The influence of self-worth is one of the select constants which every person has in common. How one sees and values him or herself substantially informs that person’s entire life. There’s a part in a popular novel in which the protagonist is struggling to understand those around him and in so doing he’s told that another character behaved a certain way due to low self-esteem. He then replies that it’s not the first time he’s been told low self-esteem was the culprit for poor behavior and wonders if that can really be the root of so many destructive actions of so many people. “Scar Tissue” spent the majority of its focus on how self-worth has recently shaped Dexter and Debra’s perceptions of themselves and each other. Confronting these core issues has been the strength of this final season and I was happy to see them so directly approached this episode.
By the end of the episode Dexter seems closer than ever to acknowledging the existence and even legitimacy of his emotions, especially his feelings for Deb. This acknowledgment has been broached on more than one occasion throughout the series in its past, but always in a fuzzier, more vague manner; perhaps it’s due more to the fact that I know this is the last season of the show than anything specific this episode did well, but Dexter’s monologue in which he writes off his current relationship with Vogel felt as though it carried actual weight and potential consequences, elements sorely lacking from most seasons. Of course Deb’s half-hearted attempt – and subsequent failure – at a murder-suicide will place the pair back firmly in Vogel’s hands, but the scenes leading up to this climax convinced me Dexter may have been prepared to fully cast off his latest instigator (only to be sucked back in). This season may be treading familiar territory but presently I feel it’s at least trying to do so as effectively as when the series was new and still fresh.
The ongoing discussion of Dexter’s nature being that of either a typical human with a conscience and real emotions as opposed to that of a genuine psychopath without any true sympathy or empathy is one I could probably listen to for far longer than the average viewer, but in the interest of pacing the discussion has to see development as exhibited through its participants and both Debra and Dexter each demonstrated progress regarding how they perceive Dexter’s humanity (or lack thereof) and by extension his and Debra’s values as individual people as well as each others’ family. Though I bought Dexter’s eventual frustration with Vogel, I definitely wasn’t sold on Deb’s interactions with the doctor. Vogel merely yelled at Deb that she’s a good person without really providing a sound rationale. Through her sessions with Vogel (with whom Deb was apparently staying indefinitely, a situation I have a hard time buying into – how exactly did Vogel convince Deb to go from being drugged and handcuffed to her own couch to temporarily living with a therapist and undergoing continuous sessions? Also, I totally called the opening scene in which Vogel forces Deb to consider whether she’d really be any happier if she shot Dex that night instead of LaGuerta, just sayin’) Deb achieved a breakthrough in which she appeared to accept that neither she nor Dexter should be allowed to continue living, albeit this is short-lived. Dexter, as mentioned, was ready to call it quits with Vogel altogether, but again this decision also looks as though it won’t necessarily last. Regardless, both main characters are, however awkward and gradually, making their way toward a real, definitive point of no return, something the show needs more of.
A curious moment from “Scar Tissue” was the first mention of Harrison’s imaginary friend, Dan, an elephant with a taste for pancakes. Just as I wrote in my review of the previous episode, in which I described why I felt Harrison’s midnight snack felt more sinister than it perhaps should have, this seemingly random introduction of an imaginary companion for Harrison, while definitely being a totally normal thing all kids experience at one point or another throughout childhood, takes on new meaning on a show in which imaginary friends have certain connotations. Whereas I eventually came to the conclusion that I was reading too much into Harrison’s popsicle binge last episode, to see Dex learn of Dan with suspicion makes me think the writers may actually be subtly contributing to a reveal about Harrison before the series’ finale. Why else would they bother including it? Perhaps just to show how much Dexter misses as a father because of all the homicidal shenanigans he’s constantly caught up in? However, being pretty sure Dex’s kids at least flirt with potentially anti-social or sociopathic behavior in the books make me want to keep a close eye on this potential plot thread, as minor (or in fact nonexistent) as it may be.
Meanwhile, Quinn apparently knocked his sergeant’s exam out of the park which made me think Angel somehow rigged the test results considering how poorly Quinn appeared to be at standardized testing when he was last shown studying for said exam. But this possibility wasn’t touched on and instead Angel is forced to consider Angie’s (she does have a name!) eligibility for sergeant in light of Matthews’ disapproval and Quinn’s bar (ahem, restaurant) skirmish with the gossipy officer whom caught Deb drunk behind the wheel. While I’m glad the misadventures of Miami Metro’s not so finest have been slightly more relevant to this season’s primary arcs of Dexter and Deb’s relationship, they’re beginning to feel just as awkward and unnecessary as usual. Why do I care if Quinn is promoted over formerly nameless black female detective? Though Masuka’s horrible come-ons (no pun intended) with his estranged sperm-donor daughter could be construed as acceptably (and grossly Oldboy-esque) cute, do I really need to get into a completely separate plot about Masuka’s personal business? Can’t the last episodes of this series be more efficiently spent?
Speaking of time-wasters, the show seems to be completely ignoring (in as much as a non-sentient television program can “ignore” one of its viewers after it’s already been made) my pleas to keep Debra (and it goes without saying, Dexter too) from having to deal with love interests. Not only is Deb’s boss continuing his campaign of let’s-get-to-know-each-other-better, but now apparently Dexter has a very attractive and single young woman whom is friends with his son’s nanny and apparently lives in the same apartment building. Unless these characters are used to somehow contrast Deb and Dex (healthy potential romantic partners as opposed to the arguably dysfunctional codependency they share with each other) or otherwise serve some legitimately necessary function, I’m going to be very, very frustrated. Maybe Hannah will kill Dex’s new neighbor, the poor girl.
“Scar Tissue” also saw progress regarding Dexter’s hunt for The Brain Surgeon. While investigating A.J. Yates, the next name on the list of Vogel’s former patients, Dexter discovers yet another killer, but this one seems to fit the bill. Kind of. Does anyone else suspect Yates may simply be just another homicidal weirdo like the mallrat cannibal from the previous episode? Something about Yates’ high-heel collection didn’t seem to jive with the grandiose tone of The Brain Surgeon’s elegantly presented gifts of brain matter to Dr. Vogel. I also don’t understand why Yates didn’t attack Dexter once he heard him on the phone with Vogel. (By the way, does Dex really need to make so many phone calls while he’s out breaking into various private properties? Unless immediate physical harm is at stake, it can probably wait until he’s finished committing a felony.) Instead of trying to kill or capture Dex, Yates merely cleaned out his basement except for the stabbed girl he left. None of that makes sense to me and it’s keeping me from enjoying the episode more. Where is this story going now that the questionable Yates is in the picture?
While I’m less impressed with the non-primary plots going on so far, and am troubled by the introduction of Yates as the Surgeon, I’m happy with the progress of Dexter and Debra as well as the discussions of self and identity which guide their development. Dexter is far from the upper echelon of television series to which it has always aspired, but for what it does and how it does it, season eight is moving well enough and “Scar Tissue” was a not entirely unsuccessful installment. Being a third of the way through the season already I’m anxious to see more, and that’s always a good sign when watching a series.