Dexter s8 ep 5

We start, of course, in therapy, with Dexter and Deb talking through, with Vogel, Deb’s aborted attempt to kill them both. But Dexter is annoyed. Really annoyed. “OK, so I’m not perfect”, he huffs. Well, yes, that’s one way of putting it, Dex. He seems to be trying to minimise not only his entire history, but the specific incidents which drove Deb to hit the drink and drugs, throw away her career, and nearly lose her life. And eventually he storms out.

This is, I think, dangerous territory for the show. The specific queasy thrill of Dexter has always been the way in which we are not only sympathetic to, but almost complicit with, the show’s titular anti-hero. Part of that has always been a pretty frank acknowledgement of what Dexter is, and the show’s done a remarkable job of keeping us onside. If Dexter is, at this late stage, going to turn into a whiny little bitch, then there’s a chance that the uneasy compact between show and audience, on which the show has been built, could be tilted off-balance. The ending is a little problematic as well, but I’ll come to that.

Ignoring, as I will, Quinn’s possible promotion, Dexter’s MILFy new neighbour, and Masuka’s on-the-take daughter, the main storylines this week focus on Yates, last week’s Brain Surgeon candidate; and a new case, that of Norma Rivera, found murdered. The main suspect for Rivera’s killing is her boss, Hamilton, who’d been having an affair with her, but as soon as Hamilton’s heavy-lidded teenage son slouches into view, all but wearing a T-shirt with “I’m totally a killer, whatevs” on it, it’s pretty obvious who actually murdered Norma. Unfortunately for Miami PD, a witness who might have put Hamilton, Jr., at the scene withdraws his evidence, so it looks as if it’s going to be down to Dexter to decide whether Harry’s Code incorporates the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, or whether the kid’s going to end up strapped to the table.

Yates, meantime, has catapulted himself to the top of the Brain Surgeon possibles by abducting Vogel. She at least has the minimal advantage, as his ex-therapist, of knowing where his metaphorical bodies are buried (the actual bodies are buried in his garden, it turns out), and there’s a genuinely thrilling moment when she shifts gear and starts impersonating his domineering mother. It distracts Yates enough to stop him from breaking one of her toes, and with the help of both Deb and Vogel (and an assist from Deb’s boss Elway) Dexter is able to track and kill Yates.

Which takes us to the end, and Dexter, Deb, and Vogel out on the yacht, swapping happy smiles as Dexter tips Yates into the sea. This, observes Vogel, is how Dex and Deb “find (their) way back to each other”. It’s not lost on Deb – on anyone, really – that she’s managed this by helping Dexter out with an extrajudicial execution. I wonder whether this is altogether wise: Deb needed to find out about Dexter’s big secret, for sure, but does she need to join in to ensure a happy future for everyone? I don’t know. That having been said I enjoyed this episode more than the last two; there was plenty going on, much to ponder, and even the subplots provided interest rather than irritation.

Dexter s8 ep 4

It may be that I should recalibrate my expectations for this season, but given that it’s the last time we’ll be seeing Dexter I had expected to be a little more excited. It’s all a bit talky this week, though: Vogel is providing Deb with some off-the-books therapy, including a return to the shipping container where Deb shot LaGuerta. So we get plenty of analysis of Deb, Dexter, Deb-and-Dexter, and so on, culminating in the revelation that Deb is a good person who was forced to do a terrible thing. I assume that Vogel’s academic qualifications were obtained at the University of Duh.

There’s a little more happening this week with Dexter’s search for The Brain Surgeon: he identifies a plausible suspect, cable guy Yates, who’s clearly a very nasty man. Seems a bit early for the season’s Big Bad to be found, though, and we might do well to keep an eye on Deb’s boss Elway. He’s non-insistently flirting with her, and given Deb’s judgment in romantic matters it’s probable that he’ll end up as killer or victim.

The subplots are still stubbornly refusing to take off: Quinn has miraculously passed his sergeant’s exam, giving Batista a choice between Caucasian male Quinn and African-American female Miller for promotion. (Perhaps these are the characters to feature in the mooted Dexter spinoff? Quiller: they fight, they feud, they secretly want to, and after work they hang out at Batista’s bar/restaurant?) Masuka might be the sperm-donor daddy of a hottie that he came on to (ew).

