Category Archives: Season 4

Final Thoughts: Dexter Season 4

What Worked

 Trinity actually surpassed The Ice Truck Killer as Dexter’s greatest foil.  Overall, I’d still say that the cat-and-mouse games of season one remain unmatched, but in terms of actually pushing Dexter’s character into new and interesting places Trinity is the best big bad the series has given us.

 Lundy’s death was not just a great shocker early on; it remained a compelling subplot throughout the season.  Far too often, television shows throw big moments like this at us without making them sufficiently relevant to the story.

 Some good kills overall this year.  The table-talk was great and I’m glad to see some tools besides the knife employed again.

 Dexter’s been giving us striking images since season one and didn’t disappoint this time.   Personal favorites from this season include Trinity holding his first victim (and later his wife) in the bathtub, Dexter peering into Trinity’s home from behind a tree, and Harrison crying in Rita’s blood.

 Jennifer Carpenter’s performance really was top-drawer this season.  I’ve always thought she ranged from ok to good, but there were many people out there that couldn’t stand her.  The crying scene alone should be enough to silence those critics, even if they can’t admit how good she was all season.  Where’s her golden globe nomination?

 The pacing of this whole season was really excellent.  Tension is what we tune into Dexter for, but each episode just seemed to start turning the screws earlier than previous years and not let up.  More importantly, the writers gave us truly satisfying payoffs for all the edges we has to sit on.

I’ve rave plenty about Michael C. Hall and John Lithgow this season, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention just how much their individual performances and chemistry made this season work.  It takes an awful lot to sell characters this big, but they both did so, admirably. 

Rita and the kids were great this years.  Go ahead and bitch about it in the comments but it’s true.  Yes, many of Rita’s scenes seemed to stifle the plot and grate on our nerves but that was the point.  As Dexter was feeling smothered, so was the audience.  And the kids?  They were better utilized here than in any previous season.

What Didn’t

Angel’s love life, a fixture of each season, perfectly encapsulates what does and does not work in Dexter subplots.  In seasons one and two his romantic troubles were viewed through Dexter’s eyes, either thematically in his collapsing marriage or dramatically in his involvement with Lilah.  Here and in season 3, Dexter’s on the periphery and the audience doesn’t care.  The consequence of having such a compelling main character is that the supporting cast must revolve around them.  The writers need to accept this and move on.

I’m borderline on Christine and, while I think she’ll play better on dvd, I need to put her in the negative column right now.  The fact that I spent most of the season asking what she brought to the show should’ve been a clue that another shoe needed to drop, but that really doesn’t speak in the character’s favour.  She should’ve been given a better red-herring than being Quinn’s manipulative squeeze.

Dexter killing an innocent was a horribly wasted opportunity.  While they did come back to it a couple of times it was ultimately dwarfed by the Trinity storyline.  Done properly, this could’ve been a season arc, or at least a subplot.  Here we seemed driven to forget about it.

Deb’s search for Laura Moser had a surprisingly positive payoff in the end, though the whole thing was drawn out for too long.  We often watch Miami Metro look for things Dex is trying to hide, but the difference is that he’s actually working against them.  Here, Debra’s hurdles seemed to be limited to uncooperative CIs, not the best way to build tension.

Harry was really hit or miss this season, emphasis on the miss.  Since the end of the flashbacks, Harry has become an almost purely limiting force in Dexter’s life, which is fine, so long as he’s limiting Dexter in new and interesting ways.  Far too often he brings up the same old arguments that we’ve heard before or, worse, makes some obvious commentary on how Dexter has screwed up this week.  It’s hard to have a figment of Dexter’s imagination evolve, but something is definitely going to need to change with Harry if he’s to return to being a productive part of the show.

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No, but I want to be

Dexter has always, for me anyway, had a redemptive message.  Our hero wrestles with some manifestation of his demons in each season before ultimately making the right choice.  There’s been more than enough moral ambiguity to go around but, on balance, the series arc has been Dexter moving closer to humanity.  Before slamming us in the gut with a framing hammer, that’s where this season’s finale seemed to be headed.  Dexter realizes that it’s his dark passenger and not his family that’s the problem and that his real goal should be to conquer his demons, not balance them with his home life; in short, he must try to be a better man.  Then, just as the episode reaches it’s “YES HE CAN!” crescendo, we find Rita in the tub.

