Wednesday, December 01, 2010


I've made no bones here about the fact that Showtime's Dexter is pretty much hands-down the best show on television today, and in fact has been for several years. Once The Sopranos was nearing the end of its run, and Lost turned into Heroes for Seasons 5 and 6, I'm not sure anything else has even put up a fight. Dexter is the most suspenseful, well-executed and just downright exciting thing to watch on what is otherwise a badly slumping selection of programs available on tv today.

But this past Sunday, Dexter made a major faux pas. Basically, it "pulled a Lost". And I don't mean that in a Seasons 1 through 3 of Lost kind of way.

I railed against Season 6 of Lost hardcore at the end of the show, because I am nothing if not objective at all times, and the way the writers ended that show was perhaps the most extreme example of a total lack of narrative integrity of any television show in history. What I mean by that is, the guys who write the show have full, 100% and sole control over what they present to us, the viewers, and the way they go about it. As a former fan of Lost, I don't have any possible power to affect what they do with the plot, nor can I affect the order in which it is presented to us, how much they use narrative devices like flashbacks / flash-forwards, etc. All of this is by definition completely and solely up to the writers of the show, and we viewers are simply at those writers' whim in watching the program the way they have chosen to present the facts to us.

In Season 6 of Lost, the writers chose to spend about 15 out of 18 hours of the final season describing what they willingly called "Sideways World" in interviews and columns outside of the show itself. They showed us all the characters from the rest of the five seasons of Lost that had come and gone, and they spent considerable time detailing those people's stories in Sideways World, their relationships -- with their spouses, ex-lovers, the children we never knew they had in the universe we had come to know for five years on Lost. They spent something like 80% of the total airtime of the final season presenting this detailed and painstakingly-constructed new world of interpersonal relationships and plot lines to us, in a way that made it more or less obvious that this world was "real" in some traditional sense. No, they didn't come right out and tell us that, but they didn't have to. The writers of course are in 100% control of the way things are presented to the viewers, and they went out of their way to make it clear that this world -- while we were never told what its exact nature was -- was "real". I mean, why else take multiple episodes detailing Kate's new and different problems with the law, delving into Jack's burgeoning relationship with his formerly estranged son, Miles and Sawyer's trials and tribulations as police officers, yadda yadda yadda. The writers even had the temerity to sprinkle in some direct dialogue from Daniel Faraday around the middle of the season espousing his theory -- this, from the scientist who was basically right about everything else he posited about the island for the past couple of years he was on the show -- that Sideways World was, in fact, exactly what all of us viewers thought it was -- an alternative reality created somehow by the simultaneous creation and avoidance of "the event" at the Swan station on the island back in the 1970s Dharma days. Short of straight-out coming out and saying that's what it was, there was literally nothing more that the Lost writers could have done to tell us that's what we were looking at in Sideways World.

And then, in the final minutes of the final episode of the series, they sprung on us that it was all a lie. Not that we were wrong, mind you, because we were all but told this by the writers -- again, the only people with any control whatsoever over what information is presented to the audience and in what way -- but rather, that they had been lying all along. Deliberately abusing the power that they controlled 100% all by themselves to tell us one thing, wasting 80% of the final season of what had formerly been one of the great suspense / sci fi serials in television history, and then telling us it all meant nothing all along. Nothing at all.

Although with a little time to absorb how badly those writers fucked their loyal audience, it is difficult nowadays to find anyone anymore who still argues that Lost ended well, I still have to laugh whenever I do read or hear someone try to make that argument nowadays, clearly trying to hold on to something that was already long ago taken away from them whether they like it or wish it or not. Because what the writers of Lost did -- factually speaking, now -- does not take any talent. It doesn't take intelligence. And it certainly doesn't take any foresight whatsoever. Any monkey in charge of writing a plot-driven show could tell us a lie, continue telling the lie, refining it, making it seem more and more and more true over five months of episodes, and then at the end spring on us that they were lying all along. A bunch of children could get together and pull that off -- in fact, it's pretty much the easiest, least skilled, and just generally cheapest and lowest-quality move any plot-driven show could ever do, which pretty much explains why almost nobody else ever tries to get away with such silliness in their shows, and why the ones who do (Dallas, for example), are roundly villified for it for literally generations into the future. Trying to give a show's writers credit for outright lying to you and then exposing their lie, that's like rewarding a child for telling you a good lie and then later admitting it. Try as I might, I just can't play that game.

