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Who Saw That Coming?!

By J.K. Barlow | TV | December 17, 2009 |

By J.K. Barlow | TV | December 17, 2009 |

Like most of you I was seriously anticipating this finale, and Dexter didn’t let me down. It kept me on my toes for forty-six minutes, trying to guess which of the season’s threads would come back to bite Dexter in the ass. It’s not typical of the series to do a shocker or cliffhanger ending; in fact the past three season finales have always wrapped things up in a way that works for Dexter, allowing his double life to move forward. The finales have always resolved the chaotic events of the season, making everyone better, stronger, safer — well, except all the dead people. But I sensed catastrophe, and I was right: this one was different. Not to spoil it for you. But then again, you are reading a recap.

We pick up exactly where we left off last time, with Dexter and Arthur face-to-face in the middle of Homicide. The camera is queasy, tossing and pitching like a boat at sea. Dexter berates himself: by allowing Arthur to discover his name, where he works, Dexter has left his family vulnerable. He wants to talk somewhere private, but Arthur is tired of this extortion business. What he wants is simple: for Dexter to disappear from his life like “a really annoying ghost.” As long as Dex promises to do that, he and his family will be safe. As a parting barb, Arthur recommends, “If I were you, I’d give up vigilantism. You’re not very good at it.” Dude. That was harsh.

Deciding that the time to act is now, Dex opens a locked drawer in his office and takes out a loaded emergency syringe. Oh … really? That just seems like asking for it. We see Trinity saunter out the station door, and Dex is hot on his heels — a little too hot, if you ask me. Quinn is waiting outside the door for Dex, which is smart, because the parking lot is really the best place to catch the guy. Quinn really wants him to sign off on Christine Hill’s blood spatter report. That way Christine’s case can get wrapped up and put away and Quinn will never have to think about it again. Arthur’s van pulls out of the parking lot. Dex promises to do it later, but Quinn suggests Dex is ditching work to chase some tail, and before you know it Quinn’s on the pavement and Dex is peeling out of the lot in his SUV. “Fucking mess,” Dex mutters to himself. Yeah. If only you could have avoided it somehow.

A skeptical Harry is in the backseat, pointing out that Dexter doesn’t have any real plan here. Arthur’s got quite a head start and Dexter is driving like a maniac trying to catch up with him. Rita, Queen of Timing, calls with something “very important to say,” this being that she wants her honeymoon this weekend, because Astor and Cody will be away at Disneyworld with Paul’s parents. Dex can’t think of any good objection, being a little distracted and all, so he agrees. Rita happily signs off, promising to research flights and hotels. Unfortunately, weaving in and out of traffic like a madman while driving with one hand and trying to fend off a honeymoon proves a little too much for Dexter’s not-inconsiderable abilities, and he clips some guy’s driver-side mirror. Harry winces.

Arthur takes a left and pulls into the parking garage for Stafford Bank. Dexter parks just outside, and watches an oblivious Arthur walk into the bank. He positions himself behind the van, syringe at the ready. Unluckily enough, the guy who got his mirror clipped isn’t giving up without a fight, and pulls up next to Dexter’s ride to wait for him.

Back at Miami Metro, Deb’s in front of the Trinity boards, as always. Three of Christine’s postcards — from Topeka, Cheyenne and Bloomington — do not have matching murders and Deb wants to call law enforcement in those three cities. Deb’s voice is shaky and her eyes are frantic, possibly because Christine committed suicide in front of her not four hours previously. On those grounds, Angel sends her ass home and says he’ll check those cases out himself. LaGuerta strides in and asks incredulously what Deb is still doing there, as though it’s surprising. Angel starts talking shop but LaGuerta just stares at him. They marvel at the fact that they are husband and wife, and decide to move in together.

Because Deb has nothing to go home to — no boyfriend, no friends, no hobbies, and no life — she calls Valerie Hodges to see if she remembers where the CI lived who fucked Harry after her. As luck would have it, she does.