 I was not among those that hated Rita’s character this season but, even if I were, her death would still be a tragedy for what she meant to Dexter.  Deb may represent the “true” familial connection, but Rita represented hope.  Their relationship was Dexter’s foundation for growth, his opportunity to learn to connect with someone as they both moved toward their shared dream of “a normal life.”  Without her, he has nothing to aspire to, a fact brought home by the brutally despairing voiceover that ends the season.  Without a doubt, this was the bleakest moment of the show, topping even Brian’s death (something I didn’t think possible), and enough of a game-changer to leave me at a loss for what season five will be like.

 If I have one quibble with the episode, it’s that Rita’s death was telegraphed in her little pep-talk to Dexter.  Anytime a character reminds us why they’re important is a time to get worried.  That being said, the final image of her in the bathtub with Harrison wallowing in her blood was more gruesome than anything I’d imagined, and there were enough twists and turns along the way to make me forget my suspicions.  The by-the-numbers nature of the rest of the episode probably helped lull me into a sense of security, which isn’t to say that it wasn’t satisfying before the twist.  The episode did what the series does best with Dexter racing the cops to catch a killer who’s menacing the life he’s built for himself.  The takedown in the parking garage, the raid on the Mitchell household, the altercation with Quinn, the simple/brilliant trap with the oil cap; all classic Dexter, all flawlessly executed.

 The exchange with Harry in the jail cell was also classic Dexter, but it deserves some special attention after a season of lackluster Harry moments.  James Remar was better than he’s been since the first season, making seemingly logical arguments for protecting the innocent while simultaneously limiting Dexter’s human impulses.  Dex has seen through the BS before, but this time felt much more definitive.  The code was revealed as a limitation on his humanity in season one, but this was the first time he’s really confronted it as an enabler for the dark passenger.  The code may have kept Dexter out of jail, but it isn’t a real solution.  The real answer is fighting the dark passenger, not finding a way to live with it.  The realization’s predictable, at least in the sense that I predicted it, but it was so well executed that I don’t care.

Where denying Harry provided one piece of the puzzle, accepting Deb provided the other.  Dex may have accepted the need to fight the evil in him, but his ability to do good for others seems undermined by the trauma that Arthur’s discovery inflicts on his family.  It was a pleasant surprise that Deb learning about his past had a positive outcome (at least for this season).  Her flat denial of Dexter’s self-pity was perfect.  He has been a positive force in her life (possibly the only one), and can continue to be one for her, Rita, and the kids.

 Armed with the twofold reason to change, Dexter seems to have all the answers once Trinity’s on the table.  He’s transcended his onetime mentor and discovered the real way to live as a killer.  Don’t.  Trinity’s claim that Dexter is no better than him is refuted by simple statement “No, but I want to be.”  The mere fact that he actually wants to change (as opposed to just praying for an ending) is what separates Dexter from Arthur.  He finally appreciates just how his family can save him and is resolved to follow that path.  Of course, Trinity’s aware of the lie in Dexter’s words.  Hope is being killed just as it’s being discovered and the cycle of trauma and violence is horrifically renewed in the image of Harrison crying in Rita’s blood.  The real tragedy here is that everything Dexter’s just realized is still true.  He still can and should change, for his own sake and his family’s.  It’s ironic that his utterly human reaction makes the chance of this actually happening seem impossibly remote.

 Final Thoughts

 The finales of seasons 2 & 3 of Dexter worked thematically while (at least partly) missing the mark dramatically.  It was nice to see this season deliver a conclusion that was satisfying on all levels.

 One of the aspects of Dexter that I love is its exploration of superhero archetypes.  Comic book devotees should recognize this episode as the “Jason Todd/Gwen Stacey moment.”  The hero, well established in his career and at the top of his game, fails the person closest to him in the most tragic way.  The consequences of this failure haunt him forever and colour everything they do afterwards.

 I desperately need to see this episode again as I was far to caught up in the events to really appreciate everything.  The table-talk scene in particular should be amazing on 2nd viewing when we know what Arthur knows.  Oh well, must wait for DVD.

 Hats off to the entire cast for this episode; just outstanding work all around.  Michael C. Hall’s performance, always stellar, was at its best when Deb “tells” him about his brother.  I’m always impressed by his ability to move between genuine and false emotion, but the truly incredible moments are where he seems to be doing both at the same time.  The surprise at the revelation is obviously feigned, while the remorse at having caused Deborah pain is genuine.  This is why I call him the best actor on TV.

