Tuesday, 13 August 2013

DEXTER, 8.7 – 'Dress Code'

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

written by Arika Lisanne Mittman | directed by Alik Sakharov

The reintroduction of pretty poisoner Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski) certainly perked things up, but only slightly. I'm still unsure this final season has anything up its sleeve to astonish me, but there are now four people in existence who know Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) secret: ex-girlfriend Hannah, sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), confidant Dr Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) and teenage protégé Zach (Sam Underwood). (Okay, five if you include Lumen from season 5, but I'm guessing Julia Stiles isn't going to be making a surprise comeback.) This means there are quite a few potential leaks for Dexter's serial killing to be exposed to the wider world, although only Zach perhaps stands a chance of framing Dexter and getting away with it. Or is that beyond someone like him, even with his family's fortune to help? Vogel could hardly vouch for Dexter's innocence and hypocritically oppose Zach's side of the story...

But that's all in this season's theoretical near-future, which is perhaps a sign of how little I care about what the show's doing in the here-and-now. The return of Hannah resulted in an entertaining standalone story, although you had to swallow some dumb back-story about fugitive Hannah marrying a rich businessman called Miles (Julian Sands) and returning to Miami so she could ask Dexter to kill him for her, as it would otherwise look too suspicious in light of her gold-digging reputation in the eyes of her new husband's family. Moneybags Miles wasn't the salvation Hannah was looking for, of course, as it became clear he's a selfish control freak who'd rather keep Hannah locked up aboard his luxury yacht as they travel from port to port.

It was all a bit stupid, really, and not helped by the fact I watched this episode shortly after Breaking Bad's mid-season 5 premiere. The two shows aren't in the same league, and viewing them as a 'double-bill' magnified just how shoddy some of Dexter's writing is. Its failures aren't exclusively down to weak sub-plots and boring supporting characters, which is the usual stick used to beat its back, let's be honest. I'm just glad notoriously awful actor Julian Sands wasn't allowed to stink up too much of this already pungent season, and was dispatched within the hour.

Having a link to a previous season in Hannah is something the show hasn't done much of before, as it's usually happy to punch a reset button nearly every season—with only the fallout over Rita's murder and Deb discovering her brother's secret directly informing an ensuing season. There have been occasions when a season half-heartedly returns to an old storyline, but that usually comes across as a way to fill time and chase former glories (remember Brian Moser returning halfway through the show's atrocious sixth season?) Hannah's return feels quite significant for that reason, even if I'm not convinced the character has much more to offer the show... unless they go to great lengths to have Dexter decide to rekindle their romance, accepting the risk to his sister's safety. But that doesn't seem very likely, given how Hannah's a wanted criminal and there can't possibly be a happy ending here.

"Dress Code" also continued the idea of Zach being a vigilante-in-the-making, keen to be taught Harry's Code by mentor Dexter, but currently only being exploited because of his rich father's contacts. I think this storyline has some potential, especially now Zach has indulged his killing urge by bludgeoning sweet neighbour Carrie (Bethany Joy Lenz) to death after being ignored by Dexter for too long. It'll be interesting to see if Dex views Carrie's murder as his fault, ultimately, or evidence that Zach would be better off on his kill-table after all. Either way, I'm a little disappointed Carrie's out of the picture already, because she was a charming screen presence, but with Hannah back in town as Dexter's main squeeze I perhaps shouldn't be surprised she was written out.

Vogel herself got pushed significantly into the background in this hour, and the Brain Surgeon storyline really does seem to have just ended with that unsatisfying resolution weeks ago. None of the detectives even mention they still have an active serial killer on their 'must-catch' list, which is frankly bizarre. Would the same thing have happened back in the earlier seasons, if the search for the Trinity Killer went cold for awhile? I strongly doubt it. Dexter had a much better grasp of its plots back then, and didn't juggle so many things so poorly. (Update: a follower on Twitter reminded me that the cops believe the Brain Surgeon committed suicide at his lakeside cabin, which is something I'd completely forgotten about, so apologies for that error. But clearly I can't be the only one confused, because lots of people have been agreeing with me!)

Overall, "Dress Code" was the best episode of this season for awhile, mainly because Hannah's return immediately created much-needed tension with Dexter and Debra over how to deal with her. She could single-handedly bring Dexter down, if she's willing to fall on her own sword too. The issue with Zach might also lead somewhere more interesting soon, but there's still no feeling this is the last ever season of Dexter. I'd have expected things to be much more engrossing at this halfway point, with only six episodes left. This is the time when the writers should be willing to really ratchet things up, but there's very little threat to season 8. Vogel, Hannah and Zach are relatively small issues Dexter seems to have under control, and his relationship with Deb is almost back to pre-season 7 normality. I hope the drama escalates quickly now, because that's what's needed. Oh, and Masuka (C.S Lee) saw his daughter's breasts at a topless bar, and little Harrison likes BBC kid's favourite Rastamouse.

11 August 2012 | Showtime