Posted tagged ‘michael c. hall’

Dexter – Episode 9 “Get Gellar” Recap and Review

November 28, 2011

Image unrelated to, but infinitely more interesting, than tonight's episode.

When we last left Dexter, he was in a bad episode. This week finds him in another bad episode helping his disappointing passenger find a worthless twist buried beneath the church. Dexter is working hard on becoming full-fledged television for idiots, so let’s take a look at another contender for worst episode in the entire series run “Get Gellar.” Oh, and I’m not crediting a writer or director this week because I’m convinced neither verb actually was involved in its making.

So, all along Professor Gellar was in Travis’ head. If you didn’t see this coming or at least entertain the possibility, don’t be so bitter about those of us who saw did. I’m noticing a lot of smug “I called it” and “STFU, U DID NAWT!” over social media right now and as much as I don’t typically enjoy the “CALLED IT” crowd, this is one time when they’re completely in the right. This isn’t like the end of Fight Club or the end of The Sixth Sense where the twist is meticulously assembled to be utterly jaw-dropping, or even the end of Scream where the shocking revelation gives us the reveal of a fun “whodunit?” mystery. No, those of us who got the confirmation tonight with a slouched over frozen sexy Edward James Olmos in a freezer greeted the news with a certain eye-rolling mourning. If you’ve been following my episode recaps, you would know while I’d seen the evidence rolling in week-after-week about Gellar being Travis’ dark passenger, I’d been hoping against hope the “obvious signs” were deliberate red herrings from the writers that we had grown accustomed to in order to keep us guessing. The moment Gellar started bleeding from his head in an earlier episode, the cat was let out of the bag marked “there’s a cat in this bag that’s going to be let out.” It’s a flaccid crescendo made worse by being lead up to with episodes containing some of the best writing the show’s had in years.

It seems every Thanksgiving weekend Dexter gives us a awful twist nobody likes, and this year we get the missing Ice Truck Hooker’s hand in the apartment of Masuka’s intern. Just when the super-google pioneer becomes an alright addition to the show we get this. Harry is also back in Dexter’s life, officially adding absolutely nothing, now more than ever. His presence on the show is akin to the parent who keeps walking in on his kid’s parties and trying to hang or hold the kids’ attention. The biggest disappointment for me personally, however, is the reveal that Deputy Chief Tom Matthews was behind the death of the overdosing hooker. It’s bad enough this storyline has to put more LaGuerta on my television, but now we’ve made one of the few consistently entertaining pillars of the show fall from grace for absolutely no reason. Matthews has always been a catalyst for interesting non-Dexter related storylines on the show, and making him a drug-addicted murderer is just desperate hack territory and goes against everything the character meant to the show’s universe in the most banal way possible. The only upside about the reveal being Matthews (and I apparently am the only person surprised that he was behind it) was that it wasn’t LaGuerta-Batista part #4082. With how much the show’s obsessed over their uninteresting boring dead end relationship and Batista’s penchant for drinking with whores, not to mention he was the only person LaGuerta asked about at the crime scene, that seemed pretty open-and-shut to me. Sadly, making it Matthews was the only worse option.

The only things I actually enjoyed this week were Quinn’s continuously entertaining downward spiral and Deb’s talks with her therapist and finally standing up to LaGuerta. From those two we got both logic and character growth while still remaining entertaining. I do have to ask though, with so much of Deb’s dialogue consisting of whether her brother was a table of a chair, was this episode was co-written by Tyler, the Creator’s Twitter? Otherwise, while I would never openly begrudge someone for their personal tastes and interests, I struggle to comprehend what fans who enjoyed tonight’s episode really want out of the show. Even with the pointless and predictable twists, the elevator sequence, bloodbath and big reveal were constructed so poorly that the episode had the intensity of a massage from a three-toed sloth.

We give “Get Gellar” a Two Out of Five

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

Dexter – Episode 8 “Sins of Omission” Recap and Review

November 21, 2011

Have we ruled out the killer being Chet Haze?

Well Dexter fans, what a difference a week makes. While last Sunday I found myself sitting down at the edge of my seat as the show ventured down Dexter’s dark path in a way we haven’t seen before, the conclusion of “Nebraska” left us mid-season with more answers than questions as hitch-hiking Harry returned the show to its status quo. Not one to give up, I apprehensively sat down with the foreboding feeling the show had gone off the rails this season for good. Thus we begin “Sins of Omission.”

