It’s never too late for a little reflection, right? If you’re in need of a bit of a refresher on the events of the latest Dexter-sode before we get filled in on the “Dress Code” this Sunday, skip the jump and check out my spoiler-filled review! (Also, I apologize for the delay in posting! I often try to compose these reviews shortly after my in-depth vlog recaps,But let’s do this, shall we?)
Vexing Vogel: The Truth Gets Murkier
At the end of “This Little Piggy,” we witness a poignant moment that Dexter vulnerably shares with his two leading ladies, Debra and Vogel, in which they rejoice in the unity of ‘family’—what better way to bond than over somebody’s dead body, right? Especially if that body can be conveniently deposited into the coast off Miami’s shores and under the cover of a dreamily starry sky. We anticipate, then, that the next episode will begin in reasonably amicable territory. Debra has experienced one of Dexter’s kills as a willing firsthand witness and not only accepts what he has done, but who he is. And Vogel helped Debra reach the ‘rock bottom’ that ironically propelled her back to the surface of her own life, where she is confident and in some level of control. “A Little Reflection” picks up with a grisly little car accident where Dexter is vetting a new potential victim, Zach Hamilton. Zach is all over the scene, making a “swimsuit model” of the bloodbath before him and photographing the horror like an artist thirsty for inspiration. Dexter knows the creative hunger much too well. What he does not anticipate to find in his ritualistic study is a connection between this bloodlusty youth and his own 'spiritual mother,' who seems happy to invite another young psychopath under her roof for the purpose of tinkering and tampering. This ordeal only intensifies my distrust of Vogel’s underlying motives. She seems quite entertained by Dexter’s frustration at her interference in his scheme. She even uses this “conflict of interests” to plant a seed in Dexter’s head about, well, sowing the seed of the Code and reaping from it a fresh harvest. Is it that Dexter isn’t as “perfect” as she once purred into his ear about and she wants to try again? Or is it that she’s looking for another Dirty Harry with whom to conspire? Both Dexter and Vogel seem to be artists in their own rights—the question is: whose design is the most provocative?
A Mile in Harry’s Shoes?
Feelings are thoroughly mixed about the direction in which the writers seem to be taking Dexter’s relationship with Zach. It seems that Dexter is following in his father’s path: instead of putting a wounded creature out of his misery, Dexter allows himself to empathize with the pain and provide the wounded vessel with the tools necessary for survival. Not only that, but the chance to harness the internal chaos and use it in a way that is governable. Perhaps even meaningful. But why does Dexter give this twisted teen a shot? We’ve seen the consequences of Dexter cutting a near-victim free from his reckoning table—Hannah McKay, case in point. (Trust me, we’ll get to her soon.) We’ve seen the consequences of Dexter instructing a stranger in the art of the Code; think back to Miguel Prado in the third season. Most critics of the Dexter/Zach plot already have, arguing that this development is nothing more than the recycling of a story that was disappointing enough the first time. Hell, we’ve even seen Dexter try to learn from rather than slay his prey with the chilling Trinity fiasco. Could it be that there is something fundamentally different about the journey that is now in motion with this ticking time-bomb of a protégé?
Here is the way I currently see the predicament. #1: Vogel planted the seed. (Sorry, I’m going back to the plant metaphors again!) It is important to realize that this was not exclusively Dexter’s idea. It was not his brainchild. Vogel, rather, was the one who introduced the tantalizing notion in the first. And we know just how sensitive Dexter has been to her charms, especially since she found him in a very dark place wherein he was questioning his worth and identity. She is as a living Harry to him and acts as a complex well of knowledge, fascination, and even maternal energy that picks Dexter up from where Harry’s abruptly severed support left him. It makes sense that Dexter might subconsciously respond to her nudgings. #2: Dexter’s newfound, conscious need to form authentic human connections makes for 'rich soil.' The “seed” that is the possibility of teaching Zach the Code takes root in Dexter’s desire to understand himself through relationships. Debra is important to Dexter because she reflects those parts of him that just might not be monstrous after all. He is able to see himself as human through the lens of her powerful love. Vogel is important to Dexter because she reflects Harry, his source of guidance through the dark avenues of his addiction. It’s like what Dr. Vogel said to Yates in the fifth episode: “This is real human connection. What you have with your victims only pales in comparison.” It could be argued that Dexter is trying to see what a living rather than dying human connection with Zach could bring. This situation is different from the Miguel Prado affair, too, as Dexter isn’t necessarily seeking out a friend or companion in killing, but rather a relationship by which he might better understand himself as a dual victim-murderer. Zach comes from a place that is very similar to Dexter’s, rather than from a political justice machine. #3: This storyline will likely enable the return of the Harry visions. Now that Dexter is assuming Harry’s role in a way, I would not be surprised if Dexter begins to see Harry again and ‘converse’ with him while instructing Zach. I was seriously missing this quintessential aspect of the show's unique, multivalent narrative, and I think that we’ll finally get to see James Remar back on the screen and shaking his head as much as ever. The interactions that Dexter and harry will share should be a truly interesting watch as the “like father, like son” trope comes into play. Do I have a bad feeling about where things are going with Zach? Oh, no doubt about it. I certainly don’t think that this is a commendable choice on Dexter’s part. However, I’m not going into the following episodes with the conviction that the writers are brain-dead regurgitators. There’s something to be gained from this experience and some waves that we’re going to have to ride, whether we relish the undulations or cling to the surfboard until it’s over!
