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Showtime (ended 2013)

Dexter S08E03: "What's Eating Dexter Morgan?"

Trying to write about a TV show on a weekly basis is more difficult than you might think. Don't throw me a pity party; I love this job. However, it's always a struggle to not get bogged down by problematic episodes (or even just problematic parts of episodes) and overreact to things that will likely turn out to be minor faults. It's a conflicting, complicated situation to be in; this final season of Dexter is doing some fascinating things, and the Dr. Vogel character is so compelling that I really can't wait to watch every week. But man, "What's Eating Dexter Morgan?" was kind of a dud at the end there, wasn't it?

This episode sort of gave me everything I wanted: More of Dexter and Vogel, more of Vogel being extremely creepy around Dexter, and even some interaction between Vogel and Deb. Those three are our big players right now, and it was only a matter of time before the good doctor inserted herself into Dexter and Deb's tension. Even the outline of the story makes sense to me: Deb, shaken by murdering that bro last week, drinks herself into multiple stupors, pulling Quinn into her web of self-destruction and eventually trying to admit her involvement in LaGuerta's murder. That sounds pretty good... you know, except for the Quinn part. Yet this episode kind of spiraled out of control about three-quarters of the way through and by the end of it, I just wanted the whole thing to be over.

I think my big issue is that Dexter is a better show when people talk things out, even if those conversations result in screaming and yelling. It's understandable that Deb is at her darkest point right now, and I think Jennifer Carpenter found a better way to portray all that confusion, hurt, and disgust this week than she did when Deb was doing drugs in the season premiere. Nevertheless, once Deb stumbled into the station and tried to convince Quinn that she'd killed LaGuerta, the episode got really loud and hysterical in a way that just didn't work. Quinn's stupid, but the way he shrugged off Deb's comments and then assumed that she'd fainted because Dexter said she did was really stupid. It's not unrealistic for the character—Quinn's an idiot. It's just that he's such an idiot, and the show took advantage of it in a problematic way.

The yelling and the lying obscured some of the episode's better moments, or at least its better intentions. I appreciate that Dexter wasn't willing to let the tension between Dexter and Deb simmer, because the latter isn't willing to let things simmer and the former isn't afraid to take drastic measures when he's backed into a corner. As a result, the earlier Deb-Dex scenes, especially the one at the restaurant where he tried to manipulate her into remembering some of the great work she'd done before she killed LaGuerta—and it almost succeeding—was fantastic. Deb is hurt, but she also can't resist Dexter in a lot of ways, and she certainly wants to be the person she once was. But again, that was a scene where two actors got to incorporate so much history and emotion through a mostly level-headed conversation, not with screaming, or by injecting one another with some kind of tranquilizer.

And Dexter bringing Deb into Vogel's orbit? That was all aces... until the end of the episode. I'll reiterate how worried I am that the show's going to try to weasel us into forgiving Dexter for most of his actions over the past eight years, but watching Vogel look at him, almost mesmerized by the fact that he can simultaneously be a sociopath and still care (somewhat) for his sister, was simply fantastic. Charlotte Rampling is so great, and I'm already jazzed for her to win the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in 2014. Those sequences also worked because, despite my fears about where this story is going, there was some truly fascinating discussion of what it means for Dexter to care about people. This is territory the show has traipsed over before, but mostly on an internal level. Here, Vogel was outwardly telling Dexter, "Hey, you're actually a selfish sociopath, but I still love you, xoxo." The writers have clearly decided that they want to at least attempt to figure out Dexter's ability to empathize with or love another human being, and the only way they can do that is to complicate the relationship with the one person he actually claims and/or appears to feel for in Deb. In that regard, having creepy Vogel around to both praise and interrogate Dexter's processes is already working wonders for the show. Am I troubled by the fact that she's calling him perfect the week after giving him 2013's creepiest hug? Of course. But the thematic ground is fertile and the performances are so good that I don't totally care right now.*

*Speaking of that, this is where I'd like to point out that somehow, even after years of Emmy nominations and continued praise, I think we've started to overlook Michael C. Hall's performance on this show. He's trapped in an era with unbelievable dramatic work from leading men, but he keeps bringing slightly new layers to Dexter every season, even when the material isn't quite there to back him up. And when the material IS there, he can be just as good as anyone else who's working today. He's been great in these first three episodes.

What I do care about is the show's ability to accelerate and explore the drama between these three primary characters without going overboard like the last portion of this episode did. Dexter is a better show than that, and I think these characters are ultimately more interesting when they're not in forced situations, like they were this week. Let's hope next week is an improvement.


– Dexter's mini-investigation into the cannibal was toothless, but I did appreciate Hall's comedic timing when Dexter was describing how he liked to stay in shape.

– And on that note, what's up with Elway's obsession with nutritional drinks and electrolytes and stuff? We thinkin' he's involved with the cannibal somehow? Using the body's natural chemicals to mix up some homemade Gatorade?

– Very little Batista and Jamie this week. I hope you guys survived without them. I know I barely did.

– What'd you think of the episode?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 9/22/2013

Season 8 : Episode 12

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