Arthur walks out of the bank with a big fat manila envelope. When he gets to the van, Dexter successfully sticks him and loads him into the back. The envelope contains a whole lot of cash; Arthur has closed all his accounts, about to skip town and leave his family destitute. That’ll make things a lot easier for Dex when Homicide figures out Stan Beaudry isn’t the Trinity Killer — everyone will just assume that Arthur’s left the country. He’s feeling pretty lucky until he spots Mirror Guy standing next to his car with a couple of cops from the sheriff’s office. Displaying a remarkably cool head — where was that an hour ago? — Dex puts the money back in the envelope along with Arthur’s wallet and keys, stashes it on top of a fluorescent light fixture, and walks out to face the music.

Mirror Guy is pretty pissed, but Dexter starts off calm, reminding the guy it won’t help to be rude. He pulls out his police ID and claims he was heading to a crime scene. Mirror Guy reminds him that no one’s above the law. Dex offers to pay, and thinks they should just let it go, seeing as he was fighting crime and all. But the officers aren’t impressed - he fled the scene of a crime, and what’s more, these guys are not from Miami Metro. It’s at this point that Dexter’s accuser starts filming the confrontation on his cell phone. Dex loses it, grabbing the phone and throwing it to the ground. The cops pin him down and cuff him. They’re taking him in. And Arthur’s still in the van. Well, that’s just great.

Deb and Valerie are in a residential area in search of the elusive Last CI. They’re talking about Harry. Deb thinks he was a man-whore; Valerie agrees, but says he always made her feel safe. Then they get to the house, and Deb starts feeling pretty vulnerable. As we’ve all been expecting, it’s the Moser family home, the very same house where Deb almost met her death at the hands of her murderous fiancé. Deb mutters that Brian Moser brought her here, and Valerie chirps, “That was her name! Laura Moser. She had two little boys.” Well, Dexter, it looks like the jig is up.

For the first time, Dexter finds himself in a prison cell. For a traffic violation. It’s like Al Capone and tax evasion. The inevitable confrontation between Dexter and Harry is about what went wrong. Dex admits snarkily that, by letting Arthur live so long, he hasn’t followed the Code. Then again, the number one rule is “Don’t get caught.” They were going to catch him with Trinity, and Dex can’t let that happen; he needs to kill Trinity himself, to know he’s gone — for his family. Harry says what he’s been saying all season: that Dexter can’t think clearly because of his family, and they are the reason he’s here. But Dex has an epiphany: it’s his Dark Passenger that brought him here. His Dark Passenger is ruining his life, and he doesn’t want it anymore.

The Homicide team has been gathering background info on Stan Beaudry, and none of it supports the theory that he’s the Trinity Killer. Angel walks in, a Serious Expression on his face, and positions himself in front of the group. They’ve all got their arms crossed. It looks sort of Mormon (not that there’s anything wrong with that). He’s just spoken with the chief of police in Bloomington. Sure enough, a trinity of deaths in the summer of ‘92 fits Trinity’s pattern. Apparently the police chief calls that summer the worst of his life, because five days before the bathtub kill, a ten-year-old boy went missing. It makes sense that they’d get this information out of the Bloomington police; after all, Bloomington couldn’t begin to compare with Miami in the serial killer department. LaGuerta remembers the missing boy from last week. Angel has called a few more cities and now knows what Dexter already knew: it’s not three kills. It’s four.

Deb’s at home reading the original newspaper report of Laura Moser’s death and finds that she was survived by two sons, Brian and Dexter. It’s lucky for Deb that Dexter is named Dexter and not, say, Chris. Otherwise the truth might have slipped right by her.

Back at the county sheriff’s office, Dexter’s been let go due to overcrowding. That professional courtesy he wanted has come through, though not in the way he might have hoped: they’ve called Rita to come and pick him up. Yep, there she is, looking aggrieved like only she can. Dexter wonders, “How is it I can kill people and feel no regret, but disappointing Rita makes me feel like the scum of the earth?” Marriage is funny that way, isn’t it?

