Dexter – Episode 2 “Once Upon a Time” Recap and Review
If you missed tonight’s episode of Dexter, you missed a lot. For a show that’s often been criticized as being “a good show that could be great,” tonight’s episode is indicative of that potential. I mentioned last week that “Those Kinds of Things” suffered from being overflowing with exposition, something any creative writing teacher would classify as “telling without showing.” Well, tonight’s episode “Once Upon a Time” was an exact inverse, and a shining example of Dexter almost done completely right. Written by Tim Schlattmann, a writer who’s been with the show since the beginning and is beloved by fans for writing the “Dark Defender” episode from season 2, and MASTERFULLY directed by SJ Clarkson (whose only previous work on the series was the Season 4 nail-biter “Hello Dexter Morgan,” where the Trinity Killer shows up at Miami Metro), I’m more excited than I’ve been about the show this early in the season in a longtime. So, let’s recap!
First, the bad. Again, I wasn’t exactly sold last week on all the revelations revealed like a grocery list, but this week it’s the little attempts of fake subtlety that rubbed me the wrong way. The weak bookends of Dexter telling Harrison bedtime stories about “Monsters” and then having it come back out of nowhere in the kill-room scene was a sure shot trying-too-hard moment. As was debuting guest star Mos Def (credited as merely “Mos,” a puzzling choice. If not Yassin, I would have AT LEAST preferred “The Mighty Mos”) ‘s interrogation room scene. I’ve been highly critical acting of Mr. Definitely’s acting in the past, and with good reason. While he gave admittedly great performances in Monster’s Ball and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, his acting for the majority of the decade (not unlike his rapping) has been nothing short of dreadful, only appealing to mouth-breathing pseudo-intellectual Def Poetry Jam enthusiasts who just like saying that they “like Mos Def” rather than get any actual enjoyment from his creative output. I have to say, as cringeworthy as the interrogation scene was, his acting once Dexter got to his chopshop was a complete and total 180. Along with tremendous body-language, which is his greatest acting strength, his portrayal of a reformed murderer was picture perfect. While his addition to the cast was one of my biggest reservations about this coming season, my fears are put at ease.
Now, for the good. Tonight’s star was far-and-away director S.J. Clarkson. Her style was really missed last season and I have to say that I have so many amazing images burned into my mind from tonight’s episode that I really hope she returns this season again. Also great were all the sudden turns that effectively shake things up. I really like Deborah Morgan as Lieutenant, mainly because we haven’t really had precedent for something similar on the show. She looked great in that uniform, and even more promising are the subplots of the Deborah-Quinn romance and the on-going Batista-LaGuerta fling being discarded to make way for an entirely new season. I’m also surprised with how much I’m liking the Masuka banter with his protege. Instead of the simple routes of her being offended or letting it roll off her back, her “you like to watch, good to know” comment sets her up to possibly be someone who can be anything from an equal verbal-sparring partner to maybe a close friendship. Either way, they have an undeniable chemistry and she makes a welcome addition to the show. I also enjoy where the Edward James Olmos-Colin Hanks partnership is going. While the idea that a randomly-murdering religious zealot being unable to blowoff his sister was a bit of a stretch for me, Olmos making himself suffer for Hanks’ “sins” was a swerve I did not see coming.
All-in-all, I’m intrigued and already looking very forward to next week’s episode. “Once Upon a Time” did was a great second episode should do, tie-up the looser ends of the last season while set course for an ocean of possibilities for where the show can go. I’m completely on board and can’t wait for next week!
We give “Once Upon a Time” a Four Out of Five
So until next time… let’s agree to agree!