Tuesday, 9 October 2012

DEXTER, 7.2 - 'Sunshine and Frosty Swirl'

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

written by Manny Coto / directed by Steve Shill

It's inevitable that after so many years spent teasing something enormous, it doesn't quite live up to inflated expectations once it happens. Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) now knows her dependable brother Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) actually a serial killer—trained and modulated by her late father (James Remar), no less—and "Sunshine and Frosty Swirl" spent the majority of its hour letting the siblings work through this unthinkable situation. That's a huge undertaking for any writer, and Manny Coto's script did its best to give fans the catharsis they've been craving for six seasons. As perhaps should have been expected, it didn't reach a maelstrom of emotional thrills (Deb puked, cried, asked questions, swore, then started a support group), but I guess it was impossible for Deb to react with unyielding credibility without the show being over in a heartbeat. So I'll forgive this episode its moments when Deb wasn't behaving like a normal human being, because Dexter's always been a heightened slice of pulp fiction at heart.

Whatever your deep-rooted feelings about how the episode handled Dex's game-changing reveal to his sister (which was still pretty good), it was never anything less than engrossing to watch Hall and Carpenter perform together. Beyond having Dexter get caught and put on Death Row, this is the next biggest thing the series can possibly do regarding its concept of a forensics expert killing criminals in his spare time, so there was much to enjoy. I appreciated how forthright the episode was, and it didn't hold back in Dex revealing everything: him witnessing his mother's gruesome death by chain saw, their father's role in channelling the urges of his "Dark Passenger", and his adult activities in butchering the evil people who slip from the law's grasp. I'm not sure what I make of Debra opting to rehabilitate her brother by applying drug support techniques on a serial killer, but I guess that's the best of limited options. It's at least fitting considering the show's dark humour, with Deb playing babysitter and refusing to let Dex out of her sight It's also very possible this idea can slip into farce, if Dex eventually starts spiking more of Deb's food with tranquilliser fluid so he can slip away for a quick slaying, but for now I'm okay with it.

While the issues between Deb and Dex were justifiably kept at the forefront of this episode, "Sunshine and Frosty Swirl" managed to include a number of other concerns that broadened its appeal. I particularly enjoyed Dexter realising Louis (Josh Cooke) was the one who sent him the Ice Truck Killer trophy arm and cancelled his bank accounts, and the steps he took to try and scare this office nuisance into submission. Throttling Louis in his apartment didn't work, so I have to wonder if being tranquillise and left on a seaside bench will make him get the message. I'm guessing not, because Louis is a petulant child at heart; but seeing as Louis doesn't adhere to Harry's Code (i.e. he isn't a felon deserving of execution) or Debra's Code (i.e. don't bloody kill people), I have to wonder what Dexter has planned if Louis refuses to stop yanking his chain. Considering Dex's overreactions from Louis' perspective (home invasion, threats, physical abuse, drugging), it's probably just going to made him even more suspicious that Dexter has something to hide...

The current "problem" with the season (although it's admittedly unavoidable) is how dry everything outside of Dexter and Debra's dialogues seem. The storyline of Ukrainian mobster Isaak (Ray Stevenson) flying into the US to personally investigate the disappearance of his stripper-killing associate Victor (the gangster Dex killed at the airport last week) has yet to grab my full attention—although the scene where Isaak killed someone by sticking a screwdriver through their eyeball made it clear how dangerous and skilled this guy is. Looking back, there haven't been too many villains who are both dangerous and physically impressive. John Lithgow's creepy Trinity Killer was an expert killer, but he was also in the twilight of his years and probably had rheumatism. Only the Ice Truck Killer and Sgt Doakes stand out as people who offered a serious emotional and physical challenge for Dexter. In seeing Isaak make his first kill this season, and knowing he's the head of a large international crime syndicate, that will certainly pose a major problem when Dex inevitably has to catch and kill him.

What worked rather nicely this week was the sub-plot of convicted murderer Wayne Randall (Steve Dark) apparently having a crisis of conscience and helping the cops dig for some of his buried victims on a stretch of road. It didn't seem to offer much to begin with, beyond opportunities to echo Dex's concerns about being honest in order to make amends, but its resolution was just brilliant—with Randall walking in front of an oncoming truck after admitting this attempt at restitution was just a sham designed to get him time in the Miami sun eating Frosty Swirls, and that his lover/accomplice Hannah was right to despise him. At that moment the profound connection to Dexter's situation came into sharper relief; that once a loved-one knows you're a killer, that's all they can ever see, and the only escape from their disillusionment is to end your own life.

Overall, there were some things I preferred about the premiere over this episode, but it was ultimately on par with last week's episode. I'm so glad the writers are tackling the reveal of Dexter's secret head-on with no backtracking, while carefully planting seeds about what the rest of the season might bring regarding Isaak and Louis. And that's not to mention the fact LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) has a storyline that isn't a good time for a toiler break, as she's close to acquitting Doakes and reopening the Bay Harbor Butcher case—because the blood slide from the recent church crime scene matches the ones in the BHB evidence locker. Exciting times ahead, it seems...

Asides

  • Randall's girlfriend Hannah was mentioned here (a probable accomplice who cut a deal to go free), and it's already known she'll appear on the show as Dexter's love-interest, played by the stunning Yvonne Strahovski from Chuck.
  • That scene of Dexter discovering Louis has a "Rants" folder on his desktop, containing videos of him talking about geeky memorabilia (in-between the occasional blowjob and bile directed Dexter's way) was... well, appalling. I wish Louis was a better character than he is, because there's potential in someone accidentally stumbling onto Dex's secret thanks to a foolish hatred, but he's unfortunately one of the least convincing characters.
7 October 2012 / Showtime