In the car on the way home, Dexter apologizes and tries to explain that he had a bad day. Rita lists and evaluates his recent sins. Breaking the light: weird. Punching Elliott: hot. Picking a fight with the sheriff: incomprehensible. She asks him to try and explain. His honest attempt: “Sometimes I’m just going along and everything seems okay, and then this darkness creeps in and it takes over.” Rita says that makes him sound crazy, but she doesn’t believe he is. She drops him off at the parking garage and he promises he’ll be right behind her. As soon as he’s gone he runs to Arthur’s van - honestly, the nerve of this guy - to see if he’s still there. He’s not. Dex grabs the money and keys, and runs.

The Mitchells are enjoying a salad in Arthur’s absence. They are discussing the possibility of Rebecca going to the winter prom; in a girlish, conspiratorial whisper, Sally says they can probably figure something out. Arthur barges in and the change is immediate. Sally jumps out of her chair and begins to apologize for starting without him, but he demands that she bring him all of her jewelry and any cash in her purse. That includes her wedding ring, and she balks at that — “This is mine” — but when he lunges for her, and Jonah lunges to stop him, she quiets them both and hands it over. He demands that Rebecca hand over the money she hides behind her headboard and won’t tell anyone what he’s up to. “What did you do?” asks Jonah, who has probably been suspicious for a while now. Arthur snarls that Jonah is lucky he doesn’t pull the fillings out of his teeth. “Someone stole something from me,” he growls, “and I’m gonna find him.” As soon as Arthur is out of the room, Arthur urges his mother to leave, but she won’t, because she believes they would live in fear. “We already do,” Jonah protests, to no avail.

Deb has come to pay a visit to her old family friend, Deputy Chief Matthews. She wants to talk to him about an old case of Harry’s; when she says “a triple homicide down at the ports,” he knows immediately she’s talking about Laura Moser. He still remembers Harry’s face when he got back from the crime scene. Deb absorbs that, then goes ahead and confirms what she’s suspected: that Dexter Moser is Dexter Morgan. She goes for the big reveal — that Brian Moser became the Ice Truck Killer — but Matthews betrays no surprise. He already knew. He explains that Harry kept them in the dark to protect them, and considering how well they turned out, it looked like he made the right call. Well, I guess Dexter did turn out pretty well, considering. Deb asks what she’s supposed to do with this information now that she has it, as if she didn’t go sniffing it out of her own accord. Matthews says she should keep it to herself. Deb’s been ignoring Quinn’s calls and texts this whole time, but when he calls again she loses patience and answers, pretty rudely. He wants her downstairs, and she leaves without saying goodbye.

Arthur is at his computer in the garage, looking up Dexter in the White Pages. He finds a listing for D. Morgan and cackles gleefully.

At home, Dexter is peering warily through the blinds at the bedroom window. “We should go to the Keys tomorrow,” he says, “for our honeymoon.” Dude, you should leave tonight. He wants Rita to leave tomorrow with Harrison, and have a spa day. He’ll meet them after work. Dexter thinks she’s upset at having to pick up another husband from jail, but that’s not it. When Paul got arrested, Rita was relieved. With Dex, she’s just afraid of losing him. As she tells him this, Dexter is kneeling at her feet. She accepts his demons, and knows he can overcome them. He doesn’t believe her, but she says she knows him better than he knows himself, and knows he can do it. He buries his face in her lap, then her chest, then kisses her and says, “I want to be that man.” He begs her to fly to the Keys tomorrow morning. He doesn’t want to be anywhere else. They roll onto the bed together.

That same night, Angel removes the photos of Beaudry from the “Trinity suspect” box. They’ve decided the real Trinity planted all of the evidence including Lundy’s books, which makes sense if you believe that he, or Christine, stole the books after the shooting. Angel has spoken with law enforcement in almost every Trinity city and in every one a ten-year-old boy went missing five days before a bathtub murder. Angel has sent Quinn to interview Scott Smith, but Quinn pops in to say he isn’t doing it. He’s chosen “someone who knows about being kidnapped.”

