Dexter Stars And Producers Preview Season Five

By Fred Topel Showtime unveiled the fifth season of Dexter for the Television Critics Association today at their fall press tour at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills. The show picks up right where they left off last year, with the shocking reveal that Trinity (John Lithgow) had murdered Rita in the bathtub before Dexter got to him. Michael C. Hall gets to play Dexter exploring grief for the first time in his fictional life.

“What’s interesting is this idea of atonement, this idea that Dexter is forced through what’s written into these situations that he has to step into waters that he never anticipated stepping in,” Hall said. “It starts out subterranean but there is some sort of appetite to address his maybe not even consciously acknowledged sense of guilt or remorse or need for atonement. The circumstances in his life offer him an opportunity to do that in a way he doesn’t create consciously.”

Chip Johanessen is joining the Dexter team as an executive producer. He sees Dexter’s new developments as a reinvention of sorts. “He had this origin story that was the discovery of season one,” Johanessen said. “When he was three years old, he saw his mother chopped up. He was born in blood. He now has this adult origin story, the way he brought his wife into this horrible mess that it’s turned into which is very relatable, the way we melt down our own existence. That event at the end of four, it’s not the story of season five but it filters through.”

Julie Benz has been reported to reappear as Rita for season five. She will not be an imaginary vision like Dexter’s father. That’s Harry’s own territory. Clips of the new episode still show Rita in the bathtub, but that’s not Benz’s only cameo. “You’ll be seeing her more than dead in the bathtub for sure,” Johanessen said.

New guest stars will be helping Dexter through the grieving process. Peter Weller, Julia Stiles and Johnny Lee Miller have roles this year. “Peter Weller was part of the original pitch to Showtime,” Johanessen said. “He’s going to be a big problem for Dexter especially in the back part. We called him Weller when we conceived him. Then we had to change the name when we got the guy we wanted. He’s an ex-cop, cocaine cowboy era cop who gets into trouble and ends up posing a problem for Dexter.”

Maybe it takes four stars to equal the magnitude of Lithgow’s Trinity Killer. That’s not really the of this season though, said executive producer Sara Colleton. “We’re taking a break from what has been the way we’ve plotted out our season in the past four years which is to have one season-long worthy adversary for Dexter,” she said. “We thought this was the perfect year to take a break from what Dexter has gone through. He’s going through grief, even though it’s completely unarticulated and he doesn’t know what he’s feeling. As he goes through different stages, there will be different characters who will come in and interact. As the season progresses, these characters interact but the throughline is Dexter’s atonement. People help him in different capacities.”

A normal human response like mourning isn’t Dexter’s first reaction to the death of his wife. That’s what evolves throughout the season. “Where Dexter’s coming from, it does become about atonement,” Johanessen said. “He doesn’t experience grief like any of us does. He doesn’t start out but the season becomes about this. He trips into it, this oddly human experience at a time where everything he’s done about connecting with humanity has melted down. The last thing he wants to do is be with people.”

Dexter also has that extra person in his head, the vision of Harry. “I think the relationship with Harry is definitely becoming more dynamic this season,” Hall said. “They’re not quite adversarial, or if they are, they trade arguments. That relationship evolves every time James [Remar] and I do a scene. Especially since the last time we saw Harry and Dexter in the jail cell at the top of the finale last season, there was a real spark there and we tried to build on that.”

Harry came up with the code to help Dexter deal with his murderous impulses. That will be Dexter’s moral compass the first time he deals with grief. “When things fall apart, at least in my life, I go to a reset and I fall back upon fundamentals,” Remar said. “The fundamentals of Dexter’s play or his existence is the code. I know as I go on in my life that the lessons I was taught by my dad seem to resonate a lot louder as I approach ages that he was at when he taught me those lessons, that I may not have understood at the time he told me and I tried to rebel against them and differentiate myself. I feel that a relationship between a father and a son can deepen as the son gets older and experiences more crap so to speak.”

Dexter also has to deal with another investigation into his own activities. He dodged a bullet with Doakes in season too. Now Quinn has more than a hunch Dexter is involved somehow in the crimes that led to Rita’s death. Johansson said that Quinn has reliable information and vast resources at his disposal, but the real threat would be if his sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) found out Dexter was a killer.

“I guess anybody could find out but the one that really matters is Deb, the one that matters to us emotionally,” Johanessen said. “That’s the person to track in terms of finding out about him, having suspicious for him.”

Deb has been through a lot herself. She almost married the ice truck killer, her lover left town, then came back and got shot. Now she’s lost a sister-in-law. “I think her arc has been extreme,” Carpenter said. “I spend a lot of time justifying how she’s not in a straight jacket at this point. What I’m learning is life on this show happens not only in TV time but also in Dexter time so the healing process is really rapid. It’s hard because I am so much more emotional than Dexter is, it’s hard to not carry pieces of that into every scene. How it unfolds this year, I think I look at the other cops in the bullpen and I’m one of them now. They all have this sort of wretched experience they walk around with and she’s sort of playing the game. It’s a new strength but it’s also just compartmentalizing in a way she hasn’t before.”

Dexter returns this September on Showtime.


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