We end, though, with Dexter furious at something he read about himself in Vogel’s notes: she has concluded that he has deluded himself into thinking that his feelings for Deb are genuine, when there’s no actual emotion behind them. Now, long-term Dexter-ites will recall that to have been pretty much the whole point of early seasons of Dexter, so it’s not that preposterous an observation. Anyway, when Deb comes round for a chat Dexter’s desperate to reconnect with her, perhaps to prove Vogel wrong, so when they go out for a drive his Spidey-sense is impaired, and Deb grabs the wheel, crashing the car into a lake. It isn’t remotely a cliffhanger, of course, because (a) the show isn’t going to kill its two main characters off four episodes into its final season, and (b) she changes her mind about killing them both anyway. Although where that leaves her relationship with Dexter we’ll need to see. Not bad by any means, but not as good as I’d like it to be.

Dexter s8 ep 3

For an episode which contained two or three major plot developments – and as the show reaches its finale, you’d have to think there’ll be a few more to come – this was surprisingly flat for most of its running time. Given her reaction to more brain morsels turning up on her doorstep it now looks as if Vogel isn’t The Brain Surgeon after all, unless the show has the gall to pull the same sort of stunt as it did in season 6. Dexter concludes that it’s likely to be a former patient of Vogel’s, someone with a grudge, and investigates Ron Galuzzo, who killed his best friend when a teenager. It turns out that Galuzzo’s not the guy they’re looking for, but happily he’s a cannibal – there’s a human brain in his fridge, steeped in a garlic marinade – which at least gives Dex the excuse he needs for a guilt-free righteous kill, just like old times.

But once again the real story is about Deb, drinking more and more heavily, and spiralling out of control. Her boss Elway seems endlessly tolerant – are we, I wonder, going to find out more about Elway and his electrolyte solutions as the season wears on? – and Dexter seems to have persuaded her that she’s a good person who doesn’t need to be so self-loathing. But it doesn’t work; she gets loaded again, and turns up at Miami Metro insisting on confessing to Quinn about LaGuerta’s murder. Quinn doesn’t believe it, of course, and calls Dex, who turns up with Vogel. In order to get Debs to stop, Dexter essentially has to abduct her, including a priceless moment when he uses his syringe on her to knock her out (“That was interesting”, murmurs Vogel). Not bad, but with so much at stake I would have expected to be thrilled a little more.

Dexter s8 ep 2

Some dude called Michael C. Hall makes his directorial debut with this episode, and does a pretty good job, it has to be said. Anyway, the rather sinister Dr Vogel is apparently scared because she claims that the piece of brain removed from last week’s victim was left on her doorstep by the killer we’re calling The Brain Surgeon. So when TBS notches another melon-baller-to-the-brain murder this week, Vogel – the author, it seems, of Harry’s Code – enlists Dexter to kill him off, because she says she’s scared of him. And as TBS has left a fingerprint on his murder weapon, it looks like an easy job for a serial killer of Dexter’s high standing.

When he gets to The Brain Surgeon’s rural retreat, though, he’s too late; TBS is dangling from a rope. Suicide? Hell no; later on, Vogel is the seeming recipient of a DVD which shows TBS being forced to kill victim number 2 by an unseen gun-wielding Big Bad. Could it be, possibly, the expert in serial killing who regards psychopathy as a good thing – “They’re alpha wolves, who help the human race survive long enough to become civilised” – and who thinks Dexter is perfect the way he is? Hmm. I wonder. The most surprising thing the show could do now would be to have anyone else on the planet, rather than Vogel, as the mastermind.

Still, the exploration of Dexter’s backstory continues to be rewarding. I’m still not entirely sure what vibe the Vogel-Dexter connection is meant to be giving off: yes, I know that she’s being presented as Dex’s new mother figure, but the way she embraced him at the end of the episode struck me as distinctly non-maternal. But that’s no bad thing; this show needs a healthy dose of creepiness to perform at its best. And the way in which Dexter’s relationship with Deb has been spun around is the most fascinating part of the episode: finding out about Dexter’s activities, and the killing of LaGuerta, has sent Deb into a tailspin. This week she manages to find the jewel stash from the last episode, but is overtaken by El Sapo, contract killer and, apparently, jewel-tracker. So when El Sapo turns up dead, with clues pointing to Deb being responsible, Dexter takes steps to avoid her being detected as the killer. I’m not yet remotely convinced that it was Deb, incidentally, but I rather like the idea that Dexter’s sister might now have a taste for off-the-books killing.

Less successful is the Quinn/Jamie/Batista arc, which for the moment seems to exist for no other reason than to give the characters something to do: I was always in a minority on this one, but I remain of the view that Quinn is a potentially interesting character who has been hobbled, year after year, by a succession of under-performing storylines. Will he take the sergeant’s exam? Will he have a happy ending with Jamie, or is he still hung up on Deb? Not enough.

That aside, this season could yet go either way, but it remains a promising start.

