Quick: Without going through episode-by-episode in your mind, tell me the overarching theme that unified Season 5 of "Dexter."
If you ponder long enough, you'll see ideas of forgiveness and reinvention and finding new ways to see yourself, often through the eyes of others, but you'd never be able to respond to my challenge with an instant one-word answer.
Now that you're in the mood, quick: Without going through episode-by-episode in your mind, tell me the overarching theme that unified Season 4 of "Dexter."
Again, there's no way you're going to shoot off an instant answer, but if you ponder the whole John Lithgow arc, I'm sure you'd notice musings on assimilation, on how successfully or unsuccessfully any of us can cover our inner monsters with a facade of civility. Or something. [I would accept "Fatherhood" as the season's theme.]
I could go on, but these weren't meant as Zen koans or as trick questions. Some TV shows do brazen season-long thematic arcs quite well. I'd point to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as a fine example of a show that, if you waited long enough, would always find a way to unify the Big Bad, Buffy's journey and many of the supporting journeys. But most shows, even highly serialized shows, either bury seasonal thematic arcs deep under the surface -- it's something that's on the board in the writers' room, but maybe not a literally articulated piece of every episode -- or they just don't bother at all. I'd generously say that "Dexter" fits into the latter category, especially since "identity" has always been the show's uber-theme, writ so large nothing else would even be necessary.
Well, somebody in the "Dexter" production team decided that this season would be a little different. They decided that the sixth season of "Dexter" was going to be about religion and not just in a casual way. "Religion" is at the heart of the core "Dexter" plotline for this season, but also at the center of the B-story and the C-story this season. It's been the center of the art/poster campaign and it's been the center of most on-air promotions.
And it's excruciating.
"Dexter," as a series, does so many things so consistently well, but it turns out that bludgeoning viewers with issues of faith and spirituality isn't one of them. After a lively and appealingly hilarious premiere (airing on Sunday, October 2), "Dexter" goes entirely off the rails with two episodes hobbled by clumsy victims-of-the-week and then crushed with endless repetition of the core theme: Yes, "Dexter." We get it. This season is about religion, but if it's not going to be an intelligent or thoughtful treatise on religion, I'd kinda prefer the series return to just being gristly and entertaining, rather than ponderous and dogmatic.
More after the break...