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Dexter: Season 4 - Review

Dexter: Season 4

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

IF YOU thought you had the measure of Dexter by now… think again. Season 4 of this brilliant series toyed with expectation, at first playfully and then devastatingly.

Featuring a mesmerising, chilling nemesis in the form of John Lithgow’s Arthur Mitchell, aka The Trinity Killer, plus more surprise revelations involving the people in Dexter’s personal life, this was a macabre masterclass in sustained tension and pulling the rug out from under you.

At several points throughout the series, just when you thought you knew where things were heading, Dexter succeeded in wrong-footing you, just as the plot did to its main character.

And if that wasn’t enough, it then proceeded to deliver one of the most jaw-dropping finales to any season I can remember in a long time.

Season 4 began, ironically, in slow-burning, almost inconsequential fashion. Things were good in the Dexter household, albeit tired. Dexter’s daily routine was a mess; interrupted by sleepless nights (courtesy of his newborn) and so out of order that there was even a fun alternative play on the show’s opening episode sequence, in which nothing went Dexter’s way.

It was a perfect example of how the show manages to weave moments of black humour into a format that could be deadly serious and therefore nowhere near as engaging.

But it’s what makes Michael C Hall’s Dexter human and relatable – he may be a cold, calculated serial killer, but he’s a flesh and blood creation. Fallible. Likeable. At odds with even life’s simple situations.

Trinity’s presence in these first few episodes was kept to a minimum. But he did serve to enable the return of another past character, Keith Carradine’s now retired FBI agent Frank Lundy, who had been tracking Trinity off the books as a retirement project.

His presence brought fresh romantic complications for Jennifer Carpenter’s Debs Morgan… and the first of the series’ big surprises.

But another of Dexter’s strengths lies in creating strong, compelling personal dramas for every one of its characters. Debra continues to grow in stature with each series, while the likes of Lauren Velez’s Lt LaGuerta, David Zayas’ Angel Batista and Desmond Harrington’s Quinn all get great, involving storylines. Hell, even CS Lee’s Vince Masuka got several moments in the spotlight, especially during this season’s memorable Thanksgiving episode.

Of the relationships to develop, the one between Batista and LaGuerta was as surprising (at first) as it was nicely played, offering respite from the darker material that still came with its own tensions.

And Dexter’s own marriage was put through the wringer, as Rita (Julie Benz) became increasingly more aware of Dexter’s darker side and sought to confront it at every opportunity.

The second half of the series, however, became more about Dexter’s relationship with Trinity which, in turn, placed fresh focus on his own ‘dark passenger’ and his relationship with his late father, Harry (James Remar). Trinity’s presence, his cover, and his conflicted personality mirrored Dexter’s in many ways and offered fascinating new directions for Hall’s character to test himself.

Accordingly, Hall was more than equal to the challenge, displaying hitherto untapped uncertainties in Dexter and the capacity to make mistakes. As he drew closer to Trinity and his own family, his ability to stay focused became increasingly strained… culminating in a frantic and often warped final few episodes in which the full extent of Trinity’s evil became clear.

The battle of wits that ensued between the two men was truly mesmerising… and so well played that you never could be totally sure Dexter was on top.

Lithgow, for his part, was equally superb… by turns pure evil and yet a somehow tortured soul who made Dexter’s ‘sympathy’ and fascination for him totally believable.

The final two hours of this season were truly gripping, as Dexter and Trinity took it in turns to get one over each other. And then just when you thought, once again, that you had it all figured out the show went and delivered that finale.

Trust us, you do not want to miss out on seeing television this good.

Certificate: 18
Episodes: 12
UK DVD Release: November 29, 2010