The Getaway

Dexter – Season 4, Ep. 12, “The Getaway”

Original Air Date: December 13, 2009

Instincts… They aren’t always an exact science but, for better or worse, they do serve as a guiding path for us to choose whether or not to follow. Every action taken based on instinct comes with risk attached. How each person’s life progresses is built from the risks he/she is willing to take. Even for those who profess not to believe in organized religion, when tapping into their instincts, are proving that they still do believe in something or someone. For officers of the law, it’s the willingness to think outside of the box that can lead to a big breakthrough in a case. For newlywed couples or in the case of siblings, it’s the belief that the person you love, be they husband, wife, sister or brother, is a better person than they perceive themselves to be. You may not have all the information you need to make such a judgment, but you make it nevertheless because you haven’t seen anything to contradict that belief.

There are, of course, instances where your instincts fail you. Case in point, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall). Most of the people in Dexter’s life who think they know him never see the darkness that he keeps hidden away. Those who do rarely survive one encounter. By day, Dexter is a blood spatter analyst for Miami Metro’s Homicide division. By night, he’s a serial killer, albeit one who only kills other serial killers. He’s been at this for a while now, and he’s gotten pretty good at it. He’s also been one step away from being caught on a number of occasions. As of “The Getaway,” the final episode of Season Four, Dexter had two women in his life whom he could honestly say he loved: his wife Rita (Julie Benz) and foster sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), herself a detective at Miami Metro. Neither of them have even a clue as to Dexter’s night life. He remembers when his foster father Harry (James Remar) who knew from the beginning what Dexter was and took steps to focus his primal urges, reacted by committing suicide after finally seeing for himself what Dexter could do. It would destroy Dexter to have either Rita or Deb find out the truth about him and/or die because of it.

In Season Four, the main antagonist is Arthur Mitchell (John Lithgow), a man known to Miami Metro only as the Trinity Killer. He acquired this nickname due to his perceived pattern of killings: 1) Slicing the femoral artery of a young woman in a bathtub, 2) forcing a married mother of two to jump to her death and 3) bludgeoning a father of two to death with a hammer. What wasn’t learned until late in the season is that the cycle begins with the killing of a ten-year old boy. Each represents a member of his childhood family: The boy is himself (whose innocence died), the others are his sister and mother (who both died in accidents), as well as his father (an abusive prick whom Arthur himself killed). Arthur’s been doing this for 30 years, and has remained cloaked under the guise of a Christian charity worker and as a married father of two. It’s this last bit that kept Dexter from killing Arthur the first chance he had. That would have been the logical thing for Dexter to do, but he instead went with his instincts which told him he had something to learn from Arthur.

Dexter at this time was a new father to a son, and was having a harder time balancing his family life, his job and his extra-curricular activities. Believing himself to have things in common with Arthur, but wary of revealing his true identity, he got to know the man and inquired as to how to find the balance he was searching for. If Dexter had known just how badly Arthur treated his family behind closed doors, he wouldn’t have bothered. Instead, he got too involved and put himself and his own family on Arthur’s radar. Flash forward to the events of “The Getaway.” In his haste to be rid of his nemesis, Dexter gets into a hit and run that leads to a heated discussion with police, ending in Rita having to pick Dexter up from jail. Smooth move, Dex. But one good thing this alone time did for Dexter was to contemplate the end to his career as a serial killer. He wants to be a better man for his family, he says, and he means it.

Another thread which had been going on at the same time was Debra’s investigation into her father’s indiscretions with his C.I.’s (or criminal informants). One of them, it turns out, was Dexter’s birth mother, Laura Moser, who also had an older son named Brian. Debra knew him all too well, having been engaged to and then almost murdered by the bastard. She considers keeping her discovery of Dexter’s origins to herself, but eventually tells Dexter, who feigns surprise (although he is surprised that she didn’t find out more beyond those basic details) and expresses gratitude when Debra affirms her love for him. So, Debra now knows where Dexter comes from, and it hasn’t changed how she feels about him. Seemingly, that’s one fear which Dexter can now put to bed.

After trying and failing once to corral Arthur, Dexter finally tracks him down and kills him with the same hammer which Arthur had used in his own cycle of violence, but not before Arthur utters the same spine-chilling phrase he spoke to the bathtub victim from Season Four’s opening episode: “It’s already over…” More at ease knowing for certain that Arthur has been removed from this world, Dexter heads home to pack for the Florida Keys and his honeymoon with Rita. Intercepting a phone message from his wife telling him she’d returned to pick up the passport she’d forgotten, Dexter tries to call back… but Rita’s purse and phone are still inside the house. Moments later, he can hear Harrison crying. It’s coming from the bathroom. There, Harrison sits in a pool of his mother’s blood… the same manner in which Dexter had been found years ago after Laura Moser’s murder. To Dexter’s horror… and that of the TV audience… there lies Rita dead, bled out in the bathtub as the Trinity Killer’s final victim.

Even as I type those words, I get emotional just thinking about it, and yet it was never a surprising event for me. I knew of Rita’s death long before I’d ever started watching the show, and purely by accident. I’d been familiar with actress Julie Benz through her guest appearances as the vampire Darla, first on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (where she’s the first person you see in the pilot episode) and later in the spin-off series “Angel.” Sometime in early 2010, I’d stumbled upon an article online which detailed the gruesome means of her departure from “Dexter.” Lacking a subscription to Showtime, the channel which aired “Dexter” during its entire eight-year run, I had no way of seeing this or any other episode of the show by legal means until it came to Netflix late in 2013.

So instantly hooked by this show was I that it took little time at all to reach Season Four. Once I finally got to “The Getaway,” the anticipation level was like that of Christmas morning. This episode was like the present you already knew you were getting, but it pleases you no less, both because of the contents inside and the feelings behind the gift itself. Initially, I’d only been thinking about how terrible a sight Rita’s death scene would be. It was so perfect for her death to have occurred off-screen. This way, we are left to imagine the brutality with which Arthur Mitchell committed this deed. What I didn’t anticipate was the camerawork, the music (which is never anything short of impeccable) and the acting of Michael C. Hall. Dexter had made mistakes before, but this was the first time he’d let an enemy get the last laugh, and it was a mistake that would haunt him throughout the rest of the series.

There were enough game-changing events in this one episode that, combined with the way it ends, “The Getaway” could have served as the series finale. Many fans of the show have said the same thing, expressing disappointment in what came after. I wouldn’t go that far, but I will say that nothing Seasons 5 through 8 came up with ever quite matched this one for drama, excitement, anticipation, and sadness all in one hour. Somehow, knowing what would happen did not lessen the overall impact. Because that knowledge piqued my interest enough to start watching and become a fan of “Dexter,” I can say without question that following my instincts was the right course of action.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Tonight’s the night, indeed. We will be watching the last two episodes of season seven this very evening, my first time through the series. You nailed all the reasons why this was such a dynamite, much anticipated episode. It really was that good, but I am still very much enjoying all the episodes in the following seasons. I am still not disappointed with the quality of the show, the villains, and the direction the story has taken.

    • Actually, you’ve still got half of Season 7 left ahead of you (i.e. 6 episodes + all 12 of Season 8). But we’re getting there, and there are a few twists and turns left for the show to take that ARE impressive which are soon to come.

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