"I know what I'm doing." —Dexter Morgan.
This statement should have been true—no, would have been true—if this were a better season of Dexter. Dexter Morgan's sickly superior pathology has always been the focus of this series—his killer instinct, his heightened senses, his ability to remain several steps ahead of his co-workers, targets, and we the viewers. That's the Dexter we tune in for: a guy who operates at the top of his game. Unfortunately, this is Season 6, a season that until this point I'd feared was Dexter's weakest, and now this episode pretty much confirmed it. Because here when Dexter assured Harry "I know what I'm doing," he definitely didn't, and the dramatic irony proved that Dexter's incompetency this season has been bested only by the show's writers themselves.
Because shock of all shocks: Professor Gellar was a figment of Travis's imagination! This was a twist many people had suspected since, oh, Episode 2? It's hard to say just how badly Dexter's writers bungled this "twist" from the get-go. The main reason is that it simply wasn't an original twist. The Imaginary Character Reveal is right up there with a character finding out he or she was dead all along—it's been done and done well so many times already that no longer falls outside the realm of possibility in any story, and certainly not in a story that has already featured multiple imaginary characters. If the idea was to introduce a villain as a kind of Bizarro Dexter with an imaginary Harry of his own, then there may have been something to that; instead the show banked on our surprised delight that Gellar was dead and that we'd somehow enjoy seeing Dexter make all kinds of improbably dumb decisions in the interim, not to mention countless wasted scenes of Travis being scared of, apparently, himself. But the long-telegraphed twist that Gellar wasn't real is second only to how badly Dexter Morgan's been written this season. Personally, I don't enjoy seeing Dexter make bad decisions, much in the same way I don't appreciate TV writers assuming I'm a moron.
Where to begin with all the bad decisions Dexter made this week? Putting aside the fact that Dexter uncharacteristically spared Travis in the first place, this episode attempted to explain that this contrivance was somehow related to Brother' Sam's call for mercy. Way to retroactively ruin Brother Sam's legacy by accidentally sparing a monster! But also, in a grasping-at-straws moment, Dexter also rationalized that sparing a serial murderer's supposed accomplice would somehow make Dexter a better father? This made no sense. Fatherhood should not require dulling of the senses and softening of the brain. And then let's talk about Dexter's increasingly sloppy serial killer methods (which I realize I've harped on a lot already). Why exactly did Dexter take Travis to a public motel (while still wearing his serial killer outfit), and thus risk being seen hanging out with a known DDK suspect? And then he apparently gave him the freedom to come and go? Supposedly Dexter viewed Travis as merely a frightened victim, but why on earth would he think that someone who was brainwashed into helping a murderer would not be susceptible to turning back? And this brings us to Dexter's biggest oversight: the long, illustrious legacy of serial killers who've heard voices. For a supposed serial killer expert, Dexter should have seen the signs. WE did.
One can argue that Harry's repeated reservations about Dexter's decision-making was Dexter's nagging sense that something was wrong. But then why wouldn't Harry explicitly say what's up? It's because the writers didn't want to give away the game too soon—not when there's a big church basement freezer reveal! Which, by the way, what? Now we have to worry about why a prominent professor's disappearance and murder somehow went unnoticed by authorities?
Among the other indignities the writers forced Dexter through this week: Getting stuck in an elevator while Travis quickly murdered his next victim (without getting bloody, somehow); getting drenched in a victim's blood after it was suspended from the rafters over the crime scene; getting barricaded inside the church basement with Gellar's frozen corpse. The wacky supporting cast and array of misunderstandings were already in place, so we were seriously just one slammed door away from this whole thing becoming a French farce.
But the episode wasn't finished! Remember that intriguing mystery of the call girl overdose? Just when I'd held out hope that the explanation wouldn't be the most obvious one, sure enough, the john had been LaGuerta's boss. Another shocker! The silver lining was that a newly emboldened (via therapy) Deb insisted on re-opening the investigation and told off LaGuerta in a really satisfying way. Also LaGuerta is now fully in villain mode after she promised her boss she'd take care of Deb. Don't get me wrong, I don't trust LaGuerta to accomplish anything she sets out to do, but still, it'll make the office a bit more interesting.
Speaking of the office, Quinn's awful shenanigans continued in a truly embarrassing bit where he and Batista drove across town to recover Quinn's gun which had fallen out of his pocket (?) while he was sexin' a stripper in the back of her car. But get this: It turned out he'd sexed the stripper's dowdy mother! Absolutely hilarious! Was this scene ghost-written by Adam Sandler? What show was this? After that, Quinn and Batista got into a fistfight, which was only broken up when an ordinary passerby threatened to have them arrested. Dexter has definitely entered an era in which random passersby are more responsible and competent than its characters.
Elsewhere, Techie Louis decided to pursue Jamie again, and this led to another slightly intriguing turn. At his fancy nerd lair that displayed a lot of his eBay purchases, Louis and Jamie made tons of sex while the camera panned over and revealed that HE had been the one to purchase the Ice Truck Killer's mannequin hand from Blonde Ryan. I'd take a second to consider the implications of this, except Season 6 has done nothing but impress on me that it's a waste of time to expect worthwhile surprises anymore.
If anything, this episode (ironically titled "Get Gellar") did nothing if not suggest that the Miami Metro office has seriously rubbed off on Dexter Morgan. This season has been a disaster, so much so that I'm actually starting to miss Jimmy Smits? But there ARE three episodes left, and perhaps we'll get some marginally entertaining cat-and-mouse chases and some thrilling kills. Assuming this season hasn't just been a figment of my imagination or I'm not dead in a freezer somewhere.
RANDOM BLOOD SPLATTERS:
... Dexter likens his Dark Passenger to a stutter or a lazy eye. Has his subconscious ever seemed less scary?
... So wait, do call girls turn tricks on street corners? Or was that lady's dad just unaware of her recent promotion?
... Is Deb's therapist too bossy?
... What's Louis's deal?