Although it's not the precise midpoint of the season, "A Little Reflection," as the title suggests, served as a breather, a short pitstop between the wildly inconsistent but often intense action of the first five episodes of Season 8 and what looks to be an even more intense back-half of the season. Of course, only Dexter could build a transitional episode that featured its lead character thinking about killing a teenage boy, only to then decide to take him on as something of a disciple. As always, this isn't the most conventional TV show.
I'm still having trouble letting go of how quickly the show zoomed past the fruitful and oh-so-good tension between Dexter and Deb, something that was on further display in "A Little Reflection" as the two of them tried to pull their lives back toward something close to normal. However, I also found the episode to be one of the more consistent installments of the season so far, and consistency is something the show definitely needs. After a whole lot of drama and an ultimately quick reconciliation, I was fine to grit my teeth and mostly enjoy watching Dexter and Deb try to find sturdy ground. It's never going to be as interesting as the potential avenues we saw both last season and in the first two episodes this season, but there's value in what happened this week.
Above all else, "A Little Reflection" displayed just how different Dex and Deb are. Despite their frankly sickening inability to let go of one another, they deal with both trauma and recovery quite differently. Think about how the stories went in this episode: Dexter spent most of the hour doing what he does—searching for killers, investigating in his Night Henley, and generally pretending that he doesn't live in a world where he ruins people's lives on the reg. His maneuvering reminded me of some of the series' earlier episodes, with him trying his hand (and failing) at dating and small talk, or parenting Harrison about why lying isn't such a great strategy. Those scenes were all fine, Michael C. Hall can act them in his sleep, but it always seems a little disingenuous when the show returns to this well. There's a sense that the coming cliffhanger is only really effective once the characters have returned to some temporary place of comfort, and while I understand why that's a move to make, we all knew that none of this was going to last.
Meanwhile, even though Deb handled her issues much better this week than she did in the first few episodes (no cocaine or casual murder this time), you could feel in that final scene that she didn't totally know where to go. She can admit that she's screwed up beyond belief (though making light of the fact that she's killed two people was probably a step too far for me) and that she's not a prime dating candidate, but there was no sense that she's totally ready or able to move on. Dexter can handle the darkness and death so much better because he's faced it for much longer, and because he's a grade-A sociopath. Deb's not there, at least not yet. In the last two episodes, I've been waiting for Deb to completely lose her mind, even more so than when she tried to kill her brother, but the show seems determined to delay me that gratification as long as possible. But even Deb's actions were kind of familiar; we've seen her try to suppress issues and reconnect with her brother a dozen times over the course of the series.
Yet, maybe "A Little Reflection" was what Season 8 needed, if only for one episode. I expressed my frustrations with the show's yoyo-ing tone and quality last week, and it's at least possible that the familiar rhythms of this episode will give Dexter a necessary shot in the arm.
Plus, it's not like it was completely without its novelties! The silliness involving threats on Vogel's life are now gone (at least for now), which allowed for an increased spotlight on Dexter's distrust of her, and for more of creepy teen killer Zach. While Vogel keeps giving Dexter new reasons to roll his eyes at everything she says (or to kill her, which is basically his version of the frustrated eye-roll), the weird relationship between Dex and Zach has developed in a surprisingly compelling way. There was never any doubt that Zach killed his father's side-piece, but the episode got a lot of milage out of Dexter bringing Zach into his world in hopes of scoring as much information as possible. Dexter taking Zach under his wing as a murder intern is one of the more fascinating ideas that the show's come up with in recent seasons. It creates a slew of new opportunities for Dexter as a character, forcing him to really consider who he is, why he does what he does, etc. It should also stir up the right kind of tension between Dexter and Deb and even between Dexter and Vogel; it's one of those perfect "final season" things to do. Sam Underwood is sufficiently off-putting as Zach, so I'm really excited to see where this goes.
Speaking of excited: Hannah's back. Clearly, it was just a matter of time, but this was also the perfect time for her to return. Dexter and Deb both think they have a half-assed handle on their lives (regardless of the fact that they're probably kidding themselves), and they've mostly moved past their MAJOR problems. And now, who saunters in but the one person who can easily get between them and fester up those problems? I know fans are mixed on Hannah, but if done correctly, Dexter could use her to great benefit here. The likelihood that her return will make the reconciliation between Dexter and Deb a fleeting one is what the show needs, even if it doesn't entirely make up for the season burning through story to arrive at that fake reconciliation in the first place.
I'll be the first to admit that I've been wishy-washy about this season of Dexter, but that's only because it's been too uneven and too confounding. "A Little Reflection" felt pretty familiar for the majority of its running time, but there were still elements that suggest the show is moving toward something, as opposed to stalling. Here's hoping.
– Quinn didn't get the Sergeant's position, which is a national tragedy in its own right, but this news also ruined Jamie's birthday party. How could people do that to our angel Jamie? By the way, do you guys ever wonder how much Jamie gets paid? She's with Harrison like what, 80 percent of the time? Is she going to school? Does she just want to be a nanny/awkward matchmaker her whole life? Who are you, Jamie Batista?
– So Masuka's daughter is probably fleecing him, but he doesn't totally care, only she's now offended that he investigated her. Who's enthralled?
– The actor who plays Harrison: Still pretty awesome.
– I appreciate the writers' patience in not having Deb immediately sleep with Elway once he made a pass at her. That's true restraint coming from them.
– Hey girl: Jennifer Carpenter cleans up nice.
What'd you think of "A Little Reflection"?
AIRED ON 9/22/2013
Season 8 : Episode 12