Death has always calmed me
I don’t know about the two of you, but I’d watch a spin-off series Dex and Isaak (One believed in love. One believed in reason. Their love of killing defied reason). Watching their game of cat and mouse turn into some strange mentoring session was a reminder of how little the show has played with themes of friendship since Dex killed off Miguel. Dex has pondered quite often what it would mean to have a different father, and has sought out other father-figures (Trinity), but maybe what he needs is good old fashioned friend who can call him on his bullshit and push him to grow.
Good call last week, Bryan, on how short sighted Dex is being (and the writers) about Lumen. Yes, eventually Lumen realized that she needed to leave killing behind in order to fully move on, but for a good while there Dex shared all his deepest secrets with her and found complete acceptance. In fact, I’d say he’s shared a hell of a lot less with Hannah so far. She doesn’t know about his traumatic childhood and has he even mentioned his “dark passenger”? It is one thing to want to run away to Argentina with an impetuous psycho and another to shack up with an emotionally distant sociopath. Did anyone else detect a flicker of panic in Hannah’s eyes when Dex finally confessed how vulnerable and attached he was? In the end, she seemed to be snuggling into his embrace, but for a second I couldn’t tell if the look in her eyes was astonishment because she couldn’t believe Dex was being so intimate, or panic at that the thought of getting tied down (but wasn’t he lying on her wounded side? Maybe she was just wincing…).
If there is something new to the Hannah love story, maybe it centers around the themes of control that this episode highlighted again. Dex has often worried about the irrationality of love, and I know that this has been tied to his own fear of losing control. But it will be interesting to see if they can do something knew with these ideas. Dex may be able to convince himself that love is rational (makes sense at least within certain perimeters or can be explained in some way), but that does not mean it is any less messy and difficult to control. Can Dex let love calm him, instead of his knife?
His speech to Deb about the rationality of her love for him was actually quite moving, and this idea that what love is, at heart, is endurance, is rather profound. When all is said and done, will Dex and Deb be the only ones to endure once again? Until we find out, I hope Deb gets to stop ricocheting between extreme emotions in order to keep various plots afloat. I hope she takes her own advice and gets some serious emotional distance from Dex, even if I think she got to that place far too quickly. Before we know it she’ll be eating steaks and drinking beers with Hannah and Dex in their new love pad.
I did like the small details that were planted throughout the season to remind us just how cold Dexter can be: texting Hannah just as he and Deb are making progress, unable to say anything meaningful on the phone to Hannah. Of course, these little moments would have been a hell of a lot better if they weren’t then talked about at length, but I have accepted that this show is incapable of letting a moment of any significance pass without comment. I can actually feel my brain getting stupider as I watch: whatever powers of deduction I have built watching better TV are hammered out of my brain by over-exposition in Dexter. Soon, I’ll expect Don Draper to narrate exactly what he is feeling after a fight with Megan.
That said, I still think the writers have done a better job than in many other seasons bringing various plot lines together. The Isaak story felt like it was slipping out of view a few weeks ago, but instead it managed to integrate with the Hannah and Deb stories in a way that, at least for this show, felt natural enough. Hannah is still around, but the stakes of the relationship are raised enough to make it at least interesting, and the arrival of the creepy burn unit man and Maria closing in on Dex mean the season has just enough time for one or two more interesting turns.
Any predictions for the final three episodes?
Kathryn, I would definitely watch a Dex-Isaac spin off! I believe I was most dubious of this storyline at the beginning, but I’ve grown to love what they’re doing with it, yes in terms of friendship, but also in terms of the ongoing question of where one finds one’s humanity. Dexter is begging to be recognized by those he loves and those who love him this season – he wants Deb to understand and come along and he wants to pretend that Hannah gets him…whether or not she actually does. But Deb is obligated to try to ‘get’ Dex. Hannah is pretty much just enjoying the ride (childish sex, joke, I know). Isaac on the other hand seems to want to get to know Dexter – he observes him, ponders his motivations, asks meaningful questions. Dex then also seemed to experience something like empathy with Isaac when he was able to use his own experience with Rita to ascertain the guilty pain Isaac was feeling. He might have deduced it logically, but the emotional impulse was there too in a way we don’t typically see with Dexter. And so I think that the possibilities for exploration of finding oneself in relationship really opened up with the Dexter/Isaac pairing…
…so of course he had to get killed off. Seriously, Dexter writers – you play enough with themes around being afraid of relationships, I’m starting to wonder if it’s you guys who panic when you get too close to something real!
