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Dexter 7.02 "Sunshine & Frosty Swirl" & 7.03 "Buck the System"

A tv review article by: Jamil Scalese

 

"Everything's changed"

No doubt, Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), nooo doubt.

As previously reported, this season of Dexter is what the series promised us from episode one. With sister Debra completely in the know about her brother's murderous activities we're now privy to Dexter (Michael C. Hall) actuality having to convince someone his sordid addiction/crime-fighting practices are the right way to go. Other individuals to discover Dexter's secret, like Miguel (Jimmy Smits) or Lumen (Julia Stiles), were so underdeveloped at the time of the big discovery that the impact ended up producing a minimal impact. Other characters, like Doaks (Erik King) and the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow), found out about Dex right at the precipice of their deaths. With Debra, the emotional center of the show, we see a layered and developed struggle to accept the unacceptable --- that the most important person in her life is a serial killer.

That's where "Sunshine and Frosty Swirl" picks up, the moments after Dexter admits his big secret. Deb is sick to her core, and she immediately shows her disgust for her brother and his terrible deeds. I'm still a little weirded out that she doesn't arrest him on the spot, as she should have in the premiere, but I guess the solid haymaker she plants will suffice for now.

These two episodes focused more intensively on the Dexter and Debra relationship, so much so that the typical Dexter motifs, like stalking potential victims and the usual song-and-dance with the season's main antagonist have been pushed to secondary action. For the first time in the series we see the true Dexter talking to his sister, saying creepy things like "Dark Passenger" and "my process". That interaction injects new life into the series, and creates a friction lacking for many seasons. Other than ignoring the law, Deb's reactions to all of this are spot on, first disgusted, then frantic and concerned. Her solution is to set up the world's first halfway house for homicidal maniacs in her home, keeping Dexter under a careful 24/7 watch and pestering him when he isn't. It's a noble plan, but causes Dexter to fiend out even more for a kill, particularly when someone is just begging for it.

That someone is computer geek Louis (Josh Cooke), tormenter of Dexter for the last half dozen or so episodes.  Pissed because Dex didn't help him with his video game development, Lou poked the bear until the bear broke into his apartment and put a needle in his neck. However, for the first time maybe ever, Dexter doesn't immediately kill the lanky nuisance and instead calls his sister for support. After her arrival at the scene he chooses not to take another life, and instead, in the next episode, just ruins the dude's life by getting him fired and having his cute Latino girlfriend break up with him. It appeared Louis was on the ride to be a major adversary, but then, abruptly, he's shot in the face on the Slice of Life.

Yeah, Louis is knocked off out of nowhere by the season's main antagonist, Isaak (Ray Stevenson), kingpin of the local Russian heroin racket, and it instantly elevates the imposing mob boss as the main threat. Through Louis, Isaak discovers that the man he is looking for, the person who killed one of the members of his organization, is named Dexter Morgan, and the hunt is on. Unwittingly, Isaak met Dexter a handful of hours earlier, in the strip club he owns, and the two share a tense and playful conversation. That meeting offers a change-up to the normal prolonged circling that Dexter and his season-long rival s participate in, already creating a fresh dynamic for a show that hit a narrative rut about two seasons ago. Isaak is a fierce creature. A dark, extremely capable man. A psychopath that functions in broad daylight, both literally and figuratively. 

As that plotline ascends the show timidly introduces Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski). In "Sunshine & Frosty Swirl" death-row inmate Wayne Randall throws himself in front of a truck, but not before dragging all of Miami Metro out to unearth the bodies of his victims. Wayne originally plays off the act as repentance, but as Dexter discovers, it's merely a ploy to stand in the sun and eat some ice cream for the last time.  Miami Metro locates his teenage girlfriend, Hannah, now an adult, for additional information about the location of the bodies and a DNA sample. As the show fumbles through a purposefully awkward scene, I wonder why they chose to introduce another (blonde) love interest into Dexter's life. It's apparent he's attracted to her, but I'm not sure I buy the typically stoic Dexter worrying about a woman when he's got so much going on in his "other" life.  Hannah is given like nine seconds of screen time, so the jury is out, but I need something more from her than loving plants and being cute.

While there are various other subplots and side characters it's still all about the Morgan siblings. The two argue philosophy and ethics of Dexter's activities, and by the end of "Buck the System" Debra has to relinquish her brother from her killer's rehab and agree to disagree on the whole "kill for good" idea. A lot of people are fearful of Deb going against the grain of her character, one of the strongest female protagonists on TV by the way, and the two will eventually team-up. It might head that way, but not without some bumps in the road. At the end of the latest episode the duo find themselves dealing with one of the wackiest low-level serial killers in the show's history, which is just a microcosm of Dexter's recent ability to crush expectations and get back to operating unlike any other show on TV.


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.

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