Dexter season 4 episode 12 review: season finale

Billy recommends you watch this Dexter season finale with a close friend and a very strong drink…

4.12 The Getaway

I’ve left it 10 hours since I saw the Dexter finale, and I’m still in a degree of shock. Later in this review I’m going to say why, so if you haven’t seen it then please don’t read on. I say that sincerely, because this episode of Dexter has brass clangers of which an African bull elephant would surely be proud.

It starts exactly where episode 11 ended with Arthur stood in the homicide office, and Dexter petrified where this goes next. While Arthur’s been very good at covering up his crimes and terrifying his family, he still doesn’t actually get Dexter. He thinks Dexter’s plan all along was extortion, and that between the two of them, he’s the only serial killer.

As such he warns Dexter off and then goes to get all the money he can from the bank to make his getaway. Dexter is in hot pursuit, driving recklessly while he gets a call from Rita. The old Dexter would have ended the call and avoided the minor road incident that ultimately causes everything to go wrong, but the new caring father tries to handle the information overload. He takes off some guy’s wing mirror, but the red mist has descended and he fails to stop.

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On this occasion he gets really close to killing Arthur, he’s even got him unconscious in his own van, but an irate driver with the cops in tow mucks it all up. For the first time, I think, we see Dexter completely lose control, and he ends up thrown in jail.

What happens here is entirely indicative of the changes that fatherhood and family have wrought on Dexter: he’s juggling too many things and Arthur has slipped through his fingers once more. Perhaps the secret of why he’s never been caught is exactly what it seems, blind luck!

Meanwhile, Debra’s detective work is finally paying off on multiple threads. Not only does she work out who Harry had an affair with, but how her death lead Harry to adopting Dexter. If that wasn’t impressive enough, she also correctly solves the Trinity Killer crimes, working out the home building scheme, the fourth murder, and leading her to Arthur’s home. The timing couldn’t be worse, however, because when the SWAT team turns up there, Dexter is already in the house looking for him.

I’d wondered about the coffin when Arthur made it, but its true purpose was to provide a convenient hiding place for Dexter, while the cops work through the building. He then reveals himself and everyone wonders how he got there so fast.

Actually, some of this awkwardness is masked for Debra because she’s got plenty on her mind, about telling Dexter what he already knows about his own origins. This is beautifully handled scene, with both Hall and Carpenter working the full emotional range of their characters. But inside Dexter is wondering if the event he’s witnessed of the Mitchell’s being lead away are likely to have a repeat with his own family, once his bigger secret is known.

But there are more immediate problems, like a now very mad Arthur looking for Dexter’s home to pay a visit. But he makes one simple mistake, his beloved Mustang that he couldn’t quite part with. He has it repainted and restyled, but it still has the same number plate, presumably. Eventually, Dexter catches up with him, on what looks oddly like the same stretch of road where he totalled his car early in the season.

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The Mustang coughs and splutters to a halt, and when Arthur looks under the hood he’s jumped by Dexter, waking to find himself the prize piece in the collective works of the Trinity Killer. Now he knows the real Dexter, and he’s strangely accepting of his fate. The conversation they have reveals how differently they view their inner demons. Arthur’s destiny was determined by God, apparently, while Dex doesn’t do the destiny thing. The thrust of Dexter’s argument is that he will try to be a better person, even if that means failing at some point. Arthur says he can’t control the passenger, so why try?

This has been the overarching theme of season four, the clash of the inevitable against the choices we make. Arthur accepted his dark passenger’s will long ago, but Dexter wants to think he can control his to some small degree. It’s powerful stuff, and Lithgow gives the words a depth and credence I can’t imagine many other actors could have provided.

In a final professional courtesy, Dexter turns on the train set and the record player before dispatching Arthur, ironically, with his own framing hammer. I looked at the clock. Worryingly there was six minutes of running time left…too long for a cosy epilogue, I feared.

In the run up to killing Arthur, Dexter had arranged a romantic weekend with Rita and instructed her to fly down to the Florida Keys, with him to follow later.

Dexter returns to the house and notices an answer phone message from Rita, she forgot her ID and was forced to come back to the house. What happened next came at this reviewer like an express train on ice. He rings Rita and then her phone rings in her bag just feet away. Then he hears Harrison crying…

Arthur has left Dexter a final goodbye. Sitting on the bathroom floor is Harrison in a pool of Rita’s blood, while she’s lifeless in the bath. I was personally dumbstruck at this point, like it was me finding her dead!

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This has to be the lowest blow I’ve ever seen delivered at the end of a season, and it catches you perfectly. Yes, Rita could be a pain in the ass, but she’s the one that pays the price for the mistakes that Dexter made. He’s finally forced to agree with Arthur, that maybe he can’t escape the fate that’s been created for him when his life was forged by blood. And given the parallels, what does that ultimately mean for Harrison?

What was so brilliant about the way that this was handled was that the carrot of a better, less fraught life for Dexter was hung out there. They played their hacienda motif music to signal the good times are coming, and then they snatched away that future with surgical precision, leaving desolation in its wake. Breathtaking.

But then the whole season for me has been a master class in dramatic TV, from beginning to end. What I’ve really enjoyed has been the development of the characters, but specifically Jennifer Carpenter’s work in transitioning Debra from a slightly splintered identity to a completely holistic personal. That’s been great to watch, as were Michael C. Hall and John Lithgow.

I’d like to think that they’d all get Emmys for their work here, but life is rarely that agreeable. The only minor complaint that I have is that the Angel and Maria plotline didn’t actually lead anywhere. But I can forgive that on the basis that almost everything else that happened linked into the bigger picture, and what a picture it made!

Season 5 was commissioned even before this one was shot, so Dexter will be returning. But how they’ll link into these events is hard to see right now. Will Dexter become a single dad and part-time serial killer, or will he go freelance again?

I’ve no idea, but if it can be only half as good as this and the previous season were, then I’ll have no problems tuning in for another slice of life with Dexter Morgan.

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Read Billy’s take on episode 11 here.