We haven’t talked much about Isaac’s sexuality and how that played. With a lesser actor, I think that detail could have gone frightfully wrong. But I appreciated the pathos of the closet, the desire to live into the self authentically (which didn’t get over-associated with Dex’s desires to be ‘out’), and the emotional maturity that struggle had brought about in Isaac. We don’t have many gay/lesbian/queer characters on the show (if any??). I was sorry to see such a well-rounded, fascinating one die! But I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this. What is the impact of locating a killer’s humanity in his sexuality? Isaac knows what it is to be human through his relationship with Victor…and so while we’ve watched Dexter’s humanity develop in sexual and romantic relationships that he can be out with, what does it mean to locate a killer’s humanity in a hidden sexuality, in a closeted self? Perhaps the writers didn’t even know what they had here. In fact, I’d put money on it given that they never drew attention to it. But I found it to be one of the more compelling storylines of the season.
As for Hannah – yes, I saw that glimmer of panic cross her face when Dex got all vulnerable…Dexter hasn’t ever really been rejected in love. I’d be curious to see how that plays out! Can Hannah just break up with someone, or does she always have to kill them?
Creepy burn guy definitely brings a new dimension, and they’ve timed it well – it doesn’t feel distracting, but more so gives a nice episodic feel to what’s coming. I actually wonder if this show could benefit from more enclosed episodes that contribute to the narrative arc, but delve into the fact that sometimes cases get opened and closed quickly, and that’s itself an interesting way to tell a story.
I don’t bond,
Kathryn, you are absolutely right that Dex and Isaak would be a fascinating spinoff (maybe a miniseries?). However, Natalie, you are also right: the writers seem almost scared to keep around characters who can have meaningful conversations (that aren’t extremely over explanatory) because it would be hard work to keep writing good scenes. I wonder if they wrote the really good scene with Dexter and Isaak in the gay bar for last week’s episode and realized that they needed to kill Isaak because they couldn’t keep that up. I can almost picture them writing the scenes from this week’s episode with Isaak and being like, “It’s so hard not to be cliche. How do AMC’s writers do it? You know what? Just have Isaak die this episode. I can’t take the pressure.”
While I’m complaining, here’s another thing: Isn’t it extremely against Dexter’s code to kill the first assassin at the sniper range only a few feet away from other people? Aren’t the risks sky-high on that kill? That can’t be OK outside of Miami Metro or not.
I’m definitely sad about Isaak being gone because, to me, he has been the most interesting character of the season. I’m just having trouble caring about Hannah and Dexter’s relationship. I’m also having trouble getting excited about the fire starting fireman. It seems too late in the season to be setting up a multi-episode arc for a new killer. I get a bad feeling that they are going to introduce this character just as a piece of the puzzle to settle the Hannah/Dexter/Debra storyline. I get the feeling he could be like a mini version of the season 3 serial killer (the one who cut people’s skin off): completely undeveloped and given more weight then they deserve for major plot moves. Hopefully, I will end up being wrong. Hopefully, you are right about it, Natalie.
Natalie, I really liked your points about Isaak and the themes of sexual orientation that seemed to be missed by the show. That is something that the show hasn’t broached at all (that I can remember at least). I kind of understand why, though. The show is so centered around Dexter (who is straight) and I imagine there is a stronger stigma around cops being out of the closet (am I wrong about this?), so it might be less realistic for any of our recurring characters to be non-heterosexual. But, like you said, it makes missing out on exploring Isaak’s possibilities even more sad.
Let’s see what happens here in these closing weeks. Maybe the show will surprise me (us?) and stumble into something strong and compelling.
M & fucking M’s,