 I’ll be posting one more “Final Thoughts” on the season as a whole.  After that this blog will be moving on to… something else.

Hello, Dexter Morgan

“Epic tension” seems to be the most suitable way to describe this episode of Dexter. From the moment the title appeared on the screen I found myself thinking “Oh shit.” Having a title that essentially gives away the ending is a bold choice for any series, but one that I think encapsulates what makes Dexter better than the average thriller. As good as the show is at wielding the “what happens?” question, it’s always placed more emphasis on the how and the why. That emphasis pays huge dividends here.

We know that Arthur learns “Kyle’s” real identity by the episode’s end, and that put just the right twist their continuing cat-and-mouse game. The season began with the suggestion that Trinity was the superior serial-killer but Dex has essentially outmaneuvered him over the course of the season (learning his identity, insinuating himself with his family, foiling one of his murders, etc). Dexter’s mastery of deception is well-established, but, after so much time, Trinity’s own skills were starting to be undermined. We’re forcibly reminded of them here as Arthur turns the tables in a single episode. Trinity was never stupid, he was simply preoccupied. With his attention focused on Dexter he’s able to stay one step ahead, literally towering over his adversary in the final shot.

Dexter’s unsustainable juggling act has been the season’s central premise and, to be honest, it’s been getting a little old for me, but it pays off well here. His personal life is, predictably, what allows Trinity to get the better of him but, thankfully, it’s not Harrison’s ear infection that trips Dex up, it’s his sister having a genuine crisis. This relationship has always been the foundation of Dexter’s humanity, so it’s fitting that it be the crack that Trinity’s able to slip through. Arthur receives his own crisis-call from his connection to humanity, and his inability to return Christine’s love precipitates her suicide and eliminates the one person that could expose him. It’s interesting that the show’s presented the moral choice as such a straightforward liability. The “killers can’t have families” message seems to be elevated here to “killers can’t do the right thing,” the same moral tension that Dexter has wrestled with from the beginning. The season finale seems likely to give us a definitive answer, making me wonder how the show will evolve in season 5.

Final Thoughts

 How the hell is this going to pan out? Arthur poses a serious threat to Dexter on a number of levels. Beyond the basics of murder and/or exposure, there’s the fact that Trinity could complete his cycle by wiping out the Morgans. There’s more than one way for Dexter to lose his family here.

Harry fell flat again this week. Dexter’s multiple reflections was a great shot, I didn’t need to king of exposition to explain it. The identity issues explored in this episode were great otherwise.

Jennifer Carpenter continues to bring her A-game with this episode. The refusal to forgive Christine was fantastic.

How awesome was Trinity’s walk through the police station? The way this sequence was shot was just amazing; Lithgow was at his most imposing as he strolled into the homicide department, almost larger than life. It made Trinity seem all the more super-human and (for the purposes of this scene at least) it’s a good thing that we’ve grown desensitized to Dexter doing it every day.

I’m a father now

I always enjoy seeing some straightforward heroics from Dexter.  Last week’s episode did a masterful job of contrasting his altruistic impulses with his murderous ones, but it’s nice to see that the heroic Dexter is almost as entertaining when played straight.  Murdering Arthur quickly becomes irrelevant in the face of a child in danger and we get to see the dots of Dexter’s better parts being connected.  The fondness for children has been there since the first season and has grown more personal since he became a father.  Now it’s manifested itself in Dexter applying his talents to purely virtuous ends.  It’s a nice look at what Dex can aspire to when he uses his powers for good.

 Meanwhile, we also get a look at the depths Trinity can sink to as his own desire to protect an innocent manifests in the worst possible way.  Endangering a child is often a cheap way for film and television to raise the stakes, but it works well here.  Arthur remains as frightful and disturbing as ever, but what struck me most was his genuine need for things to play out in a certain way.  I take his vulnerability with Scott to be both genuine and manipulative, which made it all the more creepy.  The pain he shows the boy is real, but it’s also a performance he’s given countless times before, knowing just how it ends.  The original cycle started from innocence, and so Arthur must recapture that, if only through a surrogate, in order for it to begin again.

