Tuesday, 17 September 2013

DEXTER, 8.11 – 'Monkey in a Box'

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

written by Tim Schlattmann & Wendy West | directed by Ernest Dickerson

As penultimate episodes go, "Money in a Box" wasn't awful. As penultimate episodes of a series-ending season go, "Monkey in a Box" was an underwhelming hour. I just expected so much more for Dexter in its final season. While it's almost inevitable eight years of expectations are hard to satisfy, the writers have taken things in a direction that lacks impact. I find it hard to care that Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is planning to leave the country with Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski), because what we really want is him forced to deal with everyone knowing he's a serial killer. Maybe that will happen next week, but this episode also played the "all you need is love card"--where it seems the antidote to Dex's homicidal urges was love. Awww. A sentiment so naive and one-dimensional it wouldn't have been used pre-season 4, but a lot's changed since those days.

Dexter has been getting progressively sillier and less complex (certainly after Clyde Phillips departed as showrunner), so now we're at the point where a man who has spent his entire life killing criminals can't go through with the act one last time, because it doesn't float his boat any more. I don't buy it, but the writers have chosen to end their show by demonstrating that Dexter's become a "normal boy". He's even outgrown Harry (James Remar) and won't be requiring his role as Jiminy Cricket-meets-Basil Exposition, although I'm guessing the voice-overs will remain.

It's hard to summon the enthusiasm to go through the episode's events, however vaguely; not least because it was a mishmash of things we've seen the show do many times before. Dexter and Oliver Saxon (Darri Ingolfsson) were playing cat-and-mouse with each other, with Oliver popping up at Dexter's workplace and home to unsettle him, while Dexter broke into Oliver's kill room to find video evidence of his crimes and anonymously pass it to police. Four seasons ago, this would all have been edge-of-your seat stuff. I had goosebumps when John Lithgow simply walked into Miami Metro near the end of season 4. But nowadays? It's just routine.

The only genuinely interesting moment was during the climax, with Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) getting shot in the abdomen by Oliver after the meddlesome US Marshall got the wrong end of the stick and freed him. So now Dexter's about to hop on a plane to Argentina, unaware his sister's bleeding to death because he didn't go through with his kill because love hearts started to swirl around his head. Will Deb die? I doubt it, because she wasn't shot square in the chest--the tell-tale sign that a fictional character's going to pull through from a gunshot wound. So that leaves next week's finale for Dexter to kill Oliver once and for all, before Hannah is caught by Elway (Sean Patrick Flannery) at the airport.

It's hard to imagine next week's series finale having the time to make Dexter's workmates aware he's the Bay Harbor Butcher, or that Deb's been complicit in his most recent murders. Maybe Oliver will actually manage to kill Dexter and move into his seaside apartment? Or maybe Dexter will simply accomplish his goals by the narrowest of margins, and the final season will end without the expected feeling of catharsis. A finale that ends season 8 well enough, but doesn't end the series with much of a fanfare. I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong. I don't expect to be surprised by next week's last episode, "Remember the Monsters", but I want to feel satisfied. I need a big ending that puts a lid on Dexter, with him either dead, unmasked, or both. But if I'm honest, I'm just perplexed the writers have chosen to wait until the last hour like this.

Can a single hour bring a seven-year-old show to an end in a way that doesn't feel rushed?

  • I can't take Oliver Saxon seriously as a villain if he's dumb enough to sneak into Dexter's house the night he released incriminating evidence on him to the cops, approaching his bed with a knife and intending to stab him in his sleep. Did he really expect that to work? You're dealing with a seasoned fellow serial killer, Oliver! Good God.
  • Someone should test Harrison's blood, because he appears to have regenerative super-powers! Where did his chin stitches go from last week?
  • That final scene with Oliver shooting Deb was really badly put together; sorry Ernest Dickerson.
  • It was a little odd they brought back Sylvia Prado (Valerie Cruz), widow of Miguel Prado from season 3. A nod to the show's past, but to be honest it took me awhile to even remember who she was!
Showtime | 15 September 2013