You guys know that I've criticized this final season of Dexter for having a lot of interesting stories going on at once, but cutting some of them off at the knees before they truly get going. It's been a frustrating run, full of stops and starts that, in the moment, don't make a lick of sense. But in all honesty, we had a good idea of where things were likely headed: All roads lead to Vogel. Since the first or second episode, some of you have been proposing grand theories in the comments about Vogel's actions dating back to Harry's death, and it's not like I didn't suggest she would play a bigger role a few times along the way. Nevertheless, the last few episodes and shiny new toys like Zach and Hannah have turned up the noise in Dexter's story and distracted from the bigger picture. Vogel cannot be trusted and she's either personally carrying out the brain extraction murders, or she's strongly influencing the person (or people) who are. It's that simple.
What made "Are We There Yet?" a mostly strong episode was that Vogel zoomed back to the forefront, only making it more obvious that all the diversions and stalled developments were at least partially her doing. Is it stupid that Deb got over her problems and made up with Dexter in rapid fashion? Absolutely. But who made that happen in the show's world? Vogel. And then she effectively convinced Dexter and Hannah to stick it out together, praising their relationship to a creepy degree, even though it makes really no sense for them to keep going unless they simply want to get caught.
And then, by the end of tonight's episode, Zach—Dexter's promising and interesting intern—had had his head cracked open and part of his brain removed, effectively ending yet another intriguing story too early. The idea that Zach would actually follow Harry's code without Dexter fully instructing him in it could have made for compelling TV, but nope, that's done. And guess who was the last person we saw with Zach before Dexter found his body? Yeah, Vogel. It sure seems like she played some role in this latest death, which means she probably framed Zach to begin with. The end of the episode made it seem like she was still receiving brain parts, but there was also that weird transition where Dexter picked up the mysterious phone that'd been left at the scene, and then Vogel was on the phone in the next second. I'm not saying she's absolutely the killer, but she's involved, just like she's been involved in screwing everything up all along.
This is one of those tricky situations where I can't necessarily blame the show for plodding along and setting up these little moments where Vogel's manipulation is clear, but its impact isn't. Even though we all knew from the Season 8 premiere that Vogel was going to play a big role in the show's endgame, the writers played it slow (and really, they still are, in some ways). BUT, just because Vogel's involvement is ramping up again and some stories make a little more sense in retrospective, I *can* blame Dexter for being a little flaccid in putting everything together. The peril of episodic reviews is that you're always fighting against the season or the series as a larger entity, so what looks stupid in one episode might end up making loads of sense later. Yet, bad episodes are bad episodes, and Season 8 has been stuck in a rhythm where all the dumb stuff suddenly works for 20 minutes, only to turn dumb again. Rinse and repeat.
The good news is that, with only four episodes to go, Dexter is running out of time to pad the story, or keep certain motives under the radar. Whatever the details of Vogel's final plan are, I feel mostly confident in guessing that she's going to try to take away everything Dexter loves. Not only because that's what characters like her do on shows like this, but because she's got a real infatuation with our main dude. If Zach's dead because he got too close to Dexter, it doesn't totally make sense that Deb is still alive unless there's an even more nefarious plot in play, but it seems likely that Vogel's going to target Hannah, or at least try to drive a wedge between Hannah and Dexter. She was supportive in "Are We There Yet?" but it has to be a ploy, just like her relationship with Deb has to be a ploy, or none of this really makes sense.
Ultimately, Dexter needs to get Vogel more involved. Without her actions as catalysts, the remaining crucial characters are getting a little boring. Deb spent most of the hour with not a whole lot to do other than throw her hands up in the air once she learned that her worst dream had come true (Dex and Hannah getting back together), but even that realization didn't send her teetering over the edge, which is where the show needs her to be. Meanwhile, Dexter and Hannah spent the duration of this episode making lusty eyes at each other, which makes sense but isn't particularly engaging; it was more inevitable than anything else. Their sex scene dragged on far too long—there's generally something off about the sex scenes on Dexter; they lack any semblance of passion—and even their final re-connection on the pier didn't have a whole lot of energy. Their romantic tension was awkward last year as well, but watching them circle one another this week felt even more so.
Vogel's actions have derailed the season's best burgeoning stories or character moments. Now I'm just hoping that whatever is in store for her, or whatever is caused by her, can make up for that in the show's final four hours.
– Jamie took Cassie's death pretty hard and Quinn didn't even care. Jamie actually made a good point about Quinn's relationship with Deb, but I'm not sure that's leading to something, so it just reinforces that Quinn's a tool and Jamie needs to escape Miami ASAP.
– I gotta be honest: I watched this episode twice and I can't even tell you whether Masuka or his topless daughter were in it. So that story is going very well.
– "My name is Harrison": The line that true second-generation serial killers are made of.
AIRED ON 9/22/2013
Season 8 : Episode 12