Dexter s8 ep 1

Final season, then, and the question is “What is Dexter for?” This applies to both the show and the character: does the show have anything new to say, or are we just going to get more horror inflation? (The initial signs might point either way: the Corpse of the Week at first appears only to have been shot at point-blank range; a little investigation reveals that his head has been cut open and part of his brain removed.)

As for Dexter himself, near the end a significant female character says to him that he won’t kill her, because it isn’t in Harry’s code. She hasn’t been watching the last couple of seasons, obviously, because he’s moved well beyond that. In fact, we open six months after the case-in-point death of LaGuerta (admittedly killed by Deb, but only because she got there before Dex could finish the job). “It solved all my problems”, purrs Dexter, and so it appears; hanging with Harrison, banging a succession of babes, he’s living the good life.

Deb not so much: she’s left the police and is working as a PI. Hired to find a jewellery thief bail skip, she found him but decided to try and get close to him in the hope of finding the jewels he stole. But, seemingly indifferent to her fate, she’s embracing deep cover wholeheartedly: as well as entering into a relationship with him, she’s taking copious amounts of drink and drugs on top. Dexter manages to track her down – there’s a nod to the fans when he correctly guesses that her online banking password might be “fucking password” – but she doesn’t want anything to do with him, which seems perfectly understandable to me, but not Dexter.

Back at the precinct, enter Dr Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), playing an eminent neuropsychiatrist, and somewhat creepy herself; she’s offered her services as a consultant on the brain-scooping killer, but it quickly becomes clear that her main interest is Dexter and, with a jaw-dropping final line, she’s promising to provide a link to Dexter’s creation, perhaps allowing the show to come full circle. A promising start.

Public Service Announcement 25 of 2013: Royal Pains, Dexter

I think I’m the only person in the UK who watches Royal Pains; so thanks, Universal Channel, for bringing it back just for me. Season 4 of concierge doctor Hank’s adventures in the Hamptons starts this weekend; we’re still a season behind America, where this trivial but amiable show remains a decent-sized cable hit. I like it rather more than I thought I would, and it’s perfect summer viewing (Sunday 7 July, 8pm, Universal).

Bigger news the same evening, though, with the return of Dexter for its final season. We’ve spent the last few seasons falling anything up to a year behind American transmission; for this final season, though, Fox UK has done the decent thing and scheduled episodes to run no more than a week after US viewers get to see them. Which is, of course, something that Unpopcult has been banging on about for a long time now; so well done, Fox.

As for the show itself: season 7 represented an improvement on season 6 and its imaginary Big Bad, although it now seems unlikely that the show’s seasons 1 and 2 form will be repeated, and the decision to bring the show to an end after this year feels like the right one. Still, I have faith that with the finish line looming everyone will bring it, and given the proximity to US transmission we’re back with week-by-week reviews (Sunday 7 July, 9pm, Fox).

Dexter s7 ep 1

Dexter admits, during this season-opener, that he just wants things to go back to the way they were. If you’re on the lookout for meta – and I’m always on the lookout for meta – you could interpret that as an admission that season 6 went way off track: people watched it, sure, but by common consent it was the weakest season so far.

With renewal for two more seasons, though, and an expectation that next season will be the last, the endgame is in sight for the show. This means that Dexter can, finally, take a step which for a while now has been both inevitable and risky: Debra finding out about the Dark Passenger. And so we pick up exactly where season 6 ended, with Deb – who was, remember, about to proclaim her slightly-incesty love for Dex – stumbling on him performing one of his ritualistic killings. To start with, Dexter pretends that it’s a one-off, just one of those things; but Deb isn’t that dumb, and she starts to realise that it was all a bit too expert to be an impulse kill. While this process is unfolding, LaGuerta finds the blood-slide Dexter lost at the scene, thus becoming the prime candidate to be this season’s suspicious-about-Dexter member of the team.

Meantime last season’s new guy, Anderson, happens on a dead prossie in a car boot and gets shot by someone who seems to be connected to an East European gang. (And is played by Enver Gjokaj, grievously underused once again. This guy is a potential star. It can’t just be Unpopcult which sees that, surely?) There’s a slightly baffling interlude when Dexter tracks Enver down and kills him: this wouldn’t be surprising in itself, but the fact that he does it in an airport is strange. Not only is the abduction in public, and the room chosen by Dexter for the kill hardly secure, but aren’t airports covered extensively by CCTV these days? I wonder whether this will come back to haunt Dexter. By the end of the episode, though, his relationship with Debs has reached the point of no return; presumably she’s not going to shop him with two seasons to go, so she’ll need to become complicit in some way.

Moving at a measured rather than frantic pace, and with no sign – yet – of the horror inflation which paradoxically led to diminishing returns in the last season, this was a very promising start to season 7. There may be life left in Dexter yet.