So real quick. I just read about this season’s finale of Dexter and was completely BAFFLED. APPALLED. DISAPPOINTED. It came just in time, as I had recently considered getting back up to date.
I quit the show (literally) in the middle of this season’s premiere episode. Season 5 had really soured me due to several factors:
Since Rita had been set up as a divine exception to the evil/questionable morality of Dexter’s existence, her death should have crumbled his internal structure immediately. Even a slow-roasted crumble would have been acceptable. She represented all that was holy and true about life, and since Dexter made a business of taking life, he needed her more than air. When she died, it should have signaled big changes in a show that welcomed seismic shifts in tone and style.
But suddenly, it didn’t. Dexter, after some well-executed initial shock, returned to a wooden and inflexible world. And not in the sense that other characters could not understand his grief fully, but in the sense that the actual rules of Dexter’s fictional universe had been re-set. In what seemed almost like a panic, the writers returned to the routine established in the beginning of the show: Dexter is a sociopath; he kills because it’s all he knows; his friends and family are oblivious against all odds; he has only the unconditional love of Deb (once Deb and Rita) to ground him in humanity. It seemed that having made the courageous move to, for lack of better words, GO THERE with Rita’s death, the writers just didn’t know what to do when they GOT THERE. You left us viewers raw, and primed for a wildly creative implosion of all we thought we knew about Dexter. And then you fucking chickened out.
Which brings me to my pre-point, which is a short explanation of what brilliant shows do when they reach their ceiling. There are several disappointing routes that many of my favorites have taken:
1. Self-parody. Happens all the time when Glee references an incredibly loose plot end/bad idea with a wink (“Remember when Artie got magic legs that broke the next day?”). An in-joke as a punchline, which alienates new fans and draws a laugh that’s more wistful than anything else.
2. Wish fulfillment, or what I like to call Rubik’s Pairings. A good example is Andy Bellefleur and Holly Cleary of True Blood, two disposable characters who wandered around in the same dusty narrative corners until they came together in a sudden sorta-cute-but-equally-disposable romance. These kinds of pairings come from bored fanfiction writers and also TV writers whose wells have run dry. They’re remixing stale elements in hopes of creating surprising moments. I envision the process as rotating a proverbial Rubik’s cube of characters until one spots the two most unlikely blocks next to each other and says “why not?”
3. Subtext as text. The most egregious of scripted programming sins. This is the fate that Boardwalk Empire seemed to be suffering at the outset of Season 2. When you have relationships that work because of things unsaid, you must be doubly careful when actually saying them. That moment, the peeling-back of veil upon veil of dialogue, must be worked with the same precision that these characters have applied to keeping their feelings locked down. I deflated totally when Richard Harrow stared at Jimmy Darmody and asked, “Would you die for me?” and Jimmy replied, “Of course I would. Right down to the last bullet.” I ALREADY KNEW THAT, because they SHOWED IT and did not SAY IT. This is the power that simmers beneath all truly great fiction, and misusing it can bring art to absolute ruin.
This third sin is clearly what’s behind the “plot twist” of Dexter’s sixth season finale. Spoiler alert - I am about to spoil the twist that spoils the whole show! - but Deb is in love with Dexter. The adoptive sister is in love with her adopted brother. Now, this is something that is totally acceptable in the most sinister depths of fandom, but when it becomes a canon development, we have problems. The writers have problems. And those genius creations, those literary figures who walk among us, our favorite TV characters, have fatal problems.
I spotted the sexual tension between these two early. Some may have started considering it a season or two later. But the fact that it was there, sometimes obvious and sometimes nonexistent but NEVER ADDRESSED, really lent the Deb/Dexter relationship an edge that belied the deepest shocking content of the show. It was so subtle that when I caught myself imagining it, I felt icky. And when I tried to write it off, something nagged at my core. It made me pathological about continuing to watch. It made their story stranger, darker, better than what was written as fact. And it was so underexposed that it began to feel like a natural outgrowth of the characters and events. When we begin to identify the occasional hint of incest as “natural,” well…that is fucking dynamite television.
And now that delicate flourish has been turned into an honest-to-god plotline. It feels like these writers are performing surgery with dinner forks. No sense of subtlety, sensitivity, of big-picture artistry. It’s plain lazy. Milking the soul of a show for a big premature payoff. I don’t need to go back and see all these episodes to know what I’ve been missing - the shoddily reanimated zombie body of a TV experience I once cherished. “The dark passenger” departed long ago, and so too, have I.
“Last Friday Night” - Katy Perry
media fucking studies. will i ever be able to watch something current and silly again, without pondering and blogging it later? maybe not, but at least this has rewatch value for me. i really do adore KP. will defend her till the end. used to know someone who despises her as a matter of principle. how CAN you? also darren criss is finally desirable and kevin mchale gets his spotlight. i worship this. pop delight.
Christina Hendricks and Neil Patrick Harris in Company, presented by the New York Philharmonic this past weekend
uhhh, these two in bed together is giving me the fucking VAPORS. so beautiful and perfect i could cry. apparently stephen colbert was in this production, too. i love when pop culture suddenly swirls into a supernatural maelstrom, producing a moment involving more than one of my favorite people from different fandoms.
if one was remotely interested in learning more about this show, which is apparently about homosexuality masqueradng as asexuality, here is a link.