Tonight’s episode was written by Arika Lisanne Mittman (first time Dexter writer who did two episodes of Medium) and directed by Ernest Dickerson (season four’s “Road Kill,” last season’s “Teenage Wasteland” many episodes of The Wire and most importantly the 1992 film Juice). It’s really a shame that Dickerson’s tremendous talents were wasted on an episode so jarringly out of place with the season. His use of color and tremendous pacing could have made for just the momentum building over-the-hump episode this season needed to approach an endgame, but instead we face the same problem that caused the first half of season five to suck – a new writer who doesn’t grasp the intangibles of what makes the show fun. While we fortunately didn’t see Harry at all this week, Mittman’s dialogue kept the show going through the motions at a time when it really needed incentive to finish the season.

Professor Gellar continues to stalk Travis, now threatening him with his sister’s life. The day after Travis sees his sister speaking to Deb, Gellar knocks him out and later Miami Metro discover her dead and dressed in the tableau as “The Whore of Babylon.” Either Mittman is going out of her way to make us think that Gellar is really Travis’ dark passenger as a swerve, or she’s dropping balls in the most obvious way possible. Elsewhere Dexter attends Brother Sam’s funeral and receives Sam’s blood soaked copy of the Bible as a gift. He then (via a search engine reportedly more powerful than Google) uses a clue from the tableau to track down a retired senile priest in a nursing home, allowing him to discover Gellar’s whereabouts in an abandoned church. Dexter arrives and finds Travis chained to the ground, chasing after Gellar who apparently sneaks out the back way. Dex frees Travis and they agree to work together to bring Gellar down.

"That's no whore...that's my sister!"

The only interesting thing going on in the show right now is Deb’s relationship with Dexter. When she finds Dex’s pen fron the rest stop he stayed at in Nebraska, she instantly puts it together (Lieutenant!) that Dexter went to Nebraska to talk to Trinity’s son. When Dex gives her the excuse he needed to talk to someone who lost a loved one to Trinity, Deb chews him out as she lost Lundy to Trinity and he could have talked to her. So, she goes to her therapist who advises her to actually attempt to talk to Dex about what’s going on in his life. I’ve had a theory, stemming from the finale of season 5, that Deb actually knows about Dexter’s dark passenger and how he’s been killing “bad people.” I believe she’s either in denial, secretly cheering him on and wanting him to hide it better, or is trying to get him to admit it himself. I’m calling it that by the end of this season she’ll either die and/or reveal to Dex that “she knows.” But back on tonight, it’s nice to see her actually showing her detective chops and not being afraid to bust Dexter’s ass in front of him.

"What are you doing here?" "I'm wasting time with a subplot nobody cares about."

As for all the other stories, we’ve devolved into the go-to romance with a dash of “who cares?” Batista’s sister is dating Masuka’s intern, which I didn’t have a problem with because I like them as actors and their characters bring a different dynamic to this season, but now Batista is trying to scare him off. WHY?! Not just asking why is he doing this, but after the boring mess that was Batista’s relationship with LaGuerta, why would this be deemed worthwhile to put on my television set? Speaking of LaGuerta, and again I do like Lauren Velez as an actress, but why is this character on my screen rehashing the exact same storyline since season three? She’s a corrupt boss who is bullying her underlings and manipulation her position in order to advance her career. It’s tired and reeks of the mundanity that the first half of this season worked so hard to get away from. Oh, and Quinn got kicked out a bar, far and away the least shocking thing he’s done and not worthy of the eighth episode of a descent at all.

Anyone else beginning to get the feeling that LaGuerta has ulterior self-serving motives?

As somewhat of a Dexter apologist who was ready to call this season my second or third favorite two weeks ago, I cannot believe how they’ve managed to undo everything that was making this season so good. Killing Travis’ sister, using the “super Google,” reintroducing the same dead end LaGuerta storyline are the type of cheap developments the show seemed to be getting away from. If Gellar is imaginary, this season is a toxic waste. If he’s real, we might get out first non-anti-climactic showdown in four years. I’m really hoping this is just a minor hiccup in an otherwise great season. The only bright spots this week were Deb and Dex’s disagreements and Dickerson’s great direction.

We give Sins of Omission a Two out of Five.

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

Dexter – Episode 7 “Nebraska” Recap and Review

November 14, 2011

Now where have I seen this before?

