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'Dexter' recap: It's hammer time!

October 2, 2011 | 10:01 pm

Dexter_601_0209 I was optimistic about this new season of “Dexter” for one particular reason: the smirk on Dexter’s face in the screener’s press photos. Of course, it’s understandable that Dexter was a bit of a downer last season, with his wife being dead and all, but to me Season 5 was something of a drag. I would have preferred that Dexter start off somewhere new, alone, or at least with someone who had a bit more zazz than Lumen.

But Dexter seems to be smiling again, and that’s when I love this show most -- when it’s dark and funny. And I was not disappointed tonight.

The episode started off with a bang: we’re led to think that Dexter’s been stabbed and is so desperate that he calls 911, but we get a delightful switcheroo -- the whole scenario has been staged just so Dexter can nab two wayward EMTs. He kills them with a defibrillator (so apparently it’s not just the knife for Dexter anymore.)  Even without the fake-out, it would have been an exciting dive into the new season, but the trick on us made it even more fun.

Dexter brags in voiceover that things have been great for him lately, and that’s great for us. A theme of the episode is that everyone is moving forward, and that includes Harrison, who is about to start preschool. Dexter and Deb check out a Catholic school, and while Dexter wryly observes that some parts of the religion appeal to him (i.e. the bloody crucifixion), he admits to Deb and the nun that he doesn’t believe in much, which bums Deb out. She puts it into Dexter’s head that he should think about what Harrison wants to believe. It’s interesting that Dexter is open-minded enough to give Harrison the option of religion and doesn’t intend to raise him as an atheist like himself.

I don’t know why the writers of “Dexter” didn’t think sooner to send Dexter to his high school reunion,  but it was a stroke of genius. Reunions typically cause most adults social anxiety, but Dexter’s not most adults. He’s going, of course, in order to murder an old classmate, but Dexter discovers that because he’s a.) a widower b.) hawt and c.) successful, he’s become something he never was in high school: popular. Harry even shows up to cheer his son on as Dexter laments the fact that he can’t seem to get an incriminating blood sample from Joe Walker, who murdered his wife.

I loved how alarmed Dexter looked as his old classmates enthusiastically greeted him.  Then it’s time to dance, and Dexter says, “I have no idea what Hammer Time is, or how it differs from regular time.” This line, and watching Dexter line dance, made my night.

But it’s not all Hammer Time.  Something creepy is afoot in the swamp (isn’t there always?) Two men (Edward James Olmos and Colin Hanks) catch a pregnant snake, and the creepy visual of the baby snakes crawling around in the snake’s belly made me really excited in a “Dexter” sort of way. They later scope out a fruit stand guy and after making a weird religious proclamation about fruit, Hanks menacingly takes out a huge blade.  Dexter and the crew from the police department (more on them next week) are called to the scene, where a pile of human entrails is found on the fruit scale. Lovely.

A body is later discovered on the beach, and the police find that not only has the victim’s belly been sliced and sewn back up in alpha and omega symbols, he has seven baby snakes crawling around inside him. The combination of this awful, awful thing and Dexter’s apparent semi-delight at it made me happy as well. I am a little worried about whether I’m a sick person at this point.

After studying some plays online, Dexter joins the reunion flag football game to try and get a sample of Joe’s blood. Not surprisingly, Dexter’s terrible and even loses his needle, until Harry advises him to just elbow Joe in the face and give him a bloody nose. “Who taught you how to play football?” Joe asks, and Dexter says, “My dad.” The show is funny again! I’m so happy.

Last year’s sad Dexter is definitely not sad anymore as Trisha, the prom queen, gives him a little special treat in the science lab. Instead of tearing himself away, Dexter gives in, and we are rewarded by his awkward sex noises.  Dexter gets his real release, however, by finally dispatching Joe, which he does on top of a scoreboard. Before murdering Joe, Dexter notices a crucifix around his neck and a tasteful (i.e., not) Jesus tattoo on his pec. Dexter gets theological with Joe for a bit, trying to get explanations of forgiveness and repentance. I was worried for a second that Dexter was actually going to pause and think about what Joe said, but in the end Dexter is just toying with his victim, being snide. I loved it. Dexter picks up a hammer and says, well, you probably know what. I'm going to say it again: I loved it.

Deb and Quinn experienced some excitement as well. As Quinn prepares to propose to Deb, a gunman bursts into the bar they were at and the two take him down.  I expected Quinn to propose over the handcuffed perp but I was happier not knowing what happens until next week.

I felt like this episode took me back to a time when “Dexter” made me love its dark humor and perversion, something I hadn’t experienced as strongly since Season 4, and then before that Season 1.  I’m ready to laugh at murder again. It’s “Dexter Time.”

-- Claire Zulkey

twitter.com/Zulkey

Photo: Michael C. Hall as Dexter (Season 6, episode 1).  Credit:  Randy Tepper / Showtime

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