You know a show has fallen on hard times when its new episodes are so bad that they make you question whether the earlier ones that you really enjoyed were actually good. I'm still pretty sure that it's not just a series wearing out its formula to the point of extreme degradation, that it's been getting progressively worse at coming up with competent stories and interesting supporting characters, but I'm at least wondering why I liked it quite as much as I did for the first couple seasons. It's kind of been a slow breakdown in every aspect of the series over time - it started as an adequate police drama with an utterly compelling protagonist portrayed very well by Michael C. Hall. As time has gone by, the police drama has become less adequate as the cases they tackle become less original or even coherently written, and the supporting cast has gotten more and more time to expose just how uninteresting their characters are and how little talent their actors have. Season four showed the show could still live with that, when it had John Lithgow doing a great job playing a horrific counterpoint to Dexter, but since then, they've failed to come up with interesting villains, and even Dexter himself has not been immune to simple bad writing, especially when it comes to his increasingly unnecessary and irritating narration. If I hear him mumble "dark passenger" one more time, I don't know what I'll do.
The show has had ups and downs, and season six was definitely the biggest down. I knew things were shaky when they introduced this year's big theme: faith, specifically in the form of religion. Edward James Olmos and Colin Hanks play serial killers who are using the Bible to justify their crimes, and Mos Def (or Yasiin Bey, I suppose) plays a reformed criminal who now uses religion to keep him on the straight and narrow. Dexter tries to learn about how faith can be good from Bey's character, but he gets pushed aside and eventually it just devolves into a hacky doomsday psychopath plot without really saying anything interesting or new about the subject. Bey is easily the best thing about the first half of the season, but he doesn't stick around and unfortunately his exit isn't the most graceful. Olmos' character never does anything interesting, and Hanks is either ill-suited for his or just doesn't have the talent to pull it off. A lot of the season is the show just shuffling in place as Dexter goes on ill-considered detours and offs very boring random bad guys, and a lot of weight is again placed on the folks at the police station, who repeatedly prove to be some of the dumbest TV cops who ever lived. The show doesn't even pretend that law enforcement is a threat to Dexter this year, and their failure to notice all of the little things that don't add up about him is becoming farcical at this point. Deb is the only one who has anything remotely resembling a passable storyline, and even that can't avoid veering into some seriously ill-considered territory by the end. And yet... I might have to watch season seven, depending on how it looks once we get closer. Because those writers, incompetent as they might be, finally recognized the need to do something to actually move toward what could be considered an ending, and they did that in this season's finale scene. I still might not watch, since sitting through these twelve episodes was a pretty terrible experience, but at least it's better than what Weeds did.