Dexter: "The Damage A Man Can Do"
B+

Dexter: "The Damage A Man Can Do"

B+

Dexter

"The Damage A Man Can Do"

Season 3, Episode 8

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“I’m going to put together a starter kit for you.”

Awesome. It was inevitable that Dexter, having opened the door to his new BFF Miguel, would draw him further inside his twisted little world, but it’s still astonishing to watch it happen. For some reason, it never occurred to me that Miguel would want to get his hands dirty and carry out Dexter’s brand of vigilante justice on his own. Despite his temper and half-crazed righteousness, he’s always struck me as one of those powerful men who likes to stay behind the scenes and let others do his bidding. You expect, say, the President Of The United States to exercise his authority to send soldiers to war, but you never expect him to pick up a rifle and march out to the battlefield himself. So Miguel’s interest in directly participating in murder is the best kind of surprise: Unexpected yet plausible on a dramatic level.

The big question hovering over this season: Is this a real friendship? And if it’s not, does Dexter have the upper hand over Miguel or is it the other way around? As this episode begins, it certainly looks like a real friendship, given the chummy male ritual of having pizza and beer, and watching basketball on TV. (A non-sports guy, Dexter makes a noble attempt to share Miguel’s enthusiasm: “It was definitely wrong, what that guy did.”) In Dexter’s ongoing interior monologue with his late father, the old man tells him that he can have no friends, and it’s easy enough to see why, given his secrets and the Code’s requirement that he remain inconspicuous. But that hasn’t stopped Dexter from wanting a confidante; his favorite part of killing, it seems, are those few moments when he gets to open up to victim who will be carrying whatever he reveals to a watery grave.

The problem with Dexter is that he doesn’t have much perspective on his relationship with Miguel, because he’s never had a friend before. Though guarded and scrupulous about his activities, he’s nonetheless opened up to Miguel in ways that are dangerous, even reckless. It’s bad enough that Miguel knows what Dexter does on the side, but for them to be active partners—and worse, for Miguel to take the lead on the killing floor—leaves Dexter exposed. He now has to be responsible for what Miguel does, too, and it’s looking likely that his buddy may be getting a little blood on the side.

As usual, the quality divide between the main story and the B- and C- and D-plots was pretty pronounced tonight. With the stakes raised considerably on the Miguel front, I found myself more anxious than usual to see what Dexter was up to, and equally anxious to get away from the peripheral dramas involving Deb and Anton, Angel and Barbara the vice cop, and Maria and defense attorney Ellen. But in the spirit of comprehensiveness, I’ll bullet-point ‘em:

• Deb/Anton/Quinn: This is actually well-plotted, to a point. Deb and Anton have gotten romantically involved, but experience has taught Deb to be cautious (to a degree anyway), so she wants to look into Anton’s criminal past. Possession with intent she can live with, but if he’s on the hook for anything bigger—like draining his victims of blood, and driving around in some sort of ice truck, say—she’s going to have to pass. But lo, she discovers that Anton doesn’t have a C.I. file and that Quinn pays him in cash. That part is pretty intriguing, but it puts a big question mark over Anton and Quinn and the nature of that relationship. Less exciting are the further developments in “The Skinner” case, which has Miami Metro looking to the tree-trimming community for suspects. This leads to two dopey scenes: One where a suspect is so terrified of his seemingly docile boss that he demands a one-way ticket back to Nicaragua, and another where Deb looks for a missing Anton, leaves his apartment, and is shocked to discover—bum, bum, bum!—that the palms outside have been manicured.

• Maria and Ellen: There didn’t seem to be much point to their joining forces, other than Maria having hung out with Ellen on the same night Miguel came a-calling. So consider that seed planted. Even the lesbian undercurrent of their “date” was short-circuited by Ellen throwing herself at the bartender. “The secret to long life and happiness is chocolate and young, hopefully hung men.” Shudder.

• Angel and Barbara: Puppy love, as only an overeager softie like Angel can bring it. Almost enough to make you forget the circumstances under which these two crazy kids met.

So how about that final shot, huh? The obvious assumption is that Miguel is ready to do the job that Dexter refused, now that he has the tools to get it done. He may have followed Dexter’s code dutifully for his first kill, but he doesn’t share his fastidiousness or the moral restrictions that, in Dexter’s mind, keep “the darkness” at bay. But here’s the thing about that final shot: Ellen did not look surprised to see Miguel, nor did he seem unwelcome. I love the ambiguity of that cliffhanger and can’t wait to see what happens next.

Grade: B+

Stray observations:

• Rita’s hormonal rage was more than a little overplayed, in my view. There’s a way to dramatize Dexter’s failure to give her what she needs without having her go ballistic over the absence of English muffins and O.J.

• “After 14 years of filing briefs, trying cases, and dealing with bullshit, this is going to look nice and neat in comparison.” Miguel, not a lover of bureaucracy.

• Biggest laugh of the night: Miguel’s “inconspicuous” look.

• Why hasn’t the Bay Harbor Butcher case come up yet?

Filed Under: TV, Dexter

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