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'Dexter' recap: Goodbye, Rita Bennett. Goodbye, Dexter Morgan

September 26, 2010 | 10:00 pm

Dexter_501_1424 After the last season of “Dexter,” when John Lithgow, as the Trinity Killer, took the scenery, chewed it up, spit it out and then let it bleed to death in the bathtub, it was hard to imagine where the show could go next. By having Trinity kill Rita, Dexter’s wife, the show’s writers not only left the season on an unbelievable high note of a shocker, they provided a great setup for this fifth season. How will Rita’s death affect Dexter’s role as a father, killer, police department employee and functioning member of society? After all, Rita was Dexter’s main link to a normal life.

The season opens with Dexter in total shock, clutching little blood-covered Harrison on the front lawn as the police show up, saying, inexplicably, “It was me” when the police show up. This of course promises to set Dexter up as a potential suspect in the case, and for the first time seems to make Deb really question what’s going on in her brother’s head. Deb steps up in a big way in the episode, taking care of the unpleasant business following Rita’s death. In the meantime, Dexter’s co-workers are upset when the FBI takes over the case, but that was fine by me because the Miami Metro Police Department has always been one of my least-favorite parts of the series. I like Masuka’s dirty sense of humor but did he need to make a sex joke while Rita was still lying dead in the tub? And Quinn questions Dexter’s lack of emotion during the whole ordeal -- has he never seen a family member in shock before? And while I can perhaps understand Deb’s desperation when she has sex with Quinn, that lady always and forever has the worst taste in romantic partners.

I’ve always loved Dexter’s awkward attempts to act human, and this episode throws him back several steps. He’s grieving and in shock after Rita’s death, but he also has his first experience with people who are simply dead, not murdered. Dexter studies the funeral director (I was on the lookout for any winks towards “Six Feet Under” in this scene, but even without them it was fun seeing Michael C. Hall basically confront his old David Fisher character) for how one is supposed to act around mourning people.

“This is how normal people do it,” Dexter muses, as he, all in pastels, infiltrates a funeral filled with black-plaid family members. “No Hefty bags, no diesel fumes.” His attempts to utilize the funeral director’s language just comes off horribly (or from my point of view, wonderfully) stiff and robotic as he says “I’m sorry for your loss” to Cody, Astor and Rita’s parents when they return from Disney World, his delivery rendered even creepier by the Mickey Mouse ears they’ve placed on his head. 

Astor’s never been Dexter’s No. 1 fan and she hates him even more now, as her only parent, link to her mother, and worst-bad-news-breaker ever, so Dexter not only needs to figure out how to take care of his own feelings but the kids’ now too. The episode is filled with flashbacks to Dexter’s and Rita’s first date, an awkward affair back when he was even less sure of how humans interacted, made even stranger by his hidden agenda of tracking a potential murder victim.

Agreeing with Astor’s assessment that life was better before he came along, Dexter makes the decision to secretly leave the family, asking Deb to love Harrison as her own. He gets rid of as much evidence as he can of his existence and suddenly we’re back to the beginning with Dexter, on the Slice of Life with that happy Latin music playing as he contemplates a new beginning. This seems like an epically bad decision, as Rita’s family, his co-workers and the FBI are all waiting for him at the funeral, but part of me loved the idea of Dexter just blowing town and starting completely over.  After he encounters an unfriendly stranger at a gas station though and gains a bit of catharsis the only way he knows how, Harry finally appears and Dexter knows he must go back.

I’ve watched the first three episodes of the season and I’m excited to see more. Bodies pile up and new characters come onto the scene. I’m not sure that anything can top Trinity in terms of delightful over-the-top creepiness, but so far the season’s moving at a snappy pace with clever writing and good twists. As always, the drama at Miami Metro is a distant second to that in Dexter’s life, but thus far it doesn’t seem to compete with our favorite serial killer, who has to pick up the pieces and move on, or at least appear that way.

-- Claire Zulkey

Jennifer Carpenter as Debora Morgan and Michael C. Hall as Dexter. Photo: Sonja Flemming/Showtime