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'Dexter': Darkly dreaming

September 27, 2009 | 10:10 pm


With its sensational subject matter, it's sometimes easy to overlook the more subtle aspects of "Dexter," but we have to pay homage to how well the show's directors repeat certain rituals and visual themes.  "Tonight's the night," Dexter (Michael C. Hall) intoned at the start of the episode -- sound familiar? It's something he's said before on previous episodes, but "the night" usually means a night for murder and justice.  Tonight, though -- it was for sleep.  As we knew from last season, Dexter Morgan is now a family man, and in addition to creeping around bad guys and crime scenes, he now does it around his own house so as to not to wake his brood.

Of course the show isn't all just dark humor -- as Dexter sneaked around his new domestic life, Arthur Mitchell, a.k.a. the Trinity Killer played by John Lithgow, also padded around, preparing a bath -- not for himself, however, but for the woman whose house he had crept into -- so he could kill her in it. And it's not the first time he's done it, in this very house, by the way.  The way Mitchell cradled his victim as he killed her was frightening, but I already had high hopes for Lithgow playing a scary, precise murderer. I didn't know we'd see him nude too! Titillating murderer and Lithgow tush?  It must be Christmas! 

But back to the clever structure of the show.  The episode reprised its own iconic credits, only this time, Dexter missed the mosquito that he tries to slap. He put on his white undershirt and it was covered in spit-up.  He yawned, he rolled his eyes, he looked dorky and off his game. He's no longer cool: He's a dad. 

Aside from the Trinity Killer, Dexter's exhaustion was the biggest villain in the episode and possibly the season.  It caused him to reference the wrong notes during a trial and help get Benny Gomez, a guilty murderer, let off.  It caused him to fall asleep while he was staking out Gomez to try to bring about a little justice.  And it caused him to nod off while toting Gomez's body away from the crime scene,  crashing his car and, as we find out, possibly losing parts of Gomez.  Already we have the makings of a strong season: Lithgow as a murderer whom Dexter will want to catch and possibly model himself after, a new life to juggle and a mess to clean up.

The sticking point with me each season with "Dexter" is that the stories that don't involve Dexter, especially Deb Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) and Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez), fail to entice me either because they're simply dull or infuriating. Maria, for instance, appears to be in a relationship now with Angel Batista (David Zayas) -- the last man she had feelings for in the office, Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits), ended up killed. She knows how to pick them.  Meanwhile, Deb, in a somewhat-happy-looking relationship with her former informant, Anton (David Ramsay), is sure to be thrown in a tizzy with the reappearance of her prior love, Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine), back to investigate the Trinity Killer (although since he's doing it on his own, as a retired agent and not actively, perhaps he'll choose to go outside the law, like Dexter).  I'm not sure, in the meantime, what Deb will get out of tracking down Dexter's mother. Well, obviously, the discovery could prove interesting in regards to her relationship with Dexter, but what daughter goes digging to find out which deceased stranger her deceased father had an affair with? 

Of course, if you have two stories, one about an undercover serial killer with a family and job and then another that is about ... something else, the "something else" is going to seem dull in comparison, but at the very least between Dexter's new domestic life and with his nemesis/role model the Trinity Killer on hand, it'll be a killer season (thank you, I'm here all night).

-- Claire Zulkey

Photo: Julie Benz as Rita Morgan and Michael C. Hall as Dexter. Credit: Jim Fiscus / Showtime