Deb sits across from Scott and his father and says she was once kidnapped too. As much as she tries to forget it, she can’t help but remember a bunch of little things. She wants to know if Scott remembers any little things, too. And he does. He remembers a picture that was on the bad man’s van. Deb hands him some paper and a Sharpie, and he starts to draw. When he’s done she rushes out and tapes it to the Trinity boards. It’s the Four Walls logo.

In no time, it seems, the whole force has descended on a Four Walls build and the cadaver dogs have found a body bag under the patio. Vince, our hero, clambers into the pit and rips the bag open, recoiling from the smell. It’s a gray and shrunken corpse. Vince reports that the victim looks to be about ten years old, and is wearing pajamas. LaGuerta goes off to get a warrant, and Angel orders Deb to start a list of everyone who’s ever volunteered for Four Walls, nationwide, and cross-check them with Trinity cities. It kind of sounds like it’ll work.

Arthur Mitchell picks a lock and walks into Deb’s apartment. Deb is a pig, as anyone who’s watched Season Two knows. Arthur disparages the mess, and then is upset to find a bra on the floor. He goes through the mail. “Debra Morgan? Fucking Debra!” he screams, throwing the mail to the floor. I know, right?

Astor and Cody, absent this whole episode, have reappeared just so they can leave again, bound for Disneyworld in their grandparents’ car. Wouldn’t Disneyworld be old news for Miami kids? Speaking of which, if you live in Miami, isn’t a honeymoon in the Keys a little bit lame? But soon enough Rita and Harrison, the latter in super-cute striped footie pajamas, are waiting in a taxi while Dexter bounds towards them with what I suppose is meant to be baby’s favorite toy. I’m not knocking baby’s acting skills. I’m just saying he looks pretty nonplussed when he gets it, but maybe that’s just supposed to add to the mystery of his character. Dexter promises that he’ll see her tonight, after he ties up a few loose ends. And it’s true: he can’t wait to be with his family, and done with Arthur Mitchell. He jumps into the car and goes through the contents of Arthur’s wallet, but finds no clues.

So he does the stupidest thing imaginable and goes to the Mitchells’ house — phenomenally stupid if you think that Arthur might still be in the house. Luck is with Dexter for the moment, though, as Jonah reports that he was here yesterday looking for anything he could sell. Sally seems to think Dex will have some idea what’s going on. Dex says he’s not sure, but thinks to himself he’ll make sure they get Arthur’s money. No one has any idea where he might have gone, if he’s packed a bag, if he has a passport. That’s when they hear the helicopter hovering above the house. Peeking through the blinds, Dexter sees a SWAT team rounding the hedge. Cursing, he dashes out, just before the men in bulletproof glass break down the front door and force the family to the ground.

Meanwhile Dexter is hiding in Arthur’s handmade coffin. With an exquisite sense of timing, he climbs out just in time to show the scary SWAT man his forensics badge. The garage door opens to show Deb and Angel in flak jackets, staring at him dumbly. He distracts them from the obvious question (how the hell did you get in here before us?) by pointing out the coffin, which is pretty distracting. He also shows them the outline of the framing hammer. Deb’s looking weirdly at Dex. She says they found Trinity through the Four Walls database, and that he’s abandoned his family. Dex appears convincingly surprised. Deb snaps at him to get his flak jacket on, already.

Heading out of the garage, Dex is confronted by Quinn, who refers to him as “the fucking karate kid.” He promises that the next time Dexter hits him he’ll react a little differently.

The Mitchells are being led out of their house, the womenfolk crying. In Dexter’s mind, they become Rita and the kids, and they’re being led to the cop car by Harry in his old-school police uniform. He tells Dex that this is his family’s future. Dex protests that he would never abandon his family, but Harry says that is the best thing to do, and the sooner the better, before any damage is done. If Dexter is ever caught, he’ll be executed, but his family will live with the shame for the rest of their lives.

