If nothing else, this season of Dexter has been all about our hero’s capacity for self-delusion. We hear his thoughts via voiceover, but they’re often unreliable, partly because he doesn’t know who he is and partly because he’s deliberately lying to himself. He’d like to believe that his father provided him with a sound moral foundation, or at least the healthiest possible outlet for channeling his killer instincts. And at times, he really does buy into the notion that he’s doing the right thing and that he’s worthy of his immortalization in headlines, editorials, and comic books. But he’s been having trouble performing lately, and with the stunning revelation that his father committed suicide, he’s finally lost his cover for good. Harry, the one man who “trained” him and nurtured his secrets, was so repulsed by his creation that he couldn’t live with himself.
We love to throw around predictions and theories in these parts, but did anyone see this coming? And if so, did you see it happening now, with so much other narrative business on the table? I was excited when I saw the title of the episode, “There’s Something About Harry,” because it promised to add a new wrinkle to Dexter’s already busy goings-on as we approach the end of the season. But the twist about Harry’s suicide hit like the proverbial ton of bricks, one of those delicious turns that’s both out of the blue and perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the show. What’s more, it’s all about character. A lesser show would be feeding the beast at this juncture, i.e. tying things up as a serialized thriller is supposed to do and hopefully springing a few surprises along the way. But Dexter has never been some run-of-the-mill policier, and the writers have stepped up their game this season.
Can we please have a few more episodes of Dexter and Doakes in the cabin? (Or perhaps as an Off Broadway one-act?) Since no one else can know about his activities, Dexter has always employed his victims as captive therapists to absorb whatever dark thoughts are on his mind. But Doakes proves not to be such a passive guy, and this created one hell of a dynamic between the two. When Dexter tries to liken them as equals—both killers, but working under different codes—Doakes puts the lie to his captor’s brand of moral relativism. Then later, Doakes has to witness Dex murdering that drug dealer as part of his frame-up efforts and his tone grows more desperate; gone is the tough guy willing to stand up to a serial killer, replaced by a fundamentally decent man begging desperately for Dexter to show some compassion.
There have been a lot of complaints about the variable quality of the acting on Dexter in the past, some of them directed at Erik King’s work as Doakes, because he’s perceived as a one-note, humorless, bull-in-a-china-shop kind of guy. But I’ve always enjoyed his relentless distaste for Dexter and the show gets a special change whenever the two go toe-to-toe. Since I really can’t imagine a scenario in which Dexter and Doakes will ever work together again, I think special mention should be made of that dynamic and King’s abilities to modulate his angry-man image when the situation calls for it. His horror at Dexter slaughtering the drug dealer in cold blood cast Dexter in an extraordinarily harsh light.
The other big news, as far as Dexter is concerned, is that Lila isn’t going away without crazying things up a little more. There was no doubt that Lila was prepared to use Angel to force her way back into Dexter’s life, but once again, who could have guessed how? Is this the first time in history anyone has used a roofie on themselves? Does this plan make any rational sense? I’m not saying that it does—Lila is an unstable woman, capable of all sorts of nutjob schemes—but does it need to? I’ll miss Jaime Murray when she’s gone too, not just for the gratuitous Showtime nudity, but for the way she lets every batshit moment count. Her last line (“I’m only just getting started, baby”) was an irresistible tease for the next two weeks.
And now to the relatively boring stuff: Lundy and Deb, where do they go from here? I’ve never been that excited by this pairing, and their scenes here were without question the least interesting of the hour, but the writers do as well as could be expected in handling the issues that were bound to come up as the case draws to a close. Lundy moves with the job and Deb is rooted in Miami, so what future can they have together? Their communication problems about the inevitable break-up make sense: She doesn’t think he took her more seriously than a temporary hook-up while stationed in Miami; he thinks that she’d eventually want to date a guy without an AARP membership.
Blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda. Now let’s get back to Doakes in a cage, shall we?
• Forgot to mention Maria, who’s finally making herself useful by shedding some doubt on the BHB case. She’s still the dullest character on the show, but it’s a testament to the superiority of this season over the last that even the lame supporting players figure into the big picture eventually. I also think Lundy was right to discredit her homemade stakeout logs, given her unlawful efforts to protect her buddy Doakes.
• Deb (sarcastic): “Yeah, because serial killers are practical.” Dexter: “They are.”
• In an episode where Dexter finds himself contemplating what his possible outing as the Bay Harbor Butcher might mean to other people, Doakes gets the better end of the night’s key exchange. Dexter: “You can’t play on my feelings. I don’t have any.” Doakes: “Who’s lying now?”