“What more could a rededicated serial killer ask for?”
Indeed. Though I’ve long since dropped my initial regret over Dexter having not killed his sister at the end of Season One, I think my concerns were legitimate; at the time, I felt the show was in danger of losing its edge, which is a worry that hasn’t been borne out in this very fine season. Still, I wanted to see some more obstacles in Dexter’s wayward path to humanity; if he is indeed an “addict,” then it would only make sense for him to experience a relapse or two.
Well, I think we can consider him way off the wagon now. Given all the pressure that’s been bearing down on him lately—his break-up with Rita, who’s long a stabilizing force; his relationship with the increasingly erratic (read: totally fucking bananas) Lila; the disquieting revelations about his stepfather’s connection to his mother; his unfortunate status as the object of Doakes’ self-destructive obsession; and the ever-tightening noose of Lundy’s investigation—even the non-sociopaths among us couldn’t be blamed for cracking a bit. All season long, he’s been off his game: Uncertain, sloppy, at times desperate, and genuinely torn between his murderous impulses and some weird feeling that he doesn’t quite recognize as compassion. His thoughts, conveyed via the best voiceover track on television, have been frank as ever, but never before have we witnessed such a disparity between who he thinks he is and who he actually is.
Now, Dexter has been flat-out losing his cool, which paradoxically makes him more human (his killings being more passionate than dispassionate) and more volatile and dangerous. First, there was the run-ins with Doakes, which found him storming into Maria’s office to file a harassment suit and, last week, delivering that unexpected (and unbelievably awesome) headbutt. Tonight, though, “the monster” has made its appearance and he’s become frightening in a new, more immediate way. When Dex confronts Lila over her screwed-up ploy to draw him closer to her by putting him in mortal danger, he’s an angry as we’ve ever seen him; and as a coolly calculating serial killer, anger is far from his usual M.O.
Man oh man what a thrilling episode. I love when a great series like this one makes that decisive shift into the third act, when all those weeks of set-up and slowly ratcheted tension really start to pay off. While I’ve had some niggling problems with the season overall, I think the table has been set more effective than it was in Season One, because we’re getting a chance to see what happens when Dexter is put in a corner and has to fight his way out. Some of his actions, particularly with regard to his efforts to sabotage the Bay Harbor Butcher investigation, have acts of self-preservation; others have been related to his confusion over who he is and the varied influences that other people exert over his life.
So the big question after tonight is: How the heck is Dexter going to squirm out of this one? Lundy’s team, having dodged most of Dexter’s attempts to thwart it, finally catches it big break when they discover the body of one of the victims was driven away in a car seized as evidence for Miami Metro. That right: The calls are coming from inside the house! Plus, Doakes’ suspension has backfired predictably, since the break from official work has given him all day and night to pursue his vendetta against Dexter. Now he’s found the blood slides, which is nearly as incriminating as finding the bodies themselves stacked up in Dexter’s living room. All of which appears to set Doakes up for the fall, though how that will get orchestrated has yet to be determined. As we left things tonight, Dexter had no idea what was transpiring at his home and his office, and how close everyone has come to figuring out who he really is.
Of course, he was plenty busy dealing with another, even more immediate crisis. We’d gotten a very good glimpse of what Lila was capable of last week, when she ignited her loft in a desperate ploy to draw Dexter back into her orbit. Though Dexter picks up on why the insurance company isn’t cutting any checks—the fire coming from “multiple points of origin”—he couldn’t have imagined that Lila called up Santos, one of his mother’s killers, to meet the gang at the bowling alley. She gets the confrontation she wants, but since she doesn’t yet know of Dexter’s extracurricular activities, she doesn’t realize how easily her arrangement with Santos can be traced back to her. Now the Lila experiment is officially over, and with a warning that may be Michael C. Hall’s most frightening moment yet: “When you meet the monster, you’ll know.”
I seriously doubt we’re through with Lila yet, but clearly the notion of Lila leading Dexter through his addiction is shot to hell at this point. For a time, she really was good for him, in that she was seasoned in the 12-Step process and was just twisted enough herself to make Dexter feel like he’d found a fellow traveler. It was sad, in a way, for him to discover that she was “more dangerous than addiction,” because he was in some respects on the right track with her. Here’s Dexter again, in a chilling passage:
“Lila almost had me believing it was possible. To change. To become something else. As if that ever really happens. I’ve always known what I am…”
Has Dexter really regressed as far as he claims here or is this yet another case of Dexter the unreliable narrator? I suspect he’ll find his way back to the light at some point, but for now, it’s fun to have him back in the shadows.
• Didn’t even touch on how things were progressing between Lundy and Deb. Put it this way: The episode was so strong that lines like “I would love to eat your toast” and “You’re not too old to spank” weren’t enough to dock it a half-grade.
• Too bad we won’t be getting any more interaction between Deb and Lila, cobra and mongoose, who have just enough in common to hate each other with an undying passion. Deb sized up Lila pretty good with that “gross, titty, British vampire” comment.
• Masuka has a skull bowling ball. If I could procure one of those for myself, I’d take up the game again for sure. As an intimidation tactic, it beats the hell out of Pete Weber's patented "crotch chop."