So it looks like when the writers of season eight were working on “Dress Code” they must have been really hungry, and in a fit of impatience and cravings for sweet sustenance someone called out, “Hey, remember the end of last season with Hannah? We could just totally rehash that for a couple episodes, right?” Which was apparently met with a resounding, “YEAH!” I can only assume this was the case after watching the episode seeing as how familiar it all was. Don’t get me wrong, I mostly enjoyed last season. The trouble is one would hope Dexter‘s last season would amount to more than a pastiche of its previous arcs and with every new episode I seem to feel like I’m watching a cruelly sardonic “best of” clip-show.
Let’s get discussing Hannah out of the way (he typed, throwing shade as hard as possible in the general direction of wherever the writers are). As mentioned, I liked Yvonne Strahovski’s character. Despite serving as yet another love interest, the attraction between her and Dexter felt palpable and I liked that she was a killer of another color for the series: neat, pragmatic, and devoid of sadistic pleasure. Plus, as a romantic foil, she seemed genuinely appropriate for Dexter. Unlike Rita Hannah knew the truth about Dex, but she was never repulsed by him the way Lumen ultimately was, nor did she try to manipulate him like Lila (although she did eventually break the same cardinal rule as Lila of going after Dex’s family, which was just so dumb). Yes, in a show about a serial killer-detective Hannah was okay by me for our protagonist, which is why despite the utter skepticism with which I met her actions toward Deb, in retrospect I feel like Dexter’s sacrifice of his one possibly true love actually meant something (slightly undercut of course when she unbelievably escaped police custody and conveniently disappeared). Yet, by bringing Hannah McKay back into the fold all of that is negated which is a real slap in the face to the audience. That goes double if the two ride off into the sunset together.
Dexter’s whole jealous ex routine might’ve even been quaint if he weren’t so acutely blind to his complete lack of self-awareness (which is strange when you think about how on the nose his own inner monologue is). I actually thought to myself that since Dex is behaving so obviously irrational toward Hannah’s reappearance perhaps this would be one of the final pushes he needs to realize that he’s not the hollow, emotionless cipher Vogel has made him out to be. He might finally accept that he is a real boy with a real heart and cast off his gloomy shackles and fully embrace the love in his life by doing right by his sister and son. But no, instead he cleaned up Hannah’s mess (very quickly) and got his neighbor beat to death.
In fact, if it weren’t for Ghost Harry and Dr. Vogel (who took a real backseat this episode – not a great choice) we would have no inclination to believe Dexter even remembers he has other matters to attend to besides rehashing old plots rekindling his romance with Hannah – namely, Zach Hamilton. But why would Dex remember? He didn’t remember how things turned out with Miguel Prado when showing Lumen the ropes so we shouldn’t expect things to have changed by now, right? Maybe the bludgeoned corpse of Cassie the cute neighbor (who we all knew had to bite it eventually) will remind Dex of the last time he played around with a dangerously unhinged murderer, which got his wife killed, and will end this passing-on-the-code nonsense in a swift and direct manner (though hopefully not quite as swift as the clean-up of Hannah’s husband). We all knew from the get-go where the Zach arc would end up and although I caught a glimpse of myself smiling at the idea of Zach serving more as a snarky Robin to Dexter’s Batman than as just another Jeremy (the homeless teen from season one) for a few episodes before proving my prediction as spot-on, I just hope this plot is put out of its (and our) misery before we get into the final four episodes. Or maybe Dex will just learn to keep his appointments.
Speaking of missed dates, why are we being forced to notice the weepy nice guy Cassie’s been dating so much? Who wants to wager this may be the actual Brain Surgeon with whom Vogel’s been working the whole time? Maybe that’ll come in around episode ten when Dex remembers he was totally pissed at Vogel before Deb decided to take her and Dex (and his car) for an impromptu swim. Or maybe – oh, God – Zach didn’t kill Cassie (which seems a tad too obvious), and the alterna-Dex did it, which means we’ll have to wait even longer for the Zach arc to be resolved which will either end up with the kid actually carrying on Dexter’s legacy, or be a resounding disappointment. I’m more inclined to bet on the latter as it’s historically consistent and would make more sense thematically in that Dexter’s lifestyle may have kept him from the electric chair (or whatever they do with mass murderers in Florida besides display them in the media or drop them in the ocean), but it is pretty corrosive to everyone else around him. Or maybe Dex will tragically take out Zach before realizing Cassie’s Ryan Gosling look-a-like is the actual culprit. Regardless I’ll still be bitter “Dress Code” wasted so much time.
“Yeah, somehow I didn’t get that role in Only God Forgives so I was wondering if maybe I could just leave you a bloody mess after this totally innocent night-swim, cool? Cool.”
The only thing worse than showing up to a date and finding a bloody corpse is showing up thinking you’ll meet your estranged daughter at work and once you get there you realize she works at a topless sports bar and those are her tits and OH MY GOD GRAB ONE OF THOSE MENUS THAT STAND UP. OKAY. HEY BUDDY, HER EYES ARE UP HERE, THANKS. Yeah, this might not be as bad as when the writers tried to make his coworkers take Masuka more seriously in season three, but “Masuka finally learns a special lesson about objectifying women” is woefully tedious. Woefully. That is all.
Also, Deb and Elway make progress? I guess? And hey, if there’s anything Dexter viewers know it’s that Deb is better off with a man in her life because – pssht – women be all like, I’m in love with my daddy, no, my brother! Amiright, bro? (Please get the sarcasm, guys, please.) Similarly, Quinn has decided to move in with Batista’s sister because that’s the best way Quinn can think of to get back at the superior who denied him his promotion and told him to leave the rich homicidal trust fund baby alone. I can’t wait for the awkward silence at Angel’s restaurant when everyone shows up to toast to the romantic commitments they recently made and realize they’re all just awful at their jobs and lives.
I was almost set to take it easy on this episode because life’s too short to be disappointed in a series that’s been sliding steadily downhill for years now and while watching “Dress Code,” despite heartily scoffing every few scenes, I didn’t hate it. But in running through my thoughts on the proceedings I realized there was very little which justified what I saw. I may be fine with watching Dexter run around Miami killing time and making poor decisions forever and ever, staving off the inevitable until the producers start tapping their watches with that look on their faces, but that doesn’t make it good story-telling. Maybe it does, but now more than ever Dexter ought to be working toward something substantial and all I’ve seen in “Dress Code” was more of the same.