"Jesus Christ!" These days it's more of a curse than a call for redemption, but it was a strangely appropriate reaction when Dexter approached the insane crime scene at the start of Sunday's episode, "Horse of a Different Color." In a murder tableau inspired by the Book of Revelations, a human corpse had been divided into pieces, attached to four live horses, and loosed in the streets of Miami to signify the harbingers of the apocalypse. (So a typical Tuesday, basically!) The nightmarish scene promised a thrilling new hunt for Dexter (who grinned like it was his birthday), but the larger theological implications were what really helped make this episode the best hour of the season so far.
This episode of Dexter actually had a few things working in its favor, the main one being that it finally unified all the major plot elements for the season: the Doomsday Killer, Miami Metro's investigation, Dexter's friendship with Brother Sam and their resulting conversations about faith. Who knew that having everyone on the same page would render everything more purposeful and compelling? I understand that a certain amount of set-up needed to happen in order to get us to this place, but it still begs the question of whether it was completely necessary to keep Dexter unaware of the Big Bad for three whole episodes? I mean, is that good storytelling or is it just spinning wheels? You know what, don't answer that. Let's just appreciate what we've got now!
Now that Dexter and Miami Metro are firmly aware of the Doomsday Killer (yes, singular, more on that in a sec), WE are finally getting a better sense of what exactly has been going on in that decrepit church. For one thing, Professor Gellar (Edward James Olmos) is a former theology professor who was let go for alleged artifact theft; not coincidentally, an antique sword was used to murder the first two victims. Professor Gellar's interactions with Travis (Colin Hanks) this week were mostly limited to Travis's awkward romantic tryst with a local waitress and Professor Gellar's punishment for Travis having "defiled" her. The episode culminated with the season's second consecutive glorious WTF climax, which went something like this:
I don't know, the locusts that followed might have been overkill, but at least the swarm led to Dexter eyeing Travis in the crowd (Dexter knows a killer when he sees one). I believe someone pointed this out in last week's comments, and this week's episode definitely confirmed it in my mind: Professor Gellar is most likely a figment of Travis' imagination! It's very Fight Club, but we still haven't seen Professor Gellar speak to anybody other than Travis. Neither the jogging victim nor the waitress seemed to lay eyes on him, plus he was absent from the crime scene—whereas Travis was hanging out like he had nowhere else to be. All we know is that Gellar "went off the grid" after his final blog post on the date of the first murder, but there's no reason to believe Travis hasn't somehow incorporated a long-dead professor into his own schizophrenia. I guess we'll see!
I can't believe I'm saying this, but the Miami Metro office plotlines were also pretty great this week. Deb got off to a slightly shaky start in her new capacity as boss, but this episode more or less confirmed what we've been suspecting: Miami Metro, until this point, has basically been the worst crime-solving team in North America and LaGuerta is mostly to blame! Think about it: They've now investigated half-a-dozen serious serial killers, yet Quinn doesn't even know the most basic serial-killer lingo? Also LaGuerta insisted on hiring only from within, which would have prevented the undeniably smart new detective from bringing some much needed expertise to the department (well, he's smart with cases, but a bit of a dunce when it comes to tact). LaGuerta also attempted to hijack Deb's press conference only to have Deb do it her own way and become a local hero from dropping the F-bomb on live television (Oh, Deb). This season has done a great job of pointing out just how horrible LaGuerta is, and to be honest, LaGuerta is a much better character the more evil she gets. Lauren Velez is a talented lady, but the sappy, vulnerable side of LaGuerta has always done her a disservice. Bring on the villainy!
Probably my favorite parts of this episode were the two lengthy, low-key, and lovely exchanges with Brother Sam, which were so smart and well-acted they were like something you'd see on AMC! As Brother Sam and Dexter have grown closer (a bond verging on friendship) they've began to talk openly about faith, how it's a double-edged sword that can be wielded by good men and evil men alike. As someone who's found himself on both sides of the faith divide, Sam made some compelling arguments about the dangers of putting too much faith in the wrong person, which shines a light on Dexter's relationship with Harry, not to mention Travis' relationship with Gellar (imaginary or not). In Brother Sam's case, his faith in his abusive father led him down a path of murder, but his later faith in an intervening God set him back on the path of righteousness. While Dexter remained slightly skeptical of God's existence, his conclusive admission that science doesn't have all the answers indicated a new open-mindedness on the subject. But seriously let's get to what's important here: How good is Mos? This is some Emmy-level stuff he's doing, and it's nothing less than a thrill to watch.
The thing I enjoyed least about this episode (apart from the pot-smoking shenanigans of Quinn and Batista) was that it took a formerly intriguing plotline and more or less trashed it. Last week when intern Ryan stole the MANNEQUIN hand (got it, commenters!), it seemed to be a suggestion that she was somehow linked to the Ice Truck Killer, and my imagination ran wild with what THAT could mean. Instead we found out this week she merely stole the item to sell on eBay. Whoops! Definitely not as interesting. Anyway, the one good thing that came from it? Masuka fired her. It's so rare he's allowed moments to prove that he's serious about his job, so I instantly respected him when he asked her to leave. Ultimately I'm hoping there will be another twist to this plotline, but this disappointing turn of events was probably more a victim of my own expectations than anything.
I don't mean to shock you guys, but this episode was one of the more solid hours of Dexter I can remember. Credit where credit's due!
RANDOM BLOOD SPLATTERS:
... Do YOU think Travis and Gellar are the same person?
... Have we seen the last of Ryan?
... Did you detect possible romantic sparks between Deb and the new detective?
... Do you completely trust Brother Sam yet?
... If the new detective is as competent as he seems, how long before he's onto Dexter?