Dexter is a ridiculous show. It is not realistic at all. Sometimes that can bother me, but what I love about the show (when it's good) is how well it can take me along for a ride that can I simultaneously recognize as pretty silly and enthralling nonetheless. And amid a season of relatively down-to-earth and character-focused stories, “Helter Skelter” saw the show reach its highest level of absurdity so far this season, and it thrived in doing so.
Only on a television show like Dexter can an entire episode revolve around the uneasy alliance between two cold-blooded killers who've spent most of the previous half-dozen installments plotting to kill one another. And only on a show like this one can those characters trade barbs, pull multiple weapons on one another, and then discuss heady concepts like love, loss, fear, and responsibility as part of their alliance. Simply put, the relationship between Dexter and Isaak has been an odd but compelling one to watch develop throughout the season.
If you are one of those people who thought their chat in the gay bar last week was a treat, "Helter Skelter" may have been one of your favorite episodes of the season so far. Though I've really enjoyed the Dexter-Deb stories this season, I consider myself one of those people. And really, this episode—and this story—shouldn’t have been this good. We have seen the show try to pull Dexter and various villains and Big Bads together for very manufactured, troubling reasons and it has rarely worked; as viewers, we know that the show is not reflective of real life, but some stories just stretch the credulity of the world a smidgen too far.
However, Isaak’s presence in Miami has worked from the get-go and progressed very well. A lot of the credit goes to Ray Stevenson for bringing real ethos and pathos to the role, but the quality and care that's gone into the Dex-Deb story has been shared with Isaak as well. The show has done a fine job of making Isaak’s decision not to kill Dexter (and vice versa) as believable as possible, considering that they understand and respect one another on a more civil level. Not all of Dexter’s relationships with other killers have to careen into twisted, over-the-top territory. And so, when "Helter Skelter" spent most of its running time with Dexter and Isaak working together (quite successfully, I might add) while also featuring Dexter’s backdoor plan to take out Isaak anyway, the story hummed along, logic and believability be damned.
Similar things can be said for the supporting details in the Dexter-Isaak partnership story. Isaak and his loyal buddy Jurg kidnapped Hannah, which is why Dexter agreed to help in the first place, but in the meantime, there was a whole lot of discussion about Dexter’s ability to embrace emotion and love. It was odd to watch Dexter mumble his way through a breathless, half-assed romantic FaceTime conversation with Hannah, but it was even odder to then watch Isaak provide the instant replay of everything Dexter did wrong. The purpose was ultimately to build to some moments at the end of the hour—Dexter taking Isaak out to where he dumped Viktor’s body and Dexter rushing to the hospital and acting generally (and creepily) lovesick toward Hannah—that were simply not as powerful as the show would've liked them to be, but I appreciate Dexter's willingness to try to make an already outrageous situation even more outrageous by including the loaded language.
Of course, the bad news is that Isaak is now gone, leaving Dexter to presumably fend off George and the rest of the Brotherhood. I am assuming they might want some revenge for something, even in Isaak's absence, because that is how these things go. I will definitely miss Isaak and Ray Stevenson. His performance was certainly more subdued than what most of Dexter's special guest-stars bring to the show, and I'm sad that breath of fresh air is now dead (or I guess stale).
Perhaps even worse is what Isaak’s influence has done to Dexter. I'm all-in on his relationship with Hannah, and I know that the writers want to show their work so that we'll understand how this pretty blonde is different from the previous two pretty blondes, but the way Dexter was acting at the end of this episode was an uncomfortable sight to see. Maybe it's just the way Michael C. Hall played that hospital room scene, or maybe he just can't do romantic because he's kind of inherently creepy, but... *shudder*. The show has definitely beat the idea that Dex’s relationship with Hannah is different, yet terrifying, into the ground. My hope is that we can now move on from the “different” part and move onto the “terrifying” part. Did you notice the look on Hannah’s face after Dexter did his eerie love confession thing? Somethin’s a-brewin’.
Even Deb got roped into the silliness this week and unfortunately, she couldn’t handle it like Dexter and Isaak. After being talked off a cliff from a seemingly unbothered-by-her-proclamation-of-love Dexter, she spent most of “Helter Skelter” running errands for her brother that he specifically asked her not to do. She got directly involved in Dexter’s partnership with Isaak, putting her career and life on the line—a typical move for the show, but also one that didn't make much sense in the aftermath of her lecture to Dexter about how wrong his decisions are. The episode tried to pass off Deb’s choices off as “for Dexter,” and I buy that to some degree, but after everything that she's said to him, and even what she has said to Hannah’s face, it's tough to understand why Deb would help a bleeding-out Hannah. We've seen her embrace the idea that bad people need to be punished or get theirs or whatever, so why stop now? Again, Deb’s choice reinforced her complicated feelings about Hannah and only further muddied the waters between the trio of Dexter, Deb, and Hannah, but I'm still concerned that Deb is going to be the character who gets screwed up while the writers try to juggle what is admittedly an odd, compelling story.
But as this episode proved, Dexter knows how to do odd and compelling.
– I love how this show always tries to slide in some random case so that all the police characters have to meet for at least one scene. Suddenly there is a serial arsonist going around and lighting people on fire in Miami. The good news is that it's clearly the randomly new and eerie inspector guy, because duh.
– LaGuerta harassed Matthews into giving her some information about the BHB in exchange for reinstatement. Why can’t those two characters just get a room? A room on a show that I never have to watch.
– Batista doesn’t want to talk about the restaurant. He's got health inspection violations that need to fixing very quickly. Hard-knock life.
– George taught Quinn a lesson by... having sex with Nadia. This is probably the apex of Quinn’s time on the show for sure.