Monday, 11 October 2010

'DEXTER' 5.3 - "Practically Perfect"

Monday, 11 October 2010

A much stronger episode than last week, thanks to some developments during Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) stalk-n'-kill routine that shook things up a little. There's definitely an established formula to Dexter, which each season does its best to contort into a slightly different shape, and season 5 is definitely a year that demands the writers do something unusual. It's remains to be seen if their efforts will be a success, but there were promising moments in "Practically Perfect" that rekindled my interest in this season's overall direction...

There were four main strands to this week's episode: Dexter and Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) interviewed prospective nannies to take care of baby Harrison, before settling on Irish child minder Sonya (Maria Doyle Kennedy); Debra partnered Hispanic cop Cira (April Lee Hernandez) to canvas the neighbourhood for information about the decapitation killing that might be related to the feared Santa Muerte death cult; LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) heard about Angel's (David Zayas) altercation with a fellow cop at a bar while defending her honour; and Dexter manipulated his way into joining road kill retriever Boyd (Shawn Hatosy) out on patrol, planning to kill him inside an abandoned tourist welcome centre by setting up a fake call about a dead alligator.

The split between the cops and Dexter isn't working too badly, which is quite surprising because usually the characters in the police department feel like filler without Dexter around, or when they're not working a case Dexter's involved in. But this year's investigation of the Santa Muerte cult feels like a decent mystery to solve, in that it's possibly the work of an organized gang and not a lone psycho, so it thus feels like a tougher challenge in some ways. Partnering Debra with a cop who's an echo of herself before she started getting taken seriously is also more interesting than Debra and Quinn (Desmond Harrington) have ever been, if you ask me. On the periphery, Quinn instead looks likely to bust the Trinity case by meeting with Arthur Mitchell's family at their safe house and assumedly showing them a photo of Dexter and asking if that's the mysterious "Kyle Butler" the FBI can't trace. It should logically be game over for Dexter if that happens, so I'm anticipating Quinn will keep his findings a secret -- either out of sympathy for the heartache it will bring Debra, or to use as some kind of leverage against Dexter. The fact this subplot isn't predictable is definitely a bonus right now, and encourages good discussion between episodes.

Dexter's hunting of Boyd was where "Practically Perfect" soared, especially during the amusing sequence when Dexter managed to inject Boyd with his needle to immobilize him, but simultaneously got a tranquilizer dart shot into his chest by the shocked Boyd. The scenes with both men later being rushed to hospital in an ambulance, both unable to tell the truth about what happened, but knowing the other means them harm, was delicious fun -- if ultimately a little pointless, with Dexter instead returning to Boyd's home later that same night and just capturing him there. Still, there was another surprising twist to the storyline once Dexter had stabbed Boyd dead on his kill-table, when it became clear one of Boyd's intended victims (Julia Stiles) was inside the house and has witnessed Dexter's actions, before fainting in his arms. There's certainly something unexpected going on with Boyd, made obvious when his final words to Dexter about killing those women was "they were all suffering. I put them out of their misery." My guess is that the women Boyd has been killing were people who perhaps wanted to be killed (perhaps because they're terminally ill?), so Boyd was offering some kind of illegal euthanasia service to quench his blood lust. And if Boyd's been killing people who actually want to be killed, doesn't that make him a morally grey serial-killer just like Dexter? He's into "self help", so is he a twisted good Samaritan? But why just women?

Overall, "Practically Perfect" showed promising signs that season 5 has a few fresh tricks up its sleeve, even if it's moving away from the fallout of Rita's murder quicker than is perhaps plausible. I can understand Dexter's grief isn't something you want to dwell on all season, but in some ways it's a pity Dexter can't dedicate more than the premiere episode to exploring the effects of Rita's demise. Still, I'm enjoying the more unconventional nature of the storylines this year, and certainly didn't expect Julia Stiles' character to be introduced in this strange way. The show is already playing around with Dexter's true nature being discovered, which is something that happens in every season, but not usually so soon in the run. It'll be interesting to see what Stiles' character is all about when she wakes up, and possibly sheds light on exactly what Boyd's motivations were for capturing her. And I'm wondering if Dexter's eventual return to work will dovetail with the Santa Muerte investigation, or if the show is going to keep the storylines more separate this year instead. If so, is that a good idea, keeping such a large chunk of the show as an archetypal police procedural?

  • Doesn't Masuka (C.S Lee) have the same laugh as Elmer Fudd? If you combined Masuka's looks and laugh with Angel's rhotacism... you definitely get Elmer Fudd.
  • I'm glad the show is delving more into Miami's culture with the Santa Muerte killings. With the possible exception of season 3's Miguel, the show hasn't often embraces its cultural backdrop beyond aesthetics. The killers and crimes have mainly been messed up white men.
  • Sonya the nanny. Is she too good to be true? Will she reveal a darker side, or am I just being cynical? Is she just a clich├ęd way for the show to get past the problem that Dexter can't be stuck at home looking after a baby every episode, or will she have a sizeable role to play in future events?
  • Oh no – Detective Lopez has collapsed with internal bleeding and Angel may lose his job as a result! Hands up if you care.
WRITER: Manny Coto
DIRECTOR: Ernest Dickerson
GUEST CAST: Julia Stiles, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Shawn Hatosy & April Lee Hernandez TRANSMISSION: 10 October 2010 – Showtime, 9/8c