 Dexter and Trinity have never been further apart than they are here, working towards opposing ends while also having opposing reactions as they finally recognize the fallout of their actions.  Trinity sees the damage he’s done to Christine and literally curses the danger it’s put him in.  Dexter sees his lies reflected in Rita and Cody and regrets his actions.  Last week saw him finally appreciate just how much damage he could do to his family, this week he actually vowed not to let it happen.  Dexter has found his own surrogates in his sons and chooses to protect, rather than preserve, them.

 Finally, Deb and Angel connect the dots that make Christine the shooter.  The notion makes a bit more sense than it did last week but the problem is that her “right place, right time” reporting never looked suspicious to me on the first run-through.  At least they’re aware that the evidence is circumstantial, and give us a payoff to having Trinity’s DNA.  I’m hoping this plays better on a second viewing, but, for now, I’ll rule the twist tolerable and move on.

 Final Thoughts

 Dexter’s voiceover and Harry’s presence really haven’t been that great this season.  Where before they offered wry humour and/or genuine insight, they’ve now become redundant exposition.  Hall’s performance makes it perfectly clear what Dexter’s going through and we don’t need Dexter and Harry stating the obvious.

 The whole “Deb finding out” subplot has been teased way too much this season.  I had thought the reveal was going to come partway through and weave into the Trinity story, but now it looks like it’s being saved for the finale with the fallout reserved for season five.  The tension’s kinda gone out of it by this point.

 There are likely many examples of a cargo container being used as a hideout, but the two that sprang to mind were Dark Knight and Lord of War; some nice references for all aspects of Dexter’s character.

To err is human

This is one occasion where I find it difficult to refrain from criticising an episode for what it’s not. After last week’s “mistake” I was expecting to watch Dexter fall apart. Whatever we might think about his code, the one thing that separates him from the people on his table is the fact that he’s never taken an innocent life. The loss of that distinction needs more attention than it seemed to receive in this episode. It may be that this story is going to be drawn out over several episodes, but right now it looks as if this event has been lost in the focus on the Trinity storyline.

Putting aside my disappointment, this was still not the greatest episode of Dexter. The notion that Trinity might be just as desperate for a “real” connection as Dexter is certainly one worth exploring, but it seemed to get short-shrift in this case. The fact is that these two already have enough of a connection and anything further needs to add to an already intense dynamic. The revelations about Trinity’s family was enough to stand on its own without the additional “just like me”-isms. Trinity’s falling apart was the better example of the parallel, though not a perfect one. This kind of erratic behaviour was sort of what I was expecting from Dexter, and Lithgow makes a fine surrogate. We’re shown where a lack of coping skills could take a serial killer, though Dex is still just a little too controlled for us to really picture him on the ledge.

Dexter’s neighbour, what’s-his-name, has shown up too late in the season. To be honest, this was the first time I thought that the Morgan marriage was actually in jeopardy; there certainly are men out there who can give Rita and the kids what they need without all the deception and emotional detachment. The problem is that Eliot (that’s it!) has arrived late to the party. The scene with him and Rita would’ve worked much better if we had at least seen the two of them flirting at the bbq (or something similar). At this point it feels like a new strain on Dexter’s marriage just as he’d gotten a handle on the last one. I really hope this story-line feels less disjointed when watched on DVD.

Final Thoughts

Please not Anton, please not Anton… If memory serves he’s much taller than Masuka, so I’m hoping that someone far more interesting ends up being the shooter. Possibly one of the CIs she’s talked to? But why?

What’s next for Trinity? I’m hoping this is the last suicide attempt, but if he’s truly decided to end his cycle, what now? Quiet suburban life or killing outside his code?

Isn’t that what life is, a risk?

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Whoa… It had to happen eventually, Dexter killing an innocent man is such an obvious story to tackle that the series had to deal with it at some point, but I never expected it to happen at this point in this season. I suppose things can never be too intense, and I was wondering just how they could regain the momentum brought by Trinity’s kill cycle in time for the finale, but it’s still an unexpected turn. Just how this will fit into the season as a whole is pure speculation at this point, but I see it as yet another reason that Dexter needs to quit, although he’s likely to go to Trinity for more answers before coming to that conclusion.

Fallout from this episode is certainly worth a lot more thought, but this post is about the episode itself. To be honest, the twist is rather obvious in retrospect. I thought Dexter’s investigation was a little sloppy (since when doesn’t he check the alibi?) but, given the point in the season-arc, I chalked it up to sloppy writing. Writers, I apologize. Dexter’s worst mistake is wonderfully contrasted with his bonding with Cody. Yes, he still misses the point of the ghost story, but is genuinely appreciative of the time spent with his son… until he isn’t. Leaving Cody in the middle of the night has to be the most straightforward act of bad parenting Dexter’s ever committed. It’s only fitting that it lead to tragedy. Props again to the writers for not going the obvious route and just having Cody awake to find Dexter gone.

