Tuesday, 16 November 2010

'DEXTER' 5.8 - "Take It!"

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

I'm having a tough time parsing my thoughts about Dexter this year. While there was much to enjoy about this episode, I'm finding there's a background hum of predictability. I'm becoming desperate for a radical twist or unexpected merger of a few storylines, but neither seem very likely. "Take It!" was definitely entertaining and certainly had some great moments, as most episodes tend to be when they focus on Dexter (Michael C. Hall), but there's something about season 5 that isn't clicking. I suspect it's because, for all the intriguing flourishes the writers have crafted, and their wise decision to forego the traditional focus on a single "big bad", the bones of these ideas have been gnawed on before.

This week, Dexter attended one of motivational speaker Jordan Chase's (Jonny Lee Miller) weekend seminars, intending to kill his head of security Cole (Chris Vance) in an adjoining hotel room. Lumen (Julia Stiles) is becoming a trusted partner-in-crime, tasked with shopping for Dex's supplies (plastic wrap, bin liners) as the fate of another kidnapper is slowly sealed. She even got the option to break her connection with Dexter and return to normality, after her fiancé Owen arrived in Miami and tried to win her back, unaware of the nightmare she's been through.

Additionally, the shark-like presence of Stan Liddy (Peter Weller) swam closer, as he staged a minor car accident with Lumen, in order to get her insurance details and use them to investigate her personal history. And while Quinn's less keen to investigate Dexter, in light of his relationship with his sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), it seems that Stan's tasted blood and isn't keen to let the matter drop...

Over at Miami Metro, the bungled Fuentes undercover op is having serious repercussions for Homicide, forcing Lt. LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) to save her career by pinning the blame on fresh-faced Circa (April Hernandez), before Debra angrily kicked up a stink over LaGuerta's obvious ploy, and thus found herself the new scapegoat. On the plus side, it appears that Angel's (David Zayas) official version of events may take the heat off Debra, while consequently throwing his own wife to the dogs.

The entire situation at Jordan Chase's seminar is where this episode soared, thanks to a compelling sequence of events therein. Chase's surprise in getting Dexter onto the stage, to talk through his recent bereavement in front of a ghoulish audience, was a strong moment. It was an especially good idea to have Chase's ideology make particular sense to a predator like Dexter, as his teachings essentially boil down to making people embrace their primal instincts. In that sense, Dex is the model student. And, of course, it's a philosophy Chase has created because he's carrying his own Dark Passenger.

When Lumen unexpectedly arrived at the hotel, that's when things started to hot up. It was fun to see Lumen help Dexter prepare his kill-room, wrapping the furnishings in plastic sheets, and the tension certainly raised when Cole bumped into Lumen in the lobby and attacked her in the primed room, before Dexter arrived and took control of the situation. There followed arguably the season's most important scene so far, with Lumen watching Dexter plunge a knife into Cole's sternum, realizing he's a practiced killer and, after hearing Dexter's potted history (his mother's murder, his need to kill ever since), seemingly accepts him as a psychologically damaged person whose actions she understands and empathizes with. She may even be the thing that will mend his shattered psyche following Rita's death.

However, while that's certainly a big moment and was brilliantly played by Hall and Stiles, it's nothing we didn't expect to happen shortly after Lumen was introduced. After five years, it's only natural that a TV show will become easier to second guess, but that fact does undermine developments that would have been more impressive in the show's earlier years. I would probably have gone crazy over "Take It!" if this were season 3, but we've already had two prominent guest-stars aware of Dexter's true nature, so it's not really fresh territory -- despite the fact Lumen's uniqueness is that she's a well-adjusted person who's genuinely accepting of Dexter, unlike his previous confidants Lila and Miguel.

Overall, "Take It!" was a lot of fun and, for once, the subplot at the Miami Metro worked quite nicely on its own terms. It's just a shame that storyline seems to be entirely separate to the A-story now, meaning it's essentially filler -- apparently designed to write LaGuerta out of the show. Yes, I'm predicting she'll do the honourable thing, take the blame, and be transferred somewhere else as punishment soon. The character has never been very compelling, and the show would be energized if there was a stronger, more interesting boss.

Also worth mentioning that Debra is unsettled by her lack of guilt over shooting someone dead for the first time. There was a great scene with Dexter trying to help his sister get perspective on the deed, comforting her with the line "some people don't deserve to live", hoping she shares his attitude. For a moment I thought Debra might be revealed as someone equally as emotionless as Dexter when it comes to killing, but they're not blood relatives, and the fact Deb's confused and frightened by her lack of feeling is what makes her different -- and more human.

A very good episode, in a season that's had its fair share of good episodes, let's be honest -- but am I alone in missing the moral grey areas that were more potent in season 1 and 2? True, the show has had to evolve to a place easier to keep the drama continuing and the audience engaged with the lead character, but occasionally I remember how knottier the show was when it began, when you were more sickened by Dex. If this were season 2, a part of me would be urging Lumen to heal Dexter and turn him into a "real boy" (as the Blue Fairy?), but because it's season 5 it's just a cool circumstance that Dex has a faithful confidant.

  • I'm not sold on Stan Liddy's skills as a "private eye", really. I mean, simply following Lumen would have led him to that hotel, so why didn't he? It feels like he's only being as effective as the writers need him to be each week, as it would otherwise be too easy to catch Lumen and Dexter red-handed.
  • Has Dexter been dumping bodies that close to the coast all along? Or would a telephoto lens like Stan's be able to see miles out to sea, in the pitch dark? At least we know there's no chance of Cole's body parts being recovered, as he learned his lesson in season 2 and now uses the Gulf Stream to drag them out to the open ocean.
  • Great moment with Lumen waking up in Dexter's kill-room, plastic wrap for bedding, having slept peacefully for the first time in weeks. A simple but effective way to show her connection and comfort with Dexter's lifestyle and rituals.
  • I loved the macabre sight of Dexter checking out of his hotel room, pulling a trolley of luggage we know contains Cole's dismembered body.
  • A prediction: I'm pretty sure Stan's going to be killed by Lumen. He doesn't fit Dexter's code, but obviously can't survive the season with the information he has. So it seems likely he'll be Lumen's first kill, right?
  • Was Lumen's fiancĂ© introduced strictly for the purposes of this episode's plot (giving her a choice between love and marriage, or revenge and friendship), or is he now a character who'll be reappearing? If so, will he discover what Lumen's been up to while she was missing? Or will his presence bring Lumen to her senses, belatedly?
  • It crossed my mind that Jordan Chase might be innocent, and "Watch Guy" is just someone who used his saying "tick, tick, that's the sound of your life running out". But then I remembered Chase's scene with Cole in the car last week, where his guilty was crystal clear. But there must be something more to come from this story, seeing as there are four episodes left. Maybe Chase isn't the ringleader, it was whoever took the photo of him with his gang as teenagers. Is there anyone we know who fits the profile?
WRITERS: Manny Coto & Wendy West
DIRECTOR: Romeo Tirone
TRANSMISSION: 14 November 2010, Showtime, 9/8c