Dexter – Once Upon A Time
Last week I wrote a rant that could basically be surmised thusly: Dexter is not of to a great start this year, and unfourtunately I could mostly just copy and paste all those same criticisms into this week’s post, but I’m trying to avoid doing homework and so I won’t. This sophmore ep is titled Once Upon A Time in reference to the bedtime stories that Dex has started telling the not so young Harrison; the title is also relevant for another reason though and that is because Dexter, like all good fairy-tales and bedtime stories, is a tale that is being told again and again and again, but contrary to what the writers seem to think its audience aren’t children anymore.
Though last week’s premiere saw a slight shuffle up in structure – old characters sideboarded, new ones brought in and a villain working from behind the scenes – but this week saw all that work towards revolution come crashing down this week as the show quickly returned to the status quo. It seems that Miami’s favourite serial killer has yet another murderous mentor this year, yet another killer who also happens to be really good at that one thing Dexter can’t stop thinking about, redemption, yet another man who will eventually turn on our antihero and end up on the slab in the season finale. We’ve been here before but Mos Def does try to do something interesting with this latest in a long line, Brother John, thoug what exactly it is that he’s trying eludes me; the character is neither hyper nor quiet, ominous nor friendly but he is blatently religious, like really, really religious, so there’s that.
The season’s other faith filled villains are still as segregated and thus entirely pointless as last week; they wander around in the dark some more, doing vaugely creepy things without the slightest trace of context and then all of a sudden dissapear again. Watching them is almost akin to flicking the channel for a scene and interspersing the story with that of another show. Obviously they will eventually come to play a role in the show (you’d hope) but there has to be a better way of keeping them present than this, surely?
Thankfully though the religious theme as a whole is handled a little better this week; it’s still just as present throughout the episode as it was then but the way it’s being inserted it much smoother than that hammering. Dex narrating around a common topic is fine, it’s fun even, it’s only when the writing slips and the characters all start actually saying things about religion out of nowhere that I flinch and recoil from the show in horror. What they’re actually using all these references and images to say is still quite unclear, surely using Dexter to preach any kind of moral message is an instantly flawed idea and the concept of him becoming a better dad through all of this is awkward at best. I trust that there is a plan, I’m just not as sure that it will be a good one.
The parts of the show that weren’t namedropping the man upstairs were exactly the same as they always are: there was more Angel and LaGuerta tension, more Deb and Quinn relationship drama and generally just more of that stuff absolutely noone cares anything about, more of that then there was Dexter and the damn show is named after him. The reason that these sections suck is that they are arch without the arched eyebrow, they lack the ironic wit of Dex’s narration and thus come across as massively overblown and yet boring. It’s as if these too are from a different show being as they have a different tone, a different set of stakes and seemingly a different standard of shooting.
The other new character introduced has brought with her a new criticism though and with it the intern storyline has gone from refreshing the office to relegating it to one of the show’s absolute worst elements. Laughing at two male cops as they leer at the obvlivious, sexy new intern is fine, it’s not a new joke but it’s funny enough I guess. The problem is in the way that the show chooses to show this; it lingers too long on these exploitative shots and continues using those exposing angles long after the punchline has been hit, moving the scene from hilarious to utterly hypocritical. This girl and her hypnotic assets need to play an important role in upcoming eps to justify this little digression (and she obviously is or will be a mole for one or all the recurring killers, because that’s how the show works), Angel’s scantily clad sister too for that matter.
So it’s all different and it’s all the same, the show continues to repeat it’s old mistakes over and over, always adding new ones into the repotoire. When the show works as a thriller all of these become minor quibbles relegated to the back of your mind, but when the A plot is as boring as it was this week there is nothing else here to think about. Hopefully the show will bring the tension in the later episodes like it usually does, but until then It’s going to be a struggle getting through. Lord give me strength.