Contains spoilers – bedwetters, be some place that’s else
Damn. They didn’t hold back with this one. Dexter insiders promised a “game changer” in the run up to the finale and they were not playing. As Dexter’s fourth season began you wondered how many seasonal big bads they could contrive, particularly after the tough-to-follow Ice Truck Killer, Miguel Prado, The Skinner and Loopy Lila. But Dexter kept coming strong with its most horrible villain to date, intriguing subplots, good character development and a shocking, eye-watering climax that left you wondering where on earth they go next season. However it plays out, it’s not going to be cosy.
But let’s deal with the story so far. Meet Arthur Mitchell (John Lithgow). He’s your regular family guy. Adoring wife, loving son and daughter, good Christian, builds homeless shelters around the country – he’s also America’s most successful serial killer with a career stretching over three decades. This Arthur guy? Full of surprises.
“Arthur Mitchell. Adoring wife, loving son and daughter, good Christian, builds homeless shelters around the country – he’s also history’s most successful serial killer with a career stretching over three decades. This Arthur guy? Full of surprises.”
It’s a complex story how he got here but the basic facts are these. Watching his sister in the shower aged 10, in a weird pervy potential serial killer kind of way, he startles her causing her to slip, break the shower door, severe her femoral artery and bleed to death. Arthur takes it badly and his mother takes it worse, jumping off a warehouse roof to her death. Arthur takes it badly and his father takes it worse, beating his son mercilessly. Arthur takes this badly and bludgeons his father to death. His father takes it – well, he doesn’t have much say in the issue.
So Arthur, he’s all about taking things badly. To deal with his childhood trauma he kills people in sequence thus: a young woman in a bathtub (just like sis), a mother of two forced to fall to her death (just like ma) and the father of two bludgeoned to death (just like da). This goes back decades in cities all over America and it is such a bizarre M.O. nobody would ever think of connecting the crimes.
“And what about that Debs? Fiancé Brian Moser gets killed by Dexter, lover Anton gets by the Skinner and now Lundy gets shot to death. This girl is a fucking jinx.”
Nobody, that is, except Special Agent Frank Lundy, serial killer hunter extraordinaire and Deb‘s former lover. He’s back in Miami on the trail of Trinity and back in bony Deb’s panties soon enough. They look like they are finally going to be happy and prove to everyone that age gap relationships can work just swell. You can probably guess how that ends. After leaving a hotel they are gunned down by a mystery bastard. Deb is wounded, Lundy dies.
And what about that Debs? What is it with her and men? Her fiancé Brian Moser turned out to be the Ice Truck Killer, tried to Ice Truck Kill-her and wound up getting killed by Dexter. Then lover Anton gets abducted and a nice patch of flesh skinned off him by the Skinner and now Lundy gets shot to death. Three from three. This girl is a fucking jinx.
“Dexter wants to learn how a monster just like him can successfully have a family and blend in so seamlessly. Yeah, don’t worry about him killing again, Dex, you just play Crouching Tiger Hidden Cunt with the Bible Belt Fred West, we’ll all be FINE”
With his sister plugged it makes the Trinity case personal for Dexter who uses Lundy’s case files to identify Arthur Mitchell as Trinity. Dexter befriends Arthur under the pseudonym Kyle Butler and begins working with him on the shelters he builds for the homeless, (sites that double as a tomb for the bodies). All our hero has to do is wait with the right opportunity to stick a syringe in his neck and dispatch the beast for good.
Yet when the opportunity presents itself he doesn’t act. He dallies and, yes, dillies because he wants to learn how a monster just like him can successfully have a family and blend in so seamlessly. Yeah, don’t worry about him killing again, Dex, you just play Crouching Tiger Hidden Cunt with the Bible Belt Fred West and learn your life lessons, we’ll all be FINE. The discovery that he kicks off the murder cycle by abducting a 10 year old boy (just like sister shower watching Arthur) and burying him in concrete should not unduly concern us. He kills in fours, not threes but his still Trinity OK? It’s too late for a name change and Quadrangle sounds just shit.
“To be fair to Christine, she is secretly Arthur Mitchell’s daughter, the murderer of Frank Lundy and shooter of Deb so let’s not rush to call her journalistic integrity into question”
But while Dexter’s pissing about with his new pal, newly crowned TV pie of the year Christine Hill (Courtney Ford), is fucking Quinn to get information on Trinity. Some journalists will do anything for a story although to be fair to Christine she is secretly Arthur Mitchell’s daughter, the murderer of Frank Lundy and shooter of Deb so let’s not rush to call her journalistic integrity into question. Homegirl had issues.
Dexter wants to bring Arthur to justice himself rather than the Miami Dade PD and spends some time successfully throwing the fuzz off the scent. Once the inevitable happens and Arthur discovers Dexter’s real identity and the police find out about Arthur, the urgency intensifies. The final episode is a three-way game of cat and mouse that ends with Dexter finally getting his man and giving his mutilated body a burial at sea – the Dexter speciality. All that is left is to join Rita on a romantic vacation. The question posed at the start of the series is answered. Dexter can be a family man after all.
“Arthur got to Rita, cut her throat in a bathtub and left Harrison in a pool of blood. Not so much a downbeat ending as a beatdown ending. It hits you like a framing hammer to the skull. Like I was saying about Arthur: full of surprises.”
But hold up. When Dexter returns home to pack some things he listens to a message from Rita saying she had to return to pick up her ID. He rings her back. Her mobile rings from her nearby bag. He hears the sound of their infant son Harrison crying. It’s coming from the bathroom. Whoa. You don’t think…?
Yep, they went there. Arthur got to Rita, cut her throat in a bathtub and left Harrison in a pool of blood in a chilling parallel of Dexter’s childhood trauma. “Born in blood” Dexter voiceovers as he picks up his son “Both of us “. Not so much a downbeat ending as a beatdown ending. It hits you like a framing hammer to the skull. That Arthur: full of surprises.
“She was his final fuck you to his father; the definitive rebuke to his maxim that like Spiderman or a Kooks fan the killer must walk the earth alone.”
I’m not gonna lie and say that my heart lept for joy whenever Rita appeared on screen but she meant something to Dexter. She was his final ‘fuck you’ to his father; the definitive rebuke to his maxim that like Cain or a Kooks fan the killer must walk the earth alone. And now we know the truth: the dark passenger will always be his master. It’s a cold, cold ending and kind of brilliant.
It’s been a powerful season throughout and you have to give John Lithgow a lot of credit for that. His Trinity is compellingly repulsive and in a show where everyone leads double lives, watching the walls between family man and killer break down has been one of the highlights of 2009 TV. Dexter is a show with a great premise that handles its themes with great care and has enough balls to hit you where it hurts when you least expect it. Mark this one up as a triumph.
The best thing about it: Arthur Mitchell.
The worst thing about it: The all consuming nothing in Dexter’s life.
The verdict on Dexter Season 4 Finale: Mass murder just got serious.
Marks out of 10: 9