Tuesday, 20 November 2012

DEXTER, 7.8 – 'Argentina'

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

written by Arika Lisanne Mittman / directed by Romeo Tirone

A quieter character-based episode, perhaps the calm before the storm as season 7 begins a sprint to the finish (Dexter tends to have a final four episodes that go like a locomotive). I wasn't enamoured with the storyline this episode, which only just crept along for the most part, but there were a handful of excellent scenes that are solely responsible for an extra half-star rating. It was fantastic to see Dexter (Michael C. Hall) confide in Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) about his current problems, almost making feel like the idealised version of late wife Rita; the best scene was a later one where Dexter tried to make Isaak (Ray Stevenson) give up his vendetta, which proved my earlier theory that Isaak's gay and Vincent was his lover; and a decent moment where Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) found out that Dex has fallen in love with Hannah, the serial killer she wants dead by his hand, which managed to lead into her admitting she fancies him, too. The latter is perhaps the most problematic area for the show, seeing as it embraces an errant plot-strand from season 6 I wish had been left alone...

Season 6 was a bad year for Dexter, and one of the strangest creative decisions was having Deb admit to herself that she loves her own brother. The writers had a great way to sweep that under the carpet once Deb saw that Dexter wasn't the man she believe he was, so it's a little odd for them to bring it up again. Unless you're among those who think it's a logical and interesting move, because in some ways it does explain Deb's attitude to Dexter and her subconscious tendency to befriend serial killers. I'm not totally against the show tackling this area, but it definitely needs some skilled writing for it to work well. This season's been a massive improvement on the last, so we'll have to see how it pans out. It undoubtedly means another seismic shift in the Morgan's relationship, which could be interesting, but I guess I just find the idea of Deb swooning over Dex a little too awkward and bizarre. The fact this major reveal was crow-barred into a scene that would have been better if it had kept a focus on Deb hating Dex for allowing his feelings to get in the way of his "code" is perhaps what stung the most.

Many people have had issued with Hannah McKay's character this year, and I have my doubts in places, but "Argentina" seemed to flesh things out better. It was easier to see what Dexter sees in her, and what she offers him that Rita, Lila and Lumen didn't as love-interests. As the epilogue rather bluntly made clear, she represents a special place where he can be everything he wants to be without any fear, recriminations, or misunderstandings. The faraway land even Isaak (as a gay man in a dangerous business) has spent much of his adult life craving as another type of outsider.

This episode also saw the return of Dexter's children—Astor, Cody (new actor?) and Harrison—who were unceremoniously pushed to their grandparents when the show just couldn't cope with their presences. I'm surprise they're back to early, but can only assume this is because they have a bigger role to play in the rest of the season. I still have a funny suspicion that Hannah hates children, even if she seems very open to the idea of accepting Dexter's ready-made family—but we'll have to see if this is the direction they take with her. It wouldn't be the first time Dex's kids have been jeopardised by a crazy person in the buildup to the finale, either. I doubt anyone will come to harm though. And at least now Cody's being given more of a character (she smokes pot), Cody is becoming a Dexter lookalike (will they utilize him more one day?), and baby Harrison's growing up fast.

It's still hard to predict where season 7's going, which is by far the most exciting thing. Isaak will most likely be killed by Dexter or by members of the Koshka Brotherhood (who now believe he's more trouble than he's worth), but is there a chance Isaak will reach an understanding and Dex will help him find his own "Argentina"? Or did the wonderful bar scene in this episode exist to wash its hands of that possibility? It's also tough to predict what will become of Hannah. Will Debra cross into her brother's territory and kill her? Finally, LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez) is now firmly on the tail of Dexter as the Bay Harbor Butcher prime suspect—here discovering his boat moved harbors around the time Doakes "killed himself", and perhaps noting the double meaning of its "Slice of Life" name (see left).

Overall, I liked "Argentina" well enough, but only for its handful of very strong scenes. I particularly enjoyed the moment when Isaak reported the murder of an assassin to the cops, and spent the scene in the company of Dexter in "normal mode", aware he was responsible for the professional hit ("You couldn't have described it better if you'd been there yourself!") However, this episode mainly offered some adjustments, before what's likely to be a more gripping month as the season concludes. I just hope Dexter's reaction to the news his sister has a crush on him is handled well, now it's something the writers can't put aside and hope we forget about. It's their fault, we almost did!

What do you think about Dexter right now? Has season 7 gone off the boil after a brilliant start spent on exploring Deb's reaction to her brother's activities, or is this just mid-season growing pains? Do you think the writers have made mistakes this year with Hannah and Dexter as a couple, or are you warming to the idea of them as dark lovers? Could it even be possible Hannah will still be around next season, if the writers want to explore giving Dexter a girlfriend who can live alongside his Dark Passenger?

18 November 2012 / Showtime