Monday, December 3, 2012

Showtime Dexter “The Dark …Whatever” #710 Choice and Consequence

by Catherine Giordano

It’s Showtime’s "Dexter", season 7 episode 10, and the body count is rising. Dexter adds another kill to his tally, Quinn adds one, and “The Phantom Arsonist” brings his tally up to eight or more before being dispatched by Dexter. The Phantom Arsonist is a pretty prolific killer—at the start of the episode we learned that he racked up seven kills in just two weeks, including a twofer--a mother and child. During this episode the Phantom strikes again, on a public bus this time, but I’m not sure how many that adds to his tally.
Dexter, in his usual methodical and extra-legal way, tracks down the killer. He suspects Bosso, the lead investigator from the fire department who has all the qualities usually found in a serial killer. Bosso reels them off in a briefing—male, methodical, fastidious, self-aggrandizing, ego-centric, manipulative, near or in law enforcement.  Dexter thinks as he sits in the briefing, “You could be describing yourself.” He could also be describing Dexter, couldn’t he?   

Dexter doesn’t make the connection just then, but he is about to have a huge leap in self-awareness. He’s going to realize that he is not compelled to kill by his “Dark Passenger,” but that he chooses to kill. He has a conversation with his dad--which is really a conversation with himself since his Dad is dead and appears only as manifestation of Dexter’s imagination. His Dad says, “You were traumatized, not possessed.  Where did you get the idea of a dark passenger?”  Dexter realizes, “If there is no dark passenger, then I’m responsible for everything.”   

The self-awakening begins when he is having breakfast with Hannah. He’s discussing his compulsion to kill. He says, “I have a Dark Passenger living inside me. I have no choice. Hannah dismisses this idea of a “dark rider,” as she calls it. She says, “You have a choice.” 

The writers chose “The Dark …Whatever” as the title for this episode based on this confusion between the “Dark Passenger” and the “Dark Rider,” and because it doesn’t matter what you call this dark urge to kill. I entitled my review “Choice and Consequence” because Dexter is coming to the conclusion that he has a choice to kill or not kill. He is more than a puppet controlled by the “Dark Passenger.”  This self awakening is bound to have huge consequences for Dexter. 

Just then Hannah’s dad, Clint McKay (played by Jim Beaver), shows up. He calls her by a childhood, pet name, “Banana.”  He says, “I don’t expect you to forgive me, but I always loved you.” He brings her the doll house that he gave her when she was a child. Hannah is not in a forgiving mood, and she sends him away.  

After he leaves, Hannah tells Dexter that her father meant well, but this was the worst present he could have given her because it brings back bad memories. When she was about eight years old, he told her mother that he was taking her to a county fair. Instead he left her in a motel room alone for three days while he went off to play poker. When he finally returned, he returned with the doll house. 

Later Hannah’s feelings about her Dad soften. Abused children grow up, but they never get over wanting their parents to love them. So it is understandable that Hannah’s longing for a father overcomes her good sense. Hannah invites her father to have dinner with her and Dexter.  

At dinner, Clint tells them that he has reformed and is going to start a crawfish farm. He only needs $20,000 more to get started. He wants Hannah to “invest” in his proposed new business. Hannah’s good sense returns and she says, “It’s not going to happen.” Dear old dad becomes furious. “What kind of daughter won’t help her own father?”  (Hannah might have replied, “What kind of father tries to drown his own daughter.” When Hannah was very young, he tossed her off a pier to sink or swim. A bystander rescued her.) Nonetheless, Hannah still believes that her father is trying to change. 

The next day Hannah returns from the flower market to find her father’s truck crashed into her nursery. “Oops,” Clint says, “I might have been a little drunk.” Clint accuses Hannah of killing her mother. “She dies of a broken heart after your spree with Wayne Randall. I should have let you drown.” Hannah is sobbing. Dexter wonders “How do I help Hannah put herself together.” 

Dexter stands up to Clint and tells him to never bother Hannah again. Hannah comments, “I haven’t seen that face since you took me to see the snow.” (That would be the time that he took Hannah on their first “date” intending to kill her, but averted his knife at the last second.)  

