The primary conflict in this first batch of episodes is wrapped up like a body in duct-taped garbage bags as Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and co. learn that all you need is family. Oh…how sweet
Let’s bitch it out…Looks like this final season of Dexter is going to be broken into a few chunks as opposed to a season-long mystery. Thinking back to last season, we saw something similar as the Isaak episodes gave way to the Hannah episodes in the latter half. Something about ‘This Little Piggy’ is aggravatingly pat, though – as though the writers grew tired of the Dexter/Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter) conflict and wanted to get on with the show.
As far as capstone episodes go we’ve seen far worse. The Yates (Aaron McCusker) storyline involving Dr. Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) is put to bed, but not before her kidnapping helps to reunite the feuding Morgan siblings as they rescue their surrogate mother figure. It’s all very psych-lite, but it works because it moves us from point A to point B with a minimum of fuss and offers up a few juicy scenes along the way.
‘This Little Piggy’ also allows Rampling to stretch their acting muscles a little. After coolly purring through the first four episodes, the British thespian finally gets to let loose, channeling her inner Mrs. Bates (from Psycho) to impersonate Yates’ abusive mother when – in the tensest scene of the night – he nearly breaks one of her titular “piggies”. Oof…digit damage is up there in terms of squeamishness, second behind only occular damage. Traditionally it’s pretty obvious that our protagonists are in no danger of being harmed, but it wasn’t a stretch to imagine that Vogel would spend the rest of the season hobbling around with a few broken toes.
Besides the near torture-porn, there are a number of interesting stylistic choices during the Vogel search. The one that stood out for me is the extended take on Rampling’s face when Yates initially removes her hood. It’s a stripped down performance (Vogel’s hair is matted and askew, her face a mask of desperation) that helps us identify with her. The decision to only partially reveal Yates, and at times even having him disappear off-screen, leaves the focus squarely on Vogel’s peril. This also simultaneously increases the tension because we are unaware of what Yates is doing.
The voyeuristic elements continue when Vogel calls Dexter’s phone and he and Deb listen to her talk. The most obvious impact is how Vogel’s disembodied voice reinforces their powerlessness to help her, but this scene reinforces the themes of family and therapy that course throughout ‘This Little Piggy’. Dex and Deb are essentially listening in on what amounts to a private therapy session. The fact that Vogel’s using language that speaks to Dexter’s own psychopathy echoes the opening scene, as well as the notes he discovered last week. Vogel might as well be talking directly to Dexter.
My sole complaint: the effect is marred because we know from too many episodes of Criminal Minds and CSI that Yates would eventually discover the active cell phone. If only this and the final bloody resolution (gosh, who would have suspected that Yates would hide under the bed exactly like Vogel talked about on the phone call? Oh wait. Everyone!) had been less predictable.
Things come full circle with the final, overly constructed, scene. The episode began with Dex, Deb and Vogel uncomfortably unable to discuss their feelings and by the end they’ve come together like “family”. The casting off of the dead weight – literally and figuratively embodied in Yates’ remains – caps these first five episodes off a little too perfectly. It works, but also feels like we’re simply paving over five episodes worth of conflict in one fell swoop so that we can focus on the remaining seven. Hopefully the quality keeps up and doesn’t falter like it did around this point last season…
- While there were a few obvious elements impacting how the A-plot rolled out, my issues with Vogel’s kidnapping were nothing compared to the disappointment surrounding nearly all of the other subplots. It’s beyond obvious that Matthews (Geoff Pierson) tipped off the Hamiltons that Quinn (Desmond Harrington) was closing in on teenage psychopath Zach and the battle for Sergeant between Quinn and Miller (Dana L. Wilson) remains yawnworthy
- The moment that Quinn questioned Masuka (C.S. Lee) about the intentions of his newfound daughter (Dora Madison Burge), you knew there would be a scene with her asking Masuka to buy her lots of stuff (at a food truck no less! She’s quite the grifter!)
- Just in case you were wondering if Sean Patrick Flannery was being prepped to do more than act as a future boyfriend for Deb, Elway proves his mettle by illegally tracing a cell phone for her, no questions asked. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is
- Between Elway and new neighbour Cassie (Bethany Joy Lenz) is anyone else wondering if the remaining episodes of Dexter are just going to feature the Morgans going on dates?
- Finally, did anyone not figure out that Zach is the nanny killer the moment we see him? Beyond looking like a pudgy Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights), everything from the dead eyes to the greasy hair screams “serial killer”. This kid just got typecast for life
- Deb (when Dex refuses her help finding Vogel): “That was about killing someone. This is about saving someone.”
- Dex (in voice-over, after Jamie suckers him into dinner): “Serial killer bested by 100 lbs nanny”
- Deb (after Vogel congratulates them for working together): “Well the family that kills together…”
What are your thoughts on the end of this first block of episodes? Are you excited to transition away from ‘Deb hates Dex’? Is there any chance the Quinn/Angel (David Zayas) stuff gets folded in the main storyline? Can the Masuka storyline go anywhere beyond the boring obvious conclusions? And how much TV is Harrison allowed to watch: 5 minutes, two minutes or none? Offer up your thoughts below
Dexter airs Sundays at 9pm EST on Showtime