Of all the things that surprised me about "The Angel Of Death," perhaps the thing I found most surprising is that it's only the fifth episode of the season. Maybe it's a superficial observation, but man alive, am I the only person who feels like this season of Dexter must have started back when Greece was financially solvent? A guy could be forgiven for thinking we were up to episode 10 or so, though I'm still trying to put my finger on why it feels that way. It's not because the pace has been particularly brisk, though the machinations that put Debra in the lieutenant's seat and made LaGuerta essentially a recurring character did seem to fly by. I fear the only explanation is that season six suffers from clumsy, inert plotting, and I'm not sure how fixable that is nearly halfway through the season. I've written a lot about how this is a pivotal season for Dexter, a potential turnaround season following the letdown that was season five, and with each passing week, I become less optimistic that the writers will make a success of that opportunity.
Things started out promisingly enough, with Dexter finally taking an active role in the hunting of the Doomsday Duo, as opposed to just being a dutiful public servant with a weird pastime, as he was last week. He examines the angel wings from the most recent tableau and finds a hole that has been patched with a glue used to restore artwork. After seeing Travis all puffed up with pride at the crime scene, Dexter knows he's involved somehow but hasn't put all the pieces together yet. He heads the Museum of Art and is corraled toward a film about all the fun goings on behind the scenes of an art museum, in which—surprise!—he sees Travis in the film, hard at work doing art-restorative things. This bothered me; like 24 with Jack Bauer, Dexter has a bad habit of making these kinds of breaks seem less like intuition and more like serendipity smiling on the protagonist one too many times. I was willing to excuse it, since at least the noose was finally tightening, and it couldn't be long before we saw some interaction between Dex and the Big Bad. But when the episode finally got to that interaction, it didn't justify the dumb luck of how it got there.
Dexter ambushes Travis in his car and forces him to drive while interrogating him about the murders. Travis insists that he's just the pawn, God doesn't even talk to him, and he can't bring himself to actually do the killing. Gellar is the real culprit, Travis says, and so Dexter frees him in the hopes that Travis will lead him to Gellar. Let's dissect this for a moment. How many times have we seen a killer on one of Dexter's tables, mummified in plastic wrap, insisting to Dexter that he's actually innocent? And how many times has that dissuaded Dexter from killing the person? Granted, if what Travis was saying was true, it would mean that to kill Travis would mean to break whatever semblance of a code Dexter still has left. If Travis is indeed being manipulated by Gellar and hasn't done any of the actual killing, he's as much a victim as he is a perpetrator, and could partially redeem himself by assisting in Gellar's apprehension. Seeing as how no one has seen Gellar in three years, it's no easy feat to track him down, and letting Travis lead to him seems the most tactically sound thing to do.
The only problem with all of this is that whatever Gellar is, whether a ghost, a figment of Travis's imagination, or something else entirely, he can't possibly exist in corporeal form. I've been hesitant to say that definitively, even as the evidence continued to mount. I didn't want it to be true because I've found Travis so profoundly underwhelming as a villain, and because it's been so clearly telegraphed from season premiere that for it to be true means that Dexter is no longer a television show for story-savvy viewers. (Especially when combined with this week's return of the voiceover that serves no purpose other than to explain to us what Dexter is doing as we're watching him do it.) But the evidence for Gellar's intangibility is impossible to ignore. The biggest tip-off this week came when Travis and Gellar were hunting for a loose woman for their latest tableau, this time based on the Whore of Babylon, and Gellar scampers off when they see a huge photo of Gellar on the front page of the newspaper next to the headline "The Doomsday Killer." If that was going to be a headline, which it wouldn't be, wouldn't it be for after the police had apprehended and gotten a confession from Gellar? Seems a little presumptuous, seeing as how he's still only a person of interest. But when we saw the newspaper stand again, the image on the newspaper was completely different. Clearly, Travis is hallucinating.
If this is the case, and I can't imagine how it couldn't be, it means that we've got at least a few episodes of Dexter tilting at windmills until realizing something that has been pretty apparent from the beginning—Travis is the real target. Maybe I'm expecting a little too much from Dexter, seeing as how he hasn't had the audience’s privilege of seeing what the Doomsday Duo has been up to this whole time. But here's what we know about Dexter: He's a virtuosic detective such that he can walk into a murder scene and put together what happened in a minute's time, he's so obsessed with serial killers that he kept a scrapbook dedicated to them in his childhood, and he has his own hallucinated mentor providing him with insights. That Dexter would take Travis at his word without even considering the potential of a visionary-killer dynamic strains credulity, but then again, there were 100,000 locusts in a cabinet last week, so there you go.
Of course, Dexter will have his hands full with more than Travis and Gellar, now that Brother Sam has been murdered. It wasn't made explicit that Brother Sam died, but considering there's another seven episodes left, I can't help but conclude that avenging his all-of-a-sudden BFF will be Dexter's focus for at least a couple of them. This is a huge loss, since Mos Def's luminous performance has been the best thing about this season. Even the Dexter and Sam scenes this week, which from a writing standpoint couldn't hold a candle to last week's, were the high points of the episode. So long, Brother Sam. If there's a Heaven, there's a place for you in it.
I hate to always resort to recapping the latest drama around Miami Metro in digest fashion, but what am I to do? Mike Anderson is still ruffling feathers by acting like he's a better cop than everyone else in the department, even though he probably is if he's even the least bit competent at his job. Masuka is using his new male intern to track down the hand Ryan stole from evidence but can't get it back. Deb moves into a murder house, since she and Jamie suddenly hate each other because Deb asked her to find Quinn's engagement ring and brought crime scene photos home. Quinn and Batista hunt down Clarissa Porter, a former teaching assistant of Gellar's, and everything gets stupid. Why? Because Quinn insists on sleeping with Porter in spite of her being not just connected to the case, but a former live-in lover of Gellar's who still thinks very highly of him, and is possibly still in love with him. Batista implores him to sleep with one of the many other available women in the bar, but for Quinn, it has to be Porter. Because apparently sleeping with the Trinity Killer's daughter while she pumped him for information on the case didn't teach him a lesson about shitting where he eats. Deep sigh.
- The issue with Dexter instantly believing Travis’ story could have been fixed by having Dex debate the case for and against killing Travis with Harry, who was conspicuously missing this week. Of course, if Harry had shown up, it would made the obviousness of the Gellar/Travis dynamic that much more obvious, I suppose.
- Is it possible that Gellar is actually real and that this is some ingenious fake-out? I’m trying to imagine the circumstances under which that would work.
- No LaGuerta this week.
- I hope Brother Sam is still alive, if only because I’d hate for his last episode to be the one in which he describes himself as an “O.G. for G-O-D.” Yikes.
- “Worst. Docent. Ever.”
- I’m assuming we’ll be hearing more about Clarissa’s unique tramp stamp.
- Anderson is married, in case anyone was looking for a wrinkle in the simmering sexual tension between him and Deb.