It picks up exactly where last season left off, and really, where else were they going to start? I’ve suggested in the past that the biggest problem with Dexter is that it doesn’t seem like the kind of show with extra-season staying power. You had Dexter the monster, then you had Dexter the monster who might become human … and there was the problem, because if he stayed a monster there was no real reason to keep the show around, repeating itself, and if he became human, there’s no longer any real point to the show, unless you looked forward to Daddy Dexter and His Happy Family.
So they came up with a third possibility that combines the other two. Dexter brutally murders an anonymous asshole, and Harry pops up to say it was the first human thing Dexter had done since the death of his wife. Dexter’s passionate cry of pain tells us that he is indeed human, and the flashbacks to his first date with Rita remind us of how far he has come. But what does it mean when the most human thing you can do is to murder? You could say Dexter is having its cake and eating it, too (and what does that saying mean, anyway). He is both monster and human.
Past seasons have been carried by Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, and whoever they sign up as a Big Bad (John Lithgow got the acclaim, and it was deserved, but I loved Jimmy Smits, as well). It looks like they may skip the Big Bad this season, which is fine if it means more screen time for Hall and Carpenter, but not so fine if it means spending more time with the lesser-interesting secondary characters. Still, I’m encouraged by this premiere, and optimistic about the season ahead. A-.