Michael C Hall and Jennifer Carpenter at Paley Fest event for Dexter Michael C Hall and Jennifer Carpenter at Paley Fest event for Dexter

Michael C. Hall hasn't glossed over his real-life troubles this year. He put his courageous battle with cancer front-and-center when he appeared with his head covered to accept his Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards for his acting on Dexter.

Fortunately, he says, he's winning the fight.

"I'm great," he said Thursday at a Paley Center panel on the show. "On the health front, I had my second to last treatment last night, and one more on March 17, but I'm totally fine."

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Hall's Showtime drama won't gloss over life's hardest turns, either. Instead of flash-forwarding through Dexter's shock at his new wife's death, Season 5 will find him still reeling from the death of Rita (Julie Benz) at the hands of the Trinity Killer.

"The death of Rita is something that we feel is so awesome that needs to be honored," executive producer Sara Colleton said Thursday at a Paley Festival panel about the show. "The process by which Dexter deals with it will allow the audience their own catharsis. We're not going to jump ahead, we're going to actually process it."

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"He's going to have to learn about what it means to be someone that everyone is treating as if he'd gone through something traumatic," Hall said. "Grief is an effect that he's had projected on him before."

He may also catch a bit of blame. "He's in hot water to a degree," Hall said. "I think there's a way out of it, but that's what we'd like to see, for him to figure his way out. His capacity for stress management broadens his capacity for straight-up killing."

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The show will also examine the tragedy's effect on Rita's children. Dexter's own homicidal tendencies — his Dark Passenger, he calls them — sprung from the brutal murder of his own mother.

"Cody and Aster are somewhat insulated from Dexter's world," said Colleton. "Harrison [Dexter and Rita's newborn] is a bit young to exhibit any signs of trauma, but it is something that will haunt Dexter. Has he inadvertently reproduced a situation that brings him right back to the beginning ? That is an issue that we are going to explore."