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'Dexter': Cornucopia of criminals

November 23, 2009 |  8:20 am
Dexter_409_0149 Before I get to discussing the Worst Thanksgiving Ever, I'd like to make a prediction. Either Maria Laguerta (Lauren Vélez) or Angel Batista (David Zayas) won't make it through the season alive.  The couple who have traversed mountains and rivers (actually: some bureaucratic red tape but otherwise the mild interest and support of their colleagues) have finally declared their love. Unfortunately this story line has been lacking much strength this season (never have I thought "Enough Trinity killer! How are Angel and Maria doing?") so for some reason I see it ending with a literal bang. 

Last night's Thanksgiving episode of "Dexter" was one of the freakier, more horrifying installments to date and yet one of the least bloody. It was Arthur Mitchell (John Lithgow) breaking his son's finger after grabbing it in a high-five. It was him flatly calling his wife an unprintable name at the dinner table after she, full of terrified optimism, told him she was thankful for him. It was the jar of human ashes flung against the wall in anger. And you thought it was bad when you ran out of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Dexter witnessed the freak show after inviting himself to the Mitchells' for dinner, fearing that Mitchell's son Jonah (Brando Eaton) was in physical danger at the hands of his father. Dexter knew already, of course, that Arthur was the Trinity killer but then learned that Mitchell's happy family was anything but. 

My problem is that Dexter seems to be a bit more of an incredulous patsy this time around than in previous seasons. So far Trinity fooled Dexter into thinking he was a lone-wolf killer, then led Dex to believe that Mitchell maintained the front of a happy family. Now, Dexter sees a new reality, although at the end of the episode we learned that Mitchell has yet another secret--a second daughter in the form of reporter Christine Hill (Courtney Ford).

What happened to shrewd Dexter, who could suss out his victims ahead of time, who could spy on them in the dark without having to show up and tag along like an annoying neighbor on church trips and at Thanksgiving? That Dexter also would perhaps have been able to keep a better eye on concerned neighbor Elliot (Rick Peters) who could barely mask his interest in Rita (Julie Benz) in front of Dexter. 

Don't get me wrong: I love Trinity (John Lithgow seems to relish each and every scene) and the horror of each aspect of his life, but it feels like we're losing the original Dexter Morgan a bit--we need his savvy and coldbloodedness back.

And I really hope Masuka (C.S. Lee) rescued those cakes. Even if it's the Worst Thanksgiving Ever, you shouldn't throw away perfectly good molten lava cakes.

-- Claire Zulkey

Photo: John Lithgow as Arthur Mitchell. Photo credit: Randy Tepper/Showtime