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TV Review: Dexter 8.10, “Goodbye, Miami”

Published July 22, 2014 by gossipzoo

810

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

In my last review I explained how the “Anything can happen” evaluation of Dexter‘s final season is not the praise typically seen among cheap endorsements of common thrillers, but rather about as scathing a condemnation as a supposedly suspenseful show can earn. “Goodbye, Miami” suffers from the same lack of momentum as “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” but feels even more offensive as this time the definition surrounding the plot and the motivation of the characters aren’t so much fuzzy as just plain incongruent. How did Oliver/Daniel go from leaving his mother segments of people’s brains to stopping by for meals? When exactly did Deb stop being in love with Dexter and realize she still has feelings for Quinn? Why does Dexter want to save a woman he was ready to write off so recently? This last question is actually explicitly discussed throughout the episode, but its answer is so phoned in it becomes apparent just how little the writers care anymore.

Dexter claims he “feels” like he needs to protect Vogel from her son. When Hannah questions this claim citing that feelings were never really part of his kills it’s meant to be a big moment. It’s meant to illustrate that Dexter realizes he’s a real boy. The thing is, that’s exactly the opposite of what Vogel believes, which is part of why Dex was ready to walk away from this woman mid-season.

Also, shut up, Hannah. We’ve known Dexter longer than you have and Dexter’s emotions – no matter how much he denied their existence – were evident from the very first kill he ever committed on the show, a scene which was referenced as Dexter set up his kill room for Oliver (plus, I’m petty sure his feelings got in the way when he didn’t kill you and later decided to take out your dad, among many other instances). Unfortunately, Dexter’s arc since that fantastically dark and exciting first scene has been a bit of a farce.

Every season Dexter struggles with his feelings and his need to kill until he doesn’t. This series more than any other has made it abundantly clear that its protagonist is a good guy, a hero, and that his homicidal habit may briefly appear to take a heavy emotional toll, but ultimately it’s always necessary for the greater good and the good of Dexter himself. And that’s the issue that’s become so apparent in “Goodbye, Miami” – the writers have never been able to decide whether Dexter is a bright, shiny vigilante hero or a pained protagonist plagued by his own demons. They’ve always tried to have their cake and eat it too, and playing this circular game has grown tiresome. Is Dexter going after Oliver to protect Vogel? Other innocents? Himself and his family? To satiate his own sense of morality? Or simply because Ghost Harry told him to (and is no longer the counterbalance to the Dark Passenger, just its replacement)? The answer according to “Goodbye, Miami” is apparently “All of the above,” and it’s just too much, too safe, too empty, too little, too late.

As much as Dexter’s plethora of weak motivations bothers me, Vogel’s been a terrible disappointment as well. Much like the dreaded sixth season, Vogel kicked things off with plenty of promise for an exploration of what makes Dexter who he is, but any such promise turned out to have died early on so Dex could chase a bunch of red herrings until these last few episodes of plot, plot, plot (or more accurately, doing nothing while feigning action), until, “Oh, it’s the finale? Where does the time go?” Specifically, in “Goodbye, Miami” Vogel first begs Dex not to kill her son because he, while angry, clearly isn’t actually trying to kill her so much as seek her rehabilitation and attention and care, things which she is willing to provide (crazy as it is). But then, because Dex shows Vogel a video of something she already knew, Vogel isn’t so willing and asks that Dexter just kill her son without making him suffer. Which is it? I guess audio/visual presentations do go a long way. And does it bother anyone else that if Dex just hopped on a plane then Oliver never would have slit his mother’s throat?

The sloppiness isn’t confined to Dexter and Vogel. Deb has essentially been trudging in circles since her apparent epiphany after failing to kill herself and Dexter over four episodes ago. Gone is her potential romance with Elway, or the fact that she killed a man for frightening her, or that Dex killed her mark/boyfriend, or that she killed LaGuerta, or that Hannah tried to kill her, or her confused romantic feelings for Dexter, or pretty much any of the arcs the writers have at one point started to send Deb on but eventually forgot about. None of these have had any actual resolution (except for the borderline misogynistic notion the writers haven’t abandoned that Deb needs a man). Despite what she tells Deputy Marshal Clayton, Deb is nothing more than her brother’s reluctant keeper.

Speaking of Clayton, why is he around? Is it his pursuit of Hannah which is going to keep Dexter from getting away? If so it’s going to be a crowded party as Elway is also still looking to take down Hannah, which confuses me as both these characters have only been around for a blink of an eye compared to Quinn whose function I had hoped would have been to accidentally expose Dexter (since Doakes and LaGuerta are dead and Angel is, well, Angel), especially since Quinn was all about catching Zach Hamilton, but it looks like Quinn’s only function is to essentially look at the camera while shrugging and saying, “Chicks, amiright, brah?” Regardless, this is another one of those examples of “Anything can happen,” not because this show is so deft at navigating through its well established world to surprise its audience, but because the writers pretty much just throw everything at the wall and even they don’t seem to know what’s going to stick.

