Showtime struck gold this year at the Emmys. Homeland brought the network home its first Best Drama Emmy ever. But outside of Homeland, Showtime has struggled in terms of creating sustainable serialized programs. Weeds, the network’s comedy bedrock that just finished its run, lost its stakes and its grounding when it left Agrestic, the original setting that gave the show its charm. Homeland‘s second season has just begun, and it remains to be seen how its quality can be sustained.
But Showtime’s biggest problem has been its critically acclaimed drama Dexter. I wrote about Dexter’s steep drop-off in quality in a post from last year. Now that Dexter’s seventh season has kicked off, let’s take a look at how the show aims to recover from a sixth season that made many viewers question how the show had gotten to that point. Season six was full of painfully telegraphed plot twists, hammy and obvious voiceovers from Dexter himself, a misguided romance plot between Deb and Dexter, and the continued adventures of Batista, Quinn, and LeGuerta. The show has been spinning its wheels for years now, but did the big twist at the end of season six do anything to correct Dexter‘s course?
Alright, let’s get this out of the way: if you haven’t seen the end of the sixth season or the premiere of the seventh, SPOILERS FOLLOW.
Great, now that that’s done, Dexter’s season seven premiere episode “Are You…?” might be the best episode the show has done in upwards of two years. Dexter’s biggest problem in its post-Trinity killer years was a creeping sense of becoming a crime procedural. The show became a self-contained story stretched out over season-long arcs rather than the fully serialized show it had been in its first few seasons. But now, Deb has discovered Dexter’s secret. Completely. The formula has been blown sky high. The end game of the series has actually been put into play, and for the first time in years, the stakes are incredibly high on Dexter.
One of the problems with TV is that if a show is extremely successful, the network will want to keep it on at all costs. Showtime ran Weeds into the ground by renewing it and renewing it and renewing it until it was barely recognizable as the quirky sitcom it had been. Dexter being one of the biggest ratings hits ever for the network has also been given season after season. Serialized shows like Dexter are therefore put in danger of having lots of time to tell stories with not enough story to tell.
But now, for the first time in a long time, there is something to look forward to. Showrunner Scott Buck has shifted gears in the best artistic sense for the show now that there seems to be an end in sight, and it’s probably going to be exciting.