Dexter is well remembered for its thrilling story, gore and drama. Arguably, the most enthralling season was its fourth, largely thanks to upcoming Supa-Star Julie Benz as Rita, and John Lithgow as the haunting Trinity Killer. Looking back, the only thing that season four was missing was the iconic Sergeant Doakes; but considering his death in season two, his absence was understandable. So, how did these things elevate season four above the rest?
THE TRINITY KILLER
The big bad of the season was Arthur Mitchell, a.k.a. the Trinity Killer, known for killing three people every cycle (plus a fourth that only Dexter uncovered) in a twisted reflection of his family members’ deaths when he was a child. Lithgow was the perfect casting for the role, equally able to portray the menace of an abusive murderer and the (apparent) kindness of a family man. He even earned an Emmy and Golden Globe for his performance!
Trinity was one of the most compelling rivals to Dexter, not only as the most prolific serial killer in the show but also due to how personal their relationship became, with Trinity becoming an impromptu mentor. Through him, Dexter learnt how to cope with the common and very relatable problem of being a family man and a murderer. But all bets were off once Dexter found out how much of a monster Trinity truly was. Perhaps the only other serial killer that Dexter had a more personal connection with was his brother, Brian the Ice Truck Killer, but Trinity shed new light on Dexter, even in later seasons when Dexter discovered Trinity’s son may be a killer but decided to let him go.
Dexter might be about a ‘justified’ serial killer and the ensuing gore, but at its core it’s a drama, and any good drama deals with complicated relationships, with season four having some of the messiest of the series. There’s Joey Quinn and his girlfriend, the journalist Christine Hill, who was using Joey for information about the concurrent Vacation Murders for professional gain. All while tracking the Trinity Killer case for personal reasons, as she’s secretly Trinity’s daughter.
Of course, there’s also the love triangle between Debra, Anton, and Agent Lundy – Debra and Lundy reaffirming their feelings from the previous season while they work the Trinity case together. This obviously leads to the end of her relationship with Anton. Thankfully recent Supa-Star David Ramsey, who played Anton, holds no ill feelings, telling Supanova during his recent visit to Australia: “I’m a huge fan of the show… I thought [season four] really was the best season of Dexter.” Although maybe that’s because Agent Lundy was soon killed by Christine?
And Dexter was in the thick of it, juggling his work, being a new father, and murdering people on the side, which led to his over-exhaustion and car crash in the very first episode of the season, pulling him into his previously mentioned pseudo-friendship with Arthur/Trinity and the can of worms that brought.
Dexter’s relationship with Rita was also at its happiest but most strained, as they adapted to married and family life, and Rita got suspicious that Dexter was still hiding something from her. Throughout the show, we saw Dexter evolve from using Rita to aid his cover, to him actually falling in love with her and, in ways, becoming emotionally dependent on her. It seemed that Dexter and Rita had an almost perfect life together. That is until…
Season four’s finale, The Getaway, remains one of the most shocking endings in TV history. Just as you think everything has worked out, Dexter has thrown Trinity into the ocean and saved his family, we were all left shocked to discover the last victim of the Trinity Killer, Rita.
In many ways, Rita was the emotional centre and soul of the show. She was someone that helped Dexter grow emotionally, was kind and tender, but not a pushover. And it was hard to watch a character who had overcome the trauma of an abusive former partner die at the hands of the Trinity Killer, also a violent and emotional abuser.
Dexter may have already avenged Rita’s death without knowing it at the time, but it wasn’t enough to save her. Rita and Dexter’s baby even witnesses the whole thing, mirroring Dexter’s own origin. It was a dark and emotional ending to an already incredible season, and while Dexter carried on strong until its final season (aside from the finale, perhaps) it never quite got over Rita’s passing.
Julie Benz will appear at Supanova Comic Con & Gaming Adelaide (November 2-3) and Brisbane (November 8-10).