Some weeks your just find yourself absolutely amped for Dexter. Even during the weaker moments of seasons 4 and 5, all it takes is a tense ending in order make a viewer turn into a fiend overnight. With the current season taking such a slower character building less-is-more approach for so many episodes, the closing moments of last week’s “Just Let Go” saw a dip into Dexter’s dark side with the return of his brother Brian, making the anticipation for tonight’s episode all the more satisfying. But did this uncharted territory bring us somewhere we didn’t know we wanted to go?

Why yes, it was a big weekend for 'American Gothic' references on television.

Tonight’s episode, “Nebraska,” was written by my absolute favorite Dexter writer Wendy West. I’ve raved about her before, she wrote both the “Hungry Man” episode where Dexter joined Arthur Mitchell’s family for Thanksgiving*, as well as season four’s finale “The Getaway” and the episode that turned an up-until-then lackluster season five around “Everything is Illuminated.” It was also directed by Romeo Tirone who has been a cinematographer with the show since season one (he’s responsible for the shutter effect on infant Dexter covered in blood) and directed last season’s “Take It” (where Dexter and Lumen killed Jordan Chase’s head of security Cole Harmon) as well as has been the director of photography for a good chunk of HBO’s True Blood. With two longtime greats for the show tackling both the return of Dexter’s brother as well as digging up the Trinity Killer murders, tonight seems not only like baiting longtime fans with the promise of everything they’ve ever liked crammed into a single episode, but the promise of it being among the show’s all time greats. The results are close, but for such a stellar season, a touch underwhelming.

We begin with Dexter and his brother Brian reunited on Dex’s boat “The Slice of Life,” disposing of the murderer we saw killed off at the end of “Just Let Go.” It’s so refreshing to see Brian (the delightfully sinister Christian Camargo) discuss Dexter’s favorite hobby without the whining of Harry or the immediate end of one of his victims. Not only have we gotten rid of Harry’s neediness dragging down the episodes, but now we have a much cooler devil on Dex’s shoulder giving a sadistic play-by-play not heard since the days of Tom Servo. I have to think Brian speaks for the fans in this episode, from cheerleading Dexter’s efforts to even telling him to make a killroom, I found myself a few times hearing my own thoughts on screen. Plus his referring to Deb as “the one that got away” and wearing a “Nebraska is for Lovers” t-shirt was just too gleefully demented not to love. Brian unlocks Dexter’s hedonistic side as they road trip to America’s heartland to kill Arthur Mitchell’s son who appears to be the “new” Trinity Killer, getting Dex some tail along the way and being forced to kill a weed-growing rest stop attendant who attempt to extort Dex for $10,000 in order to get his knives back. Tirone’s direction here is stellar as the sequence of Dexter disposing of the body into the mill is one of the most haunting images the show has produced.

Meanwhile, in other stories we have Travis seemingly breaking-up with Professor Gellar as he returns all of his belongings CW Teen Drama style. We also have Deb and “The Ishy” Quinn having a private heart-to-heart until Quinn attempts to kiss her and Deb respectfully ends things for good. The fact that Deb managed both that and subtly putting the now always-irritating LaGuerta in her place WITHOUT CRYING shows how much she’s grown this season and the show’s all the better for it. Plus, Masuka’s intern made a video game of Miami Metro, impressing Batista’s sister. With the exception of how I’ve come to dread every moment of airtime LaGuerta’s been getting (nothing against Lauren Velez who is great, but the one dimensional character hasn’t had a single worthwhile payoff to a storyline in 4 years), none of the b-stories got in the way and actually kept the show’s momentum going.

I really love this show sometimes.

As for tonight’s conclusion, I do feel a little let down. Having Mitchell’s kid be “justified” by having a conscience, regretting killing his mother seemed like a weak reason for Dex to let him off the hook, especially considering he’s killed a guy with an anchor for dissing his wife (Season 5) and an innocent photographer for NO REASON (Season 4). There was so much great suspense the entire episode leading up to not only a blowoff, but seemingly writing Dexter’s brother out of the show and ending with Dexter picking up Harry, effectively returning us to the status quo this season has worked so far to get us away from. They better be going somewhere special with this because, as it stands, there hasn’t before been such a gap between episode quality and the closing five minutes that wasn’t a season finale.

We give Nebraska a Four out of Five

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

*Possibly my favorite episode of the series.

Dexter – Episode 2 “Once Upon a Time” Recap and Review

October 10, 2011

"OH MY GOD, HE'S BACK A-GAI-NAH!"

 

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.

When not surrounded by awful slam poetry, I find this man significantly less irritating.

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!

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?