Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Dexter: “Run”

Illustration for article titled Dexter: “Run”

Dexter is doing a pretty admirable job this season of playing with the moral ambiguities of what its lead character does and how it affects people. But I can't help wishing the writers would go even deeper into the void, even if it ran the risk of turning viewers off from the character. Dexter has convinced himself that for him to break his addiction to killing people would do a public disservice, because the people he kills would be out there victimizing others. But what about the victims that weren't going to commit murder again? Is his behavior as justifiable in those cases? Should he only kill those who will certainly strike again if not for his intervention? It doesn't seem like the writers are quite ready to play with those questions, but they are at least finally willing to hold Dexter's feet to the fire with regard to the way his behavior pulls those he loves most directly into harm's way.

What I didn't love about "Run" was the lack of ambiguity in the Ray Speltzer affair. I think it was enough to have Deb and Dexter catch Speltzer in the act, then to have him escape. Both of them would have remained haunted by the idea of Speltzer out in the world, drinking at bars, scoping out his next victim while they were completely powerless to stop it. Instead, Speltzer is apprehended, and in spite of Batista and Deb successfully getting a confession from him, a judge cuts him loose after a video reveals that he wasn't properly advised of his rights. As usual, everyone's hands are tied except for Dexter, who is now free to kill Speltzer as he had always planned. Dexter's stalking of Speltzer yielded some lively scenes—assuming all of Speltzer's goofy Saw mazes aren't too much for you to swallow—but they were ultimately filler. The unsurprising result is that Dexter got his man and invited Deb to luxuriate in her relief as they watched the smoke from his remains billow from a crematory's chimney.

I'd be disappointed with this course of events if I thought it meant Dexter was successfully converting Deb to the dark side in a way that would permanently stick. But Deb's bigger concern now is not for the integrity of the criminal justice system; it's more for the people whose lives Dexter is putting at stake, like Harrison’s, not to mention her own. It took a little while for her to finally put together that Rita's death was too much of a coincidence, but thanks to a bathtub nightmare in which she's bathing in blood, it all becomes clear. Now Dexter has to answer questions that he's not as able to reason his way out of as when he and Deb were discussing the nature of what he does. Dexter's willingness to send Harrison away to Orlando, even temporarily, shows that he's at least entertaining the idea that the collateral damage of what he does could be too great to justify it.

I can only imagine that the repercussions of Dexter's actions will be thrown into even sharper relief as Isaac's noose continues to tighten. Isaac is one of the more interesting villains Dexter has gone up against, as he's not a serial killer, but a mostly pragmatic businessman who doesn't mind doing his own wet work from time to time. Ray Stevenson is really bringing it this season, and the little touches in the writing, like having poor bartender Alex move the gun from his mouth to his temple, are making for quite a fun character. Isaac is hellbent on avenging Viktor's death, and when his vengeance rains down, it certainly won't fall solely on Dexter.

This is where the writers have an opportunity to shift Dexter away from the avenging angel he's been all this time to something darker, scarier, and probably less palatable to an audience. Because at the end of the day, Dexter is a great detective, a good father, and a supportive brother, but he's also just another junkie. And like any other junkie, he seems perfectly willing to allow his addiction to destroy the lives of others. So I applaud the writers for using Deb to call Dexter on the reality of his situation: Your behavior got your wife killed, and yet you're still doing it. Dexter gets to be the hero again after ridding the world of Speltzer, but Isaac is about to cut his victory lap short, and it's time Dexter was held accountable for the damage he's done.

For the most part, I still think this season of Dexter is shaping up very strongly, but I'm maintaining a healthy skepticism about Hannah McKay until I can get an idea of what her character is meant to bring to the show. I've enjoyed Yvonne Strahovski's performance, even as I wait for a character to start forming around it. She plays Hannah as a woman who is brimming with agendas, even if she sincerely was just an unwitting participant in Wayne Randall's crimes. Part of me suspects the danger Hannah represents might outweigh anything Isaac has in store for Dexter.


Stray observations:

  • I wish we got to see more interrogation scenes. Not that this one was that great, but the interrogation of Christine Hill was pretty great in season four, and it made me wish for a second that we got to see more competent police work by someone other than Dexter.
  • Goodbye, blood slides.
  • No Ghost Harry again this week, thank God. I’m glad the writers have figured out that a little of that goes a long way.
  • It was tough not to hear Deb tell Dexter someone needed to protect Harrison from him and not think of Skyler’s similar sentiments in Breaking Bad.
  • Time to start speculating about Isaac and Viktor's relationship. Thoughts?