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Monday, November 15, 2010

"Dexter" Season 5, Episode 8

Insert bedwetting joke here.
I keep meaning to cue up some Dexter episodes from seasons one or two for a refresher—I’m starting to forget what the show was like before it became an endlessly churning soap opera. But despite too much time with Miami homicide and the totally unnecessary introduction of Lumen’s ex-fiancé, Old Dennis the Menace, this week feels a little more like old times. I suppose we can thank last week’s smart but slow-like-a-slug setup episode for a more propulsive installment this week, but if some enterprising video editor cut last week’s and this week’s episodes into a single hour, it would be an unmitigated slam-dunk. Forthwith, some ideas on what to keep, and what to cut.

What to keep: all the Dexter stuff, of course. In a cool twist, we begin this week with the voiceover of our big bad, Jordan Chase, set to Animal Kingdom scenes of predators in pursuit—the opening to Chase’s Rally to Restore Insanity. Dexter has infiltrated the lion’s den, one of Chase’s blue-lit inspirational conventions, where a rabid crowd cheers “TAKE IT!” over and over—just like our creepy murderous roadkill collector Boyd did way, way back in episode two. Dexter remarks that he’s never been around people who made him feel this normal—and it feels not just true, but totally promising.

And, wonder of wonders, the show pulls it off! With not one, but three creepy exchanges between our hero and sex-slave ringmaster Chase, who admits to a fascination with the Trinity Killer and a desire to speak with Dexter about how the “primal self” deals with tragic loss (and, yes, another convenient clue as to his complicity in Lumen’s imprisonment). With his aggressive ideas about instinct and desire, and a slick performance by Jonny Lee “Sick Boy” Miller, it’s like a meeting of the lizard-brains, just as electric as the early face-offs between Michael C. Hall and Julia Stiles—especially the meeting where Cole’s severed head watches from the inside of Dexter’s bag.

What else to keep: almost all of the Lumen stuff. She’s discovering more about Dexter and what he’s capable of—apparently she hadn’t yet realized that Dexter is a seasoned serial killer, despite the fact that’s she’s been watching him dispatch people with uncanny efficiency for several weeks now, relying on his kidnapping/murdering expertise, etc. Sure, it doesn’t make strict narrative sense, but it does lead to some excellent moments between the newly-minted partners: prepping the kill room, giving Dexter the go-ahead to make the killing blow, accepting Dexter’s commemorative slide, disposing of the body on Dexter’s boat. It all leads to a nice conflation of Lumexter’s journey and Chase’s ideas of the “shattered self” and “becoming whole,” but capped with a canny retort to Chase’s motto: “Just let go” instead of “Take it.”

Also to keep: some of Debra’s dilemma. It’s an interesting tack to give Debra her first kill, and see how she reacts. Apparently, the cold-blooded-killer thing is all in the family: Debra admits to Dexter that she doesn’t feel at all bad about killing Fuentes #1, leading to a cool, retrained conversation in which Dexter evokes Ghost Dad without dragging him into corporeality (“Dad once told me that some people deserve to die”). But I can’t help but think this arc could have started episodes ago—couldn’t Debra have killed Fuentes #1 the first time she faced off against him?

And most important! We must keep every moment of Peter Weller, who snarls like a wolf and coils like a snake and creeps out every single character he comes in contact with. I can’t wait for him and Dexter to meet for the first time. It’s going to be epic.

What to lose: the entire Owen storyline. We already know that Lumen, unlike Dexter, has a choice in the matter of bloody bloody revenge: she can follow the sociopath down the rabbit hole of murder, or she can go back to her parents who love her. Do we really need yet another character to offer her a plane ticket off the show? No, we do not. We’ve covered this ground before, and if we really need to cover it again it could just as easily be covered by Dexter. Lumen’s consideration of the slide, and her conversation with Dexter on the boat, is plenty effective on its own.

What else to lose: any scene in which Maria or Angel appear on their own. Any scene in which Debra and Quinn appear together, without any other characters. Four out of the five scenes in which we learn that Debra is mad at Maria. Maria looking like she’s about to cry in every single scene. This line: “Jordan promises change. But he also accepts credit cards.” Oh, and the fat guy and his pregnant soulmate. What was that supposed to be, funny?

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