Dexter's fifth season was like a solidification of every single problem the show has had in it's earlier seasons. Every single season of Dexter is a self contained story with almost all guest stars drafted for each season not making it into the next, and after five seasons of the same shit it's getting a little dull. Every promise that the show-runners have made that there would be a change in the formula in the show have proven to be false. This year, fans were promised that there would be no Big Bad, but a collection of them, and whilst in some ways this was true, the last episode still focused upon a single Big Bad. Dexter has now proven that it has a set formula and that the show is in many ways too scared to stray from its chosen path.
Dexter is not a show like Breaking Bad which takes risks and puts it's characters into compromising situations. In Breaking Bad, Walt's wife has now found out that he is a drug dealer, this happened 2.5 seasons into the show. In Dexter, Rita never found out, Deb still comes annoyingly close and any character that does find out has to be dealt with in some way by the seasons end. This year three new characters found out that Dexter was a serial killer. Lumen (Julia Stiles) the new love interest, Jordan Chase (Jonny Lee Miller) one of the years Big Bads and Liddy (Peter Weller) a corrupt cop hired by Quinn to spy on Dexter. By the end of the year, two of these people were killed and the other has left Miami. Whilst it's nice to have Lumen out there in the world knowing Dexter's secret, it would have been better to keep her close-by. The show avoided a chance to add a new wrinkle to their formula, Dexter could have had a partner in crime, someone who knew and cared for him even though he was a serial killer. Dexter needed something like this to shake up it's formula five years in. Sadly this didn't happen and so Dexter is once again alone and no one knows that he is a serial killer.
The other thing that the show needs to stop doing is teasing that Deb will find out that Dexter is a serial killer. Five seasons in and Deb is still coming increasingly close to finding her brother is a serial killer. This year she was less than 10 metres away from him with only a dirty plastic sheet in between the two of them. Progressively over the season she began to see that the murders of certain people (i.e. the people who raped and almost killed Lumen) were necessary and decided to let the pair of vigilantes (her brother and Lumen) go without even seeing them. What makes this so annoying is that a moment like this has happened in every single preceding season. It would be alright if it was only a recent occurrence or used sparingly, but it's not, the show continues to use this plot point. I'm beginning to lose my faith in the writers at this point, if I can't trust them to go through with this then there's not much I can trust them with. I know it probably won't happen until the end of the show, as the writers themselves said that once Deb finds out the show is over, but then they need to downplay her finding out so it stops being infuriating. It would be a big change to the formula of the show but it doesn't have to be the end, of course if done wrong the show could spiral out of control, but done right and the show enters a creative renaissance. Five years into the show something big has to happen and clearly Rita's death at the end of Season Four was not it. Season 6 needs to rectify this in some-way or I might be done with Dexter.
But Dexter Season 5 wasn't horrid, just infuriating and that was purely from the formula that every season of Dexter follows. The show is stale but there's enough there to like. Michael C. Hall is still one of the best actors on television and Jennifer Carpenter is still enjoyable as Deb. The police side of the show is never as interesting as Dexter's but I still like characters like Masuka and Quinn. Then the new elements of Season 5 were all very good, Julia Stiles and Jonny Lee Miller were both great and I wish that Julia Stiles could stick around or show up in future seasons, because I did like Lumen as a character. But standing head and shoulders above those two was Peter Weller (aka Robocop) as Liddy. Whilst Peter Weller is no John Lithgow, he was just hamming it up and having a hell of a time as the corrupt cop. He was a joy to watch in every scene he was in, and I'm slightly annoyed he didn't live out the season to become a thorn in Dexter's side, but again that's not how Dexter works as a show.
I'm beginning to waver on Dexter, I still enjoy the core of the show, particularly Michael C. Hall as Dexter and I always enjoy the guest stars they rope in for each season, but it's getting stale. Something big needs to happen in Season 6 of Dexter, be it a large twist or just announcing that Season 7 will be the last year so they can create a story that extends on for more than one season. Dexter has my attention for at least one more year but unless it's starts to show some degree of risk taking I might be out come the end of 2011.