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‘Dexter’ recap: Don’t be sorry your darkness is gone

December 12, 2010 | 10:00 pm

Dexter_511_0531 Those who tuned in to the “Dexter” finale hoping to see a jaw-dropping cliffhanger to top last season’s may have been disappointed. I admit I am not necessarily always a fan of “full circle” season finales (so neat and tidy), but despite my initial “That’s it?” reaction, I realize it was actually a very solid finale. In some ways, like with the finale of the show “The Big C,” I liked the finale more than the majority of the season.

The episode begins with Dexter tracking down Jordan and Lumen, but before he can even leave the apartment, his entire family shows up to surprise him with Harrison’s birthday party. It was a rather ridiculous scenario but it set up a theme for the first half of the finale: Dexter’s going to have to let a lot of people down. Astor, suddenly friendly and polite, asks Dexter if he’ll have breakfast with them, and if she and Cody can live with him for the summer.  Sorry, Astor, Dexter doesn’t have time for your love — he needs to find Lumen. 

Dexter gives Jordan Chase a call and the two have a sassy little conversation, just two smooth criminals, that reminded me a little bit of the give-and-take between Sherlock and Moriarty in PBS’ “Sherlock.”  Dexter doesn’t know where they’re going but a fruit vendor hears Lumen kicking and hollering in Jordan’s trunk as he zooms off in his jerky black BMW. 

The next scene tied more of the season’s story lines together, as Dexter finds Deb, back at work, watching the torture videos from Jordan and Co., obsessed because she too had experience at the hands of a psycho — Rudy, Dexter’s brother. Dexter ponders, again, “Is this what I do, curse everyone around me?”

Before Dexter can go find Lumen (now letting her down in addition to Deb and the rest of his family), the Miami police are called to the site of Liddy’s murder. Right before they leave, Dexter and Quinn exchange a little glance: the “I know you’re involved, but how…?”  interaction between Dex and Quinn was amusing. This was a great scene in general, not just because of the cool police speedboat (how come they don’t take that all the time?) but because Dexter had to examine one of his own murders, praising the genius of the killer.

At the crime scene, Laguerta figures out that Quinn’s likely connected to the murder thanks to the blood she sees on his shoe.  Quinn requests to speak to a lawyer, and he’s taken away, giving Dexter the opportunity to smash the window of a shiny red car (the better to crash in slow-mo with), which he hot-wires in order to get Lumen.  At this point in the finale I was really excited: Not a scene of the show had been wasted.

Jordan finally pulls Lumen out of the trunk so he can torture her at the old summer camp where Eugene Greer found himself and his new name.  They get reacquainted; he notes that she’s braver than she used to be, and while he just used to “like to watch,” like her, perhaps he changed.  Right after Jordan  makes as if to bite Lumen’s face like an apple, she kicks him and runs off, but he speedwalks after her and grabs her. Jordan’s character and Jonny Lee Miller’s personification of him here reminded me of Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho," compelling and unpredictable and frightening. Miller really stepped it up as Jordan Chase in tonight’s finale.  I had been enjoying him as the bad guy all season, but in the finale he showed us a really engagingly twisted psychopath. He was creepy and charming at the same time, and a little funny too. He clearly seemed to think that he, Dexter and Lumen were part of some ménage-à-trois of blood. 

Dexter, having found the camp, crashes his red car spectacularly. He climbs out, and just when all signs point to him not being able to get to Lumen in time, Jordan steps in to save the day to bring Dexter to Lumen for him and tie them both up.  See, Jordan didn’t care that much about Lumen on her own: he wanted her and Dexter.

Everything looks dire for Dex and Lumen, when along comes Deb, thanks to the tip from the fruit vendor.  For a moment I thought Deb would have to save Dexter and Lumen, but they get the best of Jordan before she arrives, with Lumen stabbing Jordan herself (I liked how Jordan was unimpressed and unafraid up until the end).

Instead, Deb arrives in time to see Jordan’s dead body on the table, but, spotting Dexter and Lumen through a translucent screen, decides to give them a head start before she calls in their murder, assuming they’re the vigilante team that’s been taking out Jordan and Co.  I liked that Deb was still a cop but got to use the pain and damage she’s gone through for good. 

Newly lightened, Deb gives Quinn the benefit of the doubt and decides to believe him when he says he didn’t kill Liddy. Later, seeing how much his sister loves Quinn, Dexter fudges the bloodwork.  Did Quinn know Dexter did that on purpose? And did Deb know that Dex and Lumen were the vigilantes?

Dex and Lumen have a little smilefest after they deposit Jordan’s body parts into the sea, but you know Dexter can’t be content and happy for too long. The next morning he putters around in the kitchen, excited for the family party, talking about how he’s something of a “breakfast connoisseur” (“Really, you should check out the intro to my television series,” he said).  Lumen then bursts his bubble: Now it’s time for her to go home. Since she’s killed Jordan, her dark passenger is gone and she’s a different person, different from Dexter and so they must separate to his dismayed understanding. Later, at Harrison’s birthday party, Dexter eyes all the happy couples and blows out Harrison’s birthday candle for him, wishing for the chance to be human.

Part of what I liked about this episode was that it was just easy on the eyes: It was one of the most beautifully-shot episodes of "Dexter," clearly with a gigantic budget — boats, swooping crane shots, an extremely unnecessary and over-the-top but still-cool-looking car wreck.  I especially enjoyed the seaside scenes, which looked more natural than a lot of the sometimes overlit and oversaturated “Hey, this show’s set in Miami!” episodes. 

In some ways the finale was totally predictable in that Dexter and Lumen had their final showdown with Jordan and Lumen disappeared into the sunset. I initially felt a little disappointed that the season ended on such a tidy note, but some things have to come full circle, I think, and perhaps it’s more promising to think of Dexter having a fresh set of issues next season rather than picking up something that happened in Sunday’s episode.  Maybe the writers just didn’t want to try to top last season’s over-the-top finale, which I respect (“It was all a dream!”) 

Plus, Dexter’s finally broken a chain of relationships that end in blood and death, partially thanks to Deb learning, with Laguerta’s help, to be merciful and have faith and not just barge around expecting the worst from everyone.  So this “clean slate” thing may open up the next season as Dexter actually has the chance to figure out on his own what to do next, and not have his destiny foisted on him by someone else’s death. 

Were you happy with the finale? Was there anything (within reason) that you hoped would happen that didn’t? Did anything surprise you?

-- Claire Zulkey (Talk to me: @Zulkey)

Michael C. Hall as Dexter and Angela Bettis as Emily Birch. Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime