There’s a reason this show isn’t called Miami Metro.
It’s a little hard not to sound like a skipping record when reviewing this show every week, but the equation applies nearly 100% of the time: The more time Dexter spends on Dexter, the better it is. The more it spends on Deb, Maria, Angel, and the gang, the worse it is. The reason is simple: There’s only one show in the history of television about a blood spatter analyst who moonlights as a serial killer of serial killers. And there are a million mediocre shows—many on CBS, probably right as I’m typing—about a detective unit solving grisly crimes in a major city. It’s a little disconcerting that an excellent show and a mediocre show could come from the same writing staff, with excellence and mediocrity often competing for time in a single episode, but such has always been the case with Dexter.
As you might have guessed, I found “Sí Se Puede” long on mediocrity. After the bombshell that ended the last episode, when Miguel confronts Dexter with the information that he knows about his extracurricular activities and is still on board with him, the show mostly downshifted tonight. It makes a certain amount of sense, too, because the show is only just reaching the halfway mark of the season and there are other subplots that need juggling, too. So without abandoning the Dexter/Miguel situation—which I’ll deal with in a bit—the writers do a lot basic care and maintenance on the other developments, like watering a few dry plants before they wilt entirely.
The big issues relate to the serial murders of a psycho not-so-imaginatively dubbed “The Skinner.” Freebo’s affable 15-year-old lookout, Wendell, is found dead with the flesh on his chest and lower torso removed, and Deb feels responsible, given that he and the last witness she interviewed shared a similarly grisly fate. She worries, with good reason, that the killer is tracking her movements and she’s leading him right where he wants to go. One of the intriguing things about The Skinner is that he seems to be doing the usual perverse serial killer thing while also mucking up the Oscar Prado investigation. That leads Deb, again with good reason, to suspect that Miguel’s hothead brother Ramon might have something to do with it. But it would appear that he’s only guilty of illegally scooping up suspects and torturing them for information. Clean as a whistle.
All this business with The Skinner is certain to figure into Dexter’s story in a major way as the season barrels into its second half, so I’m willing to indulge a few flat scenes for the payoff that will surely come. I’m feeling far less generous, however, about some of the other business in the periphery: There’s Angel’s budding romance with the vice cop from the prostitution sting operation, which would be an outrageous enough premise without the ridiculous scene where she tries to bait him into giving a hooker a ride. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” And Angel, though generally a gullible fellow, isn’t gonna fall for the ‘ole banana-in-the-tailpipe routine for a second time.
Love is also in the air between Deb and the C.I. Please wake me when it’s over. Or when there’s nudity.
There’s plenty of Maria in this episode, too, as she finds herself torn between her loyalties to Miguel and the increasing evidence that he may be engaging in prosecutorial misconduct. It’s kind of amazing sometimes to consider how she ever found her way to the top of this unit, given that I can’t recall a single moment when she’s been a valuable asset. Does she exist just to make everyone’s job harder? Can she at least be trusted to do the right thing and look into Miguel’s ethical violations, or will she wind up standing in the way?
Onto much better things, the bond between Dexter and Miguel is deepening to such an extent that Dexter seems to genuinely enjoy fishing and drinking “brewskis” with his new best buddy, comforted by the thought that he can be himself. Check that: He can be himself a little. He still can’t trust Miguel completely, and has trouble in general getting close to anyone, much less a slippery character who may have ulterior motives. So for his next victim, he cleverly picks a man that will make Miguel think twice about collaborating with him: A white supremacist and claw-hammer killer who currently resides in prison on another charge. That means it’s up to Miguel to find a way to call up the guy from jail and find a way to free him into Dexter’s hands—an absurd risk for a career-minded district attorney.
That Miguel agrees to the plan and successfully carries it out rocks Dexter back on his heels; he just assumed his new friend would look at the “pros” and “cons” of being in the vigilante business and run screaming from it. Ostensibly, Miguel feels empowered by meting out justice without having to suffer the flaws and bureaucracy of our imperfect system; in that regard, he’s living out a righteous prosecutor’s fantasy. But even though Miguel accommodates him in a very sticky situation, can Dexter really bring himself to trust him? Doesn’t he suspect, as many of us probably do, that there’s something beyond justice that’s motivating Miguel?
Here’s hoping intriguing questions like that become the focus in the second half.
• Quinn: Still shifty. What’s the deal with that guy?
• A few scenes with Dexter visiting Camilla, the long-time evidence woman, in the hospital, where she’s dying of terminal lung cancer. The pain of losing one’s dignity is at the crux of these scenes; otherwise, they weren’t as substantial or revelatory as a I expected, given their history together.
• Rita decides to go into real estate with Miguel’s wife, thus bringing the two families closer together. This will lead to something other than a few closings, I hope.
• Dexter: “Miguel has convinced himself that he wants to kill for lofty and noble reasons. I’m not quite as high-minded.”
• Sorry for the generic photo. The CBS/Showtime press site wasn’t functioning tonight for some reason.