A couple days after “Nebraska” aired, I watched “The Weekend,” the breathtaking Homeland episode that’s a shoo-in for my personal best-of-2011 list, and which made the steaming pile that was “Nebraska” seem that much steamier. I can imagine no worse companion for Dexter, a show that puts maintaining the status quo above any other consideration, than Homeland, a show that so gleefully upends itself that just about any episode could serve as a season finale. The pairing of “Nebraska” and “The Weekend” makes the failings of Dexter that much more glaring, and honestly, if I’d watched the Homeland episode prior to writing up the Dexter episode, I’d have probably been even more harsh. “Nebraska” is a perfect encapsulation of everything wrong with latter-day Dexter. There’s not a single step forward the show is not willing to roll back, even in the space of a single episode, as was the case last week. It operates outside of any sort of creative or quality standards. The primary goal at all times is to allow Dexter to slip out of the latest noose so he can continue to put down Miami’s murderers unimpeded and with little in the way of genuine stakes.
This week came news that Dexter has been renewed for another two seasons, and Showtime president David Nevins still refused to say with certainty that season eight would be the show’s last. The announcement intensified my frustration with the show, because at this point, I’m not only clear that this season of Dexter is lackluster, I’m not entirely sure it can be good again given the circumstances. The only thing that could return Dexter to being the show it started out as is to set the end game in motion, and with no end in sight, there can be no end game. As I said after “Smokey and the Bandit,” I can sort of see the appeal of a Dexter that embraces the complete lack of stakes and puts all its energy into interesting kill-of-the-week stories and soapy melodrama around Miami Metro. At least that would represent a clear, consistent vision for the show moving forward that would allow it to seem viable for a few more years. But there’s something sad about continuing the charade that any of what we’re seeing is adding up to anything, when there’s at least two more seasons to go, and knowing Showtime, probably four more.
The one-two punch of “Nebraska” and the renewal announcement left me with a general sense of defeat that hung with me through my viewing of “Sin of Omission.” It’s hard not to feel like little if anything that happens between the opening and closing credits is of lasting importance, and that makes it difficult to get excited about watching the show every week. Added to this, Travis & Gellar are still hands down the worst villains Dexter has ever seen, so a piece-moving episode like “Sin of Omission” just feels like an absolute bore, since it’s building up to a conclusion that is almost certain to be a disappointment. As unfortunate as “Nebraska” was, at least the road trip gave us a decent break from the Doomsday Duo, but “Sin of Omission” plunged right back into the goofy case, and was all the worse for it.
I realize that I can’t drop the Doomsday Duo into the Stray Observations, but man is it ever tempting. Every week I say it couldn’t be more obvious that Gellar isn’t real, and then to my surprise it gets even more obvious. It’s to the point now that I’d like to think maybe it’s not supposed to be a secret that Gellar isn’t real. I can’t imagine how the writers would think that at this point, no one would put it together, especially considering all the general ghostiness that has gone on all season. But if Dexter hasn’t figured it out, it means the audience isn’t supposed to have figured it out either, and the final scene confirms that Dexter is still on the hunt for a flesh-and-blood person. I’m not sure who this show is for anymore, but executing this story this way seems like a huge miscalculation. There are definitely people who would watch this season of Dexter and never suspect that there’s something fishy about Gellar, and then there are people who would be interested in watching a cable drama about a blood spatter analyst who murders people in his spare time, and I don’t feel like there’s a huge portion of the former group in the latter group.
All that said, Travis kept trying to achieve domestic bliss with his sister, and a practically omnipresent Gellar was showing up everywhere imploring him to finish God’s work. When he refused, “Gellar” put Travis’s sister into the Whore of Babylon tableau that went unfinished when Travis freed their captive. If you’re as firmly in the Travis-is-Gellar camp as I am, none of this was particularly engaging because we’re watching under the assumption that any kind of power struggle between Travis and Gellar is an internal one. The whore tableau pushed the case forward a bit though, since Dex found a tag with a name on some of the fabric used in the tableau, and Louis knew about a Magical Super Google they could use to find out what it meant. The search ultimately led Dexter to Travis and Gellar’s secret lair, where Dexter nearly missed his target. Eye roll.
The most interesting thread here is the relationship between Dexter and Debra, which is deteriorating in a hurry after Dexter’s five-day sojourn in Kearney, Neb. I’m curious to see where this goes, since it’s the only thing that represents some forward momentum for the macro-story, but “Nebraska” spiked whatever good will I still had towards Dexter. Are the writers really prepared to reveal Dexter to Deb, or is all of this sibling conflict going to amount to as much as it did with Brian Moser? And even if it does, will it be enough to pull deeply despondent Dexter fans back on board?
- This week in Miami Metro: LaGuerta was a bitch to Deb because of a dead call girl whose murder must be covered up for someone mysterious who is probably Matthews; Louis is still obsessed with Dexter but less so with Jamie, now that Batista has threatened him; Quinn and Masuka enjoyed some drunken bro time; Mike Anderson continued regretting his decision to move to Miami.
- The redundant voiceover returned with a vengeance this week.
- “I’ll fuck Masuka if this isn’t our guy.”