B+

Dexter: "Hungry Man"

B+

Dexter

"Hungry Man"

Season 4, Episode 9

So, listen, Dexter fans. That episode was a big step up from the last couple of go nowhere bore fests, but that final twist was completely ludicrous. When some of you were saying in comments how obvious it was that the reporter was behind the shootings of Deb and Lundy, I didn't want to believe you because a.) it sounded stupid and b.) I have a vested interest in journalists being portrayed as non-serial killers. But the more you guys argued for that point, I realized that was the case. I was prepared to find out that she was behind the shooting. I was not prepared to find out that she was Arthur Mitchell's daughter. I mean, it already stretches credulity that Miami has this many serial killers, but now they all have to be related? This is like when Heroes made everyone a Petrelli.

I mean, I suppose the show can figure out a way to make all of this make some sort of sense eventually, but the initial twist doesn't seem terribly smart. And it was a sour note on an episode that built nicely to a boil. It started out with a bunch of stuff that was pretty lame, then mostly got rid of that in favor of the things that are working on the show. I don't know that anyone was terribly excited to see that LaGuerta and Angel went to see some guy whose wife was murdered. And then it turned out that he was in a coma. And THEN the two went down to the beach and declared their love for each other. It was so bad that my friend who'd never seen an episode of the show and chose to watch this one laughed at it. Maybe this would work if the actors had any sort of chemistry, but it has never stopped feeling like the show just tossed this storyline at these actors to give them something to do.

Meanwhile, back at the Morgan ranch, Dexter's desperation to get Deb to come over for Thanksgiving was a little off-putting (when are the warning bells about her brother's extracurricular activities going to start ringing for her), but most of the rest of the stuff worked. I was a little down on how the show seemed to be speeding up the Rita and Elliott pairing last week, but much of it felt more organic this week, even if the episode's whole, "OH, IT'S A GOOD THING I HAVE TWO OVENS" and "I'M MASUKA AND I'LL NEED AN OVEN FOR MY LAVA CAKE" thing was pretty telegraphed. Dexter has been spending a lot of time away from the house this season, and even if he's never going to turn into someone like Arthur with Rita and the kids, even just keeping up the facade of being a normal family man is going to be something that gets in the way of what he really wants to be doing.

But, honestly, almost all of the stuff with Dexter hanging out with the Mitchells for Thanksgiving was pretty much everything I've wanted the show to do with the plot from the time John Lithgow first came on the scene. It was also surprisingly subtle for the show until it wasn't, everything boiling away under the surface until Arthur was breaking his son's finger and calling his wife a cunt and locking his daughter up in her room. I suppose it's a little unbelievable that Arthur's this big of a monster and no one seems to have noticed, but, again, the show seems to be using some of the more under-the-radar serial killers of history as a model for him, most obviously the BTK killer. The weird hatred his family feels for him and how quickly that could spin into something approaching Stockholm syndrome all played very believably. I was less sold on the idea that the daughter would throw herself at Dexter like that (or that her mom would be sort of OK with it!), but you can't win 'em all.

But the best thing about all of this was Dexter's mounting frustration about how he was unable to do anything to stop Arthur, about how his facade of Kyle Butler would have to crack for him to be able to do anything. You could see the cracks in the Butler performance (and have I mentioned how good Michael C. Hall is at playing Dexter playing someone else?) gradually showing the real Dexter beneath the surface, and his mounting sense that this is a situation in which he would be completely justified in killing made for some nicely tense TV. Even when Dexter, Arthur and Jonah were just sitting there and watching football on TV, there were plenty of moments when you could feel either Dexter or Arthur ready to snap.

And when both snapped, it was surprisingly fast and brutal, even for a show that does fast and brutal well. I liked Arthur's cold cunning as he snapped his son's finger or the way his gradual sense of betrayal during the "I'm thankful for" scene manifested itself so suddenly. And, that said, when Dexter launched himself across the room to drag Arthur off of his son (with his belt!) and haul him forcibly into the kitchen to threaten him with a knife and pretty much expose himself as someone who was going to kill Arthur, it was one of the best moments of the season. Season four has felt like the tension has sapped out of it fairly frequently, but the show can still bring that tension back at a moment's notice.

Meanwhile, Deb and Quinn were trying to work on the Trinity case back at the office on Thanksgiving (the team at Dexter PD may be filled with boring characters, but they all love their jobs apparently) despite sexy reporter and family obligations trying to pull them away. I'm enjoying watching Deb slowly piece together the Trinity case via some unexpected avenues (like how she figured out he's working in the school system), and there was a moment when she invited Masuka to Thanksgiving dinner that was nicely amusing too. I also liked the way she said "Fudge." It may feel like I'm overcompensating for calling out Jennifer Carpenter that one week, but once the writers gave her the kind of take charge storyline she's good at playing, she rattled back to life.

But then, oh, then, came the twist, and I'm not so certain that the show can write its way out of this one. I'm willing to hear your arguments for why it's a bit of television brilliance, but that last 30 seconds seriously dropped this from an A- to a B+. The reporter has been one of the worst things about this season anyway, but to make her some sort of criminal mastermind accomplice? Well, that's going to take a lot of work, Dexter, and even if I had all the faith in the world in you, I don't think you'd be able to pull it off.

Stray observations:

  • I never realize just how bizarre some of the things Dexter does are until I watch it with someone who doesn't normally watch it. Just explaining who Harry was to my friend made the show sound ridiculously stupid. Somehow, it's not.
  • So ... three episodes left, and now Arthur knows "Kyle" was trying to kill him while his daughter knows about the real Dexter. I can't imagine it will take them that long to compare notes. So how the hell do they stretch this out for three episodes?
  • Now that we've had a Very Dexter Thanksgiving, can we expect It's the Easter Beagle, Dexter or Be My Valentine, Dexter Morgan?

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