First, a word to the Showtime promotional people. I do not, as a rule, really care about spoilers. Because I live on the West Coast, it's really hard for me to get to the broadcast of a show without being spoiled in SOME way. I've known a bunch of big TV twists before they happened, and I've been just as happy to see how the show plays them out as I might have been to be surprised by them. But, c'mon. If you're going to say that your upcoming episode of Dexter ends in the most exciting way possible in your next week on package, you can't end your next week on package with the FINAL LINE OF THE EPISODE. Similarly, you might want to suggest to the creative personnel of said show that titling an episode with said final line is maybe not the best way to preserve the suspense. Like I said, I don't care, but millions of your viewers do.
Naturally, of course, I can't hold what Showtime does to promote the show against the show itself. While titling the episode that was kind of stupid, I can buy that it was a way to build up the suspense throughout the episode, waiting to hear how that line was used and in what context and by which character. So that's a moot point. Because "Hello, Dexter Morgan," like last week's episode, is pretty much such an exciting ride that it overrides all of the usual criticisms. There was probably more stupid stuff in this one than in last week's - Harry, in particular, is just around to say, "HEY, AUDIENCE, DID YOU SEE THIS IMPORTANT PLOT POINT THAT WE TOOK CARE TO HIGHLIGHT VIA OUR CHOSEN CAMERA ANGLES?" - but the episode itself was a rollicking good time with everything concluding in that suitably epic sequence of Arthur wandering about the police station where Dexter works, admiring his handiwork and then finding the man himself and learning his true name.
Let's start with everyone's least favorite plotline, though, which is Angel and LaGuerta's relationship. This week, caught by higher-ups on rather convenient footage from a security camera, the two decided to take their chances with not getting fired by, uh, getting married with Dexter as witness. I actually rather liked the scene where the two got married and how it only began when Dexter entered the room, but the rest of the plot felt a little stupid. These two are pretty much just daring an investigation now, and it's not like that investigation isn't going to find that they've essentially broken the spirit of the rules. I'm sure the show will drop this as a way to get rid of the storyline (and move on to the slightly more interesting idea of whether a sudden marriage between two people who are just doing it to stick it to the man can last), but it still beggars belief.
In many ways, this is the relationships in crisis episode of Dexter's fourth season, with Rita and Dexter's marital troubles also coming to a head. Rita reveals to Dexter that she kissed Elliott (well, he kissed her mostly, she says) to get him to stay at therapy (he leaves), then he seems a little too easy-going about the whole thing when the two talk about it before bed that night. But then Dexter punches Elliott in the face when he sees the guy sitting on his front stoop and warns him to stay away while Elliott says, "I'm sure you want to kill me" or something similar. I think we're supposed to say, "Oh, ho! Dexter could actually kill him! Irony!" but I'm more interested in the whole storyline as a way to show that Dexter's priorities are changing. When Rita is impressed that he hit the guy and gives him ice for his hand, it's a much quieter version of last week's whole "OH, THERE IS A CHILD KIDNAPPED, AND I ALSO HAVE CHILDREN NOW" plotline (which Alan Sepinwall argued about in convincing fashion here). I'm not opposed to Dexter changing fundamentally, but I want it to have some nuance, a hint of the danger that always lurks below the character's surface, and this storyline did.
But no one cares about any of that. The bulk of the episode was taken up by two separate things: Deb and Angel trying to get Christine to crack about who her dad was, and Dexter and Arthur playing an elaborate game of cat and mouse. As I've said before, Dexter works best as a show when Dexter has an adversary who's smart enough to keep up with him. That's one of the reasons it's too bad that Doakes is no longer on the show, though his gradual catching on to what Dexter was doing was one of the show's high points. The Christine plotline relied a bit too much on coincidence and convenience to be as good as it could be, and the Dexter plotline treated Dexter's framing of a man who was innocent of the Trinity killings (and subsequent killing of the guy, who was bad, but maybe not up to the level of some of Dexter's previous kills) a bit too blithely. But by and large, this stuff rocketed along so well that it was easy to let most of the plot holes and conveniences slip aside.
In particular, having both Dexter and Arthur try to stay two steps ahead of each other, with the entirety of Miami as their playground, was some good stuff. When Dexter got called in to the crime scene and learned the victim's name was Kyle Butler or when Arthur quizzically quirked an eyebrow at the news that someone was a suspect in the Trinity killings and that someone wasn't him, the episode had a kind of propulsion to it that made any objections to it almost moot. Also nice was the way the episode found to underline its season-long premise that Dexter's family, while probably a good thing and a thing that could give him more attachments than he has, still gets in the way of his mission, in this case showing him racing off to be Deb's shoulder to cry on after Christine killed herself, a sloppy act that allowed Arthur to track him back to the station. (And Deb's monologue about how she didn't want to erase Lundy's name did absolutely everything her monologue after he died tried to do and failed at in spades. It was also beautifully played by Jennifer Carpenter.) At the same time, Arthur swore off his connection to Christine in a way that showed how his connection to his family is fundamentally different from Dexter's.
Where does the show go from here? It looks like the finale's going to be more action-packed that last season's, if only for all of the loose ends still hanging out there. At the same time, I hope that Arthur doesn't just end up on Dexter's table. John Lithgow has been such a shot in the arm to the show that I'd love to see the guy turn into what Lena Olin was to the second season of Alias, a presence skulking behind bars and playing our hero off of everyone else in his life with the sort of nuance you get from a great villain. After a meandering midsection this season, it really feels like the writers of Dexter are pushing forward into some new territory with all of their characters, and I'm hoping they'll keep that promise next week and not just end this season like they've ended every other season.
- I haven't been a huge fan of Courtney Ford as Christine, but, credit where it's due, she was really good when she had the shakes as she realized just how badly her life was crumbling down around her. On the other hand, the way she killed herself struck me as, again, a little convenient. I was willing to overlook it in the moment, but it became sloppier from a story point of view on a second viewing.
- I really want to like Quinn. I do. I think he could be the new Doakes the show needs so badly. But he strikes me as kind of dumb (character-wise). I guess Deb will have to be the new Doakes.
- Somebody in comments last week pointed out that the reason Dexter's voice over and Harry grate so much is that the two devices basically accomplish the same thing from a story point-of-view, which often leads to doubling up on exposition. I thought it was a good point, and I wanted to highlight it in the main review but could never work it in.
- Also, because I'm a bad Dexter fan and can't remember, just how much DOES Deb know about Dexter's past? With the dangling thread of her being inches away from finding out about his real mom, it seems like it will come in handy.
- As I post this, I'm taking a look at what others have to say on other sites, and it looks like a lot of people are complaining that Dexter's too stupid in this episode. I think it's consistent with how overwhelmed he's been all season. Your thoughts?