Wednesday, December 08, 2010

DEXTER 5.11 "Hop A Freighter" Review

Episode 5.11 "Hop a Freighter"

And here we are, one episode left in the season, and I'll be quite honest.  I have no idea what's going to happen next.

For those of you late to the party, Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is in love.  Sure, it's with supremely damaged Lumen (Julia Stiles), with whom he shares the urge to murder wrongdoers, but it's love nonetheless.  Last week we discovered that Jordan Chase (Jonny Lee Miller) was an alias and that his little group of rapists and thugs had been engaging in their funny games for years.  Maybe a decade or more.

And it all started this one time, at camp.

Dex and Lumen had tracked down the last of Chase's pals and, um, disposed of him, while Chase tried to set them up to be caught by Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) and Quinn (Desmond Harrington).  It was a near miss, but thanks to a stray footprint in the mud, Deb was able to start intuiting just what was going on.

Much to Dexter's dismay.

And oh yeah, Liddy's (Peter Weller) caught Dex and Lumen on tape, preparing for a kill.  Oops.

Spoiler Screens Up!

I just want to say up front that I am in love with Peter Weller.  Not in a carnal, dirty way.  But in the way where I could watch him all day long playing this part.  Liddy is a scummy, slimy, disgrace of a cop, but he's good.  He knows when something's up instinctively and won't let anything get in the way of finding out the truth about what's going on.

Of course, his only motivation is to get his job back.  He's not interested in right or wrong, or good and evil.  He's supremely self-interested, which is what makes him interesting.  And God Damn can Peter Weller deliver a line.  Every word out of his mouth is like liquid gold.

He, quite simply, acts rings around every other member of the cast.

I was sad to see him go, this week.

I knew it was coming.  It had to happen.  You can't keep a series about a serial killer who hunts criminals going if people start finding out what he's up to.  That's the main thrust of every season so far.  Someone finds out what Dexter is up to, and he's forced to kill them.  Usually, they're kind of scummy people anyway, so he finds a way to justify it.  Or someone else steps in and kills them for him.

But someone's always gonna die.

The question this season is, now that Liddy is dead, does Quinn have to go too?

I hope not.  Angry Irish has grown on me.  This week he gives Deb the "You make me a better person" speech and I kind of believed him.  And that's all on Harrington's performance.  Who'd have thought the cute, kind of shy boss from Sons and Daughters could play a messed up cop?

That's okay.  Nobody remembers Sons and Daughters but me.  But you should track it down and check it out.  It was a great little comedy that only lacked an audience.

Anyway, this week the pieces all start falling into place, as Dex and Lumen start setting their trap, and Chase starts setting a trap of his own.

So far as the plot is concerned, things are moving smoothly toward the big finish.  And to my surprise, Deb is really coming into her own.  This is the first time in the history of the show that I've really felt like Deb was earning her keep as a Detective.  Sure, there's not a lot of detective work going on, and everything seems to be more instinctual than earned, but it's good to see Deb in a position of authority and shedding all that self-doubt that's been holding her back.

I still think we might be heading toward a finale where she discovers Dexter's true nature and has to deal with that (just like in the books), but I admit up front that I could be wrong.  I don't think I am, though.

After Deb waxes romantic about the dedication and Love that must be shared between the vigilantes hunting down and disappearing all of the Rape Gang, Dexter realizes that maybe what he and Lumen have is actually Love.  Which, of course, means that Lumen is in for a world of trouble.

Hell, it wouldn't be a television drama otherwise.

As much as I love this show, there's a bit of a True Blood feel to it at times.  Not in the "Holy Shit!  What did they just do?!?" kind of way, but in the "Oh my, that's some bad dialogue and acting!!" kind of way.  It's been that way every season.  But the strength of this show isn't the acting or the dialogue.  It's the plotting and little character moments involving Dexter.  The other characters are window dressing.

And it's the same this season.  Aside from Peter Weller and Michael C. Hall, there's really not another performance that shines in this show.  Julia Stiles does what she can with the part, and Jennifer Carpenter has finally made Deb a three-dimensional character, but the rest of the cast really doesn't hold my interest.  C.S. Lee as Masuka, entertains me (particularly with his mimed explanation of what happened at the crime scene a few episodes ago, when they found the dentist and the guy wrapped in cellophane), and I empathize with Angel (David Zayas), I don't watch for them.

Every episode has a healthy dose of bad writing and acting, but ultimately I end up enjoying the show.  I think there's just something so wrong about the central concept that I can't help but love it.  When Dex bought Lumen her own knife this week, it was so creepily romantic I almost giggled.  Same with the murder gloves last week

That helps to up the tension as we move into the season finale and Lumen is held captive by Chase, and Dexter is desperate to find them and save her.  Throw in the fact that Liddy's body is discovered and a manhunt gets underway for a cop-killer (Dexter), and this looks to be finale that's packed to overflowing with excitement, drama, and, most likely, heartbreak for Dexter.

If you've been watching, you know there's no way you can stay away from next week's episode.  This is what Dexter does best: the amping up of dramatic tension as we head into the home stretch.  And while I don't think this season is going to top Season Four for sheer craziness and impressive performances (John Lithgow's Trinity Killer was a high point that they may never reach again), it's still one of the most engaging and entertaining shows on television.

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