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Dexter – Episode 4 “Horse of a Different Color” Recap and Review

October 24, 2011

Google image search is killer.

 

Season six of Dexter continued tonight with “Horse of a Different Color,” and while nothing particularly Earth shattering happened, nothing outrageously bad did either. While it certainly served its purpose as a linking episode more than anything, there was a tinge of a signal from the writers’ room early on stating that they know what potential this show has and are going to finally make Dexter as truly great as it deserves to be. Let’s saddle-up and ride.

Tonight’s episode was written by Lauren Gussis (a writer for the show since the beginning, usually at the helm of character building episodes like season one’s “Shrink Wrap” and season four’s “If I Had a Hammer”) and directed by John Dahl (this season’s premiere, last season’s “Hello Bandit”) both longtime players on team Dexter which makes for the show’s overall logic being as strong as ever. As seen in the above clip, there’s a moment when Dexter is about mention the Ice Truck Killer when Deb cuts him off and reminds us (for perhaps the first time in five seasons) that she knows the Ice Truck Killer was Dexter’s brother. Finally, the show’s stopped ignoring Deb’s awareness of Dex’s ITK connection, which bodes well for the show’s history finally taking itself seriously. Later, between Deb not falling on her face after LaGuerta’s suggestion for the press conference actually worked, Masuka’s intern being well aware of the show’s two previous main Miami Metro investigations and Deb hearing suggestions but keeping her new subordinate in order, I’m convinced that the show is finally really paying attention to its own history as a means to both enhance the experience for longtime viewers and keep us going in directions we didn’t expect.

While it was a slower episode, “Horse of a Different Color” seemed to build a bridge made of solid character growth. “That Ishy” Quinn (as my Mother calls him, Happy Birthday Mom!) smoking a joint with Batista allowed for a certain release between the show’s two most frustrated characters, and them having no consequences for getting high on the job was a nice touch. Brother Sam (now credited as Mos Def, Mos, yasiin bey) coming to the hospital to pray with Dex during Harrison’s appendectomy and revealing he had a similar death-related childhood trauma hammered home he’s one of the good(-ish) guys. Travis Marshall’s apocalyptic advisor Professor James Gellar was given an interesting background as a college professor who is an end-of-times nut and actually stole a weapon believed to be owned by John the Revealer who wrote the book of the Bible he’s obsessed with recreating. While there is sufficient evidence from the show that says he actually exists now (along with the backstory, the difference in Marshall’s crude bludgeons and his meticulous crime scenes), it wouldn’t surprise me if Gellar somehow was Marshall’s dark passenger. Speaking of surprises, as sad as it is to see Masuka’s intern go, I’m glad her red herring-ness only lasted two episodes. The auction was a satisfactory blowoff and gave us some Masuka with backbone.

Who ordered the wings?

Two little things I noticed tonight: 1) Masuka eating Deb’s Girl Scout Cookies while Quinn and Batista had the munchies and 2) was that Masuka’s intern in a commercial for a jar opener behind Dexter in the hospital? Those nuggets aside, tonight was largely about exposition but was handled much smoother than the season’s opener. The Green House kill was brutal and I’m guessing they’re slowly building a subplot about Deb needing to attend therapy for the trauma she’s been witnessing. Colin Hanks is doing a great job as Marshall, and while I found Dexter’s “bargaining with God” to be a tad cartoony for my tastes, the eventual showdown at the end of the season should be great.

We give “Horse of a Different Color”  a Three Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

Dexter – Episode 3 “Smokey and the Bandit” Recap and Review

October 17, 2011

How many "No, not that show" coversations have we had with friends for 6 years now?

When preparing tonight’s post, I had to double-check the episode number. Are we really only on episode three? I’m so used to the last few seasons of Dexter taking a while to find their footing, but already I’m flat out enthralled. Tonight’s episode not only gave a great amount of what I like from the show, but we got things we’ve never seen before and have (hopefully) been set on a course to go to places where the show really hasn’t ventured.