Getting back to the main story, the scenes between Dex and Trinity remain a delight to watch. Killing the deer brought back memories of the first season, only there Dexter’s father-figure was the stone-faced enabler as opposed to the squeamish wimp. It’s not that I think killing an animal is easy, just that it should be for an alleged badass like Trinity. But here he’s portrayed as cringing and ineffectual. Is he so committed to the role Arthur Mitchell that he won’t even indulge in a little mercy-killing? I think it’s much more likely that he really is incapable of killing outside of his ritual and that death outside of it holds no appeal for him.

Final thoughts

Is Quinn becoming the new Doakes? I’m happy the character has something to do besides hot chicks, but does Dex really need a new nemesis? The last one was only interesting after he was locked in a cage.

What’s with the mixed messages from Harry’s CIs? Didn’t the last one interviewed indicate that he wasn’t a player?

Killing an innocent came at the perfect time for Deb’s investigation of Harry. There’s no way Dexter leaves that photo in a drawer for her to find… unless he’s too distracted by guilt.

My Family Saved Me

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After last week’s intensity, this episode felt like a step back, albeit a necessary one.  Neither Dexter nor Trinity kill anyone, Deb’swalls are back up, Rita’s still trying to “make it work” and the supporting cast romance continued its snoozathon.  But a slow hour of Dexter is still better than 99% of what’s on television and this one did give us some essential developments.

Let’s start with the obvious, Trinity.  I don’t think anyone doubted that Lithgow could successfully pull a 180 with his performance, but it was still delightful to watch the most prolific serial killer in history become Arthur Mitchell, church-going family man.  The characterization is so strong that it’s almost enough to make us forget what a twisted monster Trinity actually is, it certainly seemed to work on Dexter.  While he’s committed to killing Arthur, he quickly moved from wanting to plagiarize a few of his camouflage techniques to outright admiration of the man’s achievements.  Of course, Trinity’s not someone Dexter ought to admire, for reasons we’ll get to in a minute.

As I indicated, the rest of the cast felt somewhat stagnant this episode, but at least there seems to be some direction plot-wise.  Deb gets her emotions back under control and proves capable enough to connect Trinity to Lundy’s death.  There’s also a convenient phone call to get her back on Laura Moser’s trail.  Angel and Laguerta may have ended their relationship, or at least moved on to more interesting territory.  And Rita pulls Dexter into couples therapy and seems to accept his need for space.  I wouldn’t call any of these developments forced, but it did all feel like housekeeping for the arcs; events that needed to happen but weren’t terribly interesting to watch.  It would’ve been nice if they’d been spread out a little more, but then I suppose last week’s awesomeness would’ve been diluted.

The saving grace for this episode was Trinity getting into the bathtub with his wife.  The reconstruction of the bath-tub bleed-out was chilling and reminded us that as well adjusted as Arthur Mitchell seems, he’s still the same monster from episode one.  It’s for this reason that Dexter cannot follow his advice.  Mitchell shares his dark passenger with the world, and so is able to be a monster and a husband/father.  Dexter keeps his monster in the shadows, and so moves closer to not being one.  The bathtub scene would be analogous to Dex and Rita exploring some bondage fun.  It’s a thoroughly twisted notion and not the kind of thing we, the audience, want to see Dexter doing.  As much as Trinity seems to have all the answers, becoming like him would involve Dexter sacrificing what humanity he has.

Final Thoughts

I think this episode firmly placed the season in the Dexter mould.  He’s met someone that seems to be offering the acceptance and belonging that he really wants, but is really just an enabler for the Dark Passenger that will need to be dealt with.  We’ve seen it before, but I’m having too much fun to care.

I’m disappointed that there wasn’t a follow up for Dex and Deb after last week.  I wasn’t expecting the floodgates to stay open, but an acknowledgment of what they shared would be appreciated.

What does Quinn add to the series?

