Monday, November 2, 2009

Dexter -- Episode 4.6 -- "If I Had a Hammer"

Marriage is hard work. As a divorcee, I know. I wish I had gone to counseling sooner. By the time my ex and I went, our marriage was too far gone. Oh well, you live and learn, right?

In the recent episode of Dexter, "If I Had a Hammer," our pal Dexter is beginning to get a real sense of what it means to be in a marriage. His ideas of what it's all about are extremely flawed. He sees Rita more as a roomate. While he cares about her and the children, he sees his role as being there for her, but not necessarily being "there." Now that she has discovered his secret about keeping his apartment, she has forced him to face the realities of marriage: honesty counts, it's a partnership, feelings have to be expressed, yadda yadda yadda.

Despite Dex's attempts at making amends and righting the situation at home, he is preoccupied with learning more about the Trinity, a.k.a Arthur Mitchell. How is Arthur able to be a coldblooded killer, yet also maintain a life as a doting husband and loving father. Arthur, Dex discovers, has an enriched life. He's a father, husband, teacher, deacon, and community service worker. He's an upstanding member of the community with no strikes on his record. How does he do it? How is he able to keep his own dark passenger at bay and be the ideal domestic animal?

Knowing he should kill the man, Dexter decides instead to learn from him. He gets involved in the church and begins working with Mitchell on a Habitat-For-Humanity-esque community service project, which has taken Mitchell all over the country building homes for the less fortunate. Of course, we discover, this provides him with the perfect cover for his nationwide murder spree.

So, what does it take to be a good husband? This is the core question at the heart of an exceptionally subtle and well-written episode. According to Mitchell, it's jumping in with both feet. The man seems to hide nothing. He keeps his trophies (plaques for each of his cross-country building jaunts) on the wall in his study. In his garage, he has the murder weapon hanging on a hook. The ashes of his dead sister, which we learn he leaves at his crime scenes, are in an urn placed like a shrine on a credenza in his study. Yet, allowing all of this to be exposed, Trinity has become an expert at hiding. He gives the appearance of total honesty. Dexter has a lot to learn from the master. Seeing this gives him the ability to confess to Rita that he kept the apartment because he needs space. He tells as much truth as is necessary, so together they build an outdoor office for Dexter, which Rita even provides a lock and key for.

In a marriage, honesty gets you everywhere. To a point.

There were other subplots in this episode, most notably Debra's realization that the Vacation Murderers were not responsible for Lundy's death. She is honing in closer on discovering the truth about Trinity. She also gets an interesting voicemail from one of her father's ex-confidential informants. My guess is by the end of the season she will learn the truth about her brother. I've believed this for awhile, and nothing so far has changed my mind.

We also learn more about the relationship between LaGuerta and Angel. Their decision to be honest with Captain Matthews led to a decision to remove Angel from homicide. LaGuerta tries to right the ship, but all of her efforts create more consequences. She realizes that Angel was right, and they should have kept their relationship a secret. So, they sign affadavits that the relationship is over, and go back to their original clandestine romance. This can only end badly. Secrets are always exposed. The only question is: how will this fit in with the larger plot? I speculate that the department will get close to discovering Trinity before Dexter is able to kill him, but Angel's love for LaGuerta will fuck the whole thing up.

And lastly, the story with Quinn is headed for a breaking point between him and Dexter. The man, rebuffed multiple times by Dexter, seems to have it out for him. Will Quinn be the new Doakes? Will he learn Dex's secret?

Season four is shaping up into perhaps the best season yet of this incredible series.

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