Deb calls to him from the front porch. Despite Matthews’ warning, after seeing the Mitchells she wants to tell him the truth about his origins. He listens in dread, believing she’s discovered his Dark Passenger. The relief that comes from discovering she knows no more than his mother’s name and his brother’s true identity is strong, and he masks it as shock, saying it’s a lot to take in. The upside to this is that Dexter finally has a way to tell Deb that what happened with Brian Moser was not her fault. “Do you think he knew about me?” he asks. Pretending it’s just a theory, he says maybe Brian only attached himself to Deb to get to him. If Dexter had never been in Deb’s life … “Fuck you,” says Deb. “If you hadn’t been in my life I wouldn’t be who I am.” She tells Dexter he’s been the one consistently good thing in her life. She’s called away by Quinn, and before she goes, she tells Dex she loves him. He tells her he’s grateful, which is … close enough. Knowing that he’s good for Deb, and good for Rita, gives Dexter hope; Arthur Mitchell was never good for anybody. Maybe his family will be okay.

Walking away, he sees the Mustang’s smashed windshield and knows in an instant where Arthur must be. He would never leave that car behind. Checking his wallet, Dex finds a receipt for Julio’s Autobody.

Julio himself escorts Arthur to the Mustang, which has been painted black. Arthur commends Julio on his beautiful work. In spite of the fact that the paint “needs more dry”, Arthur hops in and peels out, ignoring Julio’s protestations. We follow Arthur out of the city, a fusty old white-haired man in a sweet ride, listening to salsa music. He laughs as he breaks the city limits. I laugh too — I don’t know if that comedy was intentional or not, but whatever it was, it was gold.

In the briefing room at Miami Metro, Angel reports that Sally Mitchell had no idea what her husband was up to, and that she vomited when confronted with pictures. Vince waves his hand: “That can be faked.” Then the Men in Black walk in. Or, some guys from the FBI, accompanied by Deputy Chief Matthews. They commend LaGuerta on her work, and she justly hands most of the credit over to Deb. Quinn backs her up as she lets them know they dropped the ball by ignoring Lundy’s work. They admit they can see that, in retrospect, and Deb reminds them that “your retrospect cost a man his life.” The FBI will be taking over the case, and all the credit. Deb watches them start to dismantle all these months’ work, then looks at the floor, turns, and walks away.

Mist is settling down around the palm trees as Arthur cruises down a deserted country road, listening to some fifties doo-wop. The engine sputters and starts to smoke, and Arthur pulls over muttering “damn it to hell” — pretty strong words for a churchgoing man. Opening the hood, he wonders where his oil cap has gone. But we know where it is, don’t we? Dexter steals up behind and slams the hood onto Arthur’s head. He knocks him down and, holding the oil cap in his hand, says, “Hello, Arthur Mitchell,” before tossing it aside and tackling the man who is whimpering on the ground.

Arthur wakes up as they all do, immobilized by plastic wrap, staring at his victims’ photos on the wall — only this time there are a lot more victims. The model train set is set up on the floor. Turning his head, he sees Dexter perched on a table watching him. Arthur claims to have been following his path, that God led Dexter to him. “Hardly,” says Dex, slicing Arthur’s cheek. Arthur admonishes him for so clearly taking pleasure in killing, something that Arthur himself never did. Dexter coolly agrees that Arthur is a special kind of monster. Nevertheless, he destroyed his family, taking their future, their dignity, their hope. He didn’t know Christine was dead, but dispels his grief by dismissing her as weak. Dexter chides himself for thinking he could learn something from Arthur. No, he doesn’t think he’s any better. “But I want to be.” Easily the most resigned of all of Dexter’s victims, Arthur drops his head to the table and says Dexter will never be able to control his demon. Arthur tried; he prayed to be changed. Dexter retorts, “That’s not trying. That’s just waiting to be stopped.” Arthur points out that it kind of worked. Dex has nothing to say to that. But he won’t let him go without asking for a little more advice. What more can he do than try, he asks? Leave, disappear, fake his own death and start over? No point, Arthur says. “You’ll still be you.” Dexter insists that he’s good for his family, but you can hear the doubt in his voice; he doth protest too much. The gist of it all is that Arthur believes this is all God’s plan, in fate, and tells Dexter that nothing is inevitable. Before the impending death stroke, Arthur requests that Dexter start the model train. He does so, and drops a record onto the player. Arthur sings along. Dexter holds a framing hammer over Arthur’s head and turns it so the claw side is down. Arthur lifts his chin, and Dexter strikes.

