Tuesday, 16 October 2012

DEXTER, 7.3 - 'Buck the System'

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

written by Jace Richdale / directed by Stefan Schwartz

After two sloppy seasons, I'm still poised for Dexter's seventh to turn into a catastrophe, but it hasn't happened yet. In fact, I found myself enjoying "Buck the System" more than the previous episodes, although obviously they gave this hour its foundations to build on. I also couldn't help wondering if the writers are kicking themselves about not letting Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) in on Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) secret earlier, because it's adding a whole other angle to episodes and giving both characters their best material in years. This was the episode where Dexter had to convince his sister that vigilantism has advantages over legal crime fighting, to allow the character to go back to doing what he does best—and considering this is only the third episode, it succeeded in a plausible way that didn't seem rushed or forced.

"Buck the System" certainly squeezed plenty of juice from Dexter trying to convince Debra that his methods are better than police procedures, by trying to show her beefy parolee Ray Speltzer (Matt Gerald) is destined to kill unless he kills him first. Deb naturally wanted to investigate grounds keeper Speltzer lawfully, with due process, but soon realised the legal road's full of obstructions that make it impossible to take a dangerous man off the streets before he's able to commit another crime.

Dexter's methods of assuring someone's guilt may not be legal, but they're honest and true—so isn't this necessary evil ultimately a valuable service to the community? It's a moral grey area that's been part of the show for years, of course, but it was fun seeing an actual character on the show debate it. In having Debra hinder her brother so much that he was unable to go about his grisly business, Speltzer managed to kill a young girl (chasing her around a Saw-style maze in a Minotaur costume) and evade capture from the authorities. If Deb had let Dexter do his thing, none of this would have happened and Miami would be minus one scum-bag. So now it seems Deb is willing to let Dexter continue his unconventional activities; relaxing her personal surveillance and letting him move back home. She understands it now, but she doesn't like it... but my guess is she'll slowly come to rely on Dexter's hush-hush assistance in bringing various people to justice.

While Dexter and Debra's opposing viewpoints were once again the crux of the episode, I loved how "Buck the System" started to draw gangster Isaac Sirko (Ray Stevenson) into the core of the story. He even shared a scene with Dexter at a nightclub, although both are currently unaware of whom the other is. I especially liked the development that Isaac's cohort Viktor's body could be tracked via a bug implanted in a stripper's necklace he had on his person, allowing Isaac to effectively trace Dexter's movements when stalking, killing and disposing of Viktor's body.

Second of Strahotness: swab gob

You usually spent most of a season waiting for Dexter and the season's Big Bad to start locking horns, but Isaac already knows that a Miami Metro homicide employee called Dexter Morgan is the one responsible for killing his man—after they paid a visit to the marina, only to discover aggrieved Louis (Josh Cooke) sabotaging Dexter's boat and interrogating him for the information. This also wrapped up Louis' storyline on the series, with Isaac blithely shooting him through the head after he gave up Dexter's name. I can't say I'll be sad to see Louis go, but at least his storyline ended in a fitting triptych of misfortunes: losing his job when Dexter returned his stolen Ice Truck Killer arm to forensics; losing his girlfriend when Dexter anonymous mailed Jamie (Aimee Garcia) one of Louis' sex tapes to prove he's a cheater; and finally his life when he wandered into Isaac's view.

I'm still not hugely invested in Quinn's (Desmond Harrington) subplot this year, whose latest girlfriend is Nadia the stripper, but it's a certainly better than anything he was given in season 5 and 6. I do appreciate the twist that Nadia's loyal to Quinn and almost immediately tells him that she's been ordered to report back police business to her boss at the nightclub, however. This dual role makes her a more interesting third-tier character on the show.

We also had some foreshadowing of what's likely to be this year's big romance for Dexter, after he visited the home of Hannah McKay (Chuck's Yvonne Strahovski)—a woman implicated in the spree murders of the late Wayne Randall because she dated him as a teenager, who earned herself a soft sentence by incriminating her boyfriend for the crimes. Hannah's now a reformed character running a nursery, with a keen interested in botany, and it's clear from her brief interaction with Dexter (who arrived to take a mouth swab to eliminate her from a Randall murder enquiry) that they have instant chemistry. Does Hannah see the same darkness in Dexter that she saw in Wayne all those years ago? Will she become a partner-in-crime for Dexter, if Deb's perhaps going to take a back-seat. It also seems unlikely to me that Hannah's as sweet and innocence as she makes out, so I wouldn't be surprised if she's revealed to be just as deranged as her former boyfriend very soon. You cast someone as beautiful as Strahovski for two reasons in a show like Dexter: to act as a beacon of goodness he can cling to (like late wife Rita), or to subvert expectations and show someone far less angelic on the inside.

Overall, I really enjoyed "Buck the System" far more than I thought would be possible this early in the season. The fallout of Debra knowing her brother's a serial killer continues to add some spice to both character's scenes, I appreciate the sense of momentum with the story, there aren't any sub-plots that make you restless on your sofa (which is really saying something for Dexter), and it's so great to finish watching an episode with genuine excitement about next week's episode. Will Deb locate the runaway Speltzer and allow Dexter his next kill? How quickly will Isaak find Dexter and punish him for killing Viktor? And just what is the deal with Hannah: a pretty victim now trying to rebuild her life after falling in love with a killer as a naive teenager, or a dangerous psychopath who escaped justice by pinning crimes on her old boyfriend?

I think the subtext was clear in her greenhouse, when Hannah noted to Dexter that a particularly beautiful flower had very sharp leaves...


  • The beginning of the episode was full of fantasy sequences with Dexter imagining himself killing various people, including Masuka (C.S Lee). They were fun ways of portraying the desperation for violent release Dexter is craving, after going cold turkey under Deb's watchful eye for so long, but also quite silly. I actually liked the subtlety of a later scene, with Dexter confronting Debra about her mollycoddling in an alleyway. I vidcapped the scene in question above, with Dexter as a tiny figure sandwiched between giant concrete walls.
  • Yvonne Strahovski is best-known for appearing as super-agent Sarah Walker in five seasons of NBC's spy comedy Chuck. She's done dramatic work in the past, but this is arguably her biggest straight acting role, so it'll be interesting to see how she fares. Interestingly, there's something of a Chuck reunion on Dexter now because C.S Lee was a regular at the Buy More during the show's first season. Anyone remember Harry Tang? Just me?
14 October 2012 / Showtime