Dexter: Season 4, Episode 5
Dirty Harry
This week's Dexter had exactly one plot point to parcel out, and wasted most of its 48 minute runtime avoiding it. The show always tends to tread water in the early episodes of the season (as I find myself saying on a weekly basis in these reviews), but few episodes have felt so burden with useless plotting as this one. To be fair, we did see the end to the pointless Vacation Murderers plotline tonight, but every other plot just seemed to recycle information we already knew, leading up to a conclusion that is supposedly shocking, but mostly just par for the course.

In the Angel and LaGuerta storyline, we're reminded that there's tension because they're both cops, and the show reiterates that Maria went behind Angel's back and reported their relationship. This is a huge "who cares" storyline, and is even more boring for how easily it will be resolved. La Guerta is ordered to transfer Angel, but he's a cast member and something tells me he won't be leaving the show. Even deeper down something tells me that I don't care how this storyline progresses in the least. On another pretty rote note, Quinn is banging that reporter whose name I don't care about again, leading to the most paltry exchange of the night, when reporter says, "I thought you said this was too complicated, you being a cop and me a reporter." She might as well have said, "we're star-crossed lovers! This tension caused by us being together should cause some pretty run of the mill drama!" To which he so boringly replied, "I like complicated." Both of those characters are so flat and personality-lite I almost wish I could just fast forward through all of their scenes together. The writers, ostensibly realizing how boring those two are, throw in a nude scene for her every episode, as if that will spice things up again, but really, their conversation cuts any of the edge off the scene.

As I suspected last week, the show is determined to destroy an interesting plotline as it did tonight by killing off Lundy. His interactions with Deb were the one non-Dexter area of this show to be consistently entertaining, so of course he was killed off right when things started getting good. This show could really use Carradine's wry wit these days, but instead they put his character in the ground and left Deb crying and alone. Watching Deb sob and say "I'm broken" is certainly a lot heavier handed, and a lot less compelling than the scenes we would have had if Lundy had lived (or at least been in life-threatening surgery as a result of the shooting). Alas, Frank Lundy has left us, and with his departure, I can say goodbye to the other Dexter character I really like.

Watching Dexter trail Trinity tonight should have been pulse-poundingly exciting, except that we know the show's formula by now, and so knew that Dexter would not confront his new prey tonight. So Dexter tracked him, witnessed his most recent crime, and followed him home to discover that Trinity is a family man, just like Dexter only more successful in every way. This is a potentially interesting storyline, but it will likely end up going exactly how season three did, except in reverse: Dexter will try to learn how to be a family man from Trinity, only to realize that it doesn't really work and have to kill Trinity. If I had faith in this show to plumb the depths of its dark potential, this episode would excite me as it set dexter up as the true lone wolf, standing outside Trinity's house, watching him interact with his family in much more realistic fashion than Dexter can pull off. If the show had the edge I hope for, it would lead Dexter down a very dark path, either to his eventual capture, death, or to the breaking point at which he is forced to kill a member of his family.

Instead, I worry that the show moves inexorably toward a happy ending for all, which might not fit realistically into the pattern the show has created, but which will allow everyone to leave happy. This is not to say I have lost my faith in Dexter, nor that I doubt this season can become incredible in its latter half, but that I worry the show is too afraid to go darker. Regardless of its long term plans, it looks like we're almost past the killing time phase of season four and on to what I hope will be the suspenseful, thematically rich portion that will redeem the weaker aspects of the season and remind us all why we watch Dexter and why we plan to continue watching it for a while yet.

Grade: B-

-There is no reason for this episode to be called "Dirty Harry" save for the fact that the show has yet to use that pun. And here I was hoping we would find out some dark secret from Harry's past.

-Which reminds me, his character is still as useless as ever tonight, simply pointing out details that would have been better off being left unsaid. Showing us a picture of the security guard and his two kids is enough, we don't need Harry there saying "he has two kids, just like the last victim." Let us figure things out for ourselves and realize that Harry outlived his usefulness when there stopped being more backstory to fill in.
Tags: Dexter
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