter and 3rd verse, had the radio station on 103 FM and so on. the show went to great lengths to ensure we knew it was october 3 that laura moser died (i believe it was even shown in a microfiche that dexter himself saw in a library at some point in season 1 when doing research), so it was strange to me that it was changed to october 2 in this episode. (but i'm a major, major dexter geek!)

Unknown said...

Another thing. I'm not a car guy so please correct me if I'm wrong. But Arthur's car was a classic car, not sure what year. But I don't know if that car would have had an interior trunk release for Dexter to let himself out. I know that's a mandatory safety thing today but I think that car is 30+ years old. But now I'm just nitpicking.

The image of Harrison sitting in the blood haunts me. I think the "when" of season 5 starting will be an indication of where they are headed with the story. If it picks up right where it left off, it's going to be a sprint to the finish.

Anonymous said...

Love the 'what ifs' above and yes, I too, mouth left agape as credits roll. I will miss Julie Benz (HOT!).

Shelb said...

The show was not planned for only 5 seasons. Even if it was, they've changed show runners twice now so I doubt the new show runners would keep the plans of the last ones.

Ideally, next season would end with Dexter getting caught and the season after that would be the aftermath similar of The Shield's last season and the last few episodes of The Wire.

Next season should see Dexter go nuts and slowly throw away the Code until he becomes what he used to eliminate. This ends with Deb catching Dexter red handed and arresting him.

Season 6 should be Dexter's incarceration and trial as Deb faces life not only without Dexter but as the person "responsible" for his arrest. The last episode should be Dexter's last day before being executed and cuts to black with his last breath.

Ralph Hartman said...

What a great episode I was sitting on my couch watching it and I dropped to my knees and covered my opened mouth with my hands and I had my jaw dropped on 3 other episodes this season and I have never done that for any other show I watch not Lost TrueBlood Sons Of Anarchy or Supernatural

Ralph Hartman said...

This maybe the best season of tv that I have ever watched and I watch about 20-25 shows so thats saying alot

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping that season 5 will be the one where Dexter realizes that Harry is the one who made him what he is. Instead of getting him help when he noticed his sociopathic tendancies (something that was a result of trauma, not the wiring of his brain) he taught him to be a serial killer. Harry is his dark passenger.

I was slightly spoiled by Ben Mulroney (Mulroney! *shakes fist in Colbert style) who was on some show as I was flipping by and said "his poor wife." Then said he didn't care if he spoiled anyone because it had already aired (jerk). So I figured either Dexter realized he couldn't juggle 'work' and family and left her, or Arthur would make her is victim (because bathtub killing was next in the cycle.) So the ending didn't have near the impact it could have. I might have figured it out anyway - it's where I would have gone (sorry Julie.)

I think the older kids will go with their grandparents, but I think next season will be about juggling killing with being a single father. Of seeing that Harrison doesn't turn out to be what Dexter is. Of Dexter NOT being Harry.

I don't think Dexter will get caught. I think what happened to Rita will give him too much sympathy in the department for anyone to figure things out.

And we know Harry wasn't Dexter's father, though Deb might think he is, and that will only make her bond with him stronger.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I know that this is slightly idealistic but somehow I doubt the end of this series was reality, there are just too many factors against this. To put it simply I think its another one of Dex's "Episodes" similar to the 1 of his family being rushed out of his home in the event of his capture.

1. How would Trinity have known that Rita + Dex were going on holiday? Assumption just seems too out of place, the only guy capable of such wit is Dexter, I mean come on the guy could genuinely not bring himself to help a deer out of its misery.

As far as im concerned Trinity was a killer, no doubt. But unless the victims were part of his cycles or direct threats, (Fake kyle butlers who wouldn't leave him alone after breaking into his home, or, his son) he would not touch them

2. Leaning on the previous point of him being a bit woossy again, why oh why would he leave the child in the position to see his mother bleed out that way? He is a killer but he is also a father and has experienced the effects of a child seeing a close family member bleed out in front of em, 1st hand, I doubt he is that cruel. The only way he would have known to do that is if he knew about Dex's past and decided to make it personal, but as far as I know he did not.

3. On the table Dex states that Trinity's daughter has committed suicide - lets assume Trinity is the great mastermind which he would have to be in order to make his plan work: would he not then tell Dexter: "Yeah well I killed your wife" to throw him off? I would, its not even such a clever move.

4. If there is to be an s5 which there will, how will Dex keep doing what he does with 3 children under his care? He could barely do it with his wife around.

amanda said...

This episode was awesome!
I agree there were many holes during the episode, but my mouth was also gaping for a good minute afterwards and i was screaming 'NOOOOOOOO' as Dexter ran to the bathroom - i had a sinking feeling in those 5 seconds that he would find Rita there and Harrison in the pool of blood.
I can't wait to see how they start Season 5!!

Arash said...

I am positive Rita is alive!!! I have many reasons to backup my idea.

firstly, Arthur had always a code which is "killing for human in a cycle". if we just assume that he killed Rita so what about 10 years old boy for this cycle?? someone might say Cody. Even he killed Cody at that day, a gap equals to 5 days is needed between the first murder and the second one. which is not possible!

Secondly, Rita does not match the properties which are needed for bath tube murders. but she well fits the falling one. Thus, in any case she is not an appropriate choice for this part of cycle.

finally, when Arthur kills people the crime scenes are not bloody like this, especially in bath tube cases.

To conclude we may say that it was all Dexter's dream!!

Anonymous said...

Hi,I,m really new in blog (never wrote one) and i'm Italian (sorry for my bad english) I want to respond to fb on 14 december 2009. Seems to me that nobody knows the latin. In latin the words DEX and TER have a meaning. Dex is the number TEN and TER is the number THREE.
It's really a shock, isn't it ?
I hope you enjoy the new....
Bye by Tibi (an Italian Dexter new addicted-i'm watching season 3)