Tuesday, 25 October 2011

DEXTER, 6.4 - "A Horse Of A Different Color"

Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Last week's episode was very enjoyable, but "A Horse Of A Different Color" was back to being exceptionally average, which isn't surprising because last week's story was almost entirely divorced from season 6's major storylines and concerns.

Let's get the perennially awkward subplots out of the way: the writers have decided that Angel (David Zayas) is going through a midlife crisis (buying a Trans Am, smoking weed), which is mildly amusing but nothing more; and Masuka (C.S Lee) has already found out that intern Ryan's (Brea Grant) put Ice Truck Killer evidence on eBay, which registers as a serious situation that wasn't treated as such by anyone. The only subplot that's working nicely is seeing Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) adjust to life as a lieutenant; having to take the lead at crime scenes, giving statements to the press on live TV. Predictably, Deb's bad language actually went down well with viewers, who see Deb as a refreshingly candid and passionate orator. A reaction LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) isn't happy about, seeing as she's been turned into a bitchy blackmailer who didn't approve of Deb's promotion.

The more relevant story this week concerned the discovery of the Four Horseman Of The Apocalypse tableaux from last week's exceptional denouement, where a dead man's limbs were stitched onto mannequins riding coloured horses down a street. Noting the presence of an Alpha/Omega symbol (identical to the one stitched into the stomach of the fruit seller victim), the cops are closer to understanding the so-called "Doomsday Killer" and his apparent obsession with the Book Of Revelation. After six seasons, I can forgive Dexter for succumbing to the pulp fiction thrills of a religiously-motivated serial-killer, but it does give the show a straight-to-video feel at times. Killers who base their crimes on Bible scripture are such a colossal cliché that the writers need to be very careful about how they proceed.

And what of the theory Gellar (Edward James Olmos) isn't a real person, but a figment of Travis' (Colin Hanks) imagination? Well, it still looks more likely than not. This episode did a better job of making us think Gellar could be flesh-and-blood (the police have records of him as the owner of an antique sword that allegedly belonged to John the Revelator, meaning he at least used to be real), but Gellar still didn't interact with anyone besides protégé Travis, and other characters in his presence don't even acknowledge him—like a waitress who served Travis, who was later bound and gagged by "Gellar" to become victim three. I'll be astonished if Gellar isn't Travis' version of Harry. The episode's final scene, with Dexter spotting a joyful Travis in a crowd and marveling at the intense sense of faith he exudes, felt very much like Travis was there in "Gellar" mode, so the situation is probably closer to that of Fight Club than Sixth Sense. This would also explain why Travis woke up to find the waitress he slept with now tied up, which he did as "Gellar" in his sleep. Whatever the specifics of Gellar (split personality disorder or imaginary mentor), fans are a few steps ahead of the writers these days—even when they try to get creative and plot a twist the show hasn't done before. I wonder if the writers are annoyed fans appear to have guessed their surprise. I guess it depends how pivotal the reveal is to the story, if and when it comes.

Away from the Doomsday Killer investigation, there was also more business with Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and Brother Sam (Mos), which has echoes to Dex's friendship with Miguel Prado in season 3. Only this time I'll be amazed if Sam turns into an equivalent villain, even if he learns Dexter's secret (as a character does every year). Maybe the conflict will come from Sam trying to save Dexter's soul by making him give up his life as a vigilante? But it's still very possible a man with Sam's past could see Dexter as a man doing God's work, bringing evil men to justice. The former's a fresher idea the show hasn't really explored, so I hope they take that route.

Every season there's usually an actor capable of matching Hall's performance, or at least giving him a better sparring partner than the likes of Desmond Harrington, and it seems that Mos is this year's big hope. I like Sam's scenes because Mos has an absorbing grace to him, and it would be great to see Dex come to embrace a "higher power" as Sam hopes he will—especially after suffering a crisis of faith when Harrison was taken ill. As it's humorously made clear in this episode, Dex already has conversations with his dead father, so isn't he already inclined to embrace the paranormal? Well, perhaps not, as we shouldn't forget Harry's just a way to visualize Dexter wondering "what would my dad say or do?" Either way, I have to admit it's quite fun seeing the theology versus atheism debate tackled on the show, even if it's handled in a simplistic way that wouldn't trigger a Richard Dawkins diatribe.

While I wasn't particularly impressed by this episode, I must admit that it was agreeably different to see a victim killed in a Saw-style trap, with the poor waitress dying in a gruesome crucifix-shaped contraption after a cop accidentally touched a tripwire. You have to suspend your disbelief that Travis (especially if he's acting alone) can prepare all these elaborate tableaux's and booby-traps, but now we're in the sixth season you can't really complain that the writers are stretching boundaries by taking things to an extreme common in implausible horror movies.

Overall, "A Horse Of A Different Color" was okay and I enjoyed a handful of moments, but Dexter as a whole just isn't as gripping as it used to be. We know the show's tricks, we've come to accept certain inevitabilities, and we can loosely predict many of its surprises. Maybe the only way to keep audiences hooked is to deliver bigger, crazier and more demented set-pieces. That certainly seems to be the direction we're headed in, which I'm not completely indisposed to.


  • I'm always fascinated by scenes where young children are required to cry for the camera, at an age where they can't be asked to pretend. In the scene where Harrison was wheeled away to have an operation to remove his appendix, I couldn't help but imagine how the boy was moved to genuine tears and screams. They assumedly get his parents in to intentionally upset him in some way, but how long does it take for scenes like that to be shot?
  • Any theories about what the long-term goal of Travis/Gellar is? Anyone cracking open their Bibles to see what other grisly deaths might be in store, inspired by the Book Of Revelation's imagery?
  • How can you extract four-digit numbers from the bodies of two victims and NOT immediately think they relate to Bible passages?
  • I like the new Mike Anderson (Billy Brown) character. He's something of a Lundy type, but that's fine with me. The cops of Miami Metro Homicide are so clownish at times that you feel better when someone with an air of authority and intelligence is around.
written by Lauren Gussis / directed by John Dahl / 23 October 2011 / Showtime