Dexter and Daddy pose in a shot of muted colors — fitting with the slow pace of the season premiere.

My favorite part has to be the subtle “Six Feet Under” homage:

Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) walks into a funeral parlor, marveling at how the funeral director can so smoothly say “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Dexter: “How does he do that? He sounds like he actually means it.”

Oh David Fisher. I still miss you.

The “Dexter” season 5 premiere, “My Bad,” just aired on Showtime. (I almost wrote “HBO,” just like John Lithgow!) It’s quiet and somber and, like most good funerals, ends with a death. I’m looking forward to more action and suspense, but I’m fine if both Dexter and “Dexter” take it slow. For now.

Season 5 picks up right where season 4 leaves off. Rita is in the tub. Dexter is on the front lawn telling his sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) and a bunch of cops, “It was me.”

It’s just the kind of frustratingly vague thing Dexter loves to say to (sometimes inadvertently) mess with people. It’s amazing how much leeway everyone gives him.

Anyway, it’s good to see Julie Benz again as Rita. We see her — sweet, innocent Rita — in a flashback on her first date with Dexter. She’s eager to talk to him about his work or anything else. But not only does he keep her waiting, sitting there alone at the restaurant for so long, he spends the date looking at a mark sitting behind her, and leaves when the guy walks out. Then lies to Rita, saying he had a stomach bug.

Same old Dexter: Rita has always been second — at best — on the list of things to do. And when he finally gets around to dealing with her, it’s with lies.

She did deserve better.

At least she finally learns the truth that he’s a serial killer — when he announces it to her casket. So now dead Rita joins the list of the departed who know Dexter’s secret and baby Harrison remains the only living soul to hear the truth.

But Astor (Christina Robinson) seems to be suspicious of Dexter, in some way. I’m having trouble buying that.

Astor, Cody (Preston Bailey) and the grandparents reacted a little too quickly to the news of Rita’s death and Astor was much too quick to blame Dexter and start crying. It felt false. You don’t go Disneyland happiness to “I blame you” anger in two seconds.

Also on the list of people not sure about Dexter: Joey Quinn (who is now sleeping with Deb; it was only a matter of time).

Quinn (Desmond Harrington) is as overly (spray?) tanned as ever. And he is onto Dexter. Sort of. He’s suspicious. (Then again, doesn’t Dex still have some ammunition to throw back at Quinn — the money that Quinn took from a crime scene?)

Usually Dex can weasel his way out of these things, but even Deb is noticing his odd reaction to the Rita news.

Dex is so blank and lifeless, it’s hard to feel for him. Usually the voice-overs are good about getting us into his head, but for the first half of the episode his mind is blank, too. He’s not sure how to even mimic human emotions.

I was wondering if he would show guilt or grief or anything. He does, in his way, with dead Rita and little Harrison. (I worry for that kid.)

Strangely enough, even with this lack of overt emotion, it’s never been hard to root for Dexter. He goes after bad guys and always narrowly escapes. Because we see things from his point of view, it’s natural to get nervous for him and want him to find his umpteenth way out.

But now that Dexter’s not the secret(ly sadistic) superhero, and an innocent woman is dead because of him, I’m finding it hard to get my bearings with him. I want to shake him into some kind of action. If not fury, then at least fear and panic over how to cover his tracks.

At least by the second half of the premiere he’s doing something — deleting files to erase traces of himself … and then killing.

It’s sick to see Dexter stab someone half a dozen times and think “That’s the first human thing I’ve seen you do since she died, Dexter” but that’s exactly the response. The ghost of Dexter’s father, Harry, says the words, but the violent physical response unleashes a torrent of emotions — primal screaming as he’s covered in blood, like when he was as a baby at the crime scene that birthed his Dark Passenger — and it’s actually good to see the torment after so much emptiness.

So it looks, from the extended previews, like season 5 is going to be Dexter vs. Quinn. I hope this ends with both of them alive, since I do like them both. Or, I find them both interesting.

Also interesting: Debra Morgan.

Deb takes a lot of heat for her mouth and her emotional outbursts, but Jennifer Carpenter doesn’t get half as much credit as she deserves. Her Deb is the yin to Dexter’s yang. And if her husband is going to get kudos for his subtlety, she shouldn’t be penalized for her character’s natural volatility. I have a feeling Deb is going to be the heart of this season, whether she wants that or not.


Catch up on my “Dexter” archive here.