Dexter Season 2 was the first time I had that “tv moment”. You know what I’m talking about, the feeling you get after episode 5 of Making a Murderer where you’re completely all in for the season’s remaining slate. Whether that’d be at 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning, you don’t care, all good judgement goes out the window! The early part of 2010 was a landmark year for me in discovering “good” television (Dexter and Breaking Bad in the span of 3 months). Season 1 of Dexter was great in its own right but the drama of Season 2 left me starring at my reflection on the dark screen, speechless as to what I had just witnessed. Never before had I experienced “that” type of feeling and it is “that” feeling that ultimately led to this list and my love of TV.
The list so far:
#11 – Dexter Season 2 – Score: 31
While Season 1 was about finding out about Dexter’s origin, Season 2 was about Dexter’s secret and the great lengths he went to keep his dark passenger from being exposed to the whole world. As suspenseful as it was seeing Dexter thwart the bad guys over and over, Season 2 upped their stakes when Dexter became Miami Metro’s public enemy #1, as the search for the “Bay Harbor Butcher” took place. Yes Sgt. James Doakes was always out to get Dexter, and that made for some great back and forth between the adversaries, even to the point where Dexter dropped his facade and let his sergeant see his real self. Instead of Dexter hunting his eventual blood slides, it was he who became the hunted. At Dexter’s every turn, there was Doakes, and if that wasn’t enough, the discovery of his underwater burial ground brought the attention of renowned serial killer specialist, Special Agent Frank Lundy.
This is also the first time we see Dexter really trust an outsider with his “dark passenger”, in the bat-shit crazy Lila Tournay. She slowly seduces him with her free spirit and willingness to accept a person’s darkness, no matter how horrible it might be. But eventually, even Dexter knows that even Lila cannot be trusted and must be stopped. But it doesn’t hide the fact that she helped Dexter open up to her, if no one else, at least she saw him for who he really was and didn’t look away.
But where Dexter Season 2 really hung its hat on was the cat and mouse game played by both Dexter Morgan and Sgt. James Doakes. I can still remember the feeling like it was yesterday. Doakes catches Dexter in the act of disposing a body, he has him dead to rights, of course though, Doakes makes a fatal error and lets Dexter get too close as they are now locked in a struggle. Dexter subdues Doakes in a choke hold and the sergeant wakes up delirious in a cabin. He shouts at Dexter, that he will have to kill him, Dexter closes the door as the shouting persists. He slumps down as his whole world crashes down around him….episode ends.
“How the hell is gonna get out of this?” I say to myself.
That right there is the moment I referenced above. The feeling of sharing Dexter’s hopelessness and being just as lost about where to go from here as he is. That feeling has stuck with me to this day and is a prime reason why Season 2 was so memorable.
Acting Performances: 7
You will see this comparison from me again as I compare some of the leading men to sports athletes because their circumstances happen to parallel each other. When I bring up the case of Michael C. Hall, I can’t help but think Charles Barkley (don’t worry, you’ll find out who Jordan is later on in the rankings). Criminally underrated, never got the full amount of respect he deserved, and mainly because of the timer period they performed in. Michael C. Hall garnered a 2008 Primetime Emmy nomination for Best Lead Actor for his portrayal of Dexter Morgan. And it was well deserved, he balanced the delicate line of humorous, ferocious and lovable into one persona. It was very well received, and Dexter isn’t Dexter without his amazing performance. But like Charles Barkley, sometimes his best wasn’t good enough to take the hardware home. But the recognition is deserved nonetheless.
Some others deserve mention too, Erik King (Sgt. James Doakes). King was great adversary worthy of Dexter and in my opinon, topped the Ice Truck Killer. Keith Carradine (Special Agent Lundy) gives a strong performance as the wily veteran agent and Deb’s love interest. Jaime Murray (Lila Tournay) as Dexter’s sexy and psychotic love interest had her moments too. To me, it was a season centered on Hall and King and they performed up to the billing.
Season Plot Arc: 9
Season 2 opens with Dexter going through a prolonged drought in his murdering ways, 39 days to be exact. 39 days since he had killed his brother the Ice Truck Killer, and now he has the always suspicious Sgt. Doakes on his ass every free second he has. Dexter finally gets to chance to quench his blood-thirst but finds himself unable to follow through on the murder. Perhaps he’s off his game or maybe it’s the fact that murdering his own brother took its toll on him. Whatever it is, Dexter now has to deal with these feelings, and it is uncharted territory for him. It doesn’t help when his underwater burial ground is found by divers and Dexter now has a fancy new nickname, “The Bay Harbor Butcher”.
As if that wasn’t enough, Dexter’s relationship with Rita is strained when her abusive and drug-riddled ex, Paul, gets out of prison. Dexter soon has to take care of the problem Paul is beginning to be. But in the process of doing so, Rita calls him out on setting up Paul and labels him a fellow drug user who must seek treatment. Better to be labeled that than have his real mask revealed. But in the process of his NA meetings, he meets his soon to be sponsor/partner-in-crime, Lila. Yeah, Rita isn’t too excited either when she sees her.
All-the-while, Miami Metro has called in the F.B.I. criminal specialist Frank Lundy, his expertise, catching serial killers. Now Dexter must dodged not only the suspicions of Doakes but Lundy as well. The former has only increased his witch-hunt on Dexter, looking into his past, financials and leaving no rock upturned. Dexter begins to drop the nice guy act and lures Doakes into a physical altercation at the station which results in getting Doakes off his back….. for now.
The real truth behind Dexter’s mother begins to surface as he finds out Harry was seeing his mother and that involvement led to her gruesome death. His search for the lone surviving member of her murder begins. He eventually finds him, but Lyla talks him out of it. His victim comes back to settle the score with Dexter but also fails. It isn’t until Dexter nabs him at the cabin and disposes his body that things calm down, well until Doakes catches him in the act.
Dexter’s moral struggle of never killing an innocent man has him in a bind. He’s not sure what to do. The inner contemplation of deciding what to do with Doakes is pretty fascinating to behold. What type of life that he will continue to lead is directly affected by the Doakes decision. He talks himself in and out of killing Doakes multiple times. Then he decides to turn himself in, courtesy of the eleventh hour pleading from Doakes. But then he remembers Harry’s #1 rule, don’t get caught. He ultimately decides to frame him, and his job is nearly complete, until Lundy’s task force target Doakes too and their intel has led them straight to Jimenez’s cabin. Dexter looks to be SOL, until Lila stumbles upon the cabin.
The real drama was the three episodes that preceded the finale but you can’t knock it for not wanting to start the finale with a bang.
Thinking he just got his saving grace, Doakes implores Lila to let him out. And in typical crazy girl fashion, she does the exact opposite. She turns herself completely over to Dexter (even after he told her to back off) and decides to murder Doakes for him. A little turning of the gas here, some fire there and BOOM! Doakes goes up in a blaze of glory. Wraps up pretty nicely for Dexter right. Well that is until Lila decides to take Rita’s kids hostage and trap both them and Dexter in a fiery apartment. All three escape but Lila has definitely signed her own death warrant. Dexter tracks her to France and settles the score once and for all.
No cliffhanger, and nothing really sets up the story for Season 3. But that Doakes death/frame job success really scored points for me. All in all, solid way to finish up the season.
You know the moment, I’ve referenced it all throughout this post. Start at the 1:40 mark all the way through 2:52.