The first step into the second-half of season 5 kicked things into a more pleasing shape, although I'm a little disappointed so much dropped into Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) lap during "Circle Us". Still, it was great to have an episode that seems to have finished introducing all of this year's key elements, so now we can sit back and hope the remaining five episodes do something interesting with it all.
"Sometimes partners find us, and as much as we try to push them away, they push their way into our lives regardless... until we finally realize how much we need them."
Meanwhile, Quinn's (Desmond Harrington) burgeoning relationship with Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) gave him pause about paying Stan (Peter Weller) to investigate her brother, although after hearing news that a young blonde's living in Dexter's house he decided to keep the arrangement going. Is Quinn beginning to suspect that Dexter's a predator who gets his hooks into cute blondes, marries them, then kills them to get his hands on their property?
The Santa Muerte case also continued, with LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) masterminding a risky operation to use a girl as bait to draw the Fuentes brothers out from a nightclub, so they can be arrested. Unfortunately, events took some unpredictable turns inside the club, particularly after Fuentes instead took a shine to undercover cop Cira (April Hernandez) and triggered a shootout with his jealous sibling.
There was much to enjoy about this episode. Although I predicted Boyd's gang leader would be Jordan Chase (the man whose self-help tapes he was obsessed with), I'm still intrigued by the idea of an underground cabal organized by a multi-millionaire, whose public persona is as someone who helps ordinary people, while secretly indulging sick fantasies with his childhood friends. It's virgin territory for the series, and that's an increasingly valuable commodity for a drama in its fifth season.
It's a shame the reveal of Chase and Cole wasn't better disguised, but it nonetheless bodes well for the remaining episodes -- especially because Dexter's attempt to capture Cole at his home was botched, meaning the gang are now aware they have a serious problem to contend with. Following Dan the dentist's warning by phone that Lumen's survived in "Everything Is Illumenated", it's now clear Lumen's getting help from a skilled man to exact her revenge, and it surely won't take long for Chase and Cole to realize her collaborator's connected to the police (as homicide's investigation took an otherwise inexplicable turn in Boyd's direction, following Dexter's planting of Boyd's wallet.)
It's too early to judge Vance and Miller's performances, as they were just asked to play seemingly likeable and cooperative people who dissolved into sinister tones whenever they're alone, but there's promise. I like the idea of a there being an interdependent gang of villains. There's strength in numbers, and Dexter usually goes after unsuspecting individuals, but this scenario is completely opposed to that, so it'll be a tougher challenge.
Luckily, Dexter's no longer alone, as Lumen is starting to prove herself as a partner in crime. Last week I was commented on Lumen having sharp instincts about Dan's guilt, and this week she essentially saved Dexter's life by sensing danger from her position as lookout and helping him escape Cole's surprise attack. There was also the overt suggestion that Dex is beginning to accept Lumen as a friend and accomplice, as he brought baby Harrison over to meet her. There's a gentle suggestion that Dexter's beginning to see Lumen as a replacement for his dead wife, but I'm not sure how far they'll take that idea. Lumen would definitely make a better life partner for him, if only because his lies needn't be so opaque with her. Lumen knows he's a killer; she just doesn't know he actually makes a habit of it to quench a psychological hunger -- yet.
Overall, "Circle Us" was a satisfying episode focusing on the various partnerships holding this season together (Dexter/Lumen, Chase/Cole, Quinn/Stan, the Fuentes brothers), and there's enough unpredictability to keep me interested to see how things keep unfolding. That said, it's clear season 5 isn't going to equal or surpass season 4 -- and, for me, it's currently the second worse year the show's done. That's partly because all shows get a little creaky in their old age (especially high concept ones like Dexter), and partly because it feels like season 5 doesn't feel as premeditated as previous years, and its hooks aren't as sharp.
- Aussie actor Chris Vance has appeared on numerous US shows, most recently Burn Notice, but I know him best as Whistler in season 3 of Prison Break. Jonny Lee Miller is, of course, a famous face from films like Trainspotting and Hackers, who also starred in the now defunct legal fantasy drama Eli Stone.
- Peter Weller's brilliantly horrid as gaunt Stan Liddy, but can we please start focusing on his investigation now? Do you think he'll trace Lumen as a "missing person" and jump to the conclusion that she's being held against her will, or that Dexter has leverage over her?
- Every season of Dexter has ended with a prominent character on Dexter's kill-table. I don’t think there's much doubt Chase and Cole will be wearing plastic wrap before the season's done, but will Stan be joining them? Is he "disgraced" enough to fit Dexter's code, if he gets too close to discovering the truth? Or will he be dispatched in an accidental manner like Sgt Doakes was?
- Is there a deeper reason for why Chase's gang have known each other since they were kids? Do they all have a particular reason to hate women, especially blondes?
WRITER: Scott Buck
DIRECTOR: John Dahl
TRANSMISSION: 7 November 2010, Showtime, 9/8c