Unfortunately, a scary as Dexter can be, Clint was not scared off. He comes to Dexter’s apartment and threatens blackmail. It seems that he was giving Sal Price the information about Hannah for Sal’s book, but he withheld one piece of information because he was holding out for a higher price. When Hannah was in a halfway house, her room-mate Arlene Shram, saw her poison a counselor with rat poison. (What other murders has Hannah committed that we don’t know about—her husband, her mentor, Sal Price, and now, her half-way house counselor. Perhaps we should call her the “Pretty Poison Killer.” She’s quite the busy little murderer, isn’t she?)  

Dexter finds a way to help Hannah after all—he helps her in exactly the way you would expect.  Although Hannah said killing her father was not an option because he is, after all, her father. She wants to give her father the money. Dexter argues that Clint will only come back again and again asking for money. Dexter kills him anyway. 

But in Dexter’s defense, he was doing it to protect Hannah.  And it turns out that Clint didn’t even want the money for a crawfish farm. It was to pay off gambling debts. So Clint ends up wrapped in plastic on Dexter’s boat. Clint pleads for his life.   

“You don’t have to do this.” 

“You’re right. I don’t have to. I want to.” 

“You’ve got the devil inside you, boy.” 

“No, I think it is just me.”

When Dexter sees Hannah, he tells her that her father will not be bothering her any more.  He says, "I had a little talk with him. "I think  hannah really does know that Dexter most likely killed him, but maybe there is just a little bit of doubt and she's choosing to go with the doubt. It is just like when Hannah was believing that her father had reformed. You want to believe the best about people you want to love. 

Dexter tells Hannah that the “Dark Rider” doesn’t exist. "You understand me better than I understand myself.” hannah says "I love you.” Dexter responds, "I think ... I love you too." These words are painful for Dexter to say. Even his wife, Rita, did not elicit these feelings from him although he obviously cared about her and he probably spoke the words to her. These feelings, these words, are new to Dexter.
Love is changing Dexter. He may not be able to continue to be the killing machine he once was. In a previous episode, Dexter had questioned his father’s decision to channel Dexter’s urges with the code. Dexter wondered if instead he should have received treatment to eliminate the urges. He has begun to question if he has to be the way he is. Will his love for Hannah be his treatment or will it be his downfall? 

Back now to the other killings in this episode, starting with the horriffic murders done by The Phantom Arsonist. .

Dexter suspects Bosso, the fire department investigator, but Bosso has an alibi so Dexter concludes that sometimes, people like Bosso are just weird, and not all weird people are serial killers.  

Dexter is able to track down the real killer, Joseph Jensen, because he left a finger print on the bus. The police can’t find a match in the adult files, but they suspect that Juvie files may contain a match. The Juvie records are sealed so Dexter goes extra-legal and steals the records. Dexter finds the fingerprint match, gets a match,  and finds that Jensen has a record of arson going back to the age of 12.  He has been in a psychiatric hospital, but was released a month ago. 

Pretty soon Jensen is on Dexter’s table, bound in plastic. When the knock-out drug Dexter uses to sedate his intended victims wears off, Dexter demands, “Who’s Bobby?” (The name "Bobby" or the words, "It's Bobby"  were found at the scene of each crime.)
Jensen says that Bobby was his boyhood friend. Bobby set the fires and blamed him, and so now he sets fires to kill random strangers.

Dexter says, “You can’t blame it on something that happened when you were a kid.”  This is the “Eureka” moment of the week. Dexter realizes that this applies to him as well. 

Dexter doesn’t go through with the kill. He returns Joseph to his house where the police find him passed out on the basement floor. (Kerosene fumes?) They received an anonymous tip about a smell of kerosene coming from the house. Debra knows that the tip came from Dexter. She thinks he did it so she would lay off Hannah. Debra says that Dexter has controlled her whole life, and she will no longer be controlled by Dexter.  She will go after Hannah if she can. 

