8.05 "This Little Piggy"
Remember last week when I said the first four episodes formed their own little story? Well, I was wrong; the fifth added a definitive bracket to the early portion of the season.
We open to a sight only seen by those with an imminent death: pissed Dexter. In a mock therapy session conducted by Dr. Vogel our hero snaps at Debra for trying to kill him last episode. His apologetic sister explains that she felt confused and afraid. Vogel mediates but Dexter can't calm down, he's furious at both women and storms out. Vogel points out the obvious: Dex feels betrayed and he's lashing out.
It's a jarring way to open events, and the emotion means to contrast the closing scene of "This Little Piggy." Flash-forward forty or so minutes and we find the same trio on Dexter's boat as the master serial killer dumps the body of the "Brain Surgeon" into the cold, deep ocean. The three have reconciled and look toward the future. It's a huge jump from where we were earlier, so let's examine that ripe midsection, shall we?
For the most part Dexter does his thing. He hunts a serial killer in his free time while working a day job assisting police hunting serial killers. When Miami Metro Homicide scrutinizes an affluent Miami resident for a murder, the audience's focus becomes the man's son: a creepy teen who pokes Dexter with oddball questions about the murder scene. In rare form, the police are investigating the young psycho at just about the same time Dexter is. Hopefully that leads to direct confrontation instead of the dipping and diving that's happened the last few years.
Part of the Dexter allure lies in the close calls and theatrical escapes. Those have been trimmed recently in place of huge plot conveniences. Dexter just drops off a wounded patient in front of the ER and no one notices? He and his sister almost die in a car crash and we don't see any of the aftermath? Dexter built its success on having a fairly tight world around an outlandish character… that atmosphere has cracked and worn.
The amount of work done with side characters in this episode, and this season, is foolish and nearly embarrassing. A few possible love interests for Dex enters the fray, there's growing turmoil at Police HQ over bias promotions and favorable treatment, we see more of Deb's boss Elway and constant script floormat and perverted humorist Vince Masuka gets an out-of-nowhere scene riddled with poignancy. Whoa! C.S. Lee can act?
The core still works. The Dex/Deb/Vogel dance spins around the floor a few times. Vogel is abducted by The Brain Surgeon and the Morgans hunt him down, working in unison — a beautiful machine of calculated murder. In the attempt to keep all her toes in intact, Vogel turns the table on the Surgeon and whips him like a punk when he tries to stand up to her. It's a reminder that Vogel might be calling all the shots. When we find this woman on the boat of a guarded serial killer, said murderer referring to her as "family," it takes a second to wonder how this fresh face infiltrated the walls so quickly.
It's here I should note a question that's tumbled through the Dexter fanscape: is this really the last season? A lot of signs pointed to it, including interviews with creators and crew, but the ratings are smashing it and the narrative arc has little urgency. The side characters are suddenly trekking their own stories, not at all focused on the central figure, and though Evelyn Vogel surely has a few more games for her "Subject 0" to play, even her plot line has run out of energy.
There are rumors of a Deb spinoff, and there's not much to say about that until it's confirmed or not. It does, however, put a little intrigue on the endgame of the eighth season. For now, Dexter lives the ho-hum life of an emotionally stunted freak and I'm drifting along with him.
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.