Perhaps I am the only person blogging season five of Dexter who didn’t know until this week that Julia Stiles was guest starring. Which means I wasn’t waiting through the last two episodes for her to appear, but I was watching pretty furiously for her appearance this episode after her name popped out of the opening credits. I suppose it is a good sign that I found the whole cat-and-mouse showdown with Boyd compelling enough that I had sort of forgotten about dear Julia, until she appeared scrambling up the secret staircase of her god-forsaken prison. More about which in a moment.
First, a word in praise of worthy adversaries. Too often we watch Dexter take out some creep so easily he barely seems to try. It is easy to forget that many of the people Dexter kills are predators themselves, presumably competent, stealthy, and very observant. It is also easy to forget that Dexter is himself a scary guy. Most of his victims don’t see him coming, which makes him seem less like the villain lurking in the shadows and more like the preternaturally gifted hero. Tonight’s showdown reminded us of both truths. Boyd may not suspect Darryl Tucker of carrying a syringe full of sedatives, but his reflexes are quick enough to fire his tranquilizer gun right into Dexter’s gut. I have to admit, I had written Boyd off as a brainless psychopath until I watched him play cool in the ambulance, sizing Dexter up and plotting his revenge/escape. Psycho, yes, but brainless not so much. Here was all the cunning of someone who lures women to their imprisonment and gruesome deaths who hasn’t gotten caught yet. He must have something more than “take it” rhetoric in his head. But watching him twitch and pant through his darkened house also reminded me that Dexter would also be the psycho in another story. That Boyd would be the vehicle to the season’s new twist seemed fitting somehow, since it turns out he was more than just an ordinary kill.
I liked that the unusual nature of his case was signaled by Dexter’s improvisations in the kill room. After he has meditated alone and with Deb about the value of ritual and return to routine to stabilize his post-traumatic life, he is thrown off his game and forced to make a new ritual on of the materials he has on hand. Perhaps not surprising at all, the kill he hoped would set him on the path to recovery only leaves him more empty. And then, ta-da, enter an innocent woman who is herself a victim of trauma. Sure, it is a little heavy handed, but I kind of think it could work. Or at least be interesting. It is hard to imagine how Dexter is both going to be able to keep mystery woman safe and keep her from spilling the beans. How, in other words, can he protect himself without continuing the trauma she has suffered at Boyd’s hands? No doubt she is supposed to remind us and Dexter of Rita and while this could be tedious, it could also be an interesting way for Dexter to work through is own guilt about having lied to Rita and shut her out of his reality to protect her. Here is a woman who knows exactly who Dexter is, but whom he can’t save without putting himself in danger.
What do you think of this use of Ms. Stiles? Any predictions of what will come? I’ll also leave it to you to talk about Harrison’s new nanny, Angel’s machismo, the rising count of headless corpses, and just how annoying Quinn is. It is kind of amazing how chock full of plots the season already is. It is a bit hard to care about all of them at once and I kind of hope they weave together more soon. For instance, what is going to happen with the whole Kyle Butler hunt (and really do you think the composite sketch Quinn is creating looks like Dexter? It seemed like the writers were even making fun in a way, having Mazuko mistake him for Justin Bieber. Is this just a case of Quinn’s crazy hunches, which in this case happens to be right?).
One last thought: we’re supposed to think that incredible “Natural Born Griller” apron was Boyd’s right? What a fine touch…
I wish I had Deb around when I was interviewing nannies…
That’s funny – I did know that Julia Stiles was guest starring this season, but I didn’t know how, and I knew it so long before the season started that, by this point, I had pretty much forgotten it. It took me a minute to realize that that even was JS when she appeared! So like you, I clearly was so caught up in the story I didn’t quite track its famous guests! I can’t say I’ve ever been drawn to JS as an actor, so I’m intrigued to see if this season shifts my view. But yes, you’re right – what role she’ll play is certainly the most intriguing part of her arrival! Will she see Dex as a savior or as just another killer? In a way, she’s starting out as some sort of a combination of Lila and Rita – knowing exactly who Dex is, but also somehow innocent and in need of his protection. And as these two women were the ones with whom Dexter really began to explore his humanity, I can only imagine what sort of shenanigans he and the mystery woman will pursue??
She’s also the full embodiment of the purposeful drive inherent to Dexter’s own code (his more so than Harry’s) – Dexter kills those who hurt others to protect the innocent (and, you know, because of his traumatically induced compulsion to do so). But he only ever works his trauma out over the villains he kills…in a sense, by repeating again and again vengeance over his mother’s death. He’s never worked out that healing (and it’s interesting that’s precisely what he called it while killing Boyd – healing) with the victims or potential victims. They’ve always been present as static photographs – haunting memories. Now he gets to face one of those he avenges. I don’t know why this type of healing has never occurred to me before – but I’m intrigued to see what they do with it.
Oof, Boyd – yes, he is deft and freaky! Aside from “Take it Now” by Jordan Chase being just about the creepiest thing I’ve ever heard (terrifying to imagine the furthest limits of what self-help gurus could inspire!), Boyd’s own ability to pace Dexter as much as he did was pretty impressive. A few more years at the game, and he might have turned as pro as our protagonist!
You’re right that once again we have so many plots to keep a hold of. Unlike most, though, I’m enjoying Quinn being on Dex’s tail (although I’m with you on thinking that picture doesn’t look all that much like Dexter – but I think I like the idea that it can affirm suspicions rather than raise them). What will happen with the Mitchells next week, I don’t know. But I’m really enjoying how the Angel/Maria storyline is shaping up. We’ve had two weeks now where one hides something from the other – Maria’s secretive bank accounts last week, and Angel’s avoidance of telling the truth about his fight…not to mention the elements he added to the story to rile up Maria to his side! As the charges get levied, I wonder how long it will be before he has to admit under oath that his opponent said nothing about Maria and her blow-job abilities?
And as these headless corpses pile up, I feel confused about where that storyline is going (although I love the brassy Latina cop working with Deb). We had two references to the Ice Truck Killer in the episode: one direct (Dex’s reference to notes on his fridge) and one oblique (Deb reminding us the great loss she has suffered with dying lovers)…not that I think ITK is back from the dead wreaking havoc, but I have to wonder if there’s some buried clue in reminding us of him in the midst of the rest of the drama. How will these killings connect to the larger narrative? And which larger narrative will they connect to?
One quick note on Harrison – I’m no child psychologist, but it’s difficult for me to buy that sitting in a pile of blood next to your dead mother doesn’t affect you if you’re less than one year old just because you can’t process it! I would think that it’s precisely because you can’t process it that it will continue to ripple affects in your psyche. I’m not sure if that’s an easy way out for the writers, or if they are trying to distract us to bring the real problems with Harrison – problems we haven’t even imagined yet – to the surface at a later date.
Favourite line in the episode – Deb to Quinn: “Shit on my face, you ever use works like we and married again…”. Where does she come up with these lovely turns of phrase!? I love it!!
Wondering how nannies that use knuckle slaps and force feed children cheese ever found a job,