OK enough rehashing of the past, sad and disappointing though it may be. Dexter this past Sunday pulled a trick straight out of Lost's playbook, and I am still really disappointed about it here three full days after the fact, because, like I had thought about Lost up until Season 4, I used to think Dexter's writers were above this sort of puerile shenanigans. But I guess everyone runs out of ways to make their show interesting without some sort of chicanery and serious misleading of the audience eventually if its run lasts long enough.

I'm not really looking to spoil things for anyone who hasn't watched the episode yet but plans to, so I'm not planning to go into extreme detail about the entire episode here, but I think it's fair to say that if you are one of those people still waiting to watch this past weekend's episode, you will want to click away from this page.



OK, now that those clowns who are actually able to wait this long to watch the latest episode of this kind of a show are gone, I'll explain what has me so beefed about this weekend's episode. In the scenes from this week that they showed us a week ago, the writers clearly teased that Jordan Chase (the main bad guy this season has ended up focusing on) sets up Dexter, calling and alerting Dexter's police officer sister right when Jordan knows Dexter is about to commit a murder that Jordan Chase has set up all along.

This plot line actually played itself out in this week's episode, and here's how. First they show Dexter and his partner in crime breaking into the house of the guy they plan to kill, scoping the place out, and choosing an exercise room in the back of his house to be their "kill room" where they are going to actually waste this guy later that day. Then they come back that night as soon as the intended victim comes to his house, sneak in, and needle him in the neck as is Dexter's typical MO. Then they show them in the kill room, with the victim all strapped down as per usual, and long story short, they proceed to kill his sick, twisted, rapey ass. Meanwhile, as soon as they sneak in to the guy's house, we in fact see Jordan Chase watch Dexter enter the victim's house to make his kill, and then Jordan calls Dexter's cop sister and gives her information that he knows will lead to her immediately rushing out to the victim's house. We see Dexter's policewoman sister Deb get the call from Jordan Chase, and just as planned, she immediately jumps into the car and speeds out to the house with her partner. We see her and her partner arrive right away at the victim's house, and all the while we're seeing interspersed the scenes of Dexter and his partner killing this guy in their kill room in the back of the very same house where Dexter's cop sister and her partner are now inside and searching for anything out of the ordinary.

I should take a minute and mention that Dexter's sister catching him being a killer is basically the ultimate denouement that this show could ever do, the thing that, frankly, they've been setting up for since the show first began five seasons ago. I mean, this is the single biggest thing that could ever possibly happen on this show. Dexter getting caught in general is always a looming possibility that could happen and that he is always fighting against, but his own sister being the one to catch him in the act, that's the single most ultimate mindfucky thing that could ever possibly happen, given the way they've set this show up for five years. I have long since assumed that that is eventually where they're going to take the show when they're ready to officially jump the shark or just end the series for good, but to have it suddenly be actually happening here near the end of Season 5, take it from me if you don't watch the show -- it was just mind-boggling. And there was no way Dexter was realistically going to get out of this one -- they way he kills his victims, there is always some good screaming, and it takes a long time to clean up the mess, as it's not meant or designed to be a quiet or neat process, and it never is. His sister and another cop are searching in the very house where Dexter is behind a closed door in the back, committing the ultimate crime in cold blood with no provocation and with the very definition of malice aforethought. He can't possibly get out of it no matter what this time, and believe me when I say that every single Dexter viewer in the world's heart was absolutely racing as Deb moved from room to room in the victim's house, eventually came to the very door where Dexter and his partner were inside committing cold-blooded murder, and they can see the light shining out from under the door -- someone is inside.

Holy shit.

Deb gets her partner for backup, and she leans out and opens the door...

And it's just an exercise room. An empty, nothing-out-of-the-ordinary exercise room.

The next scene, we see Dexter and his partner return to his apartment for a little romp between the sheets, talking about how great the kill was. No mention of almost getting caught, no mention of clearing out of there faster than usual, and, glaringly, no mention whatsoever of apparently having decided to move the kill room to some other place at the last minute. I mean, they didn't even give us the courtesy (as ghey as this would have still been) of having Dexter remark to his partner something like how glad he is that they decided not to kill the guy right in his own house after all because the cops could be watching, etc. Something. Anything. But, nope. Nothing at all, no explanation, nothing. Leaving us viewers -- I suppose -- to just intuit that Dexter changed his mind somewhere between the scene five minutes earlier where they showed him choosing the exercise room at the back of the victim's house to make the kill, and the time that they actually made the kill (and we were deliberately not shown him leaving or dragging the body anywhere, nor could we have any clue where this kill actually took place, since he cannot for obvious reasons if you watch the show use either of his apartments and he no longer has his storage unit where he's killed so many of his past victims).