Obviously Dexter’s never going to make it to Argentina, but the real question is whether Masuka’s adult daughter whom he did not raise and just met, like, a week ago will stop smoking pot on Saturdays. Wait…

The post TV Review: Dexter 8.10, “Goodbye, Miami” appeared first on WhatCulture!.

TV Review: Dexter 8.6, “A Little Reflection”

Published May 22, 2014 by gossipzoo

Episode 806

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

After reaching the half-way point in Dexter’s final season I expected the story to be in a very different place. Whereas the first half of the season was apparently all about seeing Deb hit bottom so she could start to accept Dexter back into her life while introducing Vogel, the second half will of course result in Dexter’s end one way or another, but getting there is still no more clear than it was at the beginning of the season. Having killed Yates, a figure which loomed high in the background of the story before revealing himself to be much less deserving of so much focus, the season has shifted to the Zach Hamilton arc which “A Little Reflection” spent the most time developing. When this plot was introduced last episode I rolled my eyes and groaned for mostly the same reason why I did so at the beginning of season three – it’s predictable. What’s worse is by now we’ve seen it done more than once: Prado, Lumen, Hannah. Dexter, you cannot have a murder “intern” – it never works out. We’ve learned this lesson, why can’t the writers? As I’ve mentioned before, the biggest strength of this season so far has been knowing it’s the last, not any significant element of the story itself, which is a real shame. I hoped the final installment of the series would really go for broke and instead things feel about as par for the course as ever.

Just as abruptly as the Yates arc was “resolved” (or impaled, whichever) the Zach arc is here established. I appreciate how much time was spent on attempting to build Zach up as a tangible character with as authentic a fascination with blood and the macabre as Dexter, but the kid’s presence taking pictures at crime scenes still felt sudden and stilted. I think besides this story’s predictability, familiarity, and synthetic quality (elaborated in my comment on my previous review regarding the very similar Jeremy from season one), the core problem is that I can’t buy into a new character’s homicidal psychology when our protagonist’s – even after all these years – has still yet to find much definition or clarity. I was more intrigued seeing Dex and Vogel discussing the role of serial killers in society; this felt like a much more promising frame within which to watch Dexter make real progress toward a satisfying conclusion. The “intern” angle is just redundant. (And I have to say also slightly ironic in that the newest character I felt was the most effectively introduced – the actual intern, Louis Greene, of season six – had the most potential, but was eventually (and literally) cast aside as nothing more than a creepy extortionist in the beginning of season seven as an obvious loose thread.)

There were contradictions both in the characterization of Zach and Dexter’s impression of him. This episode succeeded in portraying Zach as a creep (his line about “that dead chick spill[ing] all her blood just for [him],” and Dexter’s remark that the boy, “Treats the blood like a swimsuit model,” were effective in this vein), which is why it was difficult for me to buy into feeling sympathy for him as Dexter did on his killing table. And why was Zach taking so many photos of Sophia, his father’s new mistress, if his intended target was his father all along? I guess he suddenly changed his mind? He is new at this after all, but it’s bad writing when the audience is forced to fill in the blanks not out of an effective use of ambiguity, but to fill in plot holes like this. The episode worked hard to paint Zach as a deviant foil of Dexter then thought it would pull the rug out from under us by revealing Zach as a directionless kid just trying to relieve himself of the “evil” inside him by protecting his alcoholic mother from his father’s affairs, but instead it just came off as inconsistent and unbelievable.

Dexter’s initial reaction to Vogel’s suggestion of The Code’s potential to save Zach from himself (and Dexter’s knife) rang much truer than his decision to spare Zach by the episode’s end. Instead of watching Dexter fail (again) in attempting to share The Code, I’m much more interested in hearing Dexter argue against Vogel (verbally or in action) with the obvious truth of the matter that although Dexter is more than likely better off for having Harry and The Code in his life, it hasn’t exactly “spared” him from tragedy. The simple fact is that no matter how prepared an individual is, no one is ever spared. This is one of the high-minded discussions for which the series’ premise was made, yet time and again they are introduced as isolated incidents early on in a season then eventually neglected in favor of action and plot masquerading as actual story.

