Tuesday, 2 November 2010

'DEXTER' 5.6 - "Everything Is Illumenated"

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

When you're halfway through a season, the events of previous episodes tend to crystallize. That's exactly what happened between Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and Lumen (Julia Stiles) in "Everything Is Illumenated". And despite the fact the end-result wasn't unexpected in the slightest, I'm glad we've reached this mid-season crossroads and the story can move forwards with more unpredictability...

Let's get the lukewarm subplots out of the way: the Miami Metro organized an undercover operation at a club frequented by Fuentes, the Santa Muerte killer, with Angel (David Zayas) making contact with a woman who agrees to help them lure Fuentes out into the open. Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) admitted her feelings to Quinn (Desmond Harrington), unaware he's trying to link her brother to the Trinity Killer case, with the help of dishonoured cop Stan Liddy (Peter Weller), whose suspiciously of Dexter's whiter-than-white background. Both were only marginal storylines, taking a backseat to the focus on Dexter and Lumen's escapades, which definitely helped make "Everything Is Illumenated" the season's best episode since the poignant premiere.

The delight of this episode was watching Dexter get tangled in a mess of Lumen's making. Halfway through shrink-wrapping his latest victim in a rented RV parked at the beach, Dex received a call from Lumen pleading for his help disposing the body of a man she's shot, having lured him to an empty dockyard warehouse from a club, after recognizing him as one of her rapists. Dexter was forced to put his own in-progress kill on hold (loading his unconscious victim into the back of his SUV) and arrived at the waterfront to assist Lumen, only to discover her "dead body" isn't so dead... and has vanished. So began a search of the port's buildings, following blood trails and smears, before matters complicated when the Miami Metro received an anonymous tipoff about the homicide, giving Dex 15 minutes to clean up the mess and get Lumen to safety before his colleagues arrived at the crime scene.

The relationship between Dexter and Lumen is the most interesting thing about season 5, despite the fact Lumen is ultimately a mix of Rita, Lila and Miguel from previous years. Brilliantly played by Stiles, she's like a frightened rabbit, determined to exact revenge on the gang that sexually abused her, but ill-equipped to handle the situation. That said, once Dexter found her wounded target, a dentist called Dan (Sean O'Bryan) with a family, Lumen's instincts were proven correct when Dan was later caught alerting the other members of his gang to Lumen's survival on a stolen phone. Maybe Lumen isn't skilled or practiced in the art of killing and getting away with it (lacking Dexter's resources to categorically prove guilt and clean the resulting mess), but it turns out her female intuition is sharper than Dex's knife set.

For the most part, this was an episode that strengthened the relationship between Dexter and Lumen, told in the context of an evening where everything went wrong and Dex was pushed to the edge in trying to keep the lid on his secrets. This was best symbolized by the moment when Dexter's own would-be victim escaped and ran through the dockyard -- resembling a mummy with his flapping strands of plastic, heading into the path of Debra and Masuka (C.S Lee), until Dexter managed to grab him at the last second and add him to the existing crime scene.

There was also a terrific final scene, with Lumen given sanctuary at Dexter's family home, unintentionally reminding him of his dead wife by soaking in the bath tub where Rita died. In wearing Rita's bathrobe, there was the visual inference that Lumen's a possible replacement for Dexter's dead spouse, but it's nothing so lazy. Lumen's more the embodiment of how Dexter's going to get over his own guilt; by helping his amateur "sidekick" exorcise her demons, which will hopefully bring them both some peace. As her name suggests, Lumen's the light to show him the way.

Overall, I really enjoyed "Everything Is Illumenated" because I tend to relish the episodes where Dexter's precariously close to exposure, despite knowing it's unlikely to happen, and the script is focused on cranking up the tension. My apathy towards the other subplots also wasn't a problem, because they didn't appear to steal much time from the Dexter/Lumen situation, or were better integrated throughout the hour. That said, I'm hopeful that Stan Liddy's investigation into Dexter will be as compelling and eventful as it promises to be, once it gets underway.

I'm relieved this episode sharpened the storyline somewhat, and gave us food for thought: the gang who raped Lumen know she's alive now, so it's probable they'll be looking for her, or on their guard at the very least. And just what is the gang's motivations and setup? I'm still getting a Hostel vibe from the concept, as it feels like the clique that raped Lumen are part of an underground organization that facilitate people's darkest, sickest fantasies. Lowly road kill retriever Boyd was given girls to kill and seal into oil drums, family man dentist Dan participated in a gang-rape. I wouldn't be surprised if most of Lumen's attackers are inconspicuous citizens, who appear to be well-adjusted members of society. Dexter's always been about the darkness that lurks in seemingly normal people, after all.

A very good episode that entertained throughout, I thought. What did you make of it?

  • You may recognize Sean O'Bryan, playing dentist Dan, as Blackham from the recent Persons Unknown TV series.
  • Funniest moment of the season: Masuka's miming of what happened at a crime scene involving S&M. Pictures paint a thousand words.
  • It was lucky Dexter's shrink-wrapped escapee didn't consider screaming for help, right?
  • Lumen: will she become another Miguel if she develops a taste for blood, or is she going to become a genuine protégé for Dexter to pass on his code? The celebrity guest stars don't tend to stay for more than a season, so will her story end in the finale, or is she going to stick around for season 6? After all, Lumen could easily be the "daughter" of Dexter the show would love to explore, but can't with Harrison (too young) or Astor (too untenable).
WRITER: Wendy West
DIRECTOR: Steve Shill
TRANSMISSION: 31 October 2010, Showtime, 9/8c