For the majority of its hour, "A Little Reflection" did little to shake season 8 out of the doldrums, but the last quarter-hour grew more interesting once Dexter (Michael C. Hall) decided he's going to become a "spiritual father" and murder mentor to rich psycho brat Zach Hamilton (Sam Underwood). And this means the writers can explore an idea the drama's eight-season run would never allow with Dexter's own flesh-and-blood Harrison, because they've never jumped years ahead in time between seasons. Harrison's only four years old, so it would be ridiculous if he started skinning neighbourhood cats and whatnot. But with eerie teenage Zach, it's a different matter entirely, and this episode did a predictable but enjoyable job of setting up Zach as Dexter 2.0: he's already undergoing therapy with sociopath-sympathiser Dr Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), who wants to teach him Harry's Code, and managed to talk his way off Dexter's kill-table by making Dex realise they're two peas from the same pod.
Dexter's rarely been subtle as a drama (the eponymous anti-hero's voice-over regularly states the obvious for the dunces watching), so a lot of Zach's storyline was rather blunt and obvious in its intentions and arc. The kid's fascinated by real-life crime scenes, takes "blood porn" photographs, has a weird fixation with the colour red going by his furnishings, and is already stalking his prey. As such, this plot didn't surprise me much, but it's a variation on an idea I've always wanted Dexter to tackle, so I'm interested to see where it's headed.
Will Zach be the model student with Vogel and Dexter as his new "guardians" and teachers, or will it become clear he can't be controlled in quite the same way? Thinking ahead, I wouldn't be surprised if Zach exposes Dexter's secret to the cops (probably using that toy dog stained with incriminating blood that Harrison's kept—which was awkwardly shoehorned into the story), and the show might even end with Zach as Miami's new vigilante—having killed his "master" Dexter, or at least orchestrated his downfall. In light of recent comments from Showtime's president about the network's desire for a Dexter spin-off, could Zach even be the torch-bearer of an unlikely franchise? I kind of hope not.
As usual, everything unrelated to Dexter's life was hard to care about. I feel sorry for the likes of David Zayas and Desmond Harrington having to do scenes together, as they must know viewers don't have any interest in whether or not Quinn gets a promotion. Comely neighbour Cassie (Bethany Joy Lenz) being a potential new girlfriend for Dexter was a little better, but only because I find the actress quite engaging and natural—and the scene where she went on a date with Dexter (who came across as a complete oddball because his life and interests are so empty) was a minor highlight here.
But fluff like Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) realising Elway (Sean Patrick Flannery) has feelings for her while on a sting operation together? I have no interest, unless it's going to feed into a better storyline further down the line. And that's the mild hope you have when all non-Dexter storylines are occurring, let's be honest.
I was going to give this episode a below-average rating, but there was enough fun material with creepy Zach to raise it to two-stars, and the ending could revive the season. Most fans have known Hannah McKay (lovely Yvonne Strahovski) would be making a return this final year, but I didn't expect her to make her grand entrance after poisoning Deb and Dex! As a link to the much better previous season (well, so far) her presence may breathe some life into the story; although she could only be around for a short arc (much like the Brain Surgeon storyline). Speaking of which, are we to assume Miami Metro just don't care about solving that case now? It won't make sense if they just forget about it, as only the audience knows it's been solved by Dexter... so does that suggest the case isn't closed?
Overall, "A Little Reflection" wasn't awful, but season 8's still struggling to recapture the goodwill I had for Dexter last year. I can only hope the set-up with Dr Vogel and Zach as new acolytes of Dexter, together with the return of conflicted ex-lover Hannah, will result in a more tangled and unpredictable last half of this final season.