Monday, October 18, 2010

Dexter -- Episode 5.04 -- "Beauty and the Beast"

"I'm so glad I didn't have to slit my wrists this week..."

"There were others. It's not over."

And with that simple two sentence statement, Dexter seems to have found its footing in season 5. After three episodes of grinding exposition, frustrating soap opera, and LaGuerta/Batista nonsense, episode four has revved up this season into something that seems -- for the moment -- worth watching.

In this episode, appropriately entitled, "Beauty and the Beast," Dexter finds himself trying to win the trust of two different women: his Irish nanny, and Lumen Pierce, the haunted young woman who saw him murder Boyd Fowler at the conclusion of last week's episode. He breaks the trust of the former by spending all night trying to keep Lumen from dying, and struggles to gain the trust of the latter for the simple fact that she's been trapped, tortured, and God-knows-what-else by a group of men.

This dichotomy in Dexter's life gave this episode a real forward momentum the other episodes have been lacking as of late. Dexter has a mission, even if he doesn't exactly know what that is. He's at odds with himself in the interpretation of "the code." At one point, Harry's ghost tries to remind him of the first rule of the code, and Dexter says, "Don't kill innocents," to which Harry corrects him by saying, "No, it's 'don't get caught.'"

It seems that Rita's death has changed the way in which Dex views his own code of conduct, putting the emphasis on innocence -- the innocence of Rita and the innocence of Harrison. His work as a serial killer is changed now, and it doesn't seem to be as much about fulfilling an urge to kill as much as it is about putting an end to those that can hurt the vulnerable. This idea is brought to light in the episode's climax as Dexter shows Lumen the barrels with the dead girls in them. He hands Lumen a knife to show her that she's in control of the situation. Giving her the knife is a pivotal moment for Dexter's character. To win Lumen's trust, he has to change the rules of the code, which is no doubt going to give him headaches later.

I love the chemistry between Michael C. Hall and Julia Stiles in these roles. Lumen's intensity as the wounded girl is immediately raw, yet mysterious. Her unwillingness to return to the idyllic Minnesotan life the letter left by her mother promises shows some sort of instability in her character, as does the way in which she practically growled the last lines of the episode. Dexter's reaction to her is priceless and reveals the growth his character has made since the show's beginning. He never could have let Lumen live back in season one or two. After what he has gone through with both Miguel Prado and Arthur Mitchell in the last two seasons, though, killing an innocent (or so we think) girl to save himself is now out of character. That's a testament to the good writing of the last three seasons.

As for the other stories in this episode...

Quinn is on the fast-track to ID-ing Dexter as Kyle Butler. I held my breath when he cornered Jonah Mitchell in the convenience store. Jonah did rat Dexter out, though, which leads me to wonder if he was just merely shocked that someone found him, or if he actually wants to protect Kyle Butler for saving his family from Arthur's tyranny. Obviously, Quinn, despite being suspended by LaGuerta for going outside his directive, will not give up in his obsession with Dexter. How he plans to push the matter further, though, is picking up my interest.

I love how Dexter was brought back into the Miami Metro fold as Deb invited him to analyze the crime scene of the Santa Muerte kill. Although, it makes me wonder why Masuka is the lead forensic investigator when Dexter seems to do Vince's job better than Vince does. Do they get paid the same? Does Masuka make more?

Deb uses Dexter's lead on the cigar ash to track down Carlos Fuentes, one of the Fuentes brothers she suspects to be the Santa Muerte killers. He seems like the right guy, though, living in a hidden room in a tenement apartment packed to the gills with multiple families. And he is holding a guy hostage, whose throat he slits with a machete in order to make his escape. Solving this case seemed very quick to me, causing me to wonder if there's more to it -- as there was to the Skinner case in season 3 -- or if it's just a way to get Deb feeling shitty enough to run back to the horndog arms of the creepy Quinn.

LaGuerta has to suffer the Internal Affairs investigation of her stupid husband's behavior and discovers that the comments about her fellatio skills have made front page news in the I.A. documents. Did the I.A. investigator say this to her because he wants her to prove the allegations, or was he just trying to make small talk? Nonetheless, this story is still going nowhere -- at least it took a major backseat this week and didn't grate against me like a cheese grater on the back of my hand.

Overall, this was the best episode of season 5 thus far. Lumen shows real promise as a character, and her storyline is remarkably compelling. That last scene, alone, is enough to bring me back for more next week.

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