Cliffhangers are a drag. You think they're going to be exciting and lead to something that's even more exciting, but so often, shows immediately run away from what they built to at the end of the previous episode and then I find it more difficult to trust them going forward. Dexter isn't the worst offender of this brand of cliffhanger abuse, but the transition between the last few minutes of last week's episode and the events of "This Little Piggy" were kind of weird, to say the least. It was bad enough that the show punted a relatively cool cliffhanger last week by having Deb almost immediately save a drowning Dexter (sure, he was never going to die, but at least that would have been a compelling image to go out on); then, this episode zoomed through the aftermath of that big moment way too quickly, mostly to get back to procedural motions that I can't imagine literally anyone in the audience cares about. And yet, here I am again, thinking about how great Jennifer Carpenter, Michael C. Hall and Charlotte Rampling are, and shrugging off what are clearly big flaws, both in the episode and this final season.
But let's back up to the early moments of "This Little Piggy." Deb tried to kill Dexter, then decided not to because they have the most screwed-up relationship in human history. What did they do immediately afterward? They chatted things out with Vogel. And when Dexter got a little upset that, uh, HIS SISTER JUST TRIED TO MURDER HIM (remember, sociopaths can have feelings too), Deb was like, "Bro, 'sup? Why are you mad?" And then he mostly let the anger subside, Vogel was kidnapped, and by the end of the hour, it seemed like every single one of their problems—all of which were severely complex—were forgiven, if not forgotten. Maybe I'm missing something, but... what?
I guess there are two ways to look at this. On one hand, the fact that Dexter and Deb buried the hatchet so quickly, just a day or two after she tried to murder-death-kill him, and only a few more days after we saw her blowing coke and blowing guys away with handguns, is a testament to just how unbelievably creepy and co-dependent these siblings are. They literally just flushed so much water under a creeky old bridge, and it was windy as hell on that bridge. In the middle of this episode, Deb told Dexter that she saved him because she couldn't—and didn't want to—picture a world without him in it... which, obviously. If there's one thing that Dexter has taught us over eight years, it's that above all else, Dexter and Deb will always choose one another, no matter how stupid it might be to do so, or how terrible their lives might become as a result. Mix in some A-plus level Jedi manipulation from Vogel, who Deb is now treating like a mother figure in a way that we haven't seen even from Dexter (because Deb's even more desperate than him), and okay, sure, you could sell me on such an early reunion between the Morgans.
But on the other hand, I'll repeat what I said just a moment ago: What? Not only did this happen super quickly, but it also derailed what had become the show's greatest strength in the tension between Dexter and Deb. Yes, I know, it's still early in the season. I don't doubt that the two of them are going to have a spat or 49 before the whole series comes to a close. But I don't totally see the value in cutting this spat short when there was so much there to mine. The writers try to get away with a lot by exploiting Deb's erratic behavior and mood swings, and while Carpenter can make it work most of the time, just think about all the things we've seen Deb do just in five episodes (which had to take place over what, two weeks? Three, tops?). She's seemingly recovered from severe depression and multiple forms of substance abuse (must've been that swag electrolyte drink Elway made her chug!). She straight-up iced a dude in cold blood and shrugged it off. Then she tried to murder her brother, who, less than six or seven months ago, she pretty much wanted to sex up. Deb's no-doubt seen some stuff, and that maybe means that she's just going to dizzily bounce off of people this season, but her desire to reconcile with Dexter, to be the one calling him non-stop just like he was doing to her like three episodes ago, is just nuts.
Maybe that's the point. Maybe this is all leading to even more troubling times for Deb, where she regrets letting go of most of the stuff she kept inside for too long. Maybe she's put way too much trust in Vogel and that's going to come back to bite her. And maybe she'll finally see that it probably wasn't smart to do really any of the things she's done since she walked into the church and saw Dexter killing our boy Travis Marshall. If all that comes to pass, it'll be pretty powerful, but I won't be able to stop thinking about how dumb it made Deb look in the process.
Despite all this, the two sequences that bracketed this episode were pretty darn good. Vogel's manipulation of Dexter and Deb was in full-force during their post-attempted-murder therapy session, and Hall delivery of the lines about wanting to "be with family" while he dumped body parts and evidence was classically icky. The unevenness and the questionable decision-making with this story bothers me, but the three actors carrying it are doing great work to make it seem like the show's much more on-track than it actually is at the moment.
I'm theorizing and trying to parse all this out because I find it confusing, but also because a huge chunk of this episode was dedicated to middling Dexter stories that never ignite much interest in me. Deb and Dexter coming together to search for Vogel had its moments, but it was also mostly driven by concurrent shots of the two of them sitting in their cars listening to a torture on speakerphone. I don't know about you, but that's not riveting TV for me. The race for the new Sergeant between Quinn and Angie, a character the show hasn't tried to sketch out at all, is still as ineffectual as possible. It's not remotely bad, and Desmond Harrington's doing what he can, but seriously, who cares? The same could be said for C.S. Lee and the plot with Masuka's new daughter. It really feels like Dexter's writers are trying to give all the actors as much stuff to work with as possible in the final stretch of episodes, but it's difficult to invest in Masuka in the new way the show is asking us to.
This season is becoming quite the challenge, both to watch and to review. I'm surprised that this is where Dexter is five episodes into its final season, and there's definitely some value in being surprising eight years in. And again, it's quite likely that weird stuff is happening almost entirely because Vogel is really, really good at her job. But the show might need to level out for an episode or two before I'm totally sold on where this is all headed.
– Jamie was so mad about Dexter ruining that double date and zzzzzz. Bethany Jo Lenz is pretty.
– I'm still waiting for Elway to be revealed as a creep, a killer, or a creepy killer. That's how this works, don't let me down show.
– Oh, Quinn, always wanting to beat confessions out of probably guilty rich kids. Seriously, that's what we're wasting time on in a final season.
AIRED ON 9/22/2013
Season 8 : Episode 12