Welcome to Showtime.
Granted, the network has evolved into a legitimate purveyor of thoughtful, provocative entertainments like Weeds, Brotherhood, and Dexter, but the rampant T&A throughout the beginning of this episode—all courtesy of Jamie Murray’s gleefully uninhibited Lila—brought back adolescent memories of trying to peer through the fritzing V-hold (we weren’t subscribers, sadly), hoping to spot a few stray naughty bits. But right off the bat, the writers pull a clever double fakeout: When we hear Lila instructing Dexter to use “light, feathery strokes,” I fully expected her to be giving him some sort of art tutorial. Nope, no double entendre there. She wants what she wants and she’ll do whatever it takes to get it.
It turned out to be a nice foreshadowing of what we learn about Lila throughout the episode: If she wants to get off, she’s not shy about giving instructions. If she wants to get into an exclusive restaurant, she’ll improvise some story about a 10th anniversary celebration. If she wants her light fixed, she’ll get her landlord’s attention by busting his. And if she feels sufficiently threatened by the pull Rita and her kids have over Dexter, she’ll ignite a hideous $18,000 sculpture and burn her entire loft to the ground. Now we know that Lila isn’t just a choice for Dexter in his search for the right woman, but someone to be contended with—someone who won’t bow out gracefully should he opt to move in another direction. She can sense that he’s slipping away from her a bit when he talks about not feeling “clean” with her and decides to make an appearance at Rita’s son’s oral presentation.
Now it’s becoming clearer how the battle over Dexter’s heart and soul may play out, and also clearer that Rita will ultimately be the winner. The question now is how Lila’s dark side will eventually manifest itself and what Dexter will have to do about it. She’s a major threat—of the Glenn-Close-in-Fatal-Attraction kind—and I think her presence has given the show a much-needed charge, since the threat to Dexter now comes from within as well as without. His ally in the fight against his addiction is paradoxically his biggest obstacle in finding the “clean” life that he’s seeking. The cynic in me would call Lila a walking plot device, someone who stops in for a season with the sole purpose of sending our hero on his way. But as we head into the home stretch, she’s turning into one hell of a loose cannon. (And not exactly someone you’d bring home to mom, either. “Pardon my tits” isn’t the nicest introduction to Dexter’s sole living family connection. That probably won’t be the funny story Deb will tell should she be the maid-of-honor at Dex and Lila’s wedding.)
But forget about all that now. This episode contained my single favorite scene of the season and that’s what we should be talking about. I can’t imagine I was alone in bolting upright when Dexter finally decided to drop the professional niceties and push back against his longtime nemesis Doakes. That little speech was fantastic enough (“I own you”), but to follow it up with that brutal headbutt was completely unexpected and cagey. Dexter knows Doakes’ bull-in-a-china-shop style very well and he chooses the perfect moment to go on the offensive, when Doakes is on the verge of suspension. Audacious, unexpected, and just electric to behold. (Though clearly, Doakes’ suspension means jack-all in his pursuit of Dexter. He’ll be back to playing outside the lines immediately and Dex will have to make sure he remains one step ahead of him.)
Alas, “That Night A Forest Grew” was not a perfect episode, which shouldn’t surprise me too much, given that the show has yet to put an “A”-worthy hour for me in the whole of its run. Tonight, I was a little worried over a concern that Alan Sepinwall has voiced in his weekly write-ups this season: Basically, the possibility of Dexter turning into Vic Mackey on The Shield, stretching credibility as he miraculously slips the knot, season after season. Ironically, I’m rarely bothered by that element of The Shield, but it can be a bit of a distraction on Dexter, because Dex’s ability to elude justice isn’t as interesting as his compulsion to break the law. It’s not that his attempts to sabotage the investigation aren’t entertaining; they just don’t fit with the overall intent of the show.
(That said, Dexter’s idea to turns the tables on Lundy and his team by submitting a 32-page manifesto was pretty great. It had poor saps like Angel putting his literary background to utterly ineffectual use and had profilers of every stripe making contradictory claims about what’s going on in the Bay Harbor Butcher’s head. But again, Lundy proves a fine adversary by seeing through Dex’s gambit and correctly surmising the BHB’s law enforcement background.)
As for the truly gag-worthy, there’s Lundy and Deb getting together. I had prayed that Lundy the professional would just hang back and do his job without indulging Deb’s daddy issues, but here they are sharing a furtive kiss on the water. How will their entanglement figure into the big picture? I don’t know, beyond Deb’s divided loyalties to her brother and the man who’s methodically tracking him down, but for now, I’m really not that interested in their coupling at all. It seems forced and distracting.
Hate to end on a bum note, though. This was mostly a very strong hour.
• So we know now that Dexter isn’t asexual, but I’d be curious to see more contrast between sex with Lila and sex with Rita. Is it rough trade that turns him on? Is “making love” too austere for serial killers?
• Lila talked about Dexter reaching the “pink cloud” stage of his recovery, meaning that he’s achieved “acceptance,” but that it takes work to keep from relapsing. What I’m waiting for—and have voiced from Sentence One of my blog for this season—is for Dex to take a step back in his quest to become more human. We need a reminder, as we got frequently with Tony Soprano, that he’s a killer, not just some head case we care for in spite of ourselves.
• Seriously, $18,000 for Lila’s sculpture? If anything, it’s Dexter’s blood-spatter picture that’s the real art on display there.