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Review #3044: Dexter 6.1: “Those Kinds of Things”

Posted on the 04 October 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

Throughout its lifetime, “Dexter” has had enough greatness to make me a loyal fan. But to a certain extent, season 6 of “Dexter” is something of a “make-or-break” season for me. Seasons 4 and 5 seemed to be finally pushing the show in new directions, and the hope was that “Dexter” could finally break from its formulaic storytelling and shake up the status quo. Unfortunately, the show fell back into old habits in the season 5 finale.

Review #3044: Dexter 6.1: “Those Kinds of Things”

And yet, I keep coming back for more. Despite all the show’s problems, there’s still enough to like about it that I just can’t stop watching. Like past seasons, this one has plenty of potential for intriguing storytelling. We’ve been told that this season will attempt to “return to the show to its roots”. What this means, essentially, is a soft reboot for the show. In the premiere, Astor and Cody are nowhere to be found. Dexter is no longer mourning over Rita, and is back to his regular routine of efficiently murdering murderers, while looking at the human race from more of an outside perspective.

I do worry that what little progress has been made in evolving the Dexter character will be abandoned. As much as I might enjoy seeing Dexter return to his more emotionless, psychopathic roots, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Dexter has been heavily humanized over the course of the show. The influence Rita, Astor, Cody, and Harrison have had on him is significant, to say the least. And though I may never have warmed up to Lumen, I did think that she too played an important role in Dexter’s evolution.

It’s a little early for me to say whether I like how the season premiere fits into the bigger picture, but I can say that I enjoyed it quite a bit on its own merits. As all the marketing promised, the big theme for the season is “religion”. Part of me wondered if the show should be attempting to tackle such a polarizing subject. But after watching the premiere, I’m rather pleased with the results. In fact, I’m a little surprised that I’m not seeing more viewers who were offended by the content, as it seemed to be fairly critical of religion in some parts. Oddly, most viewers whose comments I’ve read seem to interpret the show as being somewhat sympathetic toward religion, which isn’t exactly the impression I got.

Watching Dexter trying to grasp religion is hilarious. He was never raised with any type of religious influence, so the whole concept seems completely alien and unnecessary to him. Of course, this isn’t the first time Dexter has encountered baffling human behavior. Most people in the United States claim to have some kind of religious belief. So to Dexter, religion is just another odd human quirk which he must learn to understand and emulate, so he can blend in. Dexter thinks that religion will help hide the fact that he’s so emotionless and “cold”, as Deb puts it. I found it easy to relate to Dexter’s attempts to understand religion. It could be argued that he’s a bit anti-religious, but I saw him as being primarily apathetic to it. He’d never even bothered to consider religion before, and now he’s being forced to evaluate it for Harrison’s sake.

Dexter admits to having no personal need for religion, and indeed, it seems rather ridiculous to him from what little he’s learned of it. But since believing in “something” seems to be so important to most people, Dexter wonders whether Harrison will need it in order to have a normal childhood. If Dexter were living somewhere else in the US (say Portland or Seattle) or in the UK, he wouldn’t be dealing with this issue at all. His being an atheist would be seen as completely normal. It’s always a bit chilling to me to see children being raised with a specific belief system, but this is a very real issue. Considering the religious angle of this season’s main serial killers, maybe Dexter will decide, by the end of the season, to simply raise Harrison with critical thinking skills and let him decide for himself what he wants to believe.

Aside from my curiosity over how the show would tackle the subject of religion, I was also intrigued by the casting; Edward James Olmos being the most interesting casting choice, of course. Alongside Olmos, there’s Colin Hanks, who I’ve never seen play this type of role before. The two men play a couple of religiously-motivated serial killers, with one serving as a mentor and the other as a kind of protégé. Their motivations are pretty ambiguous, as of yet. But given the Revelation quotes and ritualistic murders, I’m more than a little reminded of cult classic TV show “Millennium”, a show that was heavily inspired by films like “Silence of the Lambs” and “SE7EN”. Additionally, one Showtime executive mentioned Dan Brown when describing the season.

Multiple people with knowledge of the season, including Edward James Olmos and David Zayas, have stated that season 6 is probably the darkest season yet. An interesting statement, given how much comedy there is in the season premiere. The high school reunion plot has been done to death in fiction, but I still enjoyed it a lot here. Seeing Dexter deal with unexpected popularity while attempting to track his latest victim resulted in some of the funniest material I’ve seen on the show in a while. I’d especially like to point out how much I liked the way James Remar was integrated into the football scene. It was a lot more fun and creative than the usual Harry Morgan hallucinations.

As usual, the stories involving the side characters are pretty bland when compared to Dexter’s activities. I’d love it if Maria LaGuerta’s promotion resulted in her leaving the show for good, but that’s probably not going to happen. I happen to like Masuka quite a bit, and I have to feel a bit sorry for the actor, C.S. Lee. Giving Masuka students, and then an intern (a hot one), is a step in the right direction. But he’s still little more than a background comic relief character. I do appreciate the he hasn’t been killed off yet, though.

There are a few other minor problems with the premiere, such as the odd fake-out with Dexter at the very beginning. Why Dexter would need to make such a show of being stabbed, when no one is around, makes very little sense. But I consider this a fairly forgivable flaw. Overall, the season is off to a strong start. But it remains to be seen whether this season can justify its existence, or whether it will be just more of the same. My fear is that it will turn out a lot like past seasons and end with the dreaded collection of plot contrivances needed to reset the status quo.

Rating: 8/10

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