Dexter closed out its sixth season on Sunday night with an episode that attempted to redeem the uneven, overloaded, even peculiar quality of what had come before it. The 12th episode, titled “This Is the Way the World Ends,” only lived up to the finish of that familiar phrase.
There was so much foreshadowing of danger for Dexter’s little son Harrison that it eventually became just plain shadow — a pall cast over any possible suspense. By now, you kinda know that whenever there are a lot of tender scenes between father and son (Dexter taking part in Harrison’s Noah’s Ark pageant, both of them dressed as lions; Dexter getting the child ready for bed, telling him how much he loves him), that there’s no way anything is going to happen to the tyke. In fact, the more danger loomed for Harrison — madman Travis (poor Colin Hanks, doing the best he could under the wooden-dialogue circumstances) stalking through the kid’s nursery, caressing a photograph of Dexter and Harrison — the more I felt relieved that we weren’t going to have to see another member of Dexter’s family die.
The hour let the red herrings pile up until they stank like the corpses in the house in which Travis had killed two people. What was all that stuff during the latter half of the season about intern Louis, the new videogame he’d designed, his grudge against Dexter for criticizing his videogame, this theft of the severed hand? Fake out… or rather, fake suspense left dangling until next season.
And what about the incest-y theme that’s rendered Deb a far less strong character in every way this season? The idea was to make her seem more vulnerable, but asking Deb to act as though she has feelings for her non-blood-relation brother was just mildly icky and damply mawkish. (Also, as my colleague James Hibberd said to me, kinda sadistic, to have Jennifer Carpenter suddenly making longing goo-goo eyes to her ex-husband Michael C. Hall.) Every scene between Deb and her therapist has been ridiculously overwrought. “I finally told my brother that I love him and he said he loves me back!… I’m in love with him!” And in a line that seems to have been written for TV critics to respond to: “Is this just horribly wrong?” Okay, Deb, I’ll bite: Yes, yes, it is horribly wrong, for the quality of Dexter.
Dexter finally got Travis on his killing table, but not before he had to utter what is possibly the hokiest line in Dexter history: Making a sign of the cross over his latest victim, Dexter intoned, “I am a father, a son, a serial killer.” Holy Ghost! I mean, holy smokes! How cornball.
The season, we know from previous ones, must end on a big reveal, and since the show couldn’t follow through on what it had set up in its text — given the religious invocations, the son (Harrison) should have walked in on the father administering vengeance. But instead, we got Deb walking into the scene just as Dexter plunged his knife into Travis. The eyes of brother and sister met, and… I don’t think it was love they were feeling for each other at that moment. Or any time soon in the future, I hope.
Is there any way to redeem Dexter Morgan — and Dexter itself — next season?