, the show and the character, has gone through some rough terrain the last couple of seasons. While Rita's death put a breathtaking, brilliant and horrific stamp on the end of season 4, most fans agreed that Dexter
season 5 paid the price with a mopey Dexter more interested in self-pity than serial-killing, a group of girl-murdering gang rapists whose methods were scary but sloppy, and who could never approach the creepy evil genius of one Arthur Mitchell (John Lithgow), and ... Lumen
(Julia Stiles), probably the dullest and least inspiring conspirator Dexter's ever had, especially for a character named after light.
But that was then, and this is season 6 -- a whole year since the Lumen storyline, and a clean slate for Dexter
(again, the show and
the character). Longtime fans have often griped that each season of Dexter
is self-contained; that no matter the mess Dexter makes, the show always finds its way back to status quo by the end of the season (Rita's murder aside). But in this case, I think fans will be happy to leave the non-starter storylines of season 5 far behind and start fresh with Miami's favorite serial killer, who's back to his old ways, but not without new complications -- new, ominous complications that will grow into a genuinely riveting season of Dexter
, if Sunday's premiere, "Those Kinds of Things," is any indication.
Watch 2 Clips from Sunday's Dexter Season 6 Premiere
I'm not usually bothered by spoilers, but when it comes to Dexter
, a show that works so artfully to reveal its twists at its own pace and on its own terms, I find myself extra-sensitive, not wanting to give too much, if anything, away. But you probably already know that this season will dive into the bottomless quicksand pit that is religion (at least that's what it can often turn into, when TV shows try to deal with it) and at times in the first episode, the theme's introduction can feel a little contrived. Like an actual nun asking Dexter while standing in front of a crucifix, "What exactly do you believe in, Mr. Morgan?"
contrived. It so happens that Dexter is at her Catholic school, trying to secure a spot -- and a seed of normalcy -- for Harrison, so I guess she has a right to ask. (And, as a raised Catholic myself, I have to admit that subtlely isn't really the religion's strong suit.)
But the promise of a vigilante serial killer trying to figure out what, if anything, he believes in, outweighs the rather heavy-handed beginning of the religious element, which doesn't feel shoehorned-in for long. This, thanks to another, more sinister introduction to a new pair of serial killers (played by a quietly imperious Edward James Olmos and his creepy, willing lackey Colin Hanks) who cite scripture as they begin on what is sure to be a series of stomach-turning murders, in the name of ... some divine purpose. The exact map of their madness is out of reach just yet, but let's just say that their
rituals make Dexter's murder methodology look modest and undramatic. Religion clearly won't always be a menacing force in season 6 -- Dexter seems genuinely interested, if perplexed, by the idea of divinity -- but in the hands of Olmos and Hanks, it's going to be a dark and bloody road to salvation. Or whatever it is they're after.
All this makes for an exciting and ominous opening to season 6, but I'd be leading you astray if I let you think the hour is all fire and brimstone. At its best, Dexter
knows how to mine Dexter's confusion about normal human behavior for dark humor, and "Those Kinds of Things" does just that, thanks to Dexter turning his high school reunion into a hunting trip. There's also the requisite human interest with the rest of the cast: LaGuerta, Angel, Deb, Quinn and Masuka all have new things going on at work and at home, some more interesting (Deb, Masuka) than others. If you're invested in their storylines, you'll probably like the changes. If you're not, they probably won't distract and annoy you too much.
When it comes down to it, even a disappointing season of Dexter
is better than most things on TV. But from what I've seen, this season has already set itself up to become more compelling than season 5 ever was. I don't want to say the series has been "born again," because that's cheesy and stupid and not really an appropriate metaphor for a show about serial killers. And there are so many burgeoning mysteries and opening doors, there's really no telling where Dexter
season 6 will go.
But I have faith.(Image courtesy of Showtime)