Other than season 2, 4 is so far the only one that can contend as the best season of Dexter (barring how the final season plays out). After the bland season 3, 4 had no where to go but up. Every year Dexter subversively battles some sort of big bad. This mechanic has been waning in recent years, mostly because they reached their zenith with Trinity.
John Lithgow guest starred this year, playing the menacing serial killer Trinity. He was given the name due to the manner he kills. Always in three, always in the same manner. Quickly he came into Dexter’s sights, scheduled to be put on his table. As Dexter studied him, he noticed something strange, he was a family man. Trinity was part of his community, part of his church, living as a normal person. After marrying Rita and having a child of his own, Harrison, this was becoming a question for him. Could he balance being a family man while feeding his dark passenger?
Dexter thought he could learn from Trinity, learn to be a patriarch while keeping his other life hidden. Dexter goes under cover, as a man who needs help and guidance, in an effort to befriend Trinity. Eventually he becomes too involved, and he purposely throws the police off of Trinity’s trail so he can study him longer. Before too long, it comes to a head and the police storm Trinity’s house, nearly catching Dexter there as well. Both Trinity and Dexter avoid capture. Trinity though, he learns Dexter’s real name.
Lithgow gives an amazing performance as Trinity. It was a little odd seeing a man I grew up watching acting like a imbecile on 3rd Rock from the Sun play a killer, but after watching his first scene I got over it pretty quickly. The man carries with him a solemn and foreboding presence, able to make your skin crawl whether he was angry or faking happiness.
While season 2 had an amazing storyline, 4 had Dexter essentially combating himself in the form of Trinity. The man showed Dexter how he could be, and what he didn’t want to become. It’s hard comparing 2 and 4 because 2 was one of the rare times they didn’t follow what would become their model of having a final boss villain to match wits with Dexter.
Season 4 was also the first one to end on completely different note. With the exception of 6 (which is the only thing it did correct), 4 was the only season to not tie everything up neatly. Dexter learned what happens when he meddles and drags his feet. While the fallout didn’t carry on as much as I’d like in season 5, it was still an amazing, heart wrenching moment.
Here’s a fun game; re-watch the original Footloose and pretend Lithgow is playing the same character.