Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dexter -- Episode 5.8 -- "Take It!"

This season of Dexter has given me a lot of fits and starts.

I've enjoyed Dex's odyssey of grief recovery, and despite Lumen's whininess, I'm intrigued by their increasingly co-dependent relationship. The Santa Muerte killings at the beginning of the season were pretty cool, too, and I enjoyed the addition of Cira (April Hernandez) to the cast as the upstart beat cop looking to make her way into Homicide. And, of course, Peter Weller's performance as the deliciously corrupt Liddy has been one of -- if not the -- highlight of the year.

At the same time, I was flat-out pissed off by the stupidity of the LaGuerta/Angel marriage subplot, which made every episode feel longer than an hour. The pacing has been horribly glacial at times, with very little quality action or character development to offset it. Quinn and Deb's fuck-buddy-turn-bf/gf routine has been haphazard, and Quinn's development into the heavy has been inconsistent and annoying.

It seems that everytime I've allowed myself to love an episode, something happens to make me long for earlier days in the series when Dex didn't feel so cluttered by meaningless subplots, tired character arcs, and a hero that didn't feel the need to apologize for his sociopathy.

That said, I loved episode eight of this season.

Right from the start it had me hooked by the ultra-cliched introduction of Jordan Chase's (Johnny Lee Miller) self-help seminar, which Dexter has decided to attend as recon to set-up his murder of Chase's right hand man/bodyguard, Cole. When Dex is invited up to Chase's suite to meet the motivational guru, the tension amped up to a point we haven't really had all year. Chase seemed to know everything about Dex, while Dexter seemed to know very little about him. This is a position Dex has very rarely found himself in -- since the Ice Truck Killer. Johnny Lee Miller knocked the ball out of the park in his moments on screen, playing Chase with a manic energy belieing a killer mania beneath. By the episode's end, Dexter finally confirms that Chase was one of Lumen's tormentors -- the creepy Tick-Tock Man -- and it leaves us with the great anticipation and excitement of wondering exactly how Dex intends to abduct and murder such a high profile -- for lack of a better word -- celebrity.

The set-up and execution of Cole was excellent, and gave Michael C. Hall and Julia Stiles a chance to continue working on building chemistry. While I'm not 100% sold on their relationship, I'm intrigued. I loved the scene in the hotel room when they hear a woman's screams and Dexter discovers that it's Cole brutally fucking a woman next door, but when he returns to Lumen he finds her shell-shocked and rocking back and forth on the floor. Dex's attempt to calm her is a beautifully played moment. The moment is an effective set-up to the climatic murder of Cole, in which Lumen returns the favor to Dexter by giving him the comfort of acceptance for his compulsion.

At the same time, I really enjoyed the Miami Metro story, mainly because it centered on real police politics and Deb's role as a cop. Deb's romantic storylines have never quite compelled me much*, and her time with Quinn, as I said earlier, hasn't been very exciting. So, it was with great pleasure that I watched Deb stand up to LaGuerta over the debacle at the Mayan Nightclub. Deb was self-assured, and full of reason and wisdom. Don't rush to a quick judgment, don't throw anyone under the bus, and take responsibility were her main points. Unfortunately, LaGuerta's a selfish bitch, and instead of using neophyte officer Cira as a scapegoat, she chose instead to target Deb.

* I've always loved Deb's character primarily because she flies against the traditional feminine stereotype of the love-obsessed career woman. She's foul-mouthed, violent, yet remarkably insecure about trying to become a man in a man's world. Whenever the show takes her towards romance, which it has done ad nauseum every season, it's always been frustrating because she becomes more typical. I get that this is supposed to be the irony of her character, and I can appreciate it from a writer's perspective. Unfortunately, sometimes the execution is sloppy and uninspired. The only time I've ever felt invested in her love life was during her affair with Lundy, mostly because it served as a foil for her blossoming life as a detective in homicide.

While I saw the twist coming from a miles away, I was still excited by it. Now Deb has the opportunity to step back and get more involved in the Quinn/Liddy storyline, which was taken up a few notches this episode. Liddy managed to get Lumen's personal information after arranging an "accident" at the marina, and by the episode's end, he had photographs of Dex and Lumen dumping Cole's body at sea. That was a great twist moment, and Peter Weller played it to the hilt with that slimy grin and cackle.

Dexter now has two foes worthy of his attention in Chase and Liddy. What happens next will hopefully redeem what otherwise has been a frustrating season.

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