Monday, October 12, 2009

'Dexter:' season 4, episode 3

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 1:08 PM

The latest episode, titled “Blinded By the Light,” begins with Daiquiri-delivering Dexter at a backyard barbecue, slicing strawberries rather than grilling the ungodly amount of meat on display. That Dexter: he’s never far from something red. Given that their neighbor has not just a swimming pool but a waterfall, the Morgans clearly have moved to a tony address. We’ll probably never know how Dexter supports a wife, three children and a boat on his blood-spatter salary.

click to enlarge Michael C. Hall and Julie Benz: "Have a good day! Don't kill anyone you don't have to!"
  • Michael C. Hall and Julie Benz: "Have a good day! Don't kill anyone you don't have to!"

With the Trinity subplot still ramping up, “Dexter’s” A-story this week feels like a place-holder and has more of that “Desperate Housewives” quality. Both shows feature ironic voice-over narration about suburban dynamics and appearances vs. reality, along with a dead character who serves as a Greek chorus. The dismemberments on Wisteria Lane just tend to be figurative, not literal. (Most of the time.) The “community” themes may be a little too explicit. Dexter would probably be surprised to know how many people could identify with his alienation, which strikes a chord with anyone who’s struggled to talk to a sullen teen or groped for small talk at a block party.

It’s kind of a humiliating week for Dexter, which finds him prohibited from driving after last week’s concussion, hassled by the street’s beautification association and pursued by the neighborhood watch. He’s like a declawed lion, or maybe Gulliver pinned down by the Lilliputians. (A huge laugh accompanies the revelation that Matsuka drives a pimped-out monster truck.) Laguerta and Batista face more peril in that near-ambush than Dexter did this week.

Dexter’s frustrations come to a head in the final scene, when Rita catches him smashes his neighbor’s floodlights. It’s kind of like one of those “Mad Men” moments when Betty sees Don Draper’s mask slip. Much as I enjoy Michael C. Hall’s narration, the lack of dialogue gives the scene greater punch, like the final lines of a John Cheever short story.

This week the Trinity Killer commits another horrifying murder, which may be not even be a murder -- coerced suicide, maybe? Lithgow’s solicitousness (“Careful now, you wouldn’t want to hurt yourself”) and fatalism (“It’s already over”) prove nearly as upsetting as him forcing the terrified soccer mom to jump off the building. Based on what we know – that he kills in threes, culminating with a middle-aged man – it seems highly likely that Trinity symbolically slays a family each time. Whether his victims represent his actual sister, mother and father, and whether he was the one to kill them, remains to be seen. Could those initial deaths all have been suicides? It’s hard to imagine someone fatally bludgeoning himself, though.

I’ll bet the answers lie in Trinity’s other rituals: the substance he smeared next to the body, the urn filled with (presumably) cremains. At any rate, if there’s only one death to go, that doesn’t seem like much time for the fourth season – but maybe there’s more involved with the kill-cycle than Lundy knows about. Speaking of Lundy, what’s with the hat? Maybe they want to make his cowboy quality explicit, but it fit him like a giant novelty prop.

Quinn commands more attention this week, and boy, he comes across as dumb, with a capital D-M-U-B. The nude reporter turns him into a helpless blabbermouth, even when his boss tells him to keep his mouth shut. It’s funny when Quinn tries to curry favor with Dexter, who couldn’t care less about his seemingly corrupt behavior. Quinn’s big speech, though – “Just don’t fuckin’ call me dirty!” – took self-pity and righteousness to laughable levels. It was like the moment in the previous season when the undercover cop busted Batista for solicitation, and he whimpered about just wanting a little closeness, or something phony-baloney justification like that. Come on guys, would a little dignity be too much to ask?

Viewers can excuse "Dexter" the occasional comedic, less-eventful episode in the name of laying the groundwork for a bigger one. Let's home that next's week's installment, though, is serious, not desperate.

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