Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“OOooOOooohh!” That’s all I heard when Dexter was having his episode opening conversation with Ghost Harry. I know he’s not actually a ghost but a projection of Dexter’s unique psyche, but the device evokes the same sense of cheesiness. I commend the series this season for using it so sparingly, but I’m still not a fan when it is used. The flashbacks with Harry (we ought to see Mrs. Morgan one of these days too) are much more useful and compelling.
While talking to his dear dead dad, Dexter notices evidence of someone having recently cleaned up a bloody mess on his boat, someone other than him. He eventually comes to find it’s Louis’ blood and although this realization is interrupted by even worse news from Deb regarding LaGuerta’s determination to discover the true Bay Harbor Butcher, Dexter never returns to this thought so we don’t know if he’s assumed Isaak took out Louis, but we can probably assume as much.
When Deb does get into LaGuerta’s investigation, with a subtly and sneakiness not typically exercised by the young lieutenant, spurred by some very funny fretting from Masuka (particularly when pleading with Quinn), she does a superb job of playing both sides – both her official duty to support an investigation into some troubling evidence and protect herself and her brother’s from the short arm of the law – because she is genuinely split between these two motivations. Such conflict is the most captivating the character has experienced and Jennifer Carpenter continues to deliver top notch performances. Her scene alone in the elevator where she loudly curses to herself was not only reminiscent of Michael C. Hall’s “FUCK!” performance last episode, but a really nice character moment, the likes of which aren’t seen enough on this show.
Ray Stevenson also really got to shine this episode. The cat and mouse dynamic between Isaak and Dexter was supremely entertaining. Watching Dexter watch Isaak leave his apartment (the shot of Isaak sitting calmly in front of his assortment of tools was among the most iconic so far this season) was exciting and the pair’s phone conversation was crucial in bringing both characters onto the same page in terms of Isaak’s motivation, but more on that later.
Immediately after, Dexter informs Deb of their new threat in a great scene where we really get to see the dirty mechanics of their new reluctant partnership. I love how Deb had a nice little meta moment in yelling at Dexter for proactively withholding evidence in order to nab his own kill. Deb making Dex promise to never steal another case from her was a big deal because it’s one more concession Dexter has to admit to in his ongoing defense of his extracurricular activities.
Dexter is then called in to assist Angel in sitting down with Hannah while she walks the detectives through some key pieces of evidence. I liked this scene but couldn’t help but have logistical problems with it. What new information was derived from this exchange? Even though they’re directly handling evidence in an ongoing investigation, why would Dexter be truly necessary here? Anyway, it provided an opportunity for Hannah and Dex to give each other fuck-me eyes a few more times and this is where Dexter also first truly notices Hannah’s lack of genuine remorse or fear or PTSD or anything while handling the evidence. Later at the dig site, we get a nice bit of Dexter-esque crime scene reenactment, only the first of two big ones we’re treated to this episode. Hannah is practically swooning with flirtatious excitement while Dexter narrates her murder and is noticeably unsatisfied when he stops short to prevent incriminating her. The two characters’ flirtation is so intriguing not only because we love watching attractive people make googly eyes at each other (your basic human needs disgust me), but because we know Dexter is sizing Hannah up to kill her, not seduce her.
While attempting to remain out of Isaak’s scope, Dexter suggests he and Deb stay the night together at a cheap hotel – and Debra feigns discomfort but is clearly not too hesitant to participate in the situation in at least one aspect. Although she was definitely disappointed when she said, “This is so not how I imagined spending this night.” I love that Deb’s bonkers infatuation with her brother hasn’t been overplayed this season but instead subtly informs their new circumstances.
We then see Debra and LaGuerta at the home of the one family of potential new Bay Harbor Butcher victims in Miami to try and find whatever they can that would give them a lead. It’s a fantastic sequence because Deb and LaGuerta both hear how helpful the Butcher really was in removing Miami’s worst citizens from this plane of existence. The son of a man Dexter killed, Barnes, a wedding photographer who liked to abduct young women and beat his wife and son, couldn’t stop emphasizing how much better his family’s lives became as soon as his father disappeared. This is where Deb also deliberately removes evidence which would incriminate her brother, something that later further contributes to Dexter realizing the messy consequences of even his neatest kills.
The climax of the episode at the end of the second act is where Dexter, knowing he’s being followed by Isaak, leads the man into “the wrong side of town” into a bar owned by Isaak’s heroin competitors, the Columbians. I loved the subsequent sequence in which Dexter and the team arrive at the scene and we actually get to see the visualization of Dexter’s reenactment, somewhat CSI style. I hate all those acronym police procedurals and I hate how popular they are, but the crime scene reenactment device is popular because it’s effective, as it was here. Plus, as Deb notes, it makes Isaak look like a god damned Terminator and Ray Stevenson aptly rises to such a description. His bloody, “brutally efficient” killing spree was almost the highlight of the episode if not for his last scene in “Swim Deep” after being incarcerated in which he tells Dexter a charming little anecdote about his great uncle. It’s a great story and serves to seemingly instill some authentic fear (or just anger?) in Dexter. I’m very glad this is not over.
I loved all the talk at the beginning and end of the episode about tides and erosion as a metaphor for the destructive nature of Dexter’s hobby. Combined with Debra’s talk of Myrtle Beach, it creates a thematic consistency in the writing that makes for very good television. Deb’s continued loyalty to her brother may let her keep tabs on LaGuerta, but it appears she’s determined to not become involved any further. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an intense scene in which she tells Angel in her best official superior voice that he needs to, “back the fuck down” from the suicide of Alex the bartender, something he’s sure not to do.
Regular readers may have noticed this review is a bit choppier, more abrupt, or more blunt than usual; that is because, as you may have heard, what may be the worst storm in 20 years is directly passing through southern New Jersey where I live. For fear of losing power and delaying this review any more than it already has been, I tried my best to get through it as quick as possible without ruining its integrity.