5.1 My Bad
For those entirely devoid of the common sense to watch the latter part of Dexter season 4, it was probably some of the finest TV in the last decade, up there with the best.
But the finale was so emotionally draining, and yet astonishingly poignant, that I’ve still yet to come to terms with it on a number of levels.
For me, it was like doing something bad as a child that you can’t hide, and must handle the consequences for doing. And you run it through in your head playing out the worst possible outcome, and each time you do you realise some previously unconsidered fall-out.
The death of Rita is exactly one of those scenarios, and from the outset of the season opener you realise that its shadow is going to fall over season 5 like the sun got blotted out by a giant spaceship.
Dexter’s character is nothing but practical, and his reaction to her death is a matter-of-fact problem for him, and his attempts to simulate being ‘human’, as he puts it. In many situations, he’s been able to fudge emotional responses, but My Bad goes to the core of his limitations in this respect. His wife has just been murdered, but he’s thinking that his boat needs refuelling.
I’ve seen many people who have become blank sheets when confronted with the sudden death of a loved one, but Dexter’s reaction is beyond shock, and people start to notice his disconnection. This is beautifully observed in the extremely difficult scene where he has to tell Rita’s children and parents that she’s died, where he is seemingly oblivious to delivering this type of bad news while wearing Mickey Mouse ears. It’s one of those things where a voice deep in most of us shouts, “That’s so wrong!”
Yet, what’s so superb about this show is that, as much as it goes predictably awry, it suddenly turns right around and almost scolds the audience for being so entirely heartless to think that Rita’s death hasn’t deeply affected Dexter on any level. The acting craft in this by Michael C. Hall is some of his most subtle yet, and his final realisation that, despite his sociopathic disabilities, he actually fell in love, with Rita is both moving and triumphant. Okay, so he had to kill some punk by bludgeoning him with a small boat anchor to cross that boundary, but here that’s just a detail in the bigger picture.
There are a couple of other interesting aspects to this story, one of which is that, despite her character being dead, Julie Benz gets a decent amount of new scenes when Dexter remembers how they first met. She never knew that he was actually stalking someone else in the eatery they visited, or that she rang him later while he was dumping the body. The other curiosity is that there’s no obvious candidate as Dexter’s seasonal threat, although the FBI are interested to talk to him about Rita’s death. That said, plenty happens in this story, and I’m sure the greater scope of Dexter’s challenge might crystallise in the very next episode.
Dexter, I’ve decided, is like one of those people you don’t mind turning up unannounced at your door. The ones that you’re welcome to see and never overstay their welcome. It’s great to have this show back on TV, and I can’t wait for the next eleven slices, because the track record of this show dictates that they’ll come easily off the bone!