(SPOILERS) "Dexter" Finale: Dex, You Slay Me

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With a new head writer (their third in five years) and (season four spoiler alert) the aftermath of Rita's sudden departure, the Dexter team and its new management had a hell of an undertaking when Season 5 began.

The Season 4 finale was so shocking and horrific, its final image was seared into my brain so vividly that it actually took me a while to muster up the courage to tune back in to where we left off. The Season 5 finale, by comparison, was about as feel-good and lovey-dovey as a serial killer drama can be. I mean that in a good way. I think Dex, and the rest of the over-stressed-tv-watching world, needed a little bit of a break after Rita kicked it. Job well done, new Dexter showrunner.

Dexter Season 5 finale

There are spoilers peppered all through this post. You've been warned.

Oh, Dex. You stole my heart from the first time I saw your too-pale lips against the fake tan grace my screen. Sure, you're a serial killer and you wreak havoc on the lives of those around you, but you're one of the most sympathetic characters on television, and season after season, it never ceases to amaze.

Longtime Dexter fans, feel free to disagree, but Julia Stiles' Lumen proved herself the most compelling companion for America's favorite serial killer since the original ice truck baddie of Season 1. I loved watching Dexter connect -- like, really connect -- with someone who wasn't a fundamentally deranged lunatic. Lumen's horrific gang rape storyline gave her the go-ahead for the natural-born-killing-spree she joined Dex on -- at least, according to my apparently lax moral standards, it did -- unlike his psychotic other woman, Lila, of steamy Season 2 fame. (I swear, that character was so unlikeable and heinous she prevented me from giving my daughter that name.)

Year after year, Dexter struggles to find the Robin to his sociopathic Batman. And year after year, he's burned, and it blows up in his face, somehow leaving him none the wiser. This season, however, I felt like the writing staff really kicked it up a notch with Dexter's emotional arc, and Lumen's inevitable departure left us with the feeling that Dexter might actually done some growing this year (we'll gloss right over the fact that I just used "sociopathic" and "emotional arc" to describe the same character, but I'll come back to that in a moment). All that said, though, I did think it was a little glossed over that Lumen was magically cured and yet showed no remorse. And, of course, Dexter took it rather well consider that he's....you know...bat sh*t crazy.

(Can we take a moment to pause and recall that in Season 1 Dexter was celibate? My how far we've come. I'm not complaining -- the acting tour de force that is Michael C. Hall has a nice set of shoulders on him.)

Laguerta and Batista fought hard and won the gold this year for most irritating couple on television, while Quinn's fancy new haircut (and is it just me, or did Quinn lose a LOT of weight since last season?) made him seem much less like a frat boy on prednisone, and more like the conflicted, brooding character I never imagined he could be. Plus, he's lookin' kind of fine, and I like seeing Deb happy. Still, although he and Dexter ended the season on a semi-cool note, I can't help but think there's more stalking fun ahead for him in Season 6.

Will Quinn and Deb take Dexter down? Or are we meant to think that Deb's starting to come around on Dexter's modus operandi? Do we want Dexter taken down? I sure don't. Which is kind of the magic of this show, I guess. I love that crazy stabby psychopath as if he were June Cleaver. (Ha! Cleaver! Pun just lucky, not intended.)

And speaking of Deb -- was that crazy or what?! How she just totally let Dexter and Lumen make off with the body of Jordan Chase? I'm pretty sure that's the first time we've seen Deb consider the idea that maybe -- possibly -- there's a grey area here, and good vs. bad isn't clearly black and white. I loved it. Because we're starting to see our main characters struggle with the same issue we're toying with every time we tune in: Is a killer who kills killers really someone you want off the streets? Personally, my heart leaps just a little bit every time Dex plunges his blade into the chest of some deserving victim, and I'm not ashamed to say it.

Okay, and now for the great Dexter debate that wages on in my mind every time I watch: Can we really call Dexter a sociopath at this point?

It's a conversation that I think must happen in the Dexter writers' room on a daily basis. In the pilot, we've got Dex's voiceover telling us, "If I was capable of loving someone, it would be Deb." In the season finale, we've got a widower, father, and vigilante systematically tracking down the men who raped and tortured his lady love.

And boy, does he love her. The finale is full of Dexter professing his love for Lumen, right up until the moment when she walks out that door. He grieves for his wife. He panics when he can't reach his son's nanny. If we were just watching Dexter go through the motions of everyday life, I'd buy it -- but time and time again his voiceover confirms it. He cares. He fears. He feels. I'm not a professional psychologist or anything, but I'm pretty sure that no longer fits the profile for sociopath. Batsh*t crazy, sure -- but sociopath?

Bloggers on the Dexter finale:

  • Megan Smith says, "the showdown with Chase at the camp and the scene with Deb, Lumen, Dexter and the curtain were worth the price of a ticket."
  • Genia Bellafante at the New York Times arts blog says, "The final hour has left me padding about the house exasperated … It all happened awfully quickly and felt sloppy, plottingwise."
  • Claire Zulkey blogging for the LA Times tells Dex, "Don't be sorry your darkness is gone.

So what do you think? Is Dexter growing a heart? Can he still be a heartless killer? What did you think of the finale? I'm still processing it all, so I'm dying to hear what you think. We've got nine months to hypothesize before Season 6 begins.

Contributing Editor Morgan (The818) is a blogger and screenwriter living in Los Angeles.  She overshares her personal life - complete with curse words - at The818.com, talks art and design over at Cargoh.com, and tweets: @the818.

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