Speaking of plot fodder, “Reflection” updated us on Masuka’s daughter, Angel’s decision to promote Miller over Quinn (two threads which honestly aren’t even worth discussing here), and Deb’s relationship with her boss, Elway. This subplot was the only one which really worked for me because even though Angel’s decision to promote Miller over Quinn sent him to Zach and in Dexter’s way, it yielded nothing more than a minor plot contrivance whereas Deb’s dealings with Elway at least reflected what she’s gone through with Dexter in a general sense (protective brothers making the sisters cry) as well as more specifically what Dexter experienced with Cassie. Both interactions Dexter had with Cassie were terribly awkward for the same reason Deb was so put off when she finally realized Elway is romantically interested in her – the siblings don’t know how to let others in while avoiding the murders which have come to define their lives. Whereas this makes sense with Deb – it’s all still relatively new to her – I figured that even though it’s been a while since he’s dated, Dex should’ve figured this out by now, especially since Dexter’s sexuality, formerly quite contained and wrapped up in his damaged psychology – a character trait that not only made sense but was legitimately intriguing – since season six’s random high school reunion and convenience store clerk hook-ups, has gone pretty bro, as evidenced by this season’s premiere.

This commonality between the two Morgans is what made it so sad (or just maddeningly frustrating) when Dexter wasn’t truthful to Deb about taking on an “intern”. After apparently repenting since the attempted murder-suicide, Deb is allowing Dexter to be an active part of her life and could be his only true collaborator. Granted he didn’t have much of a chance to come clean before Deb mysteriously passed out just before Hannah waltzes in out of nowhere (yet another red herring, I’m sure), but he didn’t seem to be very eager to let Deb back into his unseemly private life. This makes sense as Deb is still in a delicate state regarding the situation, but returning Dexter – the character and the show – to places of relative normalcy are boring and supposedly not an option in this final season. Regarding Hannah’s reappearance, considering she was in the episode for all of ten seconds there’s nothing really to comment on, other than the fact that it, like the Zach arc, feels like a waste of time, just another distraction before the big finale which increasingly looks like it will absolutely fall flat.

A moment in this episode which already fell flat was the scene between Dexter and Harrison. I’ve noted how Harrison has been slightly acting out, which, while normal for children, takes on a new significance on a show about a serial killer who is also a father (for the most part – Astor and Cody who?). Apparently the build-up was merely leading to a confrontation in which Harrison accuses Dexter of lying for disposing of a bloody stuffed animal and telling Harrison it was lost. That’s it. All the (arguably) suspicious behavior we’ve seen Harrison exhibit has resulted in some potentially damning evidence. Maybe. Well, you know what they say about Chekhov’s stuffed puppy…

ritas kids

“Yeah, I’ll still love you guys in Orlando…totally.”

It’s kind of funny to think that despite having made some strides compared to the weaker elements of the series, this season is still failing to rise to its former glory. One could argue it’s a marked improvement that the episode structure has not necessarily relied on Dexter vetting, stalking, and killing someone new each episode; that the narrative structure has shifted from this model to one which is built around larger arcs. Unfortunately even this late in the series I don’t feel these arcs flow with much momentum or cogency (based solely on this season). I’m glad the subplots aren’t as disconnected from the primary plot as much as they have been in the past, but I still really don’t care about Quinn’s professional trajectory, and especially not Masuka’s estranged daughter. Although I’m sure we’ll hear more about Dr. Richard Vogel in episodes to come.

Even within the main plots there were just too many suspensions of disbelief in “Reflection” which took away from the fun of the show as opposed to contributing to it. For example, when Dex called the yacht club to see if Zach’s supposed target, Sofia, was working, her supervisor immediately let Dex know she just left. When I worked as a restaurant manager I never gave out information on employees’ schedules, especially not to people calling without identifying themselves. Also, it was far too easy to manipulate Jamie into calling Quinn off of Zach’s trail, but this is just another example in a long line of conveniences which allow Dexter to do what the episode requires. Also, finding the photos of Norma Rivera bleeding out were one thing, but to include in them a mirror reflection of Zach holding both the camera and the murder weapon? We get it, okay? Dex is always the good guy and there is no gray area! The trouble is the show is interesting because of its gray areas, at least it was back when they existed. The bottom line is that after the barren and fruitless valley that was season six, and the steady (though not flawless) climb upward that was season seven, I hoped season eight would be a peak on which we could all be satisfied with departing from the show. Instead I feel about as low to the ground as one of Dex’s trash bags at the bottom of the sea.

dex breaking bad shot

By the way, anyone else get a Breaking Bad vibe from this shot? The episode was directed by John Dahl who’s directed episodes of Dexter in the past (also Hannibal, Justified, True Blood, and Battlestar Galactica, among many others) as well as the second season episode of Breaking Bad, “Down.” I can’t remember if that episode had one of the show’s patented worm’s eye view shots, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

The post TV Review: Dexter 8.6, “A Little Reflection” appeared first on WhatCulture!.

TV Review: Dexter 7.5, “Swim Deep”

Published October 30, 2012 by gossipzoo

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.

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