Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Catching Up With DEXTER: Episodes: 5.07, 5.08, 5.09

I'm a big fan of Dexter. Been watching since the beginning or thereabouts. At the IDM household, we'd heard a lot about the first season, but didn't have Showtime, so it was sometime during the second season or so that we started catching up.

It's a show I wasn't sure about at first. I loved the concept, but the execution sometimes left something to be desired. This was especially evident when compared to the show Michael C. Hall's previously headlined, Six Feet Under. And let's face it. The main reason I gave the series a shot was because of him.

It took about halfway through that first season to start seeing Dexter Morgan instead of David Fisher.

But the story won me over, and by the time the first season ended, I was on board. It wasn't great, and at times it was pretty freaking bad, but it had something special. The novelty of the idea gave way to a more nuanced and interesting narrative.

It was only recently that I read the first couple of Dexter books and realized that while they're not too bad, the show really took the initial concept and ran with it in creative ways that the books didn't seem capable of. I don't know if that's just the difference between the singular work of a novelist compared to the collaborative work of a television series cast and crew, or what, but Dexter, the show, outgrew its literary source exponentially.

And now we're almost through Season 5, and the show just keeps getting better and better. I didn't think they'd be able to top Season 3 with Jimmy Smits, and then along came Season 4 with John Lithgow, which is still, no matter how good the current season is, the pinnacle of the show so far.

But on to these past few episodes.

Oh yeah. Spoiler alert!

I really wasn't feeling the whole Julia Stiles aspect of this season as we moved into the second half of episodes, to be honest.  Not that I have anything against her as an actress.  To be honest, I don't really have any real opinion about her.  She's one of those actors who just pops up here and there, surprising me with an appearance, but then I forget all about her once she's gone.  The Bourne films are a good example of that.  I was surprised when she showed up in a small recurring part, and she did just fine with the role, but then I promptly forgot she was in the films once they were over.

I don't think I've ever seen a film where she played the lead.  Or maybe I did.  I don't know.  (A quick check of IMDB reveals that must have seen her in O, but barely remember seeing that film.)

Anyway, I wasn't excited when I heard she was going to be guest-starring, but I wasn't disappointed either.  Once the storyline began, I bought into her character, Lumen, but after Jimmy Smits' wannabe killer and John Lithgow's serious killer, I thought the idea of an ally/mentor/enemy for Dexter was getting kind of played out.

But I was wrong.

Over these latest few episodes, we've gotten to watch Lumen gain her footing and start pulling her life back together after nearly dying at the hands of this season's Big Bad, the rape gang.  I was afraid the writers were going to take her full bore into Lady .45 or I Spit on Your Grave territory, but they're really allowing her to move gradually into the role of Revenger.

It doesn't hurt that Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is helping her transition.

So, the element that I was most worried about (the character, not the actor) is developing into a nice additional texture to the standard Dexter formula.  However, what I'm enjoying the most about this season isn't the bonding over murder, Deb's (Jennifer Carpenter) budding romance with Quinn (Desmond Harrington, or "Angry Irish", as he's called around our homestead), or the complications between Angel (David Zayas) and Laguerta (Lauren VĂ©lez).

For me, it's all about the Peter Weller.

I'll watch anything with Peter Weller in it.  He's one of those actors who's had quite a few very strong starring roles in genre films, but I don't know that he's ever been in a real mainstream hit.  But with Of Unknown Origin, Buckaroo Bonzai, Robocop, Screamers, Naked Lunch, and his guest-spot in last season's Fringe episode "White Tulip", his cred with me is like acting Gold.

And in Dexter, his performance as Stan Liddy, disgraced cop, is slimy as hell.  In a good way.

Every scene he's in is just dripping in menace and hostility.  I'd watch a show entirely devoted to following Liddy around as he fucks with people and generally spirals further and further down into depravity.  I'd especially watch if he kept messing with Quinn until finally he's force to do something horrible to the younger cop. 

Not that I don't like Quinn, but he's a good foil for Liddy.  It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to suggest that Quinn could easily transition into someone like Liddy as time goes by.  Hell, they even look a little alike, with their lean, angular heads and excessive tans.

What makes Weller's performance as Liddy even more engaging, is that no matter how huge a corrupt bastard Liddy is, he's still a good detective and is effortlessly tracking and observing Dexter "in the wild".  He's onto something big, he can feel it, but he's not sure just what Dex is up to just yet.  But it won't be long, and once he figures it all out, things aren't going to go well for anyone.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the show, the investigation into the Santa Muerte murders has come to a head, and it's provided a disturbing moment of bonding between Deb, who's not feeling any guilt over killing Carlos Fuentes (Joseph Julian Soria, who played Chico in Crank: High Voltage), and Dexter, who's, well, you know.  Their cold-blooded recognition of a shared belief that some people deserve to die was an extremely strong scene.  It may have been my favorite Deb/Dex scene ever.

Not only is Deb facing counseling for shooting the bad guy, she's also been thrown under the bus by Laguerta when the sting went bad and two innocent bystanders were shot and many others were wounded.  Of course, that puts Deb in the file room, serving her suspension, where she's able to discover key evidence everyone else overlooked regarding the Bucket Girls. 

And speaking of which, I was amused to find that Sick Boy himself, Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, Hackers, Eli Stone) had joined the cast as celebrity motivational speaker, Jordan Chase.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that he's involved with the rape gang.  Hell, his catch-phrase is "Take It!"

Only three more episodes to go this season, and Dexter has kicked it into high gear, yet again.  It seems like no matter how many questions or hesitations I have about a season of Dexter, by the time we hit the home stretch, it all comes together into a satisfying whole.  This season looks to be about the same in that regard.

1 comment:

  1. I watched the first two and a half series of Dexter, but when I had an excuse to stop -- ran out of dvd sets to watch and it wasn't on any channel I could get -- I gave up on it.

    On an intellectual level, I understand the show and what it's trying to do, but I get a definite feel from it that they're not glorifying murder exactly, but that Dexter is being positioned as a flawed hero rather than what he should be, which is a sympathetic villain.

    I think they've got the balance just a little bit wrong, but it's clear that not everyone agrees, because it's a popular show!