Tonight’s episode “Smokey and the Bandit” was written by Manny Coto (Season 5’s “Practically Perfect” episode which had the Dexter-Boyd Fowler showdown, as well as inexplicably director of both Dr. Giggles and Star Kid)  and directed by Stefan Schwartz (first time Dexter director who’s most known for helming several episodes of the Camelot and Crash TV series), a combination that really excelled in the world of Miami Metro.  Tonight, we discover that Dexter’s boyhood hero “The Tooth Fairy Killer” may be starting a senior’s tour right in Dexter’s backyard. When the department finds a dead hooker with one of her teeth almost removed, Dexter recognizes the damage as an attempt atthe trademark of a serial killer he kept a scrapbook of as a youth. He pulls the book out at his apartment (complete with a scene where Harry, when reminded of finding Dexter’s serial killer trapper keeper, said he wishes it would have been a stack of Playboys instead) and we find out The TFK wrecked havoc over the pacific northwest for years in the 80s and was never apprehended.

Pic unrelated.

While I’m on principle not the biggest fan of this season regressing into a “killer of the week” show, Dexter’s pursuit of the geriatric madman was a refreshing new avenue. Later, in the killroom when he taunts Dexter and angers him to the point where Dex’s cruelest cut becomes denying the man his legacy, we’re given a scene of subtle growth that quietly restored a bit of his coming-and-going humanity that seems to fade despite the “revelations” each season. I like the idea of Dexter leaving the body looking like a heart-attack death and not letting TFK’s monstrous double life affect his innocent family, as well as the beautiful shot of Dexter dumping another man’s “trophies” into the sea, erasing not just a person this time, but a legend. Innovation aside, Ronny Cox’s portrayal of the TFK as an absolute curmudgeon and murderous mastermind was among the show’s best, and the way Manny Coto managed to channel not only our collective fears of aging with the personal sting of being disappointed in our heros really gave a strong jolt of the empathy that makes vicariously living through Dexter so much fun.

Take a drink every time you hear the f-bomb during the "Previously on Dexter."

Outside of Dexter’s clean-up circuit this week, we got Lieutenant Deb’s first day on the job. I absolutely adore how the show has abandoned everything redeeming about LaGuerta and Quinn (or, as my Mom calls him, “That Ishy Quinn”) to make them full on self-serving conniving scumbags trying to take the actually growing Deborah down. Deborah’s frustration with the job and growing poise of standing up to LaGuerta and her potential new detective hire has really breathed new life in the character. The writers are playing to each of the actors’ strengths and really letting the show tell itself. Off the top of my head I don’t recall ever being this invested in one of the show’s B or C stories before, but there’s potential here for it to finally become just as entertaining as Dex is.

Applebee's tonight?

I also really like how the show is letting Hanks and Olmos’ religious fanatics be a slow-burn reveal. While I could have done without the super-artsy slow motion of the horses’ gasp-worthy gallops, it really seems like we’re not getting a mystery-for-the-sake-of-mystery but rather will be putting the pieces together alongside Miami Metro. Mos Def‘s portrayal of Brother Sam is the best acting he’s ever done, and I’ve never been so happy to be as wrong as I was about him joining the cast. While I’m not sure where Masuka’s love interest assistant is going (possibly a red herring) she has to recognize Deb as the Ice Truck Killer’s girlfriend. Will her obsession play a part this season? I’m hoping the subtle juxtaposition of both her and Dexter’s obsession with serial killers isn’t early foreshadowing that  later gives us Deb’s death at her hands as the show’s seasonal big twist. Still, after the past two episodes, my enthusiasm and faith in the show are as high as they’ve ever been and I look forward to tuning in next week.

We give “Smokey and the Bandit” a Four Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

Dexter – Episode 1 “Those Kinds of Things” Recap & Review

October 3, 2011

Greetings true believers! With Popular Opinions turning two-years-old this week, I decided it’s time to try something different. We’ve never done a running recap/review of a current television show, so after the warm response of my “You’re Getting Old” critique, I thought it’s time for me to jump in the medium and do a running recap/review of a show. And what better choice than a program I’m regularly recapping, reviewing and reverencing on the internet anyway – Dexter

Guess who's back in the blood-splatterin' house?

