Being a Dexter fan hasn’t been easy lately. The last two seasons of the Showtime serial killer series have been lackluster at best, weighed down by uninspired villains, silly soap opera subplots, and the kind of slooooow pacing that could put Nyquil out of business. Actually, ever since Season 4′s Holy S—! Trinity Killer cliffhanger finale, where Julie Benz’s Rita was — do I even need to say “spoiler alert”? — discovered dead in a bloody bathtub with her infant son, Harrison, nearby, Dexter has been coasting on the awesomeness of that one scene.
But it’s been two seasons since now. Two long seasons since John Lithgow’s Trinity Killer made the little hairs on the backs of our necks stand up and salute. Since then, Dexter has been struggling to find its groove. As interesting and quirky as it might have been at first to have Michael C. Hall playing a single father needing to carve out some quality time with his “Dark Passenger”, the show became stale, repetitive, and lazy. And Miami Metro, always one of the more colorful work places on TV, turned into a lame sitcom location like the offices of Blush magazine on Just Shoot Me!.
For me, the low point was Season Five, where Dexter teamed up with Julia Stiles’ less-than-memorable Lumen. She’s like the world’s most depressing wingman. And she doesn’t even seem all that interested in learning the ins and outs of Dex’s “Code”. Meanwhile, one of the show’s more annoying characters, Desmond Harrington’s swaggering cop Quinn, becomes suspicious of Dexter in Rita’s death. Superficially, there was a lot to work with there. But it all felt like a groggy hangover after the fizzy, tipsy high of the previous season’s what-the-hell ending. It was a downer. Most fans I know, though, were willing to cut Dex and Co. some slack. After all, anything would pale in comparison to the Trinity Killer, right?
Then came last year’s Season 6, where Dexter went mano a mano with the Doomsday Killer — a Revelations-inspired crackpot. It should have been great. After all, who doesn’t love a scripture-spouting madman? Too bad he was played by… Colin Hankszzzzzzz. The season did have some memorable moments. The murder tableaus were very cool (especially the one with the corpse whose torso was stuffed with live snakes and the slo-mo parade of headless horsemen). But a few groovy shocks weren’t enough to turn the show around. Nothing about the season felt urgent. Especially with so many other great shows competing for our attention on Sunday night.
Then, just when I was ready to call it a day on Dexter, along came Season 6′s kickass cliffhanger finale. Just when I thought I was out, Dex pulled me back in. As Dex is about to plunge a machete into the chest of Hanks laying on the altar of an abandoned church, wrapped in plastic, his sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) walks in. Finally, after six seasons of staying one step ahead of everyone, he was busted!
During last week’s Season 7 premiere, the table was set for what I’m hoping will be Dexter‘s return to greatness…or at least very goodness. Only time will tell, of course. But so far, I’m cautiously optimistic. For starters, I like that Deb (always the best character on the show) is finally hip to Dex’s secret. Their relationship will have to change. Now that she knows Dex is a serial killer, how will he react? Will he make her feel guilty since her father was the one who shaped him into a bloodthirsty freak? Will Dex convince her to cover up for him and maybe even make her complicit in future crimes? Or will Dex react like a cornered bull and be forced to get rid of the only person who’s really ever meant anything to him? It could go a lot of different ways. In the meantime, I’m also hoping that the show’s writers manage to hatch up another top-notch baddie — someone on par with Lithgow and Season 3′s Jimmy Smits.
I’m not sitting on any spoilers for this season. I’m totally in the dark. Which is exactly where I want to be. Come on, Dexter. I’m rooting for you to make me a believer again before The Walking Dead Starts up.