The Way Things Were
Another enormously important component of this episode is the transformed relationship between Dexter and Debra. We’re back to the steaks and beers!? Have we finally reached a new ‘normal’ and solid ground for a brother and sister long overboard? We even got a nostalgic taste of the second season as Dexter sentimentally recalls Debra’s once-upon-a-time quote about a steak “worth living for.” What’s poignant about this semi-comical dinner scene revolving around the ‘asshole’ steak (which only seems to be missing one of Elway’s signature shit-shakes) is the metaphor that Dexter applies to the experience. “This isn’t really worth living for,” he murmurs over the unsatisfying meat, arguably a symbol of the struggles that Dexter and Debra will continue to face as they adjust to living with their volatile truth. They are both changed beings. The reminder of innocence lost echoes through the corridors of their new joint existence. Ignorant bliss is a friend of theirs no longer. I loved to see, however, their discussion about their struggles in forging relationships with ‘outsiders’ to the truth of who they are. Dexter’s adorably awkward rendezvous with Cassie comes to a resounding nothing when he finds her cozied up with a Ryan Gosling lookalike at Jamie’s birthday party (an event already abundant in social discomfort). This is, of course, after he struggles to tell her about his fascinatingly blasé life of bowling and boating. Debra now faces similar adversities in forming intimate connections with people who don’t—who can’t know the nature of the place where she comes from. As sweetly and respectfully as her partner Elway cares for her, she can’t let him any closer, lest she proceed under the guise of an extravagant lie or risk exposing herself to someone who should not have to bear the burden she’s packing. Dexter and Debra start to come to terms with the fact that neither one of them seems fit to date anyone else—a lot of people drew their own romantic conclusions from this suggestive line!—until the two of them keel over from the handiwork of a certain bombshell blond they never thought they’d be crossed by again.
The return of Hannah McKay could mean everything and anything. My take, as we stand at the cusp of the storm? Her return could possibly be a means of preventing Dexter and Debra’s relationship from becoming stagnant. (Note: these are just my opinions and by no means do you need to adhere to them or desire the same things that I do in terms of plot/character development!) Hannah’s intentions will implicate both Dexter and Debra in very perilous ways. They will inevitably put Dexter and Debra’s love and loyalty to one another to the ultimate test, even after the two of them found their way back to one another through rescuing Vogel. There’s no way of knowing exactly how Hannah will be involved or what traps she’ll lay along the twisting path—yet, I have hopes that her return will be used to up the ante and keep emotional dynamics fresh, vibrant, and susceptible to powerful change. Nothing would displease me more than to see Dexter and Debra fall into a cool, complacent groove in which they neither stray from one another nor move closer. A certain level of flux is healthy. As long as Hannah doesn’t reassume her role from the previous season and comes forth on a premise that is wholly new (the old romance really doesn’t have a place here, especially as it revolves around a dream of “Argentina” that has been overthrown), I will be excited to follow the events as they spiral on.
Ms. McKay isn’t necessarily the only returnee in this incredibly diverse final season: Quinn has been making his own sort of comeback as a central figure in the action. Having previously been caught in the mire of tragically fruitless subplots that stuck through the sixth and seventh seasons, he is at last intermingling with the characters we care about the most—and in ways that keep us wondering if he’s going to see the light when all is said and done. His friendships with Dexter and Debra are proving interesting, heartwarming, and disconcerting all at once. Not to mention his stakeout with Dexter at the park and discussion of “the shit” and people “shitting in each other’s Cheerios” served as very humorous and portent encounters. Does Quinn actually know anything? Are we to believe that if he did, he might actually vie on the side of Team Morgan and protect their “shit”? I love that we are being invited and enticed to ask these questions. It’s refreshing to see him rise to the forefront and command our interest before the story’s said and done. Another resurrection to consider: are we going to get another look at the true Brain Surgeon? It is my strong suspicion that this doorstep package enthusiast didn’t die under the bed as the tragic bogeyman that was Yates. Will further revelations about Vogel’s past unearth this shallowly-buried Big Bad and lead us down another warpath?
Leave all of your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to include any other topics that weren’t directly addressed in this review! You can also view my vlog review if you’d like my earlier, more immediate musings about what’s transpired so far. Thank you so much for watching, listening, and getting into the grit with me!