[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Season 5 finale of Dexter. Read at your own risk.]
While Dexter's Season 5 finale was not nearly as jaw-dropping as the previous year's, executive producer Sara Colleton says she and her team got Dexter (Michael C. Hall) to the place they wanted: acceptance.
Through his relationship with Lumen (Julia Stiles), a survivor of an excruciatingly brutal series of rapes and beatings, Dexter was able to atone for his involvement, or lack thereof, in Rita's death by helping Lumen seek vengeance on her tormentors. With Lumen deciding to move on once her need for revenge was satisfied, Colleton says Dexter can accept his Dark Passenger's presence.
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Fans of the Showtime series were also once again teased with the possibility of Dexter's sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) discovering his secret. Foiled by a newfound compassion for the plight of the "vigilantes," Deb unknowingly let Dexter and Lumen get away with murder. But how long can the killer series keep that up?
Below, Colleton dissects that quandary as well as the rest of Season 5 finale. Plus, she discusses what's ahead for the serial killer and the Lost-esque ending that could be in store.
TVGuide.com: There have been mixed reactions to the Season 5 finale.
Colleton: We gear to have, within each season, a very complete story. Last year was the break from tradition. It was such a huge gut-kicking [moment]. This year, we really wanted to deal with the aftermath of that in a very complete way. At the end of Season 5, we have a rueful, along with a more self-aware Dexter, but a healed Dexter.
TVGuide.com: You've said you didn't feel the need to top last season's finale, but how do you feel this year's finale compares?
Colleton: I don't think that way. Each year is a separate year. This year, we felt that rather than Lumen dying or having people die, that it was much more interesting and unique for Dexter to break the code and let someone know full well who he is go back into the universe. In order to pay the price for his part in Rita's death, he has to give up the love of the woman who could've truly been that rare thing — the soul mate.
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TVGuide.com: Why did you decide to have Lumen leave when Dexter was starting to find happiness?
Colleton: It's also this gift that she leaves behind. From the moment that Dexter found Harrison in the pool of blood, he's been worried all season that he's condemned his son to a trauma that will affect the rest of his life. So by seeing the process that Lumen went through — when we first met her she was a barely-able-to-stand-up victim, and became an angel to Dexter's Dark Passenger. Once her need for vengeance and closure on what specifically happened to her evaporated, she couldn't have a life with Dexter. He realizes that. It made him more aware and more accepting that his Dark Passenger will always be with him.
TVGuide.com: Dexter really showed an emotion other than anger for one of the first times in the series. You've now left him with a clean slate, of sorts.
Colleton: At the birthday party, he has already started processing that and he realizes the true gift that Lumen has left him with — a more fundamental acceptance of who he is. He achieved his atonement. He knows who he is, and he's not going to trying to get rid of the Dark Passenger because he can't. He's just going to figure out how to live with him in a way that's conducive to somebody who is a father.
TVGuide.com: Dexter has been so careless this season. In a way, he's really abandoned the code.
Colleton: In some ways, and in some ways not. When Lumen literally tumbles in his life, the last thing in the world that he wanted was to have any human contact. In having to deal with her, he first unconsciously helped her because it was a way to atone for the fact that he wasn't able to help Rita. Their relationship evolved over the course of the season. He did act in ways that were contradictory, but he had to do it to feel better.
TVGuide.com: Is there a chance that Julia Stiles can return? Can Lumen ever really have a normal life after this?
Colleton: We don't know that yet. It's not something that we've talked about because we really try to focus on having a complete season, but we've accumulated what I call the "hanging chads" that will always be there to explore. Lumen is out there in the world and she knows everything there is to know about Dexter. That's a chad. We never really dealt with Kyle Butler and Jonah Mitchell [Brando Eaton] knowing that it was Dexter, so there's that. And Quinn — Dexter completely breaks his code and does this wonderfully altruistic thing, where he gives Quinn a pass because he loves his sister.
TVGuide.com: There's a new camaraderie — if not a reluctant one — between Quinn (Desmond Harrington) and Dexter now. He knows Dexter changed the blood work, and he's seen those photos of Dexter and Lumen. Does he realize they're the vigilantes? Is that another hanging chad?
Colleton: Absolutely. Anything that didn't follow a natural course to a real conclusion is. There are things that we can always choose to go back to. One of the things that I can safely say is that by the time our series ends, all of those hanging chads will come back into play.
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TVGuide.com: How was the journey of getting Deb to the point of letting someone get away with murder?
Colleton: It's been a five-year journey. When you think of that young, skittish, coltish girl in Vice, who had all this energy, but no focus — now she's slowly but surely became the most dependable detective that they have. This process always leads you into the fact that life is really black and white. [In that scene where she finds Dexter and Lumen], Jennifer Carpenter really felt that Deb would wait until the very last minute [to let them go], because it's such a huge leap for her. When she says, "If I were you, I'd be gone," it was a big moment in Deb's evolution as a character.
TVGuide.com: How much longer can you continue to let Deb almost find out?
Colleton: I can tell you this: This is the last time we will dangle that. There will be a season in which that will have to be explored. It's too important. We felt that we needed to see Deb evolve first. If we did that before, there would be a handful of ways she would react, whereas she's more evolved now.
TVGuide.com: Dexter has the kids for the summer. Are you planning to show that or will the series jump ahead in time?
Colleton: We don't know yet. Last year, we started immediately; literally two seconds after the last episode, so I don't know the answer yet. Cody, Astor and Harrison will always be in his life.
TVGuide.com: Dexter was renewed for another season. How long do you see the show running for?
Colleton: I feel Dexter must go out with a big bang and not a whimper. We're trying to figure with Showtime and Michael C. Hall how many more years the show can still be kept at the level we need it to be and backtrack from there. We're trying to figure that out now. As long as there is a fresh way to advance Dexter's character that leads us into another aspect of human nature or human emotion he's never experienced, then it's still fresh. We're very aware of that.
What did you think of the Season 5 finale?