Monday, September 27, 2010

Dexter -- Episode 5.01 -- "My Bad"

"Uh, Dexter, we really need to get you some grief counseling."

Of all the emotions Dexter Morgan has learned to fake over the years (love, lust, interest, humor), there is still one that has eluded him.


"My Bad," the first episode of season five opens with Dexter at a loss. For words. For thoughts. For connection. For everything. He's awash in a sea of investigators, friends, responsibilities, consequences, and death. He's as overwhelmed as his baby son, Harrison, who is screaming endlessly in Dexter's arms; unlike his son, though, Dexter doesn't know how to scream.

The rest of this episode is a meditation on grief as Dexter discovers that underneath the inhuman facade he wears when he looks in the mirror is actually a feeling human being.

This episode is Dexter at its best. We follow Dex as he tries to navigate this new territory of emotion. In seasons past he always had Rita to ground him and offer a relatable perspective. Now he's all alone -- even the ghost of Harry seems to have abandoned him. So, Dexter begins relying on his sister, Deb, to handle his mess. And handle it she does.

Deb is this episode's hero: she arranges Rita's funeral, cleans Dexter's house, and still manages to take care of Harrison as Dexter tries to figure out this thing called mourning. She has her own grief, too, and unleashes her pent-up frustration by fucking Quinn in Dexter's kitchen after he helps her clean up Rita's bloody remains. It's an odd, graphic scene that serves as a parallel for Dexter's own emotional explosion in the episode's climax. It finally becomes clear that while Dexter has murder in his heart, Deb has lust. In season four, both seemed to find some sort of balance only to have the object of that balance stripped from them.

As Deb cleans up Dexter's mess, he begins to make things worse by contemplating abandoning his life completely. After telling Astor and Cody about their mom's death, Astor screams that she wishes it had been him instead of her mom. She seems to represent Dexter's internal monologue, laying the blame for Rita's death on his shoulders. So, Dexter decides to leave everything behind, torches his cannister-office, deletes all of his files, and plans to leave Harrison and the kids to Deb.

It seems like the reasonable thing to do. Everyone, no doubt, he reasons, will blame him for Rita's death. He did claim, "It was me," to a group of cops after calling 911. And his 911 call, we discover, was clinical in its description of the murder scene. Meanwhile, Quinn is learning about how Rita and Elliott, the neighbor, shared a kiss at Thanksgiving the year prior, and how it led to Dexter knocking the snot out of Elliott when he found out. Ditching his interview with the FBI can't make things any better.

Yet, even as he runs away, Dexter is forced to face reality: he might be a monster, but he's not a bad guy. Some well-written flashbacks of his first date with Rita reveal how far Dexter has come as a human being. While on his boat, sailing away, he remembers how Rita calls him after their first date is cut short and spills all of her secrets to him: she has kids and a bad relationship with her ex-husband. Dexter soothes her fears by telling her he already knew all of this before they even met, and that he liked her anyway. For a man who claims to be inhuman it was a beautiful moment of empathy, and it became really clear why Rita fell in love with him.

All that guilt, though, needed an outlet, and Dexter found his outlet in a gas station off the coast of the Florida Keys in the form of an asshole who needed to take a piss. Dexter didn't use his code this time as he trapped the guy in the bathroom and unleashed his anger with a rusty anchor hook.* The violence was dark and disturbing, even for Dexter. While the guy was a douche, he wasn't necessarily a killer -- Dex's crime was a crime of passion this time, messy and depraved. As his ghost-father tells him upon his return, "That's the most human thing I've seen you do since she died."

* Is this moment going to come back to haunt Dexter? There were no witnesses, but his fingerprints and DNA are all over that bathroom. In addition, was it possible for him to thoroughly clean the place and still show up for the funeral? Or was he late to the funeral because he was cleaning up the mess he'd made? Ahhh, questions...

This leads Dexter to unleash a howl of grief and despair unlike anything we've seen from him. It sounded as if a trapped animal was trying to escape from him. Michael C. Hall was amazing in this moment as he allowed Dexter to release his emotions. This gives him the catharsis he needs to pull himself together and return to his life to pick up the pieces.

Some intriguing storylines were introduced here to build on this season:

Astor's relationship with Dexter. Can he reach out to her and find a common ground, or will she continue to haunt him with her angry barbs. Also, where does Cody fit in to all of this. He's always loved Dex, but will that change without his mom there?

Deb's sexual escapade with Quinn. How will this play out? Deb wanted to sweep it under the rug, but it's obvious Quinn has been into her since season 3.

The investigation of Dexter in Rita's murder case. Dexter not only ditched his interview with the FBI, but Quinn has his reservations, too. In addition, Dexter left a big problem on the table by revealing himself to Trinity's family as "Kyle Butler." As if this weren't enough, Dexter did say, "It was me" when the police arrived at the crime scene, and he was extremely late to Rita's funeral. He has dug himself a huge hole to get out of already, and it's only the first episode.

"My Bad" is a great start to season 5. At least we don't have to wait 9 months for the next episode this time...

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