First off, let me say that this episode was much better than the season’s first two. “Smokey and the Bandit” gave us a monster of the week that actually had something to teach Dexter, a conceit that’s been sorely missed since season four. Not that Walter Kenny’s lesson wasn’t something Dexter already kinda-sorta learned in… season four, but it was still good for the writers to give us some reason for the kill scene beyond the fact that we all enjoy a good kill scene.
I briefly thought that we might get a somewhat sympathetic killer/victim this time around as Dexter took out a decrepit victim, but Walt’s pretty loathsome as nothing more than a miserable, lecherous old crank. The lack of a twist here actually proves to be one of the episode’s more effective elements as we get to spend it thoroughly disliking Walter and are as pleased as Dex is when it’s confirmed that he’ll be finishing the hour on the table. Of course, then the other shoe drops and we learn he’s “just like” Dexter. It’s an old trick for the series, but we’ve disliked Dexter’s previous victims because they’re, ya know, killers. Walt we dislike because he’s an asshole and it’s disturbing to see “everybody’s favourite serial killer” reflected in this way.
Walter’s lesson is a good one but, as I mentioned, it’s one Dexter’s learned before. Trinity proved a far more effective cautionary tale about an inner monster alienating one’s family and Dex seemed pretty firm at the time that he wouldn’t become that. Now would seem like a great opportunity for him to think about the two kids he doesn’t see anymore, but instead we get the usual worry about what he’s passing on to Harrison. I appreciated Dexter’s efforts in this regard as he decided to spare Kenny Jr. the knowledge that dad’s a killer, but the lesson’s still amounting to “my son must never know.” Best case scenario: this a set up for the real lesson about actually being a better person instead of just pretending to be one but, again, Trinity taught that first and taught it better.
Fortunately, there was enough macabre fascination in the B-story to (almost) distract me from the shortcomings in the main one. I complained last week that Dexter seemed to be trading in legit psychological creepiness for gory visuals and while that’s still technically true, the exchange is a lot more balanced this time. Travis and his as-yet unnamed mentor spend the episode tormenting some poor man with demands that he repent some vague sins before carving him and some mannequins up to make the four horsemen of the fucking apocalypse! It puts the snakes to shame in its sensationalism but it’s preceded by enough information about the two killers to have me care about what’s driving them to such bizarre/sickening/awesome acts of murder.
I guess that the big bads were actually the C-story while Miami Metro was “B,” but I still don’t care about Deb’s new job, Quinn’s hurt feelings, and Angel’s bruised manhood. This is Dexter, not Dexter and Friends.
Speaking of the deadweight, did the supporting cast really need yet another new member? Fix the characters you have before throwing more into the mix.
The horsemen visual really is gruesomely fantastic and I’ve got to tip my hat to the director (Stefan Schwartz) for stretching out the image through half-seen shots. It kept it the effect fully horrific without letting it become silly.
Much as I appreciate what Dex did for Walter’s son, won’t the man’s car crash contusions give the medical examiner pause? And doesn’t his home make for an obvious crime scene to search? It seems a little much for the Code to allow.
I think that I’ve hit upon what my problem is with Dexter this season; I still haven’t forgiven it for the last one. I spent thirteen episodes telling myself that it was building to something awesome and when it didn’t deliver I felt betrayed. Now I’m disinclined to cut the show any amount of slack. At this point the series is only as good as its last episode and that’s really not saying a whole lot.