Dexter: "The Dark Defender"
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Dexter: "The Dark Defender"

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Dexter

"The Dark Defender"

Season 2, Episode 5

Wow. Where to start? Some big revelations tonight, starting again on that fateful day at the shipyard, which is the psychological gift that keeps on giving. First we learn of the long-lost brother that wasn’t saved by Harry, now we learn that Dexter’s mother was a junkie working as a criminal informant on a botched sting operation set up by Harry. And what’s more, Harry and Dexter’s mother were lovers. (POSSIBLE FUTURE SPOILER PREDICTION: Can the revelation that Harry actually is Dexter’s biological father be far behind? Wouldn’t that explain why he scooped up Dex while leaving his older brother behind? I’m generally not good at this sort of speculation, but it seems like we’re being led in that direction. Am I missing something here?)

In any case, what are we to make of Harry’s Code now? How kindly can Dexter look upon his adoptive father now that he knows that Harry put her in harm’s way under the (false) assurance that she and her children would be protected? The scene in which Dexter listens to the recordings and imagines himself in the room is beautifully done—courtesy perhaps of director Keith Gordon (of A Midnight Clear, Mother Night, and Waking The Dead fame, though most know him as the nerdy hero of Christine and Back To School)—but I was surprised that Dexter’s mind turned so quickly away from Harry and back to the men responsible for carrying out his mother’s murder. Perhaps it’s a coping device: It’s more painful to confront the betrayals of those closest to him than putting on his Dark Defender cape and taking care of business.

Of course, this isn’t business as usual, not by a long shot. Dexter’s overnight trip to Naples may be the most riveting sequence of the season so far, because it deviates so far from his usual M.O. He’s genuinely trying to change. He’s committed to it and he’s got a sponsor—a sexy, sexy sponsor—who’s going to help him curb his addiction. Dexter’s practice speech to Lila is another case of 12-step language applying constructively to an addiction that dare not speak its name. (“I’m not the person I’m supposed to be… I hide in plain sight, unable to reach out to people close to me. I’m afraid I’ll hurt them, like I’ve hurt so many others.”) God bless Dexter for trying it Lila’s way with a guy he wants to kill more than anyone on the Bay Harbor Butcher’s rap sheet; too bad the thug doesn’t respond well to therapy-speak like “I need to tell you how I feel.” When Lila’s way doesn’t work and he has to do it his way, I loved how messy and brutal the improvised bludgeoning turned out to be, with none of the methodical, ritualistic, antiseptic qualities of Dexter’s usual victims. Perversely enough, it’s confrontations like that which make him more like the rest of us—messy, fallible, emotional, human.

Back at the motel, Lila sinks her hooks deeper into Dexter. I know some people find her annoying for one reason or another, but I think she’s given the show an exciting spark of dark, sometimes playful energy. I loved that line about the motel painting being “cottage porn” and her later bringing fiery volcanic chaos to its formerly quaint provincial air. She’s the Helena Bonham Carter to Dexter’s Edward Norton, and I can’t imagine that he can resist her for long. To underline the point a few times, we actually get a henpecking phone call from Rita while Lila casually disrobes and takes a shower. And if that’s not temptation enough, Dexter hears her big secret later about lighting her drug dealer ex-boyfriend’s house on fire with him inside. Cupid just keeps those arrows coming.

And what of the B-stories? Maria is concerned about Doakes’ state of mind after he’s shot two people within a six-month period. They team up again—and have teamed up before… in the sack (yuck)—to take down the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. Once again, I still don’t care about Maria and her power plays (good on Doakes for figuring the last one out, however), but Doakes’ dark side stands to figure into this season in a meaningful way, and I’m looking forward to finding out exactly how.

In other business, Deb can’t keep herself from poking into her new boyfriend’s life for proof that she’s merely a “trophy fuck” or worse. Her suspicions are justified when she discovers that he’s writing a book called The Ice Princess, despite claiming that he’d been under a rock called El Salvador for six months and knew nothing of the Ice Truck Killer. Turns out… drumroll, please… that he’s a children’s book author. (A children’s book author who hasn’t seen a certain Michelle Trachtenberg vehicle, apparently.) Pretty boring stuff, but I’m intrigued by Keith Carradine’s keener-than-usual interest in her affairs. He seems like a good father-figure to her, but maybe there’s something more there. Whatever the case, I like Carradine’s style; he comes to more meaningful conclusions about the Coral Cove marina while scarfing down a cucumber sandwich than poor Deb does with all her fidgety pacing.

And finally, the net continues closing in on Dexter just as he’s starting to reform. Rita’s mother sticking around, surveillance cameras on the dock… Dexter’s lucky he has a source (himself) on the inside.

Grade: A-

Stray observations:

• Awesome Martin Scorsese references in the bar scene, from Dexter entering to the strains of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” (shades of Robert De Niro’s big introduction to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in Mean Streets) to Dexter zipping over to lock the doors once he starting taking the bat to the bartender, reminiscent of GoodFellas.

• After Lila’s confession: Dexter: “Did he deserve it?” Lila: “Yes.” Dexter: “Then you didn’t do anything wrong.” Pretty chilling.

• Game 4 of the World Series heating up. Gotta run…