Dexter "Chemistry" Review: Strange Bedfellows
I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong, and I’d say that some of my comments about last week’s episode of Dexter now qualify as such. My concerns about the shift in focus from Dex and Deb to a slew of other, somewhat-connected stories were alleviated by this week’s episode, "Chemistry." More importantly, the show has avoided its typical extended, middle-of-the-season slump by not plodding along with threads that aren’t particularly fruitful. It turns out that mediocre and predictable stories aren’t as bad when you plow through them in short order.
On that note, “Chemistry” worked well because it moved at a little faster pace than the typical Dexter episode. I would suggest that it was reflective of Dexter’s state of mind; he was running around from work to Sal Price’s apartment to Hannah’s place and back, multiple times over. He was off-balance, confused, and reckless, which is something we’ve seen before, but perhaps not in this way. This isn’t bloodlust, it’s just lust.
After their sexual encounter, Dexter tried to pretend—or maybe, convince himself—that he wasn’t interested in Hannah, but when she played the same game, Dexter was clearly shaken. She blankly asked whether he is going to kill her and there were some humorous knowing jokes about their respective neuroses, all of which signaled to Dexter that there might be something more—dare I say real—to his attraction to Hannah.
Unfortunately, the post-coital high didn’t last too long, because Sal Price quickly closed in on both Hannah and Dexter. He cornered Dexter into giving up some information (it wasn't true, but still) and pushed Hannah into doing an interview. But neither of the two new lovebirds was interested in screwing around with Price, so Dexter plotted (quite ridiculously) to pin the murder of one of Price’s former book subjects on the author, while Hannah did her poisoning thing, leading to Price dropping dead from an apparent heart attack—right in the middle of Dexter’s apartment.
All the while, both Dexter and Hannah were facing pressure from a very persistent and angry Deb, who'd figured out that Hannah not only helped Wayne kill people years ago, but she also took out a former husband (also with poison). Deb pushed Dexter on his falsified blood-spatter report and brought in Hannah for a fairly intense interrogation session. But once Price fell by the wayside in a similar fashion, Deb had had enough. She knew she couldn’t actually prove that Hannah had killed Price, her husband, or anyone else. So it was time to call for reinforcement: Dexter.
Now, that’s a pretty great ending. As I said last week, and as I’m sure so many of you could recognize, it seemed likely that the show was heading in this direction. We knew that Deb’s knowledge of Dexter’s night moves wasn’t going to go away, no matter how hard she wanted it to, and we knew that Hannah would eventually become a larger, more imediate problem. However, I’m still pretty shocked that the writers actually made it happen so quickly.
What this does, I think, is further ramp up the pressure on Dexter in quite a novel way for the show. Because the middle part of Dexter's seasons often bump along with a lack of energy, Dexter is usually able to manage his regular half-dozen pressing issues in a somewhat calm, sequential fashion (kill bad guys, cover it up, track the Big Bad, lie to Deb, profit). Yet now, not only does Deb too much of the truth—and just enough that it makes Dexter feel especially guilty that he isn’t telling her all of it—but everything is falling down on him at once. He doesn’t really understand his feelings for Hannah. He can’t control her increasingly hasty actions. Price turned out to be a moderately formidable foe. And hell, now Isaac is out of prison thanks to Quinn’s dirty dealings. Dexter can usually handle his self-inflicted problems well, but I get the feeling that he doesn’t have a true grip on all the elements in play.
And at the center of his confusion is, of course, Hannah. While Dexter abides by a code, Hannah does not, but I don’t think Dexter really cares. I appreciate that "Chemistry" went out of its way to explore why Dexter’s attraction to Hannah is different than his relationships with Lila, Rita, and Lumen—and although I think the show can get away with some retroactive storytelling thanks to Dexter’s voiceover providing us the context, I’m willing to go with its point that Hannah could be the one because she actually understands and accepts him. Nevertheless, a big part of the reason she does understand is that she’s a serial killer herself, and one who doesn’t seem to be as “honorable” as Dexter. There’s something silly about how the show constantly affirms Dexter’s code as if he’s the best-behaved and psychologically solid murderer in the history of mankind, but using that logic, this relationship works very well.
Although I couldn’t quite see it last week (the pitfalls of writing about episodic television), I feel like the show has done a fine job of allowing Deb to know certain things while keeping other, perhaps more urgently important things, from her. This tension gives Deb the opportunity to be competent and confident in her job, which results in conversations like the one where she accused Dexter of hiding the blood-spatter analysis so he could go kill Hannah. But it also maintains the show’s longtime framework of Dexter obscuring the truth in some fashion; thus, Deb calling Dexter and asking him to take Hannah out becomes an even bigger moment. Not only does it signify that Deb is finally falling victim to the effectiveness of the Dark Passenger, it also complicates matters, because Dex has to now pick between his sister and his new bedfellow—and sooner, rather than later.
These developments were made more effective by predictably strong performances. Michael C. Hall and Yvonne Strahovski work even better together in their light comedy scenes; both of them are underrated comedic performers. And I thought Jennifer Carpenter delivered strong work yet again. She’s portraying Deb with a newfound confidence, in both her personal and professional spheres, and it's very charming.
Last week, I thought I knew exactly where this season of Dexter was headed, and how/when it was going to get there. This week, I have no idea. I’m so happy to be wrong.
– Not to further cut myself down here, but I’ll even admit that I kind of liked Quinn and Batista’s scenes this week. You know why? Because the show smartly combined them. Now Batista’s stupid restaurant is funded by Quinn’s dirty money and there is all sorts of guilt for Quinn to swim around in. These developments aren’t overwhelmingly interesting, but I respect the economical storytelling.
– My one big problem with this episode was Dexter screwing around at Price’s apartment on two different occasions. Not only do I find it somewhat hard to believe that a competent true-crime writer like Price—who assumes Hannah could be deadly—would leave so much stuff out in the open, including his files, but Dexter’s internal waffling over what to do was just a waste of time. By the way, Price probably has backups. Google Drive, yo.
– Isaac getting out of jail so quickly is both compelling and dumb. I’m happy to see him torment Dexter a little more because Ray Stevenson is doing good work, but goodness, how terrible is the Miami PD? Shouldn’t they all be fired by now?
– LaGuerta found... something? Someone let me know when she becomes relevant or useful.
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