A side effect of the Trinity plot on this season of Dexter is that it makes the new remake of The Stepfather, starring Dylan Walsh, seem even more superfluous than it already was. The original Stepfather offered a dark satire of suburbia and the 1980s cult of family values, with a terrific performance by Terry OQuinn (these days zipping between life and death on Lost) as a Ward Cleaver-wannabe who butchers his families whenever they, inevitably, reveal human flaws.
The PG-13 remake of The Stepfather seems to be vanishing with barely a trace, while John Lithgows Trinity killer, a.k.a. Arthur Mitchell, offers a vivid, fresh portrayal of an upstanding, all-American middle-aged male who happens to be a homicidal monster. This weeks episode, If I Had a Hammer, fills in the outline of Trinitys life (Ill call him Trinity for convenience sake) as husband, father of two, high school teacher, deacon at Sacred Fellowship church and organizer of the community home-building project called Four Walls, One Heart. If I Had a Hammer opens not with the Pete Seeger/Lee Hays protest song of the same name but the hymn Are You Washed in the Blood? The blood symbolism isnt exactly subtle, but the song gives Lithgow a chance to zestfully sing an old-school church song.
Lithgows good enough that we could almost take Trinitys cover identity at face value. Its fascinating to try and square the implacability of Trinity during the earlier murders with the tenderness he shows to his family and his aggressive gregariousness at the church and building site. His freak-out scene when Dexter picked up the cremains was particularly unnerving: Dont! Touch! My sister! Apart from that lapse, though, hes better at compartmentalization than Dexter. This week Dexter excitingly tracks down the deaths of Trinitys original family, deduces that his kill-cycles recreate those deaths and notices that his Four Walls, One Heart plaques match his previous murders: the plaques, displayed in plain site, double as Trinitys kill-trophies, like the blood slides Dexter hides in his air conditioner.
If I Had a Hammer finds Dexter torn between his desire to avenge Debs near-murder and his need for a mentor. Will this play out in a surprising way, or an obvious one? A commenter on a Dexter fan community site speculated that this season would unfold like the previous three, with Dexter finding a sociopathic soul-mate (the Ice Truck Killer, Lilah, Miguel Prado), enjoying the company of a kindred spirit but eventually killing them. Will Season 4 throw curves, or follow a predictable trajectory?
It could be more surprising than it seems. Trinity, with his sinister nail-gun and aviator glasses, said Glad to see you made it, Kyle Butler when Dexter arrived at the building site. Is it me, or did he pronounce Dexters alias almost ironically, as if he knew it was a bogus name? If so, it wouldve been kind of stupid for him to give Dexter the lethal framing hammer. Otherwise, that would be an ingenious way to dispose of a murder weapon loan it out to a friend.
Also, when Trinitys teenage son Jonah sings his fathers praises and says Best Dad ever! the episode seems to be laying it on a little thick. Would a real teenager be so unconditionally positive about his father? Frankly, Im a little suspicious of Trinitys family. Trinity cryptically refers to a lost relationship in his past and says, This is my home. I can be myself here. Could his family be somehow aware of his current murders? For that matter, how did Trinitys original family die: did he kill them over the years, or is someone else responsible? Even the shooting of Lundy and Deb seems rather impulsive compared to Trinitys meticulousness.
This week, I find it a little odd that Dexters so bad at feigning his inner life for Rita. He wonders People just do this? Say what theyre thinking? Out loud? Perhaps hes, once more, trying to figure out how to be selectively honest. Theres an amusing shot in the therapy scene that shows Ritas side of the coffee table covered with tear-tissues while Dexters was pristine.
Some of the dialogue seemed pretty clunky this week, such as the use of Fuck! as a transition from Deb to Bastita in successive scenes, or characters repeatedly employing Duh! as a rejoinder. Dexter looks at Trinitys dishwasher-closet and thinks This isnt the dirty laundry Im looking for. Har-har. I also cant stand the actress who plays murderous drug user Nikki. Like last week, she gets a terrible hysterical speech thats like Boo hoo hoo Johnny boo hoo! Its like exactly what actors who play junkies shouldnt do.
However, I loved the transition from the therapy session to Dexter bashing plaster heads with a hammer, which probably anyone would find therapeutic after couples counseling (Rita too). Its nice to see Roma Maffia as the therapist and Dexters explanation, I really do need a place to put my stuff seemed like an homage to George Carlins old A place for my stuff routine. And it was funny when Dexter and Rita offered overlapping explanations about who was Lila: My sponsor/ Some bitch he slept with.
The episode ends with two scenes of domestic harmony crawling with creepy subtext: first Trinity gets in a bathtub with his wife for a moment that would be lovely if we didnt mirror one of his regular murders. The milky bathwater dissolves to Dexter drinking milk before putting the finishing touches on his forbidden tool shed of murder, with the help of his family. Trinity could be Dexters new stepfather.
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