I really need to start giving Dexter episodes two different grades, one for the Dexter stuff and one for everything else. "Everything Is Illuminated" offers a pretty good example of why. The Dexter stuff, aside from a couple of clumsy moments and minor nitpicks, is good fun and full of tension, possibly for the first time this season. If nothing else, this show knows how to pile a million obstacles on top of its lead, and it knows how to make his life a living hell. This episode did a good job at both tasks. On the other hand, all of the other characters continue to be stuck in a boring, sub-par cop show, and even if they're not taking up as much screen time as they did last week, those scenes are still present. If I'm going to be a good, objective reviewer, I should really include them in my average when grading this episode.
But I say screw it. The Dexter scenes were a lot of fun, and that means the episode was a lot of fun. It certainly helps that the show is playing coy with its ultimate goal for Lumen. Is she just meant to be yet another glimpse into Dexter's secret origins (albeit an oblique one), giving Dexter a chance to play Harry? Is she meant to prove some larger point about what it means to suffer psychological wounds? Is she just there to introduce one more damn thing for Dexter to have to juggle? Or is the show deliberately trying to ramp up romantic tension between the two, giving Dexter a girlfriend who's actively engaged in both halves of his life, a girlfriend who could, conceivably, join him in his murderous rampages, like this was a serial-killer-themed remake of Hart to Hart or something? The show is playing nearly all of these cards and playing them fairly well, so it makes the Dexter scenes a treat.
I mentioned I have a couple of quibbles with the Dexter storyline, so let's get those out of the way first. For one thing, I continue to find the idea that Dexter would be concerned that his son is some sort of incipient serial killer stupid beyond belief. I might not mind so much if the show were playing this more as a joke, but I half expect everyone involved wants us to take the notion of Harrison saying "Die die!" instead of "Bye bye!" seriously. And that's just too idiotic for words. Similarly, I wish the show hadn't let us off the hook so quickly with Lumen's first victim. I liked the ambiguity of the fact that she'd chained this dude up and Dexter wasn't just going to kill him straight off so she decided to finish the job. I understand, practically, that the show needs the other men in the circle of Greg to come after Lumen, but I like the idea that Lumen's memory is so overwhelmed by vengeance that she doesn't always make the best choices, becoming a monster Dexter can't wholly control. By immediately making sure that we knew Greg was guilty (even if he was a dentist), the show took away too much of the potential edge of this story point.
But this is a show that knows how to pile on the sense of chaos, and that long sequence in the shipping yard/warehouse emporium was one giant mess after another falling down on poor old Dexter's head. I do rather miss the days when Dexter actually tracked his prey, and one of the consequences of overloading the show with special guest stars is that those days are more or less gone for good. This episode, all we get is pretty much, "This guy's been doing bad stuff. Just take my word for it, viewers!" But this leads to the marvelously executed sequence where Dexter has the guy wrapped up in plastic, then gets called away by Lumen to deal with HER dead body, then finds himself trying to trace her dead body, which, as it turns out, isn't so dead. In the midst of all of this, he'll try to determine just how Lumen concluded this guy was a part of the ring of sexual enslavers (she just KNEW, OK?), sing a song over the phone to his son, and send Lumen back to the house he shared with Rita.
But wait! There's more! In a terrifically tense sequence, the online sexual predator escapes from the back of Dexter's car, and Dexter has to give chase, even as Deb and the rest of the cops are just around the corner. It's obvious that Dexter's not going to get exposed, not like this, but that doesn't mean the sequence doesn't still quicken the pulse. Dexter, of course, is a quick thinker and a fast runner, so he catches up to his prey in the nick of time, then somehow figures out a way to frame him for the murder of Lumen's corpse. That Masuka goes for all of this so quickly seems JUST a bit convenient, but I'm willing to forgive that when everything leading up to it is so much fun. And as a bonus, we get a really nice scene between Lumen and Dexter at episode's end, when he walks in and sees her in the tub, perched much like Rita's corpse was. It wasn't immediately clear just why the "Dexter's house with Rita" sets were still standing, but now it is. It's where he's going to store the parts of his life that don't fit in public. Like Lumen.
As mentioned, though, everything else? That was kind of stupid. Peter Weller stopped by to remind us he's on the show. Deb and Quinn began the most poorly conceived relationship since Deb's last relationship on the show. There was more stuff between Batista and LaGuerta no one cared about, and scenes where everybody went to a club and tried to catch up to the Fuentes Brothers. I care so little about these scenes that even as I'm watching them, I'm forgetting key details I just heard about. I'm not saying I can't follow them; I'm saying the show has done basically nothing to make me care. They're the scenes the show does because it has a bunch of people on the payroll that it doesn't know what to do with. On the other hand, if I were writing this show, I'd have even less of an idea of what to do with these characters, so maybe they're doing better than I give them credit for.
After roughly five episodes of not a whole lot happening, it's nice to see the story really kick into gear this week on Dexter. And I like the way that Lumen's uncertainty on the guy she's caught plays into the way the show has switched to just having Dexter catch up with his prey without us seeing the research. Do we trust Lumen to pick the right men out of a lineup and kill them? Dexter sure doesn't. And yet we implicitly trust everything he's telling us, even as he's pretty much doing the same thing as Lumen, just with more experience. There are a lot of fascinating depths to plumb in this new relationship, and I hope the show doesn't cheapen it somehow. Lumen could be the best thing to happen to Dexter in eons if the show plays its cards right.
- Seriously. "Die die." And THEN THE SHOW BROUGHT IT UP AGAIN AT THE WORST POSSIBLE MOMENT.
- And what's up with that nanny anyway? The show is sure making a big deal out of her without really doing anything with her. I have this sick feeling in my gut that she'll be related to Lila, but I'm terrible at predicting anything that happens on this show.
- Am I forgetting a very short scene, or was this the first episode of the season to not feature Harry at all?
- Oh, I forgot the WORST PLOT EVER: The random higher-up who comes and tries to get homicide to rein in costs. I know he's not a new character, but this is one of the most irritating plots on a cop show, and it's not made better by dialogue like, "All you're doing is drinking and dancing on the tax payer's dime."
- "Two words: Auto-erotic mummification."