No you’re not… I am

Season one of Dexter was a masterpiece of television and, for all its continuing virtues, the series has always struggled to live up to that.  The Ice Truck Killer storyline accentuates every misstep (*cough* Lilah) the series has made, and diminishes every great thing it’s done (Miguel’s death vs. Brian’s).  This week’s episode may have transcended that comparison.  Debra’s meltdown in the parking lot was one of the best acted, scripted, and shot scenes the show has ever done.  Dexter has never had a more palpable connection to another human being.  Michael C. Hall is at his best in communicating such painful sympathy and Jennifer Carpenter (who I’ve always liked) gets her performance up to his level.  THIS is why I love television.

 Dexter’s love for his sister boiled over in the parking lot, but it was present from the first moment.  The line between real and feigned emotion is always blurry with this character… except when it’s not.  This episode treated us to genuine fear, anger, concern, and desperation throughout, with the one exception of his interaction with Rita.  Much like Deb, Rita gives Dexter the perfect opportunity to open up.  He can’t.  What’s more, there’s no real tension when he shows her what’s in the chest.  Attentive viewers know that the knives are in a hidden compartment, and Hall’s performance clearly has the mask firmly in place.  The set up itself makes sharing impossible; there’s no way that Rita finds out at this time, in this manner.  We could feel Dexter’s need to share with his sister, and we could feel its absence with his wife.  The show’s finally addressing the fundamental flaw of their relationship: can Rita go on loving a man she doesn’t really know?

 Combined with all this pitch-perfect character drama is the most intense cat-and-mouse games since season one (ok, so maybe it didn’t completely transcend the comparison).  It was great to see Dexter, in classic fashion, being one step ahead of the cops; quickly recognizing that this wasn’t the vacation murders, grabbing the case documents from Lundy’s hotel, pilfering evidence, and finding Trinity.  The whole thing followed the standard “victim-of-the-week” formula, albeit with far more tension than usual.  And then, rather than ending with a kill, the other shoe drops with Trinity.  I was sadly spoiled on the fact that he has a family, but it’s an exciting development nonetheless.  This season’s mirror seems to be offering Dexter the means of getting everything he wants and its going to be interesting for the audience to see him try to emulate someone who’s been made so loathsome in the first 5 episodes.

 Final Thoughts

 Lithgow is just as adept with the straightforward brutality as he is with the creepy; definitely the most intriguing “big bad” the series has had yet.

 Is Harry the Dark Passenger?  Obviously Ghost Dad is just an aspect of Dexter’s consciousness, but the question is which aspect?  Last season he was a manifestation of Dexter’s issues with his father, but those were largely resolved.  The lack of animosity also doesn’t fit the old pattern.  At first I took the new Harry to be a personification of the code, but now I’m not so sure.  Last week, and to a lesser extent this week, he was advocating some fairly dark thoughts.  Harry’s always been an enabler for Dexter, perhaps that’s going to be explored more as the series goes on.

 I’m very happy to see the Dexter/Debra relationship back at the centre of things.  For me, this has always been the core of the show.  It’s what he goes back to whenever he’s most vulnerable and deserves a lot more exploration than it got last season.

I know something about creating a narrative…

After a couple weeks of frantic-Dexter (good) and one of silly-Dexter (bad), this felt very much like a “back to basics” episode.  That’s a good thing as it reminded me of just how effective the standard Dexter formula can be.  There’s nothing new about Dexter seeing  himself in his victim and in applying this “on-the-job” learning to his personal life, but it was still great to see him reacting against someone who couldn’t handle the stress of building a family.  “Can Dexter have a family?” is a fine question to base the season around, but he needed to make some progress on the issue for it not to grow stale.

There was never any real tension in Dexter/Harry contemplating whether it was better to leave or murder one’s family; we all know Dex isn’t going to do either.  But Harry and Dexter know that too.  Both alternatives are only discussed indirectly, as though neither has enough weight to be explicit.  The real question here is about narrative, how Dexter interprets the facts of his life.  Is he a “lone wolf” being smothered by his wife and kids, doomed to keep his true self hidden at all times?  Or is his family a humanizing influence, pushing the Dark Passenger aside to make room for Dexter himself?  The story is far from over, but Dex has at least realized how he wants to see it.  His family isn’t merely a prop to be set aside when the scene changes.  It’s something he values even more than his secrets.

