Dexter is rarely better than when it puts Dexter in the midst of a situation where he’s having to improvise a solution to escape imminent capture. One of the best episodes of the first season centered on this idea, while much of the exemplary second season did as well. Even the last few episodes of season three – when that problematic season spurted to life – featured Miguel threatening to expose Dexter if he exposed the district attorney. Dexter’s so meticulously planned out his life so far that when something comes in to rattle that cage, it makes for fascinating TV. Sadly, this is a well the show can’t go back to over and over again, lest it become too predictable, but it heads back there in this episode, and the returns aren’t quite diminished just yet.
Last week’s car accident left Dexter passed out in the drivers seat, where he comes to with police officers and paramedics looking in on him. As he’s dragged off to the ambulance, he struggles to escape the paramedics, though he’s too groggy to accomplish much of anything. There’s still a corpse in the back of the car, after all. He needs to get that body out and figure out what to do with it. But he’s soon dragged off (after a quick fake out where one of the cops says he’s found a bag – of pediatric medicine), and once he gets out of the hospital, he’s soon plotting how he’s going to get the body back and keep from being exposed. So far, so good.
But the body’s not in the car – though his murder weapons are – and it’s not at the crash scene either, where Dexter’s dream Harry shows up to accost him about how he’s forgotten where he put the body. Now, the story shifts a little bit, and it’s never quite as compelling as it is in those early moments, when it seems like anyone could stumble across the body at any given time. While that’s still true, technically, having the body just floating around out there makes the whole thing just a touch too nebulous, though Dexter’s frustration throughout the episode at not being able to remember where he put it due to the aftereffects of the crash is palpable throughout.
What irritates most about this story is that it doesn’t quite play fair with the audience. Clearly, when Dexter went to his car after killing Benny last week, he knew that he had stashed the body in the punching bag because he didn’t have the time to dispose of it properly. But we were never informed of this, so we could be in the same head space as Dexter in the early parts of this episode, thinking that a cop or paramedic was going to discover that chopped up corpse at any moment. The show does such a good job of keeping us inside of Dexter’s head at any given moment that not even providing a head nod in the direction of Dexter having to keep Benny hidden to falsely goose the drama felt kind of cheap. On the other hand, had we known that the body wasn’t in the car, it might have made those early scenes when Dexter didn’t realize he’d lost a key memory too interminable.
Plus, once Dexter realized he’d hidden the body, there were such a limited number of hiding places that the show had to essentially rely on Michael C. Hall to play Dexter’s irritation (which he’s good at) as he wondered just when he was going to get the time to finally find the body, especially as the earlier blood drop probably tipped a good number of viewers off to the fact that Benny was hanging above the boxing ring (though the fact that he was hidden inside of the punching bag was something at least I didn’t see coming). The visual of Dexter cutting open that punching bag to reveal Benny’s chopped up body was a hoot of a sight gag, but there was a lot of unnecessary legwork to get there and a lot of artificial drama stuck in there to keep things rolling. But does Hall play frustrated improvisation well? As always, yes.
Fortunately, the other stuff mostly worked better here than it usually does. I’m not sure the series really needs the tourist killer in addition to Dexter’s adventures and the slow-building Trinity Killer arc, and I fear he’ll end up feeling as tangential as the Skinner did in season three, but the early detective work here was pretty compelling, especially when Dexter found the blood on the cactus needle when he had to leave the crime scene. On the other hand, having Dexter spy Quinn stealing a little cash and then having Quinn turn that into a forced opportunity for bonding only to have Dexter explode at him just didn’t quite work. Dexter explodes from time to time, but in this case, you’d think he’d figure out a way to let Quinn know he didn’t really care. Similarly, Quinn’s escapades with the reporter and Angel and LaGuerta’s relationship proved dead spots.
Meanwhile, Deb spent much of the episode dealing with the fact that her former boyfriend, Lundy, was back in town. When he sat down across from her while she had her lunch, the two had something that almost approached a tender conversation, leading her to feel something like guilt when Anton came home from wherever it is he was (I could probably remember this, but I don’t care). Then, she went over to visit Lundy to talk about how their relationship ended and how he should have kept her in the loop that he was coming back to town, but he was way more interested in the Trinity Killer than her, which led her to denounce herself as stupid. I don’t really care if Deb ends up with Lundy or Anton, but I’d rather she weren’t solely defined via her love life, though the show seems intent on defining her in this fashion.
Which all brings us back to Trinity, who’s stalking a mother now and apparently painstakingly plotting her demise using keen observational powers and some stray dog he calls Checkers. Lithgow remains wonderfully creepy in the role, and the idea of a serial killer who’s so good that he manages to elude capture all over the country puts me in mind of that awesome Smiley Face Killer theory that makes no sense but still manages to send a shiver up the spine. Trinity’s a bit disconnected from the storyline in a way that should irritate but somehow doesn’t. That he’s out there, sort of a ghost who will inevitably bump into Dexter at some point, feels strangely promising, even if it’s hard to squash the fear that he’ll just end up strapped to Dexter’s table in the finale.
- There’s been a lot of grousing around the Internet about how boring and whiny Rita is. I have to admit that I don’t see it, but it’s so widespread that I’m convinced I’m missing something. I don’t think it’s especially irritating for a new mother to ask her husband to bring home earache medicine. Am I missing something?
- The series just has no idea what to do with Harry anymore, do they? This latest version of him – as some sort of damaged mental protector that spouts overwrought dialogue – makes the character feel too pulpy.
- I like that Astor is gradually becoming more and more irritated by everyone in her life. Maybe she’ll uncover Dexter’s secrets.