Look, it's one thing to present a few suggestive scenes and allow the viewer to make his or her own inferences from among a number of possible choices or jump to conclusions about what's going to happen, making the viewer work for it a bit, and then showing us later that our conclusions -- our guesses, ultimately -- were wrong. Frankly, that is generally a formula for great tv, and it's something that many of the great suspense and mystery stories of all time have in spades. But it's a whole other thing to straight-up tell us -- from the position where the writers have 100% total and complete control over what we see and how we see it -- that one thing is the case, and then at the end of it all just tell us "whoops, we lied to you! Muhahahahahahah isn't this a great show or what?"

No. It's not a great show. As mostly everyone realizes by now about Lost as well, any moron can show us Dexter going to the victim's house, choosing the guy's exercise room to be the kill room, then show him going back to the house and needling the victim, and then in the next scene show him in the kill room doing the actual kill, and then show Dexter's cop sister going to the same house at the same time Dexter is in there committing cold-blooded serial killer murder, show her opening the door to the very room where they've told you and shown you he is doing a kill right then. And then have the room be empty. Any monkey with a camera and some film could do that. The thing is, it's only something a monkey, or a child, would actually do. Any child could do that, when they're the one who writes the show. It's just misleading in a deliberate and ultimately stupid way. Anyone with half a brain can just lie to us directly, showing us one thing and then later surprising us by telling us that they lied. But shows don't do that in general, because it's stupid, it's unfair, it's a weakass move to do to your loyal fans, and ultimately it just shows a total lack of narrative integrity when you can't even trust the things that the narration of the show all but tells you are true.

For my money, that scene in this week's episode of Dexter pretty much represents the low point over five years of the entire series so far. When the writers of a successful show feel the need to resort to outright lying to the viewers in order to manufacture a suspenseful situation at the end of a season where there is in fact none at all, it is just about the cheapest, most lame and ultimately most disrespectful-to-the-viewers television move imaginable. It is just sinking to the level of Lost, which believe you me is not where you want to be.

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Blogger Grange95 said...

First off, Dexter is the best show out there.

My memory of the scene in question was:

1) Dexter & Lumen break into the house. Lumen suggests the exercise room as a kill room.

2) Jordan Chase sets up his compatriot (still not entirely sure why, other than destroying links to him).

3) Jordan Chase sees Dexter & Lumen enter the house, calls cops, exits area.

4) Dexter & Lumen have sap tied up in kill room.

5) Quinn & Deb arrive at house.

6) Quinn & Deb explore house, no kill room found, then they go outside, where the camera pans left and lingers on the house next door which has a "For Sale" sign.

My partner and I assumed that this indicated that Dexter & Lumen decided to take the kill next door where there was more privacy. Although not entirely fair play by the writers, perhaps not quite as much of a leap as the way you viewed it. On the other hand, maybe my partner and I were jumping to conclusions.

As for this season, my suspicion is that Quinn (rather than Deb) discovers Dexter's secret. Deb declares her love for Quinn. Dexter has to decide between working a deal with Quinn and killing Quinn. Quinn has to decide between covering up for Dexter and destroying Deb. The snoopy cop will have to go either way, but it could just as easily be Quinn as Dexter handling that problem.

Oh, and I think Lumen ends up taking the fall for the murders of the psycho-rapist gang to protect Dexter.

All pure speculation, only a few weeks left!

12:03 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I'm 100% with you that Lumen will take the fall. She won't be alive for it though, either one of the cops will kill her or she will kill herself or allow herself to be killed, but with the DVD #13 being all scratched up, she is going to take the fall as the one victim who got away and then avenged what was done to her. I think that's pretty much a done deal.

I don't think either Quinn or Deb will discover Dexter's secret this year. I still say this series has that ultimate moment coming up when Deb catches him and has to decide what to do with that information, but I don't foresee it this year (though it would be awesome). Obviously Liddy will be killed, my money is by Quinn to protect his love for Deb, but who knows. Liddy can't really stay alive unless he runs away and lives to be the main focus of Season 6. My guess is one of the good cops kills him just before he is able to tell anyone about what he has found. It's entirely possible though that he tells Quinn, and Quinn goes into Season 6 knowing for sure what Dexter really is. At the beginning of the season it seemed obvious that Quinn had to be killed off this year, but I don't think that is the case anymore. I really don't know what they do with that story line just yet, but I think they are setting it up rather well for Lumen to willingly take the fall for all of Dexter's (and her) killings of the five sicko rapists this year.

