Dexter - The Big One (S05E12) - Episode review

Tick tick tick. It's over. Do you ever get that feeling after a season finale that you shouldn't be reviewing it yet, because you've not finished processing it? That's how I feel about the [[Dexter (TV Series)|Dexter]] Season 5 ending.

The Big One started off like a teetering Jenga stack - one wrong move and Dexter's life threatened to unravel quickly and permanently. We had the fetid corpse of crooked cop Stan Liddy in a van awaiting discovery. We had Debra hot on the heels of Jordan Chase - just as Lumen was plunging a heavy duty blade into his chest. Quinn was in the frame for murdering Liddy, but was holding his tongue about his relationship with Liddy. Dexter's annoying in-laws arrived to further complicate matters, and Ghost Of Harry was breathing down Dexter's neck about being inscrutable.

It's possible the sequence of the season finale was a little too neat. You could almost feel the plot points being ticked off a list as they were resolved.

The cat and mouse game between Dexter and Jordan Chase wrapped up incredibly quickly, Dexter gaining the upper hand on Chase for the first time this season. The inevitable kill was swiftly and brutally executed, beginning with that knife nailing Chase's foot to the floor while Dex overpowered him. Lumen showed Chase that she was no longer the cowering terrified victim as she passionately ended his life, but showed her lack of experience by continuing to shout at his corpse and slap his face. First sign of trouble in serial killer paradise right there.

On the main storyline, the next BIG POINT was Dexter and Lumen getting caught red handed by Debra. Except she couldn't see them through thick plastic sheeting. I was willing her to walk through and see her brother with a hunting knife in his hands. And I felt cheated when she didn't. There's a very good breakdown on the AV Club which lays into the producers for not exposing Dexter at this point.

I realize that the show has been building to Deb's acceptance of Lumen's vigilante kills all season long, and on a show that wasn't transparently trying to stretch out its length with bullshit maneuvers, I might have enjoyed the scene where she runs across the vigilante and has a chance to just let them walk away, then takes it. But it's such a nakedly desperate attempt to bring someone THAT MUCH CLOSER to catching Dexter without actually doing so that it rankles. It's properly built to, and on its own, it might be a nice little scene, but it also feels completely ridiculous, tossed into the episode solely to give a sense of something happening, while ultimately preserving the status quo.

It's at this point that I think we were all hoping for a little bit more - something permanent to happen to Dexter that might change the game next season. Lumen staying would have given him a partner in crime, but as I predicted her desire to kill evaporated in that last act of revenge and she sailed off into the sunset. Even Debra being a confidant for Dexter would have been an interesting development, knowing he was a killer, being able to use him when a case didn't have enough evidence to lead to a conviction.

Killer Quinn?

Even Quinn, who owes Dexter no loyalty whatsoever, decided to button his lips in order to avoid implicating Dexter in Liddy's murder. I don't understand this at all. Because if Dexter knows about Liddy, he also knows that Quinn was involved. And if Dexter killed Liddy, then surely he had every reason to want to kill Quinn as well. What I'm saying is that Quinn's actions, his motivations make no sense at all. He just wants to sit and wait for Dexter to make a move.

And likewise, Dexter clearing Quinn is inexplicable. What message does that send to Quinn? I covered for you, buddy. And yet he admits to Debra that he can't stand Quinn. I'd watching it again, but I suspect a second viewing won't add any logic to this sub-plot.

Bye Bye Lumen

One thing worked very well here - Lumen's exit. Yes, I'd predicted it weeks ago, but Julia Stiles and Michael C Hall made those final scenes every bit as intense as they needed to be.

As I see the character of Dexter, he's been conditioned to think he's different from the rest of humanity, to think that he can never fit in. But at the heart of his character is a struggle to be accepted somewhere. Last year, he had an attraction to Arthur Mitchell, seeing a serial killer who had a normal family life. Perhaps seeing a father figure or role model that he never had with Harry Morgan.

This year, he finds love with a damaged woman who he can share his deepest secrets with. Imagine the release that must give him! A co-conspirator, a lover, never needing to hide his activities like he had to with Rita. Of course, it was inevitable that Lumen's desire to kill would end with the death of Jordan Chase (if she didn't get herself killed in the process). I'd imagine Dexter feeling betrayed, abandoned and slightly used by this woman who he saved from a barrel-based fate.

The ongoing problem is how Dexter will continue into his sixth season. AV Club says that the series is locked into a holding pattern that'll only end whenever the titular character decides to move on or Showtime decide to shut it down. That's fair comment. Something needs to raise the stakes in the show, permanently. Whether it's Dexter getting partially exposed or fully discovered, something needs to give. 

Overall though, it's been an interesting season for Dexter. I can appreciate the challenges Rita's death raised for the writers, and the idea of atoning for her death by helping Lumen is inspired. And while the season started out rather slow and deflated, it quickly regained its usual levels to tension and fun.

Dexter quotes

  • Jordan Chase: Nice try, the unemotional approach. But it's not working for you. You're stressed. I can hear it in your voice. She really means a lot to you.
  • Jordan Chase: Tick, tick, tick Dexter. That's the sound of Lumen's life running out.
  • Ghost of Harry: It's right in front of you. Remember your target, where he came from, who he was.
  • Ghost of Harry: Don't underestimate your adversary Dexter, not again.
  • Lumen: You don't get to use my name!
  • Debra: Maybe it's true that some people deserve to die, but I'm a cop and I don't make that f*cking decision.
  • Dexter: Don't be sorry your darkness is gone. I'll carry it for you. I'll keep it with mine.
The cast of Dexter are: Dexter Morgan (Michael C Hall), Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), Harry Morgan (James Remar), Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez), Angel Batista (David Zayas), Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee), Joey Quinn (Desmond Harrington). Guest stars Julia Stiles as Lumen Pierce, Jonny Lee Miller as Jordan Chase and Peter Weller as Stan Liddy)
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