And then gets her chance to pursue Hannah. It turns out that good old dad made good on his blackmail threat. Before he died, he called in anonymous tip about Arlene Shram. Debra is hot on the trail.   

One small question: Jensen is going to have quite a story to tell about being accosted in his basement, getting knocked out, and waking up wrapped in plastic aboard a boat with a madman about to kill him. It is possible that Jensen never saw Dexter’s face. (Dexter attacked him while dressed in a fireman’s burn suit, his face covered by the suit’s hood.)  It’s also possible, having just been released from a mental hospital, everyone will think he is crazy if he tells that story. 

Quinn is a bit of a killer also. We already know, that upon occasion, Quinn has been a “dirty cop.” For instance, he took bribes, stole evidence, and more. In this episode he kills George, the boss of the sex club where his girl friend Nadia works as a dancer (and probably more). Quinn goes to George’s office because George is going to ship Nadia to a sex club in Dubai. He demands that George release Nadia to him. Just as George taunted Quinn by having sex with Nadia, he now taunts him by slapping Nadia around. When Quinn pulls his gun, he laughs at Quinn, saying, “What are you going to do, Mr. Policeman? Shoot me in my own club?” That is exactly what Quinn is going to do. 

Quinn puts George’s gun into his dead hand, places Nadia’s hand over George’s hand, and tells Nadia to shoot him in the arm. The he tells Nadia to take the money from the safe and leave the country. He tells Batista, who was in another part of the building, that he came to the sex club to argue for Nadia’s release, George got angry and shot him, winging him, and he shot back in self-defense.  

Quinn’s loan to Batista helping him to buy a restaurant is about to pay off. Batista knows this story is false. Too much time elapsed between the two shots. Nadia was still in the room when he arrived, and he heard Quinn telling her to leave. Quinn revises his story.  He was on the floor after George shot him. George then started beating Nadia. As he got back on his feet, George pointed the gun at him again, so he shot back. Batista tacitly agrees to go along with Quinn’s versions of events. My guess is that Batista will choose friendship over honesty and will support Quinn’s story. The investigation will be quietly closed.  

LaGuerta chose not to drop her investigation of Dexter, and chose to bring Tom Matthews into the investigation. Tom is choosing to not believe that Dexter is the “Bay Harbor Butcher.” It is friendship again. He was close with Dexter’s father and has known Dexter since he was a boy. 

LaGuerta convinces Mathews to go with her to interview the owner of the land where the cabin stood, the cabin that was burned down killing Doakes, who was being held prisoner inside. (His girl friend, Lila, played arsonist on her own initiative to help Dexter.  Dexter later killed her for this.) 

The owner of the property is living in a trailer on the spot where the cabin once stood.  He says that he had rented the cabin, not to Doakes, but to Santo Jimenez. Tom immediately recognizes the name of one of the men who killed, Laura Moser, Dexter’s birth mother. Laura had been an informant to Detective Morgan, the man who adopted Dexter after she was murdered. He also knew that the “Ice Truck Killer” was Dexter’s brother Brian. The puzzle pieces are fitting together very neatly. Even Mathews is becoming a believer. 

This is going to be a big problem for Dexter, now that two people, both LaGuerta and Tom, are closing in America’s favorite serial killer. Dexter has always been lucky and clever, but I don’t see how he is going to escape this time.  

Hannah is about to get a whole heap of trouble too. It turns out that good old dad made good on his blackmail threat. Before he died he called in anonymous tip about Arlene Shram. Debra is hot on the trail.  

One last point, there’s a high body count in every single episode—Miami sure must be a dangerous place. This season it seems that the serial killers are coming and going too fast. The Phantom lasted all of two episodes, and before that Ray Spitzer was gone in no more than three episodes. I liked it when there was one maniac killer for the whole season. Perhaps, because this is the penultimate season—the series ends next season—the story arcs had to change a bit in order to set up things for the finale.
A picture of the doomed Clint McKay who didn't even last to the end of the episode after meeting Dexter Morgan.
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