"Dexter" season four premiered tonight, and after the jump, I'm going to offer some spoiler-minimal thoughts on why I'm probably not going to be writing as much about the new season as I did in years past, followed (with fair warning) by a few specific thoughts about the premiere itself. All that coming up just as soon as I TiVo Jon Stewart...
I've seen the first four episodes of this season, and while they're definitely an improvement over season three, they weren't enough to shake me of my belief that this isn't a show that should be having a fourth season. The longer "Dexter" is on, the more diluted the concept feels, and the cuddlier he becomes. Dexter as reluctant husband and father leads to some funny moments in the premiere, and in the other episodes I've seen. But it also keeps sanding off the character's edge, in the same way the writers did by making Miguel Prado(*) a monster whose crimes pre-dated his involvement with Dexter, and who had become so loathsome that even his estranged wife wasn't upset he was dead. A Dexter who kills a once-decent guy whose soul he destroyed is morally gray; a Dexter who puts down this mad dog is a hero. Similarly, Dexter wanting to maintain his secret identity to avoid hurting his new family and "killing for two now" makes him seem a bit more noble, and the audience more complicit in wanting him to stay free.
(*) And I couldn't help noticing how far we got into the "Previously, on Dexter..." sequence before Miguel was mentioned, and how quickly the montage dispensed with his story.
Michael C. Hall is still great, and the season's story arcs are unfolding more clearly and confidently than last year's muddled plots. But there came a point in an upcoming episode where I jotted down the following note: "I care so much more about Lundy and Trinity than I do about Dexter."
Hall is good enough, and the show well-made enough, that I'm going to keep watching, but I don't feel particularly invested in it. And since I've learned it's no fun for me or for my readers for me to keep writing at length about a show where I've reached that point, these weekly reviews will be much briefer - or, in some weeks, simply opportunities for you to offer up your own thoughts on the latest episode.
And if you've made it this far without having watched the episode yet, now's the time to turn away, as I'm going to get more specific with a few bullet points about "Living the Dream," in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...
• As that Lundy note suggested, I'm really glad to see Keith Carradine back, and to see how Lundy's presence so disturbs both the unflappable Dexter and the very flappable Deb. Carradine has this great relaxed charm, and it's easy to understand why half the shows on television (like "Damages," where he'll appear in the next season) are trying to engage his services.
• Angel and LaGuerta are together? Sigh... I like the supporting actors on "Dexter," David Zayas as Angel in particular, but their non-Dexter-related subplots are never very compelling, and just there to lighten Hall's workload. The one plus of this is that it means instead of having to slog through a boring romance story for Angel and one for LaGuerta, we only have to see one for the two of them.
• Because John Lithgow's most notable role of the last 15 years is Dick Solomon on "3rd Rock from the Sun," it's easy to forget that he spent much of his early career playing a series of creeps and killers. Go rent Brian DePalma's "Blow Out" for a fine example of how well he could do it then, and he still can get uber-creepy when he wants, as he did with the bathtub killing.
• I still love love love the show's opening credits, and was therefore amused by the parody of them featuring a Dexter too sleep-deprived to do his morning routine properly.
Anyway, that's me. You may be feeling more enthusiastic about the show being back, and this new story direction. What did everybody else think?