As someone who has been following Dexter since its first season DVD release became a cult sensation in 2007, I’ve always found it the little show that can and sometimes does. While I’m sure I’ve gotten as frustrated as a lot of you in regard to rushed endings, unresolved plotholes and the hiccups along the way*, the show’s best moments keep me watching. To be honest, the premiere tonight caught me off guard. Since the second season, the show’s season premieres have covered NYC with a thick coat of promotion. I’ve only seen a handful of subways ads advertising “D-Day,” and I don’t know if this reduced fanfare is because Showtime has a certain level of faith with the show or if they think its fanbase has gone as far as it’s going to go. I also wasn’t thrilled to hear rapper-turned-actor Mos Def Yasiin Mr. Most Definitely Mos Def would be joining this season. But as I tuned in, once the now picture-of-health Michael C. Hall light up my screen, I was ready to ride the “Dexter is good again!” wave once more.

After a condensed recap of all the major events that’s taken place these past five seasons, we begin “Those Kinds of Things.” This week’s episode was written by Six Feet Under‘s Scott Buck (who Dexter fans remember best for writing the 3rd season episode “The Damage a Man Can Do” where Miguel finally joined Dexter at one of his murder scenes) and directed by Rounders‘ John Dahl (who directed the 4th season Thanksgiving episode “Hungry Man” where Dex joined the Trinity Killer’s family for Thanksgiving dinner – debatably the best episode in the entire series.) Seeing such a team credited right off the bat indicated an effort on the show’s part to come out swinging. It’s been a few years since the show started out particularly strong, and the Buck-Dahl union did do their best to appease fans and still build intrigue. Although before any of that happened, we had to have a mountain of exposition detailing what Miami Metro did on their summer vacations.

Image courtesy of TVFanatic.com (used without permission)

We ended last season at Harrison’s birthday party and as Dexter’s seed blew out the candles, got a slow-panning feel-good sequence, showing the lovefest between Batista-LaGuerta and Quinn-Deb in full effect. Within the first 15 minutes back from break we’re told that LaGuerta has been promoted/divorced Batista, Quinn is ready to propose to Deb**, Harrison’s entering preschool and Dex’s life is pretty much back to normal as it was before he got married. It’s a lot to digest at once and maybe just one degree better than a Star Wars-style scrolling text telling us everything that happened, but if it means wasting our time with less B-stories that go nowhere I’m all for it***. The writers seem to really want to win back the audience that the show may have lost in the last two seasons by giving us everything we’ve been clamoring for: TWO “killroom” scenes, much more humor, no mention of Rita’s kids, sprinkled Masuka innuendo and a scene of Dexter gettin’ some.

As great as all of that was, the problems with the show at its sixth season are now more confusing than ever. Dexter’s dead dad**** Harry used to be his (for lack of a better term) conscience, a built in guardian angel to make sure he seemed “normal.” In the first few seasons it seemed like Harry was just Dex’s stern memory reinforcing the code, but now it’s legitimately puzzling how this mental projection is coaching him in football. Also, in regard to the aforementioned “fan service,” I am concerned what the episode means for the tone of the show. As fun as Dexter at his high school reunion was, the humor was almost too much at times, and the quickness with how the killroom scene tied the episode together does make me weary they’re bringing back the “killer of the week” formula. I did enjoy the slowburn reveal of Edward James Almost Olmos and Orange County‘s Colin Hanks as the members of a fanatical cult, especially the snakes-in-the-belly moment, so it should be fun to see where that goes. Overall, with the creative team behind the show bragging for years now that everything in seasons four and five were meant to set-up this season, I’m somewhat underwhelmed. This is supposed to be the show’s last go-round, and while it’s a much stronger start than years’ past, it wasn’t quite the homerun the show really needed.

We give it a Three Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*Except I should mention that our opinions probably differ when it comes to Julie Benz’s portrayal of Dexter’s wife “Rita.” In four seasons she got America to go from finding her yang to Dex’s yin endearing to begging for the death of a rape victim mother of three. It’s a thankless role and she killed it every time.

**This was supposed to be a reveal at the end of the episode, but if you’ve ever seen a program on television before, you know when a character tells their season-long girlfriend a variant of “can I talk to you tonight over dinner,” it’s ring time.

***Yes, I’m still salty the incredibly compelling angle of Dexter being the witness at Batista-LaGuerta’s wedding as his real life alibi for Rita’s murder, which would have put both of their jobs in jeopardy as they had sworn to Deputy Chief Matthews that they were not in any way romantically involved, was teased in the season opener and then NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN.

****How was THAT never the name of one of the books?


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