And a couple of points about the scene I am refering to as you recalled it in your comment. Yes, Lumen suggested the exercise room as a kill room, but then they also showed Dexter give that smile he's been giving repeatedly with her when he is in total agreement with her instinct about something. It was done very much on purpose, and while I acknowledge that they didn't physically show them make that choice, it was pretty lame nonetheless.

I think Jordan set up Tilden just to have Deb catch Dexter committing the murder, thus getting Dexter and Lumen off his back and saving his ass.

About your last point with the "For Sale" sign, I suppose we can be left to make that leap if we want, but to me that is pretty damn lame. I mean, it's one thing if they show Dexter looking at the For Sale sign while Lumen is trying to suggest using his exercise room as the kill room, but a whole other thing to just show the cops noticing the sign after the fact. Also, just because a house is for sale, does that even mean it is definitely empty? The whole thing is just not what I wanted out of that scene in the first place, which until the room was empty was, as I said in my post, the ultimate scene of excitement and suspense in the entire five-year run of the show so far. Just such a letdown to have led us on so badly and then have the room be empty after all that.

Thanks for the comments. Two eps left, the season started off very slow I thought but these last few weeks have definitely been typical Dexter thrillers.

1:04 AM  
Blogger Grange95 said...

FWIW, I agree that the scene was a letdown. I would've greatly preferred a scene where Quinn & Deb burst in, and the knife is still in dead guy's chest, cut to Dexter & Lumen hiding in a closet or dashing out the back of the house.

BTW, Quinn has seen the pics of the barrel girls, and the pic of Lumen at Dexter's house (or with Dexter). How blind is he not to put 2 & 2 together so far?

Your idea that Liddy tells Quinn about Dexter (or Liddy leaves behind the tapes for Quinn after Liddy is offed by Quinn or Dexter) feels about right. Sets up a weird tension for Quinn-Dexter-Deb next season. I think we're being led to believe Dexter will off Quinn this year, but it just seems premature.

Oh, and why did they drop the whole Trinity's son being able to ID Dexter as "Kyle Butler" story line? I know, it's a small point, but it seemed really to have been dropped sloppily.

Also, it's good to see Deb being written as a much smarter and more decisive person this season. She's really putting all the pieces together this season. Hmmm, maybe you're right about Deb stumbling onto Dexter's secret sooner rather than later ...

1:52 AM  
Blogger Bayne_S said...

I thought I saw somewhere that this was Final Season of Dexter.

2:44 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Yeah it was pretty lame the way Quinn got oh-so-close to outing Dexter when he went to see Lithgow's son and the whole Kyle Butler thing, and now it's just been totally dropped. I think they want us to think that Quinn's "love" for Deb got him to just drop it, more than Laguerta (=idiot!!)'s suspension of him.

Bayne, I have not heard this is the final season, and frankly I cannot imagine Showtime letting the show go at this point after last season broke all kinds of records for the Showtime nextwork and such. Believe me, it would be bad ass to end it (and that would open up a whole world of possibilities for the last couple of eps), but I'm not seeing it with where they've gone with the show so far this year. Do you have a link to back up that claim?

3:14 AM  
Blogger manik79 said...

They kill him next door in the house for sale. fuck man!

4:17 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Lets not forget that all of the shows creators and main writes have left after since season 4. So that might explain a couple of what I call regular TV show nonsense thrown in this year.

5:36 AM  
Blogger WillWonka said...

I also didn't make such a big deal out of the house next door angle. One thing I didn't like earlier in the season was the 2 killed in the warehouse with no follow up except for Masuka doing his thing (which was pretty funny by the way).

As far as I know, there is no news either way about Season 6. I can't imagine that they are going to kill it.

I'm kind of hoping Lumen makes it to Season 6. I would love to see the Dexter/Lumen parternship move forward. I did check IMDB and she (Julia Stiles) doesn't really have anything in the hopper nor does Dexter. Batista on the other hand has a ton of stuff going for 2011. I wonder if he could be going down.

I do put Dexter in my top 3 or 4 shows all time. I'm really high on Breaking Bad right now. That is my current #1. I do have to admit that I have not seen all of Season 3 yet. I'm still watching them off of iTunes.

Others on the list include The Wire, Sports Night and perhaps Oz.

11:20 AM  

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