Thursday, October 4, 2012

First Thoughts: Dexter: Season 7 – Episode 1: Are You…? (2012)

OK, guys, new segment for the next few months. I love the TV show Dexter, as I am sure anyone with good taste does. So while the highly anticipated new season is running, I'll be reviewing the episodes as they come out. There will be BIG SPOILERS in these things - just a heads up! Let's get started.

Aired: September 30, 2012

After a long year, we finally get the first episode of the new Dexter season, and what a wait it has been. The last season ended with probably the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers – Debra finally discovering Dexter’s secret life as a serial killer, right as he stabbed last season’s villain Travis (Colin Hanks) through the heart. And that was it! For the better part of a whole year Dexter fans have sat in wait for what the hell happened after that damned last shot from season 6. And it’s here now…so how does the first episode of Dexter’s seventh season, “Are You…?” fare?

Well, it’s good – really damn good. The big thing everyone was wondering about this was how they’d treat Debra knowing Dexter’s “extracurricular activities.” This episode actually did it just about perfectly, mostly on the incredible strength of Jennifer Carpenter acting shell-shocked and skeptical and Michael C. Hall acting like someone just caught him killing a man….hmmm. But both characters act exactly as you’d expect given the seven years of foundation this show has behind it now, and I think the time was perfectly right to finally let Deb in on the secret and shake up the show.

This could have been done so poorly. But here we have a Deb in total shock – especially given how she was feeling about Dexter last season – and at the edge of her wits. He tries the best he can to convince her he’s just his usual self and the whole thing was a fluke, a product of temporary insanity. But really, how could anyone look normal and sane when they’re standing in front of a naked dead body and wearing what looks like an executioner’s outfit? Dexter’s defense is as flimsy as you’d expect. He has no excuse and no way to hide.

And Deb knows it, too, even if it does take her a little while to piece together. At first she agrees to help him destroy the church and, consequently, the evidence, and there’s a really chilling scene of her standing outside in the middle of the night filling up a gas tank so they can burn down the church and destroy the body – the look on her face is just pure, stark unbelieving of what’s happening to her right now, and what she’s doing. This has always been a ridiculously unbelievable show at its core, and so the strength of the actors has to carry it to make it credible and dramatic enough to hold its weight, and episodes like this shine at doing so.

The old Dexter formula is in good form here. Lots of narration from Michael C. Hall and lots of interwoven, fast-moving plot threads that mix together as slick as molasses. I just love the hard-assed, gritty feel the show has, and for fans of cop dramas and more macabre horror films alike it will please. One thing I really enjoy this time around is how crazy they make Dexter look – we see things through Deb’s eyes as she puts together the pieces of what Dexter really is. All he does is the usual stuff – he examines crime scenes, he lurks on his computer and keeps his little secrets – but now it all just seems so much creepier and more insane.

You see him through Deb’s eyes with her newfound knowledge, and he looks like the madman he is. Dexter is not supposed to be a character you look up to – he is a man with a lot of problems and is compelling by way of that. And the way the show addresses his insanity and odd compulsions is masterfully done here, like when he makes his first kill of the season: the Russian mafia man who kills off last season’s new character, Detective Mike (Billy Brown). The way the kill is carried out is just so deeply haunted and creepy, much moreso than usual. I won’t talk much about it here. This one I want you to see for yourself.

I didn’t much like the death of Detective Mike, while we’re on the subject…it worked for the episode, but I dunno, I was looking forward to seeing more of this guy. I guess he just wasn’t working for the show. And Quinn and Batista’s whole subplot from last season has been nixed, too; they’re back to being friendly again after just a few words at the bar…but the thing with this show is that, while the random dropping of subplots gets kind of jarring, there are always new ones to take their place within an episode or two. This season I think we have enough to contend with now that Debra knows that Dexter is a killer. That kind of dwarfs everything else.

So, yeah, definitely looking forward to the next one, and I’ll keep updating with more posts like this one. I don’t know if they’ll all be this long, but hell, it’s Dexter season again and I am loving it. Happy October, folks!

Picture does not belong to me. Copyright whoever owns it.