written by Lauren Gussis | directed by Ernest Dickerson
The weakest episode of season 8's opening trio, although it's obviously early days and you can sense the writers trying to find their groove now Evelyn Vogel's (Charlotte Rampling) secret was revealed far earlier than you'd usually expect. I think what dragged this episode down for me is the focus on Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) being a big liability for Dexter (Michael C. Hall); getting arrested for DUI and eventually confessing to Quinn (Desmond Harrington) that she killed her boss. Carpenter's doing a brilliant job playing Deb as a rudderless mess, but I find her character a little irritating in this mood. The show could hardly ignore the emotional toll on Deb after shooting LaGuerta dead, but I'm already hoping she finds a way to move past it, because it's beginning to feel like a millstone around the season's neck.
Much of this episode didn't work for me, but the aforementioned moment when Deb turned up at Miami Metro and spilled the beans to Quinn perked things up unexpectedly. It was just a shame the potential for the writers to shock us by letting Quinn in on Dexter's secret was swerved, after he refused to take Deb's admission at face value and immediately rang her brother for assistance--who duly arrived with his trusted hypodermic needle. I know this was ultimately the wiser direction to take, because Dexter couldn't sustain itself if its lead was unmasked this early (if that's indeed the end game), but a part of me would have cheered the sheer bravery of Deb's confession working. As it stands, it looks like Vogel's going to talk Debra into accepting her brother for who he is, and ease the pain of having to sacrifice her principles to protect her sibling. This could result in a terrific character-based episode next week between Rampling and Carpenter, which I'm keen to watch.
I voiced my suspicions about Vogel last week (predicting she may be manipulating Dexter for her own gain), but most of her behaviour felt rational in this hour. It seems like she's genuinely fascinated by Dexter as a psychopath who cares, even if she believes a lot of his feelings are of selfish origin. I still think her introduction's been the best thing about this season, as she lessens the need for Dexter to have chit-chats with the imaginary Harry. As the embodiment of Harry's Code (it's revealed she insisted on the 'Don't Get Caught' rule, to allow for wriggle room in the 'Only Kill Bad People' principle), Vogel's a very intriguing person to have around... as someone with first-hand knowledge of Dexter the killer, but whose assumptions about him are now outdated. I still have a few suspicions about Dr Vogel, but for the most part "What's Eating Dexter Morgan?" laid them to rest. For now. Although her bewilderment that Dexter didn't simply kill Debra once she found out his secret was perhaps a clue to how warped her own viewpoint is. Damn, now I'm suspicious again.
The rest of this episode was on autopilot to an extent. We're so used to seeing Dexter stalk those he suspects of being killers that it's less of a thrill now, although I enjoyed how Dexter stumbled upon a body-building cannibal during his investigation and voiced his repulsion for that brand of psycho. (If a clever edit of Dexter talking to Mads Mikkelsen's Dr Lecter hasn't been created by this time next week, there's no hope for geekdom.) And there were quite a few dumb moments this week, too: from that awful opening of forensics expert Dexter Morgan mistaking his son's red popsicle juice for human blood, to Dexter apparently having an episode of Dexter on his iPhone. Or how about the general worthlessness of Angel (David Zayas) trying to get idiot Quinn a promotion? My God. Or the drama vacuum whenever Deb's hanging around with her new boss, Elway (Sean Patrick Flannery)? The only way that might perk up is if Elway was revealed to be the Brain Surgeon, but is that a coincidence too far? Is Deb that unlucky with the men she meets?
Overall, season 8's ticking along quite well, but it's less compelling than season 7 at this exact stage. Vogel's the only thing that has my rapt attention, which may be a problem if that holds true over the next three episodes. I hope the Brain Surgeon story gets more exciting soon, because it feels like just another variation on the Ice Truck Killer at the moment. Maybe things will become more interesting now the Surgeon's aware Vogel has taken Dexter into her confidence, or once we understand exactly why the Big Bad's doing what he or she is doing...
It's too early to proclaim this season a hit or miss, of course, but "What's Eating Dexter Morgan?" certainly felt like a lull.