The main thing I like about Dexter is how committed the show is to going deep inside Dexter’s head and learning more about the nature of his psychosis and the conflicting impulses that are at war within him all the time. Whenever the show goes flat—and it does often and certainly did at times during tonight’s episode—the writers can always find ways to put Dexter in situations that challenge his way of thinking and throw a roadblock on his long, possibly fruitless journey towards self-rehabilitation. The main thread this season, centering on his relationship to Jimmy Smits’ shifty Miguel character, hasn’t quite delivered for me yet, but Rita’s pregnancy is definitely paying dividends.
Consider tonight’s hour: After twice encountering a man he suspects, correctly, is a sexual predator with his eye on Rita’s daughter, Dexter decides to take action against him. Though he knows that he and the sexual predator are cut from similar cloth—the only difference is that Dexter wouldn’t hurt a child while his target probably wouldn’t kill anyone—he ultimately decides to wipe him out, in part because the girl is one of his own and his protective instinct is stronger than he thought. But his conclusion brings him into some murky territory in light of his girlfriend’s pregnancy: What if that fatherly need to guard his young was in fact just a convenient rationale for murder?
Once again, Dexter’s difficulty in coming to terms with being a dad proved by far the most compelling element, though his weird kinship with Miguel gets more twisted by the day. Like an animal forced to mate in captivity, Dexter is tied to Miguel and subject to his late-night visits, his overly assertive dinner and get-together invitations, and various secret meets-ups. As of tonight, their purposes are intertwined: Both want the heat off the Oscar Prado case, because the main suspect, Freebo, is dead, so the search for Oscar’s killer is a big waste of time. ‘Twas always so for Dexter, since he was the one who actually killed Oscar, but Miguel’s interest in squelching the case is a suspicious reversal from his previous stance, which was to horsewhip Maria and Miami Metro into finding his brother’s killer.
Meanwhile, a fresh body pops up after Freebo’s death, so there’s an unknown killer on the loose, one who’s also responsible for Teegan’s death. The police don’t know that yet—they’re ready to pin all the bodies on Freebo—but it presents a possible issue for Dexter and Miguel, since the person responsible for those murders must be tied very closely to the case. In their little alliance, Miguel seems to have the upper hand on Dexter: He’s a more powerful man, at least politically speaking, and he’s a very slippery character to pin down. Is he playing a cat-and-mouse game with Dexter or is he a real friend, bonded by their mutual pursuit of justice over Oscar’s murder? They both have serious daddy issues in common, so there’s that, and Miguel offers him the incriminating shirt has was wearing after Dexter killed Freebo, so there’s that, too. But you have to believe there’s an ulterior motive or two at play here; otherwise, what kind of suspense show would this be?
In other, more zzzzzzz-worthy plot threads, Deb gets closer to Quinn’s C.I., which pisses off Quinn for reasons unknown and leads to some possible romantic chemistry, even if he serenades her with the scorching number “Skinny Mean Bitch.” The writers are struggling to find something, anything for Masuka to do this year; here they have him distributing autographed copies of an article he wrote for Forensics Quarterly. (In a funny exchange, Masuka get pissed at Quinn for disrespecting “his people” by tossing the magazine. Who are his people? Angel: “I don’t know. Little scientists, I guess.”) There’s also signs of prosecutorial misconduct in Miguel’s railroading an innocent man to prison, but how that connects to the main thread is not yet clear.
• As usual, the interplay between what’s being said in the real world and Dexter’s internal response is good for some dark laughs. At the touchy-feely yoga class for expecting couples, the instructor says, “Be as beautiful as the golden flakes of dust, Dexter.” “I could probably kill her before anyone realized what happened,” he thinks.
• John Dahl, the man responsible for such neo-noirs as Red Rock West, The Last Seduction, and Rounders, directs. He also did an episode of True Blood earlier this season and he’s good at bringing a bit of atmosphere to the table.
• Deb’s aggressive vulgarity makes me cringe. No baby should ever be described as “a motherfucking roly-poly chubby-cheeked shit machine.”
• Anyone else kinda moved by the ending, when Dexter sent “positive intentions” to his unborn child? I love that phrase; positive intentions don’t necessarily guarantee positive results.