2
Nov
2009
Dexter: Season 4, Episode 6
If I Had a Hammer
Jordan
This week's episode of Dexter made great strides towards dealing with the weakest aspects of the show, even if it mostly accomplished this by flat out ignoring them. There was no Harry this week, Quinn's reporter was in it so briefly she didn't even have time to get fully naked (only stripped down to lingerie, because the show knows no one will be paying attention to her useless and trite dialogue anyway), and Angel and LaGuerta's bore-fest of a subplot got dealt with. The episode focused instead on the main event"”Dexter and the inevitable confrontation and defeat of the monster known as Trinity, or, to his friends and family, as Arthur Mitchell.

Dexter tracked Trinity to his house last week, and has since been figuring out his schedule. He is a dedicated family man, an occasional tutor, a deacon at church, and a big volunteer in an organization that builds homes for the homeless. Oh yeah, and he's a serial killer, but after completing his most recent cycle, the beast lies dormant for a moment. Dexter enters his life as "Kyle Butler" a man who has lost his family and is looking for his way. This mirrors Dexter's own personal crisis, as he attends therapy with Rita and tries to make his struggling marriage work. He knows his family is the only thing keeping his veneer of normalcy in place, and he watches as Arthur Mitchell lives a life nearly free of secrets.

His trophies (plaques from the volunteer organization centered in each city he kills in), his tools (the hammer he used to bludgeon his third victim in the cycle last week), and even his "dark passenger" (the vase containing his dead sister's ashes) are all on display for his family to see, and if he ever snaps in front of them, they know it's a result of his dark past. While I have previously discussed the possibility that Dexter might have to dispatch one or more members of his family, this episode posits the exact opposite"”could Dexter's familial ties be the key to his salvation? He may never defeat his dark urges, but if he learns from Arthur Mitchell, he may very well be able to lead a full life, hidden from judgmental eyes.

One pair of those eyes belongs to a couple's therapist Rita drags him to see. It is quickly revealed that Dexter's mother died and that he has issues with commitment, opening up, and having no personal space. The series drops most of its trickery for the scene"”there is no need to see Harry yelling at Dexter or even to hear Michael C. Hall's perfectly dispassionate voice over. All we need is to see Dexter squirm as he tries to deal with the idea of actual human expression, as he tries to reach out and connect with Rita. This is a moment of real feeling for Dexter; he actually hopes to save his marriage and seriously longs to connect with her.

Additionally, Deb's subplot tonight provided some great character moments for her, and a nice moment for Quinn as he tries to talk her into being a better cop than he is. Deb struggles with the idea of lying to pin Lundy's death on Nicki, the surviving Vacation Murderer, and makes steps toward discovering Harry's past. Since the show began the show has teased that Deb may discover Dexter's secret, and her investigation into Harry brings her steps closer to this. All in all though, this episode positions things nicely for the conflicts to come, and gives us a much needed glimpse at some actual subtext that will work nicely into the story as the conflict between Dexter and Trinity mounts in the coming weeks.

Grade: B+

Notes:

-The scene with the Dexter holding the ashes to provoke Arthur built the tension masterfully. It was easily the most suspense I've felt in weeks on this show, and Lithgow's reaction was intense and excellent.

-"How are we supposed to decide what's more important, our jobs or each other?" Shut the fuck up Maria. I hope now that these two are broken up the storyline will be totally forgotten and shitty lines like this can be a thing of the past.

-The scene with Arthur recreating his murder with his wife in the tub was so creepy. Trinity is an excellent character, and Lithgow is playing him to the hilt.
Tags: Dexter
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