On the Slice of Life, Dexter drops the pieces of America’s most prolific serial killer into the Gulf Stream and far away. He looks up at a luscious full moon and wonders if Rita is looking at it too. They are connected by light, the same light the Dark Passenger has been fighting against. But his time is over. Now it’s time for Dexter to embrace the light, embrace his family. He hopes that one day he’ll be rid of his passenger entirely. He just needs some time away from the old Dexter.

He comes home and surveys the evidence of family, the photos and toys, and considers the importance of living his life. He grabs his luggage and drops his briefcase. His phone beeps with a message from Rita; she forgot her ID and had to come back home to get it. She just wants to say they’ll be arriving a little bit later, and are waiting for him in the Keys. She also tells him that tonight, the moon will be amazing. He calls right back, maybe to tell her he’s looking at it too.

But he can hear her phone ringing. It’s in her purse, and her purse is on a kitchen chair. As he holds both phones in his hands, he hears Harrison cry. With mounting fear, he follows the sound to the bathroom. Turns on the light. Harrison is sitting in blood on the floor, wailing … And Rita is lying in the bathtub, dead in a pool of bright red water. Dex checks her pulse, and closes her eyes. As he picks up his blood-spattered son he sees himself at three years old, covered in blood, being swung over Harry’s shoulder. He sees that Harry was right. He can’t change who he is. Echoing Deb in the parking lot, he realizes, “It doesn’t matter what I do, what I choose. I’m what’s wrong. This is fate.”

Those darn writers, making us like her again before killing her off. I know the comments are going to be full of “Ding dong, the witch is dead,” but this episode reminded me how much I used to like Rita before. She was a real character with depth, at the beginning. It’s only in the last season she became this whiny caricature, and who could blame her really? She was a mother of three whose husband worked eighteen-hour days. If we didn’t like her, it only goes to show how good this series is at making us empathize with the bad guy.

I, for one, was pretty psyched to see Dexter’s attempts to exorcize his demons. It could never have worked, obviously — they would have come out somehow — but his character would have developed in an interesting way. Of course, he will still have to evolve, now that he’s a single father. I’m just so … really, I’m saddened by Rita’s untimely death. I can’t help but care about Dex’s character, and anyone can see she was good for him.

I always thought that Dexter’s Code was only for people who had been caught but eluded justice somehow, or those who weren’t likely to be found. But the likelihood was that they would find Arthur eventually, especially after Christine ‘fessed up, and then justice could have run its course — surely what Harry would have wanted. It also, surely, would have given everyone involved a feeling of closure that they’ll never have — Dexter selfishly kept it all for himself. And now Rita’s death is a direct result of his hot-headed pursuit. It could only have happened while he was at the Mitchells’ house, looking for Arthur; and it only happened because Dexter couldn’t leave Arthur alone.

Yes, Dexter has a lot of guilt to contend with, now that he knows how to feel it. What do we think will happen next? How can you be a successful serial killer while being eaten up from the inside?


Now that the season’s done, I’d like to give my sincere thanks to all of you who read and encouraged me, and those who criticized me too. It’s the first time I’ve tried my hand at anything like this before, so I really appreciated the comments. You might have guessed I’ve been otherwise out of work these past few months, and I’m pretty sure that writing these recaps has pushed (most of) the unemployed blues away.

J. K. Barlow watches Dexter every week but doesn’t own a decent knife. Chide her at i.barlova [at]

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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