Tuesday, 19 October 2010

'DEXTER' 5.4 – "Beauty And The Beast"

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Typically, "Beauty And The Beast" had my undivided attention when it was focusing on Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) storyline, although Quinn's (Desmond Harrington) investigation into Kyle Butler is a welcome callback to last season that feels like a primed mantrap ready to be sprung. The investigation into the Santa Muerte case progressed, but didn't feel especially compelling this week; Irish nanny Sonya (Maria Doyle Kennedy) filled some time; and the storyline for Angel (David Zayas) and LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) already feels interminable and has me itching for those characters to be written out, as they're so clearly a waste of time.

The situation Dexter has with serial-killer Boyd's prospective victim Lumen Pierce (Julia Stiles) is another of the show's dysfunctional relationships. Having tended to her wounds and taken pity on the wounded Lumen (who's an eye witness to his killing of Boyd), Dexter's put himself in quite a predicament: releasing Lumen risks her fingering him as Boyd's killer, and holding her captive is an untenable situation, but he can't kill her to ensure her silence because she's an innocent. Or does the number one rule of Harry's Code ("Don't Get Caught") override the latter?

Julia Stiles is a polarizing actress, but I've never had a problem with her, perhaps because I haven't seen her in a great deal beyond her best roles. I thought she played the part of Lumen very well here, giving her the look of a frightened rabbit that's almost certain she's going to be vivisected by Dexter, who does his best to alleviate her fears but finds her hard to convince. She's clearly suffered through a very traumatic experience that's left her very untrusting of men, demonstrated during her escape attempt when she could easily have escaped the pursuing Dexter by jumping into a passing car full of young men, but almost seemed to believe that would be like jumping from the frying pan and into the fire.

A breakthrough came after Dexter showed Lumen all of Boyd's oil drums containing dead girls preserved in formaldehyde, convincing her that he spared her the same fate in killing Boyd -- a murderous act he was pushed into because his wife was killed in a macabre fashion, too. For now that explanation appears to have placated Lumen, with Dexter feeding her enough half-truths to appear plausible and keep his true motivations a secret. Lumen's revelation that Boyd's just one of many people responsible for her mistreatment seems to suggest she'll be out for revenge, and perhaps use Dexter as her instrument of retribution. As I suggested last week, I suspect Boyd was part of a sinister underground cabal that traded girls for various ghastly purposes, from prostitution to a killer's "mail order" victim. I wouldn't be surprised if season 5 went down a direction familiar to audiences who've seen Hostel, with Boyd's self-help guru as the head of the twisted organization.

As I said, Quinn's belief that Kyle Butler was Dexter Morgan, gives that character material that's a fun loose-end from season 4 and, as it's relevant to Dexter, it's therefore more engaging. In this episode, he found the Mitchell's safehouse by tailing the FBI Agent who's reluctant to let Quinn show the family his photo of Dexter, and managed to corner Jonah Mitchell (Brando Eaton) at a convenience store. It was a little infuriating that Jonah's reaction wasn't immediate in confirming Dexter is Kyle, before Quinn was dragged away by an agent, but perhaps it was a sign that Jonah's willing to cover for Dexter? There was no love lost between Arthur and Jonah, so it's plausible that Jonah views "Kyle" as a good man who, perhaps, helped rid him of a domineering and violent parent.

Considering the fact this episode briefly introduced Dexter to the Santa Muerte storyline (doing his sister a favour by attending a crime scene and detected a stray cigar butt on the floor), and we eventually had a scene with Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) actually confronting the killer, Carlos Fuentes, for some reason this storyline didn't ignite for me this week. Maybe it's because I was more anxious to get back to Dexter/Lumen, or it's becoming less clear what the Santa Muerte deaths have to offer us, other than something for the Miami Metro's ensemble to deal with. They're intriguing, suitably gruesome, and certainly it's a good thing I can't predict where we're going with this story, but I just can't get excited by it yet.

The situation with Sonya the nanny doesn't feel like it's anything more than a way to kill some time, but I just can't believe they cast an actress like Maria Doyle Kennedy with no plan for her. Maybe she'll learn Dexter's secret, or become a target Dexter needs to protect? There must be something planned, because Harrison's nanny doesn’t really need a role of this size if she's just there to make it feel plausible that Dexter can be away from home for most of the day.

Finally, it's barely worth mentioning the subplot with Angel going to apologize to the cop he hospitalized, purely to make himself look good now there's an internal investigation into bad conduct. I appreciate the show has a large cast it needs to service, and that every second of every episode can't be spent focused on Dexter himself, but this show has a longstanding problem trying to make Angel and LaGuerta (in particular) feel like worthwhile elements of the show. They just seem to choke the life and pace out of the show, as they almost exist in their own inferior show and are only occasionally sharing the screen with Dexter these days.

Overall, "Beauty And The Beast" was a good episode, mostly because it feels like there's a deep and interesting back-story for Lumen and her relationship with Dexter will evolve into something worth seeing. Will Dexter keep up the pretense that he's not a skilled killer, but still decide to help her get revenge on "the others"? Will he grow to trust her enough to tell her everything, leading to a father/daughter dynamic between them if she accepts what he is? Have we been down that route before, with Miguel in season 3? The rest of the episode, with the exception of a few scenes with Quinn leaning on residual love of season 4, was less satisfying to me, but hopefully Sonya and the Santa Muerte storylines will begin to take shape as we approach mid-season.

  • This episode is the debut of writer Jim Leonard on Dexter, who has previously worked on Fitz, the short-lived US remake of Cracker.
WRITER: Jim Leonard
DIRECTOR: Milan Cheylov
GUEST CAST: Julia Stiles, Tony Alameda, Derek DuChesne, Brando Eaton, Adam Harrington, April Hernandez, Gino Montesinos, Raphael Sbarge & Joseph Julian Soria
TRANSMISSION: 17 October 2010 – Showtime, 9/8c