The Beast is Coming for You
Sigh. This is all so disappointing. I was trying to explain how awful this season is to my sister (who tried to quit watching before Trinity and definitively quit after Trinity because the show had gotten so dumb) the other day, and she pointed out that much of what I’m describing as frustrating has been going on for a long time; I’m only just noticing it now. And I had to wonder if she was right.
I don’t know why I’ve always forgiven the outlandish storylines that rely on impossible events and Dexter getting away with things he could never get away with (really, Homeland Security didn’t trace his wormwood tip call?!). I think it’s a combination of the fact that there’s always been enough action and suspense to keep me engaged and the acting has always been so superb that I forgive the clunky writing, even convincing myself that this clunkiness is part of its charm. But with the utter lack of suspense this season (not only with the “is Gellar real?” crapstorm, but also with the total letdown in any and all suspenseful action sequences – Oh no, Batista is going to die…wait, he’s fine! Oh no, Miami Metro is about to get gassed…oh wait, they’re fine!). If you’re going to defuse things so quickly, don’t even bother escalating, in my view – focus on something else.
My love for the acting is dwindling this season too, simply because I think the writers are abusing their actors. This whole incest storyline would have been really interesting 3 seasons ago, but now it just feels like a cheap ploy to ignite our interest in the Hall/Carpenter off-screen issues more than any genuine interest in storytelling – which, despite Carpenter’s skill, just ends up feeling cheap.
And speaking of those skills, I have to say, I’m a little tired of how on the brink of tears she constantly seems. Are we to think she’s just that overwhelmed? I thought she was going to start weeping when she bawled out Angel and Quinn. I miss her strength – especially given that I don’t think she’s as in over her head as everyone keeps trying to say. If that’s the story they want to tell, then they needed to make her a little more incompetent up to this point – because right now I’m not believing it. Deb is badass and skilled! Sure, she feels her emotions powerfully, as the psychologist put it – but she’s also good at what she does. If we’re to think that Matthews kept promoting her ahead of her time over some sort of nepotistic devotion (which seems to be what they were implying with this episode), then, once again, they shouldn’t have been convincing us all along that she was so badass. These storylines get played out however suits best for the moment, but I would like some narrative and character continuity here.
Other things I’m not believing: Maria being such a bitch! I know she’s ruthless and intense with her career, but I feel like they’re losing the moral center and buried sweetness that always made her more interesting. She’s lost any sense of being a well-rounded character – between her and Matthews, I feel like all peripheral characters exist entirely to make Deb’s life more difficult…which really amounts to a whole bundle of cheap narrative devices rather than something worthy of being called a story.
Between all that, I simply can’t get the energy up to care about Lewis’ weirdness with the ITK hand. This is perhaps the most interesting thing happening…but meh, I couldn’t care less.
I guess when I picture the writers’ room, I picture a bunch of smart 19 year olds hopped up on sugar or something more potent tossing around ideas that they don’t have the skill or insight to develop. And then they all get excited and run with it. Someone, the only one who has been working on the show since the beginning, mentions that this new idea doesn’t make any sense, but the rest are so hopping mad that they don’t care – “our viewers are too stupid to notice that!” they exclaim, as they write it up. And then they snort another line. And that’s how these episodes are getting put together.
Oh, Kathryn – I want to find one interesting thing to say…for a brief second I was compelled by how much effort Dexter was putting into seducing Travis to his lair…creating an elaborate tableau, essentially becoming “the beast.” There was something of the old Dexter in there – the playful freak who engaged his kills into a creepy dance. But even this plot had to resolve itself into the most hilarious shot of the entire show – painting montage! Oh I wonder what Travis is going to paint. Shocker – it’s a hideous portrait of Dexter…hideous and hilarious!
The only thing that had me laughing harder was the fact that Dexter came home after being doused in poisonous gas and started hugging his kid without changing his shirt…I’m just saying, if my shirt was covered in poison, I would toss it out before I rubbed it on my child’s face. Call me over-protective, but I just think that’s good parenting.
Looking forward to it being over…
Oh, Natalie, I am right there with you. I am taking some pleasure out of our mutual bitch-fest, but it is a sad pleasure, the kind that comes from having to imagine elaborate (hilarious too – kudos) scenes of coke-snorting teenage writers instead of having anything to really say about the episode itself… because it was SO bad. In that spirit, let me just add to the festival of complaints:
–you know last week how Dexter oscillated back to the “I don’t believe in anything but my Dark Passenger; Brother Sam deluded me” anti-religious position the season started out exploring? And then how, completely inexplicably at the end of the episode he went along with Harry and called the police about the poison gas? Did you get any sense that this was somehow the rejection of his Dark Passenger and a sudden, newfound, unexplored and unexplaned desire to play by the rules of the legal system? Because I think we were supposed to think that since he announced tonight that he was now going to give Deb all info about DDK and give up killing Travis himself. What??! Oh, except, conveniently, just a few minutes later Homeland Security was brought in to be a 15 minute diversion to give Dexter permission to re-enthrone his Dark Passenger as his guiding moral force. What is Dexter now, just a pawn for easy moral suggestion? Forget the Code, he’ll switch his MO on a whim these days.
–Is all this terribly uncharacteristic, stupid, and over-narrated moral-center switching supposed to hook into the religion/spirituality theme? Oh, wait, that’s the theme for this season?
–My only hope for the horrible, laughable, kind of terrifying portrait of Dexter as the beast is that Miami Metro will discover it. Except it is so bad, they might not really recognize Dexter.
–I know it is kind of cheating to use “next week on” clips in episodic commentary, but if you were worried about Harrison and the poison-exposed dress shirt, prepare yourself for cheap ploys of endangered children.
–How much do you want to bet Lewis is going to be next season’s villain – re-enacting ITK and taking us back to the beginning?
The single genuinely interesting moment I noticed last night was in Deb’s incestuous dream. You could tell it was a dream the moment Dex opened his mouth, since he is not usually half that talkative or understanding. But I did find it fascinating that the Dex in Deb’s fantasy repeated the line about seeing beyond black and white that the real Dex had spoken to her earlier. The idea that Deb’s possibly incestuous attraction to Dex might coincide with her learning something about his real identity is at least interesting. But as you pointed out, the way things have been going, I have no trust that it will be explored well or even picked up on.
One week until the end of the world…