For the first time this season, Trinity wasn’t the highlight of the episode (which is saying a lot, since he was again a delight to watch).  Getting himself beaten up outside the bar was a nice reminder of just how crazy he is.  We’ve watched a high-functioning sociopath for over three seasons now, so I think some evidence beyond murder was necessary for the audience to appreciate Trinity’s psychosis.  I’m also fairly convinced that he “needs” to meet his victims before killing them, it’s the only explanation I can think of for his encounter with Lundy (yes, Trinity pulled the trigger, there’s no way I buy the Anton theories that are floating around).  I’m hoping all these pieces add up to a satisfying whole by season’s end.

Final Thoughts

Lundy’s death is one of the biggest shocks the series has ever given us.  I thought there was a good chance he wouldn’t survive this season, but I certainly didn’t see it happening this early.  As much as I’ll miss the character (and all the stories that could have been) I think it’s a good thing.  There’s enough meat to the Dexter vs. Trinity storyline that Lundy was likely to detract from it before too much longer.

Deb getting shot seems like exactly what Dexter needs to get him focused on Trinity the way we’ve wanted since the first episode, and her grief is likely to help her accept it when she cathes Dexter killing him (90% sure this is gonna happen).

More motivation to kill couldn’t really come a worse time for Dexter as he’s finally started appreciating his family.  It’s a welcome complication as it will start bringing the season’s many story lines together.  I’m hoping the police blame Lundy’s death on the vacation murderers so that everything can feel a little less scattered.

It’s OK… you can be dumb

            Astor forgiving Dexter (which I’ll get to in a moment) was one of two highlights in a mediocre (at best) episode.  The other was Trinity’s second brutal slaying.  In its own way, this was even more horrifying than the first episode’s bathtub scene.  Compelling a woman to jump off a building is a disturbing enough premise on its own, but Lithgow’s performance as he refuses to push her is brilliant.  Trinity is fascinating in a way we haven’t seen since the Ice Truck Killer and its nice to see both Dexter and Lundy sharing our interest in him.  The protagonist parallels continue to build as it appears that Trinity, like Dexter, is recreating a trauma from his past.

             Dexter recognizes his kinship with Trinity and is, of course, excited by it.  His assertion to Deb that “fear can be a powerful motivator,” is an accurate assessment of Trinity’s methods, and it get what should’ve been a nice parallel in his own life.  The problem with Dexter scaring “the vandal!” (seriously, who the hell says “look, it’s the vandal!”?) into quitting is that he isn’t really scary in this episode.  I’m all for campy fun, the series has done it well in the past, but this episode crossed the line into goofy.  Dexter’s at least self-aware enough to realize that running from the neighbourhood watch is humiliating.  Following that up with him trying to “scare the shit” out “the vandal!” was a very poor choice for the writers.  Objectively, someone in a ski mask threatening to kill you is scary but, as an audience, it’s too hard to buy into after watching Dexter cowering behind the toolshed.

             I’ll give this episode a compliment sandwich and end with Astor telling Dexter that it’s okay to be dumb.  For me, this scene was even better than the Trinity’s kill.  Harry’s right about why Dexter has an easier time relating to kids than to adults, their emotions ARE less complex.  But he’s dead wrong about Dexter needing to blend in perfectly all the time.  Astor’s assessment is far more accurate.  It’s okay if Dexter has trouble relating to her.  We all have trouble relating to one another from time to time.  Hell, I’d even say it happens frequently.  But the people who love us will forgive us and keep loving anyway, even if we don’t really “get” them all the time.  This is what genuine human relations are, and what Dexter needs to realize if he’s going to keep his family together.  He needs to stop trying to be everything his family expects and show them his flaws.  They’re going to come out anyway but, if he’s upfront about them and apologizes, then he can expect to be forgiven.

 Tangent:

            This episode was a prime example of how “soft” Dexter has grown over the years.  The Dexter of season one would’ve been completely credible as he threatened “the vandal!”  In as much as this is a natural evolution of the character, I’m happy with it.  This is a Dexter more in touch with his emotions, more connected to the people around him, and more aware of his own humanity.  It’s natural that he be less scary.  In the sense that this is a softening of Dexter’s darker impulses to make him more palatable to the audience, I have to give a disappointed sigh.  The best example of what this has cost the series can be found in Dexter’s kills.  Season one strongly implied that he tortured his victims before killing them.  It was always cringe inducing and made the kill scenes a highlight of each episode (the psychologist’s death is still a personal favourite).  Now?  One quick knife thrust; far easier for us to forgive.  Sadly, it’s also far easier for us to forget.