After a lackluster premiere I’m feeling much more excited to watch Dexter’s final season after “Every Silver Lining”. This episode felt much more self-assured and competent. Instead of straining to catch us up on every cast member dealing with the loss of LaGuerta and set up all the pieces for this season, which I know were necessary tasks of the season premiere, this episode didn’t feel half as forced or even routine despite getting in addition to lots of quality time with Deb, Dexter, and Dr. Vogel plenty of Masuka awkwardness and what I will be referring to as Q&A time, the buddy cop misadventures of Quinn and Angel which I occasionally feel like the writers are just dying to do as a spin-off for CBS next fall. This episode felt much more whole and cohesive but most importantly it took its time where it needed to, reminding me why I should actually care about Dexter Morgan’s ultimate fate one last time.
After the reveal at the end of the last episode that Vogel is intimately familiar with Dexter’s ritual, code, and childhood, “Lining” immediately picked up on this development and fleshed it out, making it feel like more than just a cliffhanger for its own sake. Speaking with a friend about this new element before watching this episode I mentioned how on the fence I was about the manner in which Dr. Vogel was most likely going to be introduced as an expert who Harry sought out. While this makes sense to me and is actually a much more apt means by which to engender this new character and her knowledge of Dexter’s secrets (much more so than Louis the intern of seasons five and six for example), I was afraid the writers were going to pull that bogus move that occurs in TV sometimes where a totally new element to a show or character’s history is introduced as something that’s always been there (like the fact that Batista had a sister, or that nameless black female detective apparently exists; also Quinn). Thankfully my fears were quelled once Dexter straight out asked Vogel why he doesn’t remember her and received in turn a valid and believable answer – this may seem innocuous enough but it’s a trope that I wouldn’t put past the writers at this point and I’m very glad it was not only avoided but promptly squashed.
Instead of trying to parade Vogel around as some mysterious new entity we get to know her pretty well in “Linings” while still upholding just the right amount of uncertainty and creepiness; not John Lithgow screaming in a scolding hot shower creepiness, but certainly close enough. This is also a huge relief as I’ve always considered the distance between Dexter and The Skinner of season three as well as the distance between Dexter and The Doomsday Killer of season six to be two of the most glaring errors and most unwatchable aspects of the entire series. Vogel is set up in this episode as a “spiritual mother” to Dexter as she was as instrumental in developing The Code as Harry was in implementing it making Vogel much more substantial than merely the requisite catalyst for trouble each season has. An immediate and strong connection to the latest Big Bad is definitely a smart move for the series. My only question is when it’ll be revealed that Vogel is actually orchestrating the Brain Surgeon murders herself as a way to finally meet her “perfect” creation.
The writing on Dexter has never been very subtle. Its strengths come from expressing that dark and fascinating archetype known as The Other in bold and direct ways. Somewhere along the line the embodiment of this identity which Dexter represents became rote and predictably tame, but all the talk of Frankenstein and his monster in “Linings” made me hopeful that the dynamic among Dexter and the women in his life (Hannah will be returning at some point) might actually play out poignantly and successfully tackle the ideas of free will and loyalty approached in this episode. Granted these were done pretty well in the first season with Biney, but any callbacks to the best season are always welcomed, especially in the series’ last season where a sense of coming full circle should be attempted.
Vogel’s talk of Dexter as not being evil but perfect, and of psychopaths as “alpha wolves,” something beyond the average human which facilitates civilization’s survival and evolution, absolutely smacked of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch, an extremely exciting topic to discuss in terms of Dexter’s morals and behaviors. Already this discussion has brought to the surface the implication that Dexter isn’t necessarily the unique monster he’s always thought of himself as, but actually a human person who does feel and empathize and yet was turned into a killer nonetheless. It’s an aspect of the character that’s been shied away from since day one, but this may be the series’ chance to return to its most fascinating roots and I certainly hope it seizes the opportunity.
All the other aspects of the episode made me hopeful as well. Deb’s slow descent isn’t looking so slow as she’s already shot and killed her second person, the hit-man hired to steal the jewelry from the case Deb was working. This person was set up as a threat to Deb’s physical safety but has in fact emerged as not just a threat, but an already carried out blow to her emotional safety and psychological stability. The upending of expectations should always be applauded and I believe this qualifies.
The only aspect of Deb’s story in this episode which bothered me was Mr. Elway of Elway Private Investigations or whatever it is Deb’s doing now. DEB DOES NOT NEED ANOTHER LOVE INTEREST, OKAY, EVERYBODY? Ahem, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to see some exploration of this private sector Deb’s found herself in. I know there’s only so many episodes left to focus on Dexter’s demise and everything, but how cool would it be for the show to just once step a little bit more outside its comfort zone and explore something other than Michael C. Hall’s ability to narrate ominously? I would love an entire episode which totally foregoes checking in on Quinn and Angel – or even Dex – and examines the concept of justice – something the series is absolutely preoccupied with – in terms of comparing not just what the police do with what Dexter does, but Dexter’s work with what a well funded private investigator can do. I understand this isn’t necessarily the season for what could be considered a filler episode, but Deb’s already such a noir protagonist it really wouldn’t be a stretch.
I even enjoyed the antics of Miami Metro’s minor players. Ghost Harry’s quick chat with Dex about responsibility actually felt warranted and Quinn and Angel’s dumb reactions to Jamie’s anger even made me chuckle. Perhaps Michael C. Hall’s first time behind the camera had something to do with it – regardless I’m just excited to be excited for this final season. Dexter helped usher in a new wave of serial killer shows which are just now coming out of the woodwork and although even most diehard fans will agree its flaws have outweighed its merits for some time, it’s a truly welcomed pleasure to see an episode which evokes the same excitement at a story being actually transgressive (if not at least genuinely fascinating) in the long-form television medium, even if it’s just for ten more episodes.