Sunday, November 22, 2009

Giving thanks for "Dexter"


I don't usually do a recap of Showtime's "Dexter," but tonight's episode was so creepy, intense and downright terrific, I was compelled to write something.
On tonight's episode, "Hungry Man," we got quite a bit more insight into this season's Big Bad, Trinity (played marvelously by that master of the icky, John Lithgow). Like Lyla in season two and Miguel in season three, Trinity, aka Arthur Mitchell, represented an ideal for Dexter. But whereas Lyla seemingly represented the perfect mate (someone who not only accepted, but was turned on by, Dexter's darkness) and Miguel represented the ideal friend, Arthur represented Dexter's ideal for himself. Like Dexter, Arthur is a father and husband. But, unlike Dexter, Arthur seemed affectionate to and connected with his family. Though Dexter knows he has to kill Trinity/Arthur, he is fascinated by the older, more experienced killer. Dexter sees Trinity as a mentor, a teacher.
Like his other ideals, Arthur was bound to disappoint Dexter, but I don't think Dexter has ever seen an idol fall quite so hard. For tonight, Dexter learned that Arthur is not the man he thinks he is. He isn't hiding his monstrosity from his family. They know exactly who he is -- well, they don't know he's a serial killer. But they know he's a violent, horrible man who physically and emotionally abuses them all. Dexter's misguided attempt to protect the Mitchells from Arthur by attending their Thanksgiving meal was both darkly comic and gut-wrenchingly creepy. They all respond to his presence in different ways. Sally, who has, presumably, been exposed to Arthur's evil the longest, is completely cowed by her husband, and follows his lead in his acceptance of Dexter. Jonah sees Dexter as a protector, the buffer that will keep dear old dad "on his best" during the holiday. And Becca sees Dexter as a means of escape, which she's willing to pay for with her body.
Dexter's ever-building terror at what Arthur's family is really like climaxes at the Thanksgiving table, when Arthur attacks Jonah and Dexter attacks Arthur.
Dexter has, in effect, blown his cover. It will be harder for him to kill Trinity now. But he can't control his disdain and disillusionment.
Of course, as Harry points out, Dexter could become Arthur in few years. Indeed, tonight we saw cracks in Dexter's family, as Elliot made a play for Rita, assuming that she's lonely and vulnerable.
Could Dexter's perfect life implode as easily as Arthur's has? It's an interesting question.
Dexter clearly seems more human and self-aware than Trinity. After all, even before meeting Trinity, Dexter had real feelings for his adopted sister, Debra, and for his wife and family. Even Dexter's crimes operate at a higher moral level than Trinity's, targeting criminals as opposed to innocent, random people who fit a certain pattern.
It's possible that Dexter has already achieved a deeper level of humanity than Arthur has. But who knows the toll time will take?
It would have been enough if this episode only gave us the portrait of Arthur's deranged family and its effect on Dexter. But we got another whammy tonight -- we learned that Christine, Joe Quinn's seemingly disposable love interest, is actually Trinity's daughter! And, she probably shot Debra and Lundy! Wow. I totally didn't see that coming. I'm glad that the Christing/Quinn storyline is actually going somewhere interesting, and relevant to the larger concept of the season. The LaGuerta/Angel storyline continues to be filler, but that's all right. There was enough good stuff in this episode to compensate. There are only three more episodes left and, while I don't see how they can drag the Trinity storyline out that long, I am eager to see where this is going.

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