written by Scott Reynolds | directed by Romeo Tirone
This was a bad episode, let's not claim otherwise. It would have shaken my optimism about Dexter ending strong after season 7's impressive comeback, too, were it not for the fact it ended with Dexter (Michael C. Hall) establishing a twisted family dynamic with sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) and their pseudo-mother/therapist Dr Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling). It feels like season 8's first stage is completed here, which comes as a relief because these five episodes have been very inconsistent, but hopefully the remaining hours will stop disappointing me as readily.
After last week's shocking climax with Debra attempting to kill both herself and Dexter in a car accident, it was unusual to see events pick up with the Morgan siblings in a darkly comic therapy session with Vogel as arbitrator. And while that scene provided some fun dialogue and behaviour (with Dex and Deb being bitter to each other in front of a mother figure), "This Little Piggy" didn't do a particularly good job with the repairs necessary to get Deb back in her brother's corner.
Deb's change of mind ultimately boiled down to her suddenly giving a damn about Vogel; deciding to help Dexter rescue her from 'Brain Surgeon' A.J Yates (Aaron McCusker) after she was kidnapped, then realising having a vigilante brother who lances psychos through bed mattresses is kind of cool and a bonding experience. "The family that kills together..." Deb later dead-panned; a line that sums up how silly this episode was. Dexter isn't a very realistic drama, as it's pulp nonsense at heart, but last year the writing was far stronger when it came to giving Debra believably reactions after discovering her brother's murderous ways.
I'm glad a psychological breakthrough occurred between the Morgan's (Deb seems to now accept Dex's place in her life and humanity at large, despite his obvious faults; Dex realises he desires a family around him more than ever because of its support structure), but the manner in which Debra's epiphany came was faintly ridiculous and little more than a dumb short-cut.
However, this week's problematic Dex/Deb/Vogel storyline actually formed the best part of an underwhelming episode. The rest was almost entirely spent giving too much screen time to all the sub-plots I don't like or care about: from the dramatic cul-de-sac of Quinn (Desmond Harrington) going for promotion and realising he's in competition with a female colleague who's barely registered on the show; to Masuka (C.S Lee) suspecting his long lost daughter's a gold-digger; and finally to babysitter Jamie (Aimee Garcia) acting as Dexter's matchmaker with sexy next-door neighbour Cassie (Bethany Joy Lenz). The show infamously struggles with its storylines for ancillary characters, but to throw so many of those plots together into the one episode was so punishing it really sank the episode.
Still, I'm not convinced the Brain Surgeon storyline is solved, because there are too many holes in accepting Yates was the killer. Why didn't he kidnap Vogel from the beginning instead of waste time sending her fragments of victim's brains? Why wasn't there any mention of the Brain Surgeon having a foot fetish before now? Or mummy issues? I guess it's possible Vogel is playing a game with Dexter, but I'm not sufficiently interested to actually start theorising on what that might be. And if this episode genuinely does mark the conclusion of the Brain Surgeon storyline after a mere five episodes, that must rank as one of the worst storylines in Dexter's history—on par with the search for season 's loony who pruned palm trees for a day job.
Overall, season 8 is so up and down I'm getting nauseas. After this episode, I'm mildly hopeful we can move onto something more exciting now Dexter and Debra have buried the hatchet and accepted Vogel into their lives as a "surrogate mother", of sorts, but we really shouldn't be almost halfway into Dexter's final season and anything less than engrossed. For many people, endings are what solidifies a show's legacy. If Dexter ends well, we can overlook its dud seasons and be happy it started strongly and ended on a high despite the odds... but if it limps over the finish-line, I'm not even sure the thematic journey of Dexter was consistent enough to overcome a final misstep. Season 8 simply must get better and more exciting in a hurry, and I guess I'm nervous because it's unlikely kooky Vogel and fishily amiable Elway (Sean Patrick Flanery) aren't going to be major players in whatever The End is.