12
Oct
2009
Dexter: Season 4, Episode 3
Blinded by the Light
Jordan
This season of Dexter has so far been hurt by the same problems that have always hurt the show. The formula errs on the side of formulaic from time to time, the supporting characters are annoying and often paper thin, but this episode brings up another important factor on the show that may be a liability: Dexter as a character.

In the show's early seasons, Dexter was a lone-wolf sociopath. He had a girlfriend, but only because he wanted to keep up appearances. He was close with his sister, but that was her doing. More than anything else, Dexter was a monster playing at man, and the series got a lot of early mileage about the arguable nobility of his code. The potential problem that arose, however, was that television series generally chronicle the development of characters, but Dexter was bound to remain static. If he changed much, he would either be caught or cease to be a serial killer, and either move would kill the show. If the other characters around Dexter were more fully drawn, watching them develop could provide an excellent counterpoint to Dexter's stasis. Sadly that is not the case, so Dexter has been married off and given a son as ways of developing him without changing him at the core. The writers seem to see this as a problem, and it very well may be one, but this week made a little progress toward another possible solution.

For the first time in a long time, the show recognized that Dexter survives by pretending to be something he is not. If he stands out, the likelihood of his capture is much higher, so he blends in. This was easier when he was unattached, but now he must show himself to be a loving father and husband, a good neighbor, and a diligent analyst 24/7. The barbeque provides a good frame for how he may be forced to assimilate, though it feels a little flat. In order to make us believe that Dexter must blend in or die, anyone at the barbeque would need to be paying even the slightest attention to him. Later in the episode the stakes grow much higher. As Dexter tries to scare a kid he thinks is a neighborhood vandal, the neighborhood watch begins chasing him. The stakes here are clearly high"”if Dexter is apprehended he will have a hard time explaining things to his neighbors, and will likely never be accepted among them again.

Another interesting road for the show to take is to examine Dexter's relationship with Astor as she grows up. He has always been adept at handling children; they are uncomplicated beings and he can get a handle on them. But as Astor ages, Dexter will need to start pretending around her as well. She may prove to be a good test run on how Dexter will behave when his own son reaches adolescence and isn't won over by high fives and hugs anymore. For tonight, he gets off just claiming he is occasionally dumb, but eventually he will need a different strategy to be successful with Astor, whose emotions he no longer understands, and whose reactions will as such be less predictable to him.

On the episodes other interesting front, Trinity has killed again, this time by forcing a woman to jump to her death. The scene is chilling, as she begs not to be hurt before being forced to commit suicide lest her family be harmed. Dexter asks himself what Trinity's code is, and I find that question interesting enough to glue me to any scene John Lithgow appears in. Every action he takes seems foreign and unpredictable at this stage, but soon we will begin to understand the bigger picture of what Trinity is trying to be and why he does what he does. This is the picture that Lundy is still grasping at as he probes Deb and Dexter for more details on the investigation. In a moment of excellent introspection, Lundy points out that he is like Trinity in many ways. Both of them are loners, both are driven by the hunt, and both move from place to place without forming any lasting connections. Lundy does not realize how his craving ties him to Dexter, nor does he see how much Dexter envies his un-tethered lifestyle. What he does see, though, is Deb taking a renewed interest in him.

After annoying me last week by playing up Deb's commitment to Anton, the series has pulled a 180 that would annoy me if it didn't give me exactly what I wanted. Deb finds Anton's constant presence grating after he has been travelling frequently for the last few months. Beyond that, her connection with Lundy is as strong as ever, as he points out, "You're exactly the same as me, just in a prettier package." The two of them work together, and in addition to that, they make for a good story. Every scene involving Angel and LaGuerta or Quinn and his reporter feels like a drag on the episode, but Deb and Lundy have a natural, fun interplay that is actually exciting to watch. I hope the show continues to examine this relationship as the season continues.

Overall, this episode had some problems. Dexter's tracking of a neighborhood vandal felt a little inconsequential, and some of the scenes were played too broadly as comedy when they could have been more tension filled. More important than the flaws, however, this episode showed some interesting avenues for the show to explore. If this season is majorly about Dexter in suburbia, the relationship between Deb and Lundy, and the mounting conflict with Trinity, the good times are coming, and the potential for this season to beat out the last is pretty high.

Grade: B

Notes:

-I enjoyed the look on everyone's face when Dexter said "poor birds." No one thinks that bird baths are actually for the benefits of birds, they are there to entertain the owners.

-The driving gag paid dividends all episodes. Everyone has their own driving habits, and Dexter being subjected to Rita's "˜80s tunes, Quinn's deafening bass, and Masuka's country music and monster truck were all very funny.

-"This is Miami, Deb. People die." That could be the show's tagline, or the most obvious line of the evening, depending on your point of view.

-"It must be weird for you, Lundy coming back." "Why would it be weird? You're weird!" Deb's social awkwardness and clear feelings for Lundy are pretty funny.

-Rita saw Dexter break the security lights. The look he shot her was downright evil. I am sure this will be dealt with in future episodes but for now, it was a good shot to end on.
Tags: Dexter
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