Terry Morrow: 'Dexter' looks for redemption in new season

Dexter (Michael C. Hall) gets caught in the act, and this season has to pay a price for that.

Photo by Randy Tepper, Copyright: Showtime 2012

Dexter (Michael C. Hall) gets caught in the act, and this season has to pay a price for that.

There hasn't been a cliffhanger quite this alluring in decades.

Not since the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of "Dallas" three decades ago has a series given audiences a reason to rush back a year later. But "Dexter" (9 p.m. today, Showtime), returning for a new season, has pulled off quite the feat.

At the end of last season — nearly a year ago — Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is caught in the act, having just stabbed to death another well-deserved victim. This time Dexter's sister, Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), walks in and witnesses all of it.

Dexter is speechless. Deb, who has always seen her brother as a mild-mannered forensic expert, has had her world turned upside down.

Now the game has changed.

To say more would spoil the opening moments of tonight's episode. After all, the prize of viewing tonight is to see how Dexter handles Deb.

Will he kill her to keep his double life safe?

If not, how can he talk his way out of this one?

If you look over the history of "Dexter," this development would indeed stir up the plots. However, in the most recent two seasons, the once-brilliant "Dexter" has been a letdown.

The stories have been too familiar. The characters aren't growing or getting any smarter.

For years, Dexter has been getting away with murder right under the noses of his fellow detectives. However, none of them notice.

How clueless is this Miami Police Department?

After all these years, we're expected to buy into the notion this department is still competent? That's asking a lot.

Just in terms of credibility, "Dexter" has stretched it too far too often. Now it's cliched bordering on silly.

That's the trade-off for a series like "Dexter." The concept is amazing, but it has a shelf life. Now, after a half dozen seasons, "Dexter" has to find new ways to stay relevant.

Otherwise its characters go from being naive and distracted to blind and stupid.

Maybe Deb's newfound knowledge about her brother's dark side will bring "Dexter" back to form. I'm not holding my breath.

Every season brings a bigger and more outlandish villain into the "Dexter" universe — the Colin Hanks/ Edward James Olmos being the most over-the-top evildoers. They verged on being the flamboyant type you might see on an early "Batman" episode.

"Dexter" has a chance to redeem itself as it enters its final two seasons. Here's hoping that can be done.

And Dexter's response to Deb makes it that much more critical.

Score: HHH (out of five)

nPlayer. Schoolteacher Erin Atchley of Knoxville will be a contestant on "The Price Is Right," seen 11 a.m. Tuesday, on WVLT, Channel 8.

Details on how she did and what she may have won won't be revealed until the show airs, CBS says.

"The Price Is Right" is now in its 41st season. Drew Carey is host.

Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or morrowt@knoxville.com.

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