50. Dexter: Season 4 (2009)

It’s Got: John Lithgow, and who even remembers what else?

Dexter. Right? So great! I actually didn’t keep up with it after Season 4, but I assume everyone is still—

A lumberjack? That’s weird.

All right, I know Season 8 may be the only season in the history of anything that doesn’t have one single defender, and the three before that didn’t do much better. But no skin off my back, I got out when the getting was good. When I saw Season 4, I thought “There. I’m done. They’ll never top this.” As a series about a serial killer who solely hunts other serial killers, I had certain expectations for Dexter, and the first three years met them to varying degrees. And then Season 4 executed the formula perfectly.

At least where the main characters are concerned. I don’t know why anyone who’s NOT Dexter at the Miami Metro Police Department is even a thing. But who cares about them? Season 4 is all about Dexter and John Lithgow’s magnificent Trinity Killer.

The buzz surrounding Lithgow’s performance was both fervent, and incredibly localized to late 2009/early 2010. It’d be just as timely for me to give you my thoughts on the 3D in Avatar and Conan losing his Tonight Show job as it would be for me to talk about the Trinity Killer. But all these years later, it is worth restating how much Lithgow brought to Dexter. It’s like Dick Solomon finally snapped, and I love seeing this very intense, very private showdown between two family man killers. There’s something about two guys in khakis trying to murder each other I just enjoy.

I love Season 4 for the way it keeps Dexter on the tightrope between being a good serial killer and a good husband/father. He’s still compelled to kill, but he’s newly married and he’s got a baby at home. So when Dexter goes after the Trinity Killer, and sees that he’s a murderer with a seemingly loving family, he hesitates. He has to study Trinity, learn from him, try to find out how he manages to live a double life. Dexter’s refusal to put an end to Trinity leads to a terrific cat and mouse game. The character faces pressure on all sides this season, and it makes for damn good television.

I’m ranking Dexter S4 at #50, because it does tend to live or die on the Dexter vs. Trinity conflict. It’s not until Episode 4 that Dexter is even aware of him, and it takes a couple more episodes before they start to play off each other. But on the basis of their multi-episode showdown I give the season a lot of props. I can’t speak to the legacy of the series as a whole, but this one time at least, Dexter maximized all of its potential.

If I Had to Nitpick…: Angel and LaGeurta. The other subplots do tie in eventually, but… Angel and LaGeurta. I valiantly tried not to fast forward their scenes the second time I watched the season. I failed.

Notable Episodes: “Hungry Man” builds and builds to an enthralling showdown. And “The Getaway” is one of the purest tragedies to make it to TV in recent years.

THE LIST | #49

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