Spoilers. After a slow start with only a sprinkling of the old magic in evidence, "Turning Biminese" is an overdue burst of freshness. Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is now a golfing buddy of Miguel (Jimmy Smits) and edging closer to a normal life, although Rita's (Julie Benz) sudden idea to buy a house together (forcing him to abandon the "sanctuary" of his apartment) gives him pause for thought. Can he really settle down and be an everyday husband, father and home-maker -- or is it asking too much for a man of his unusual nature?
Undoubtedly, the best aspect of season 3 has been seeing Dex contemplate the onset of normality. He's now months away from marrying Debra, fathering a child, adopting Debra's kids, moving in permanently, and even has a close "friend" in Miguel (never mind the fact it's ultimately based on a foundation of complicity in a murder.) Tim Schlattmann's script develops things for Dex very nicely, pushing our anti-hero to react more honestly when Debra pushes the issue of house-buying in his face. It's been awhile since we've seen Dex unable to avoid issues with his usual skill, but fatherhood is certainly snapping on the emotional handcuffs.
It's no surprise that the array of subplots struggling to compete again, although it was fun to see Masuka (C.S Lee) transform into a stiff, suit-wearing professional, having learned from Quinn (Desmond Harrington) that everyone at Miami Metro views him as a creepy, crude joke. I've never been a huge fan of Masuka, but Lee actually makes him very sympathetic and scratches out some memorable moments -- particularly when he confronts Angel (David Zayas) and Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) over their recent treatment of him.
Elsewhere, I still don't find Debra and her informant an interesting diversion, and the associated background hum of the Freebo investigation seems like old news -- no matter how many times Ramon (Jason Manuel Olazabal) storms into scenes to try and spur the Laguerta's (Lauren Velez) team into action. The audience have been fully aware of what happened with the Freebo/Oscar situation back in episode 1, so the quest to find Oscar's killer is increasingly laborious.
The fact the case somehow connects to a serial-killer nicknamed "The Skinner" hasn't quite blossomed as an idea yet, but I'm hoping things will reach a boiling point very quickly. Here, Debra is seen being watched through binoculars as she visits a young boy with information on Freebo, and it seems likely the snoop was either The Skinner (but how would he know about Debra?) or perhaps "rival" detective Quinn (whose methods and actions at work suggest he has unspoken beef with Debra).
I'm still willing to believe there's a masterplan behind Debra's scenes, but it's too unfocused to get excited about yet. I only really find myself giving Dexter my full attention whenever stories touch on things that affect Dex himself, and that didn't happen nearly enough in Debra's storyline this week.
One aspect of Dexter that was very enjoyable back in season 1 was the nighttime activities of Dex in exacting vigilante justice on criminals who have escaped justice. It's something that understandably can't be dragged out every episode for easy shocks, but it always proves to be the heartbeat of episodes when it does.
In "Turning Biminese", Miguel mentions a frustrating case to Dex, where a man called Ethan Turner (Larry Sullivan) got away with throwing his rich wife overboard on a cruise liner. Dex is quick to shake off the burden of family matters to stalk Ethan -- armed with his usual kill-kit and determination. Such sequences are always darkly riveting, and Ethan's comeuppance reminded me of how messed-up Dex really is -- as this season has been curiously devoid of Dex's ritualized killings. I think we need them to keep the audience's moral compass spinning.
The scene that will have everyone's head spinning arrives in the climax, after Dex has narrowly managed to get to the hospital to comfort Debra after a medical scare with the baby. Miguel confronts Dex over his mysterious absence (having sent the coast guard out to where Dex said he had "gone fishing" and learning about Ethan's disappearance.) It's happened before on the series, but Miguel correctly deduces that Dex was responsible for Ethan's disappearance, and surprises Dex by showing huge pride.
Smits and Hall are both absolutely brilliant here, in a compelling scene that ranks as the season's best. So, is Miguel genuinely on Dex's side, or is his acceptance of Dex's true nature just an elaborate ploy? How will his reactions differ to previous characters who knew about Dex's "dark passenger" (father Harry, brother Brian and mistress Lila)? There's definitely more to Miguel than meets the eye, so I'm expecting a few more twists in the tail. It took 5 episodes, but season 3 may have belatedly found its hook...
26 October 2008 Showtime, 9/8c
Cast: Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Julie Benz (Rita), Jennifer Carpenter (Debra), Jimmy Smits (Miguel), Lauren Velez (Laguerta), David Zayas (Angel), C.S Lee (Masuka), Desmond Harrington (Quinn), Jason Manuel Olazabal (Ramon Prado), Larry Sullivan (Ethan Turner), Preston Bailey (Cody), Ellen Bry (Doctor), Kristin Dattilo (Gianna), Joshua Dov (Tilly), Marc John Jefferies (Wendell), Carla Jiminez (Nurse), Sage Kirkpatrick (Laura), Karina Michel (Beth) & Christina Robinson (Astor)