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Dexter: "Slack Tide"

 "Slack Tide" is such a holding pattern type of episode that the very name of the episode seems to suggest that's the kind of episode it's going to be. Slack tide, Dexter informs us, is the tide that is neither going in nor coming out, just kind of sitting there and waiting for things to happen. And for roughly 90% of this episode's running time, it seems like the perfect sort of metaphor for what's going on here. I didn't find it offensively bad or anything, but it did seem like kind of a stopgap designed to keep things from resolving too quickly. Dexter is a show that is at its best when it's moving so quickly that there's no time to stop and think about everything that's going on and realize some of its implausibilities, but when the show does an episode like this one - where plot is dealt out in tiny increments - it often feels more like it's spinning its wheels than other shows of a similar ilk.

There are a bunch of noteworthy things that happen in "Slack Tide," actually, including Deb moving into Dexter's old apartment and Quinn finding out about it and Deb slowly closing in on Trinity in her investigation. This is not even to mention the episode's closing moments, which I'll get to in a moment. The closing moments, which bring one of Dexter's worst fears to life, almost redeem the entire episode, but for too long of the episode's running time, "Slack Tide" feels like a collection of scenes that don't really add up to anything more than, well, a collection of scenes.

Let's start with Dexter, who's off wandering the woods with Arthur, getting in on some hot, tree-cutting action. That is, that's what he's up to when he's not trying to make the kids like him again by giving them "fun" new activities to be a part of or going along with Cody on a Young Sailors expedition. He's also trying to kill a guy who's apparently been murdering his models after turning their naked forms into seriously disturbed art. It's so disturbing that the show even lets us know that Dexter, himself, finds it disturbing, which takes a lot, I guess. But after he kills the photographer, Dexter learns that his assistant was the one who actually killed the model and then fed her to the alligators. He's killed an innocent man, something he's flirted with throughout the series but never done in such a way as to feel the full weight of it here. He's gotten sloppy with everything he's caught up in.

And, really, that's the problem with Dexter's storyline in this episode and maybe even in this season. He's just all over the place here, doing a bunch of things that don't really add up to a character arc. Perhaps because the show needs him in every scene tonight, it often feels like he's rushing, unable to do much of anything, and I get that this is sort of the point. The fact that Dexter is overextending himself is what lets him get sloppy in the work that would let him know that the photographer wasn't the guilty one, but the show could probably come up with a better way of dramatizing this than just throwing together a bunch of things that don't really add up. The Dexter as suburban husband scenes continue to have a weird tone of goofiness to them, the stuff with Trinity feels like a retread of last week, and trying to force an emotional undercurrent by reviving long dormant plotlines like Dexter's feelings for his dead mother feels a little cheap.

At least this season, we've been able to cut away from some boring Dexter plots by heading over to see whatever's going on with Trinity, but this week, Arthur is doing a weird lumber project, which is why he's out in the woods cutting down a tree. Arthur's still dispensing child rearing advice to Dexter, but his construction project dominates the episode, and, sadly, it's about as mysterious as that time when John Locke made a cradle on Lost. Arthur, you see, is making a coffin, presumably for some arcane ritual we don't know about just yet. The first four episodes of the season successfully established Trinity as this deeply creepy man lurking at the edges of Miami society, while the next two set up his life and who he was as a man. This episode, though, felt like a way to kill a little time in the storyline, since Dexter can't reveal himself to Arthur or kill him just yet. So, instead, Harry whined about it a little bit. (Weirdly, the best Trinity scene didn't even involve the guy, as Dexter turned his exploits into a pretty good campfire story.)

This means that, randomly, the best characters in the episode were Deb and Quinn. Deb pulled this off because she's using her grief over Lundy to finally look into some of the big questions lurking around the edges of the show this season (namely, Trinity's existence) all the while simultaneously uncovering the philandering truth about her dead dad. And Quinn became compelling because the show finally ditched the reporter storyline for the most part, choosing, instead, to finally turn his anger against Dexter into something productive (though he doesn't know it yet) by tailing the guy. Dexter has been missing a Doakes-like figure these past two seasons, and while Quinn isn't as bright as Doakes was, Dexter's getting more and more obvious by the episode.

That said, the episode's ending does a good job of moving in a direction the series has needed to move in for a while. Dexter has killed an innocent man, and Harry's disappointed (it seems like all James Remar has to do any more is stand around and look disappointed). This is obviously going to shake him, but what's going to happen when he realizes he's essentially gotten away with it? What's going to happen when he realizes that the code of Harry is more elastic than it seems to be? The show has feinted going in this direction in the past, but it's never bit the bullet and actually headed down that particularly dark alley. But if the show is finally going to pull some of these stories together in the end, it's going to need to head down that alley more fully. Is it finally doing so? I hope so, but time will tell.

Stray observations:

  • I liked the LaGuerta and Angel plot marginally more than I usually do this week. I don't buy that they're so in love, really, but at least their struggle to realize their passion is giving them something to play.
  • I really liked that piece of music overlaying the final montage.
  • I know I praised the episode last week for the sort of character development this episode really tried hard to pull off. The difference there was that the show was also teaching us plenty about both Dexter and Arthur. That wasn't so much the case this week.
  • For as rushed as the photographer plotline felt, I really loved the way the murder scene was shot. The body spread out on the light table (or so it appeared) was a haunting image, and the use of flashes to eerie effect was well-nigh perfect.
  • At some point, Dexter's voice over said "Early mornings with Trinity can be murder," and I pictured the Dexter writers room pumping their fists in exultation at coming up with something so clever. I'm less down on the voiceovers on this show than other people, but there were some REALLY bad bon mots in this one.

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