Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: Dexter - The Getaway (season finale)

don't care what the issue is, what topic I'm discussing, or what area of my life needs improvement. If Jennifer Carpenter, the actress who plays Debra Morgan on Dexter, has the answer for me, I'm going to follow it to a tee.

That's because she can correctly predict the emotional outcome of any situation, including I should really have her sit in on my next IRS audit. Chances are if she can't help me cope with the soul crushing inevitability of my pending financial breakdown, she can curse out the auditor and leave him in a bigger sadness heap than I'll be in.

The whole episode took me through a range of gut-wrenching and tense emotions that my stomach didn't know it had until the very shocking ending left me empty and sad for our hero, even though he finally wiped that human stain of evil, Arthur Mitchell, off the face of the Earth. If you didn't watch last night's episode and hate it when mean, heartless bloggers like me spoil those endings for you, do not, I repeat, DO NOT READ ANYTHING BEYOND THIS POINT.

The episode picks up right where the last one left off as predicted and hoped. Arthur is staring Dexter down with that smug killer smile that lets him know he's always going to be one step ahead of him, even if Dexter knows he eventually isn't. The two exchange some unpleasant pleasantries, and the hunt is officially on. Dexter races down to his car, has the most physical scuffle with Quinn to date and chases the Trinity Killer's tail with the tenacity of a hungry lion that finally knows what his stomach is craving. Things get a little predictable here since Dexter always makes a mistake when he's rushed or trying to make up for a previous mistake. In this case, it's fleeing the scene of a minor accident he caused while talking to Rita on his cell and driving after Arthur. Too bad Harry didn't include "use a hands-free device" in his Code.

The interesting part is when Dexter leaves Arthur in the van while dealing with the police and the irate driver he hit. He gives him his usual dose of magic happy knock-out drugs and leaves him in Arthur's van but gets nicked by the fuzz for letting his anger get the best of him. Dear sweet Rita picks him up and Dexter starts to have a real human moment and realizes that unlike Arthur, Dexter's wife and kids are more than just a mask to him. Of course, his "Dark Passenger," played by the divine image of Dexter's father Harry, actually puts his family in the enemy column. Dexter's role as a father has made for a weird fit that has taken some getting used to, but this season he's learned how to embrace and connect with every member of his family up to Rita. That's why it hurts so much to watch her die.

The first 45 minutes leading up to the total shocker of an ending were also well paced and timed. It stretched things out without warping anything and even lost its sense of time since I felt this pain in my gut as Arthur drove out of town in a newly detailed '65 Mustang (is it wrong that I want that car even more after this episode?) with road tunes blaring on the stereo. It had me believing that Arthur would get away. I had to check my TiVo and remind myself I still had 20 minutes of the episode left to go.

Meanwhile, Debra picks up her CI cases after being ordered to recuperate and realizes the home of one of Harry's CI lovers was also the home where the Ice Truck Killer stashed her from the first season. She eventually puts two and two together and learns the Ice Truck Killer was Dexter's biological brother. It sets up an interesting storyline for season five that doesn't seem to have much traction now since she doesn't seem to know much beyond his biological relations, but every good story rolls along small before it snowballs into a full-blown boulder.

Then as Dexter returns home to head out on the honeymoon he and Rita never had, he comes to terms with his love and devotion to Rita and it's taken away from him just as fast as it came to him. He finds Rita dead in the bathtub filled with watery blood and his infant son Harrison sitting in a puddle of his mother's bloody mess teary and crying, the same way Harry found him all those years ago. It really hurt. I mean it physically hurt to watch Rita die in such a cruel and inhumane way. Her faults aside, she's been the sweetest and most likable character of this funky bunch and the least deserving of such a horrific end. The whole scene left me still in my wingback leather chair. I could hear my pulse in my head reminding me that I'm still alive. It made for great television.

First of all, it gave a great big swipe to all those naysayers who wished that Dexter would kill Rita to keep the marriage/family angle from taking over the show. Sure she may have been an obstacle from keeping Dexter from doing what he does best, but she also brought a great deal of heart and genuineness to such a dark show and helped Dexter realize, however indirectly, that even the darkest heart is capable of love. I hope Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker cried himself so hard that he became trapped under a mountain of used Kleenex and a team of excavators had to rescue him Baby Jessica style.

It also sets up an interesting plot line for the fifth season, or as Michael C. Hall put it in the show's post interview with John Lithgow, "a bold stroke for resetting the stage, whatever that may be."