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Dexter: “This Little Piggy”



“This Little Piggy”

Season 8 , Episode 6

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Dexter has never been credited with having great subtlety. There is, and always has been, a tendency to put an exclamation point where a period or an ellipsis should be, a voiceover atop a perfectly adequate visual, a habit of cleanly rendering a story about a blood spatter analyst, a premise one would think prescribes a certain messiness. So it should come as no surprise that Dexter has telegraphed its ending this early on in its final season. Not its exact ending, of course, but the status-quo tone it will probably strike. If that is indeed the case, then Dexter has squandered one of its greatest opportunities and its finale will almost certainly miss the mark.

But I say all that keenly aware of the fact that the ending I’d like for Dexter and the ending many, if not most fans would like are quite different. I don’t necessarily need Dexter to die, or even to go to prison, but for a show that explores the human need for justice as thoroughly as does Dexter, it would be unfortunate if the ending is one that allows Dexter to settle into the life he’s been enjoying since the show began. The most unsuccessful ending I can imagine is one in which no one else within Miami Metro finds out the truth about Dexter, Debra welcomes him back into her life with open arms, and Dexter finds and nurtures in Vogel the maternal relationship of which he was robbed. It’s important to me that Dexter not get everything he wants. To have a protagonist who always gets what he wants with little to no resistance is terrible storytelling. 

The writers of Dexter appear not to see it this way, and “This Little Piggy” demonstrates that with a heavier hand than in the preceding episodes. “This Little Piggy” seems to say: Dexter is a good person, dammit. He’s doing us all a favor by killing all these evil people, and so he is vitally important to society. Harry didn’t get it because he was weak. But Vogel gets it. Even Debra gets it. So surely, you the viewer must get it.

I’ll level with you: I don’t get it. I still don’t understand how a show about retributive justice manages to be so terrified of ambiguity, especially in its eighth season, when it’s playing to audiences who have clearly demonstrated an affinity for the show and its characters. The fun of speculating about what will happen in a show about an anti-hero is considering the wide range of fates that could befall a character deserving of his or her comeuppance. But Dexter doesn’t appear to have that range, and unless I’m being set up for a last-minute gut punch, it will end with a bang, not a whimper.

The show’s glaring bias towards its main character is on display within the first few moments of “This Little Piggy.” Dexter and Debra are sitting across from Vogel having a therapy session about the whole “jerk the car off the road in order to kill us both” incident. My issue with the decision not to end with a cliffhanger in last week’s episode had nothing to do with me not knowing what the outcome would be, but rather wishing this show would deal with aftermaths more this season, because that’s where its strength lies. Last season got off to a roaring start mostly due to the fact the writers took the care to explore the ramifications of their plot developments in a measured, methodical way. From the opening moments of the season opener, we’ve seen an obsession with gliding over knottier plot points rather than showing how these characters are absorbing what’s happening to and around them.

Such is the case here, as Vogel forces her spiritual children to talk about what happened and apologize to each other. Actually, scratch that, Vogel forces Debra to apologize to Dexter. Dexter is pissed, you see, because his sister tried to kill him and he’s lashing out because he’s hurt. So Debra begs Dexter for his forgiveness. She saved him after all, and shouldn’t that count for something? Vogel comes to Debra’s “defense,” telling Dexter that trying to kill them was Deb hitting rock-bottom, and he can’t abandon her now, especially when there’s hope to cure her post-traumatic stress and return their brother-sister bond to relative normalcy. Dexter is too furious to see it this way, though, and storms out of the family counseling session with the matter left unresolved.

It’s tough for me to absorb that all of this is played so straight, as if the audience is supposed to be, what, pissed at Deb for trying to kill Dexter? It’s one thing for the characters to be under Dexter’s spell, but I resent feeling like I, the viewer, am supposed to be under his spell too. And this marks the second week in a row that I watched the episode and felt like Vogel wasn’t talking to the characters, she was talking to me. She was explaining why Dexter is infallible, why he’s perfect, why he’s beautiful just the way he is. And I don’t buy that. If that’s really the tack the writers are going to stick with on the character, the ending will either involve Dexter dying as a martyr or living out his days without ever having to face any real consequences.

Why, when Dexter castigates Debra about the possibility of orphaning Harrison, does Debra not call him out? About Rita? About Harrison’s kidnapping by Travis Marshall? About how the hundreds of murders he committed could just as easily result in Harrison being orphaned and how none of this has changed his actions? It stands to reason Deb would bring up these points, but she doesn’t. She apologizes, and in doing so, proves she is on the road to recovery from the psychological toll of killing an innocent woman in order to save a guilty one. Why do Dexter’s writers seem convinced that the only people who should suffer the consequences of Dexter’s actions are people who are not Dexter?

The opening scene left a bad taste in my mouth that lingered through the rest of the episode. When it was clear that the underwater car incident was a pretext to making it Deb, not Dexter, who is forced to realize how much she needs him and beg forgiveness, I was pushed to my limits of tolerance. But the episode soldiered on as Miami Metro closed in on Yates, while Dexter and Deb rushed to find him first after he kidnapped Vogel. Vogel’s kidnapping was reminiscent of Hannah’s kidnapping by Isaak and his goons last season. It’s an expedient way to smooth over the bumps in a relationship, imperiling a character about whom Dexter is ambivalent, so he can decide he loves her again after rescuing her.

After what felt like a few furious minutes, minutes that contained some of the most compressed police work ever seen in a show full of it, Dexter and Deb track Yates down to the empty home of one of Vogel’s customers. Vogel is rescued, Yates is impaled by a curtain rod, Deb is all smiles afterward, and the three of them head off on the Slice of Life to toss the body into the ocean like one big happy family. Yikes. So much yikes.

It didn’t surprise me that the Yates story concluded as quickly as it did. The past few seasons of Dexter have shown the writers’ reticence to pile arcs atop one another. With Dexter now eyeing Zach Hamilton, the prime suspect in Norma Rivera’s murder, it was time to dispatch Yates, who served his purpose as the catalyst for Dexter to repair relationships with the women he loves. But man alive, the gears are so loud on this storytelling machine, it’s a wonder the dialogue can be heard through the whir.

I was equally frustrated by the introduction of Zach Hamilton, who is about as unsubtle a villain as Dexter has depicted. His father tearfully admits to the cops  he’d fallen in love with his maid-turned-mistress and would have never killed her, and here comes Zach strolling in, looking equal parts Orin from Parks and Recreation and Kevin, the one who so desperately needed to be talked about. He’s brooding and has dark hair and asks Dexter way too many questions about the crime scene. Sure enough, there’s a witness to corroborate seeing him, but he later recants.

Zach is bad. Dexter is good. Deb loves him, and he loves her. Oh, and there’s a cute new neighbor who wants to go out with him! Everything’s coming up Dexter, and either that means this is a brief calm before a storm that will culminate in a messily satisfying finale, or a finale that strikes a false note and an empty tone for a show that is woefully selective in its view that people must be made to answer for their crimes.

Stray observations:

  • I should point out what I did like about this week: Charlotte Rampling, as usual. I’ve praised her performance a lot this season, but she nailed the scenes between Vogel and Yates.
  • Masuka is suspicious of his newly discovered daughter, who is already trying the old “I mislaid my wallet, would you mind?” trick.
  • I still feel like the Brain Surgeon story was rushed and ended abruptly with such little consequence. Could there be more to it?
  • Who are we pulling for to get the sergeant position? Quinn or Miller?
  • Dexter’s neighbor is cute. That is all.