Tuesday, 27 August 2013

DEXTER, 8.9 – 'Make Your Own Kind of Music'


written by Karen Campbell | directed by John Dahl

It isn't helping matters that Dexter's final run of episodes air the same night as Breaking Bad's own, because these shows couldn't feel more different in terms of how well the writers are bringing their stories to a close. Dexter's final season has failed to feel climactic in any particular regard, as you could imagine the show continuing for another season or two—even with occasional mentions that Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is serious about leaving Miami with Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Harrison (Jadon Wells) as a happy ending nobody expects to come true. The stakes of the show are largely the same every season (somebody discovers Dexter's secret; someone's plotting to kill him), so season 8's just going through the motions with a few changes to that formula.

"Make Your Own Kind of Music" at least gave us definitive answers about the Brain Surgeon and Dr Vogel (Charlotte Rampling). It turns out the Surgeon is hunky Oliver Saxon (Darri Ingolfsson), the murdered Cassie's boyfriend and prime suspect everyone dismissed because it felt too obvious. The twist is that Oliver's an alias and is actually Daniel Vogel; the eldest son of Evelyn, who killed his brother Richard when they were kids, before being committed to an asylum and dying in a fire (or, more correctly, faking his own fiery demise and growing up to become a serial killer).

A part of me likes this development because it means the show's avoided unmasking Vogel as the killer (which everyone had considered being the case weeks ago), but it also means the show is just playing its Ice Truck Killer trick from season 1—only now it's Vogel who's discovered a dead relative's still alive, has become a serial killer with a vendetta, and is sending trophies. It's also annoying when a twist relies on the writers keeping information from us, because the moment Vogel offloaded back-story about her two dead sons it felt lazy instead of a thrill. Couldn't the writers have foreshadowed Daniel's existence weeks ago? Or was that avoided because the writers assumed, probably correctly, that viewers would immediately assume her long-lost son's the killer?

Still, one thing Dexter's been missing since season 4 is a villain who presents a challenge to a proficient stalker/killer like Dexter, and I have a modicum of hope Daniel Vogel may represent that. He's clearly an intelligent man (managing to outmanoeuvre Dexter's tail), would appear to have similar physical strengths, and the fact he's the biological son of a woman Dexter was beginning to consider his "spiritual mother" presents an emotional dilemma. If Dexter kills Daniel, he effectively kills his relationship with Vogel in the process; because she thinks Daniel can be reasoned with and doesn't deserve to be dismembered in plastic bags. I just wish this source of friction between Dexter and Vogel wasn't something the shows's done only very recently, when Vogel wanted Dexter to likewise spare Zach Hamilton because he showed promise as a serial killer operating with a moral code.

Elsewhere, Hannah spent this episode trying to rebuild bridges with Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) because they've been forced together as housemates while Dex finds a way to smuggle her out of Miami, and the two women in Dexter's life appear to be letting bygones be bygones. (The story just needs that to happen, really.) And Elway (Sean Patrick Flannery) has put a Federal Marshal on the trail of Hannah, while his feelings for Debra get more hostile every second.

"Make Your Own Kind of Music" was a good episode that kept me entertained, but I'm surprised the writers are leading us down such a conventional narrative this close to the end of the whole series. Season 8 could have blown the lid off everything and made events feel very dangerous (now there's no requirement to maintain a status quo for next season, why not let rip?), but they've instead chosen to do a story that's just everyday Dexter—same stakes, similar twists, and a distinct lack of anything that feels like uncharted territory. I almost wouldn't be surprised if Dexter ends with nobody at Miami Metro realising Dexter Morgan was a serial killer and that Deb was in cahoots for awhile, because there's barely any time to make those reactions count for anything.

25 August 2013 | Showtime
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