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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Dexter: “Sunshine And Frosty Swirl”

Illustration for article titled Dexter: “Sunshine And Frosty Swirl”

Last week, a commenter jokingly suggested that, at this point, it’s fair to say Dexter fans can go ahead and forget about seasons three through six. But two episodes into the season, it’s beginning to seem like more of an inevitability than a facetious suggestion. The seventh season is making my memories of those seasons a little less vivid with every episode. It’s almost like I read a few noncanonical Dexter novels. Even though Rita got a glancing reference in the season première, the ghost of Doakes looms larger over the season than does the ghost of Rita, who spent two more seasons on the show. Astor and Cody essentially don’t exist anymore. And given the show’s tendency to revert to its status quo whenever possible, if someone was to tune into this season having skipped those others, I can’t imagine it would be that difficult to get into, save for the absence of Rita and the kids and the addition of Quinn. This is starting to look less like an uptick in quality and more like a full-blown course correction.

“Sunshine and Frosty Swirl” wasn’t quite as strong as the season première—it would be pretty hard to top that final scene—but it was strong enough that it may soon be time to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. Everything is clicking into place here. The sense of urgency is back, and it feels like there’s a much better handle on the mythology that had gotten so muddled in seasons prior. It’s almost as though, having milked cash out of the show for four years, the Showtime brass is now comfortable letting Dexter be the show it seemed like it would be when it first started out. If Scott Buck and his team can keep this momentum up, the final two seasons of this show could be redemptive.

The key to sustaining that momentum is nailing the Deb and Dexter arc, and that seems to be the thing the writers have the best handle on so far. We pick up here right after last week’s revelation, with an understandably horrified Deb learning the shocking details of her brother’s compulsion. Even more than dealing with the fact that her own brother is a serial killer, she has to confront the fact that the father whom she once idolized kept even darker secrets from her than a couple of affairs with informants. My newfound appreciation of Jennifer Carpenter continues, but that could still be because it suddenly feels like the performance and the story are well-matched. This is the best we’ve seen Deb written since season two, which is evident when she says she’s the “worst fucking detective,” something Dexter fans have been yelling at their screens for years now.

But while she is the worst fucking detective, Debra is not willing to settle for being the worst fucking sister. So rather than arrest Dexter and call a press conference to admit everything, she decides to start her own serial-killer rehab program. It’s a strong idea for a score of reasons. It challenges the very idea of Harry’s Code: Deb is right to question why no one ever considered the possibility that Dexter’s Dark Passenger could be quelled rather than merely redirected, which, when framed this way, makes Harry’s Code seem like a misguided scheme hatched by a macho cop nursing frustrations about the failings of the justice system. The other result is that now Deb and Dexter are living together—she’s on the couch, in case he gets all homicidal late at night—so Deb’s recently discovered romantic feelings toward her brother lend the scenes a satisfying dramatic irony. When Dexter mocks their new joined-at-the-hip arrangements, he jokes, “I hope you have a big shower,” having no idea of the subtext.

There’s enough in that story that I’m not looking as much for a villain to fill a hole just yet, which makes the way the show is introducing Ray Stevenson’s Isaac refreshing as opposed to frustrating. At this point, as Isaac is pulled more into Miami Metro’s orbit; I’m imagining his role being one that complicates the situation Dexter is already in, rather than being the sole focus of his story for the season. It also gives the usually rudderless supporting characters something to do that feels relevant to the story. I can’t remember a single thing Batista and Quinn did last season, but at least their investigation of Kaja’s death is stirring up things with Isaac, who proves his capacity for menace when he murders Tony, the bouncer who was dating Kaja before her untimely death. The way Isaac is being woven into the story feels totally fresh for Dexter, which usually has its supporting characters spinning like tops while their collective ineptitude allows Dexter time to feint and parry with his latest adversary.

Speaking of adversaries, I have to hit on the issue I had with “Sunshine and Frosty Swirl,” which was anything to do with Louis, as usual. Finally, Dexter is informed of Louis’ shenanigans when Masuka confesses everything about Ryan stealing the hand and Louis trying to track it down. Dexter manages to escape Deb’s watchful gaze long enough to confront Louis, who says he just decided to screw with Dexter because he ridiculed his video game. It was absolutely moronic, sure, but part of me wished that would actually be the entire explanation, which would complete the season six to season seven course correction. Alas, Louis decides to keep bothering Dexter, which forces him to follow through with his efforts to confront the Dark Passenger rather than bending to it every time. The thing is, though, Louis brings out my Dark Passenger, and I never had to sit in a pool of my mother’s blood as a baby. I just hate the character. I hope there’s a way to get rid of Louis without having Dexter go back on his word to Deb. Dexter in rehab is proving to be a more interesting character than Dexter on the prowl.


Stray observations:

  • Deb got some terrific lines this week: “You gave it a name?” “Well I found this website, ‘How to Cure a Serial Killer in 10 Easy Steps. This is the first step.”
  • Dexter’s description of his Dark Passenger and how it manifests itself is one of the most strongly written scenes I can remember since perhaps the season four finale.
  • Dexter’s speech about how his victims deserved what they got was reminiscent of John Doe’s speech in Seven.
  • LaGuerta has confirmed that Travis’ blood was on that slide, and is getting backup from the FBI. Does that mean Deb is getting a new boyfriend?
  • I liked this episode’s treatment of an episodic story for Dexter, and I hope the series can find a way to do something similar each week rather than reverting to a kill-of-the-week, all things considered.
  • Although Harry is back as Ghost Harry rather than Flashback Harry, the fact that the code is now being called into question makes those scenes feel more relevant than when Ghost Harry is just another iteration of Dexter’s inner-monologue.