At the end of the last episode she was just a pair of panicked brown eyes, deranged with fear and peering out from behind a tiny glass window as Dexter stabbed his latest victim, Boyd Fowler, in the heart with a kitchen knife. But now she has a name, Lumen Anne Pierce. And a thinly sketched but mesmerizing backstory involving a mother who understands why Lumen had to leave their home in Minnesota, but wants her to come home because, yes, her father does bad things he won’t ever apologize for, but he doesn’t really mean them. And that’s the lighter side of this girl’s past. “Boyd wasn’t the only one who did this to me,” she tells Dexter at the close of the episode. “There were others. It’s not over.”
This is all totally new. Dexter’s dealt with unwanted witnesses and he’s protected innocents even when it didn’t serve him, but he’s never had to do both at the same time. He has to kill Lumen. And he absolutely cannot kill Lumen. What the hell is he going to do?
Dexter’s first attempt at convincing her that he’s not going to hurt her doesn’t go very well. She’s a tough girl and she fights him, smearing his crisp blue shirt with her blood. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Dexter says in a rare display of emotional unraveling. Deb calls. She needs him at the latest Santa Muerte crime scene. If Deb’s been out all night and he’s been dealing with Boyd and Lumen, then Sonja has been home alone with Harrison since the day before. Oops. Dexter knocks Lumen out with a shot of sedative, stops by the crime scene long enough to discover a major clue (cigar ash preserved in a pool of blood) and plant a water bottle with Lumen’s fingerprints so he can run them back at the station. By the time he gets to Deb’s condo, the nanny is seriously pissed.
“So sorry, I know I’m late,” Dexter says, cradling Harrison.
“Late doesn’t quite capture it, it’s been all night,” she replies curtly.
“I know it’s just ”
Dexter finishes the thought in his head, “I killed a man in front of a witness I had to tranquilize to keep from scratching my eyes out.” She calls him unreliable, delivers some aphorism about not trusting liars, and storms out, leaving Dexter alone with his baby in his arms, just another overextended single parent. “I miss your mom,” he tells his son.
He has no idea what he’s going to do about Lumen, but for starters he needs to find out who she is. He brings Harrison into the office, knowing that there’s nothing like an adorable blond infant to keep a crowd busy, while he sneaks into the back to run Lumen’s fingerprints. She doesn’t have much of a criminal record and there hasn’t been a missing persons’ report filed, but Dexter is able to get her name, and through that he finds an unpaid motel bill. It’s a start. While he’s sneaking around the department, he nabs some high-grade antibiotics from Masuka’s stash (of course the pervy lab geek is also a hypochondriac with a fridge full of Cipro). Harry is horrified at Dexter’s brazenness. Skulking around Miami Metro in broad daylight poaching drugs and running prints on someone who should already be dead seems like a series of completely unnecessary risks. Harry tries to get Dexter to feel guilty about the fact that he’s using his infant son as bait. “Is this your idea of quality time, using your son for cover?” he asks. “It’s for a good cause,” Dexter replies.
Okay, yes, it’s for a good cause. But is that really why Dexter brings Harrison? Since the opening of this season, when Dexter came home to find his son marooned in a pool of Rita’s blood, his relationship with his son has completely changed. Last episode the child psychologist assured Dexter that Harrison was probably too young to really absorb the horror of that experience. And ostensibly Dexter was relieved to hear this. But part of him was not. Part of him wanted to hear that like Dexter, Harrison was now scarred for life. Altered forever by an experience that can’t be undone and can’t be understood by anyone who hasn’t shared it. If that were true, in his son Dexter would finally find the intimate confidant he’s so desperately searching for. The part of Dexter that desperately wants a friend is the part that’s bringing Harrison up like his protégé. It’s the part that takes the kid out to the moving truck to look for blood stains. It’s the part that uses Harrison as a cover at the department. And it’s the part of him that brings Harrison to Lumen’s motel, where the surly clerk melts at the sight of father and child, just there to pay the bill and pick up “mom’s” things.
The only member of Miami Metro not dazzled by Harrison’s every gurgle is Detective Quinn. He’s built a little shrine to Dexter on the gearshift of his car, consisting of a particularly blank and scary-looking photo of Dexter and a composite of the sketches of Kyle Butler. Quinn’s FBI buddy still won’t give him access to the Mitchell family, so Quinn, lunkhead that he is, follows him to the safe house and ends up cornering Jonah Mitchell in a gas-station convenience store. He flashes Dexter’s photo, but Mitchell is understandably freaked out and isn’t able to identify Dexter as Kyle Butler before Quinn is in handcuffs.
Still, this isn’t good. Back at the station, LaGuerta reams Quinn out for not dropping this when she asked him to, then suspends him indefinitely. “You’re lucky I don’t terminate your ass,” she seethes. “The one reason I don’t is because there’d be a mandatory hearing. No one needs to hear about your stupid theories, it could tear this department apart. He just lost his wife for Christ's sake!” Um, right. So the only thing standing between a hugely public hearing that directly connects Dexter to Kyle Butler is decorum? Quinn’s only hesitation in directly fingering Dexter was the scandal it would cause. Now that he’s suspended without pay, why shouldn’t he stir shit up? The only thing that might stop him is Debra. After a particularly grueling day at the office in which she loses one of the Santa Muerte suspects in an intense hostage situation, she falls into Quinn’s unworthy arms. “Deb, I’m no good for you,” Quinn says, right before taking her home. “I’m not looking for good right now,” she replies.
The rest of the non-Lumen plotlines are equally depressing. Even though Batista apologizes to Lopez, who agrees to drop the charges against him, internal affairs won’t let up. In fact, it seems like something else is going on here. Does Jim McCoy, the IA officer have some kind of yet-unknown beef with LaGuerta? For a nerdy, pencil-pushing narc, he seems unusually psyched about the gory personal details of this situation.
“I’m wondering what can end this,” LaGuerta says in a closed-doors meeting with him.
“See, I’m more interested in what started it,” he says, “because according to Lopez’s deposition, he said that you give the best blow job in Miami. Is that true?”
Um, ew and also, what the fuck? Why does he care? What does that have to do with the case? If Lopez dropped the charges, why should anyone want to continue pursuing this? And more to the point: Where is the show going with this plotline? At first it seemed like a way to cause drama between the newlyweds but now it feels more sinister. What is going on here?
Before going back to wake up Lumen, Dexter makes up with Sonja. He shows up at her house and lays it all out on the line. “There was an emergency,” he begins, hesitatingly. (How do you explain this without explaining it?) “A girl was badly hurt and I spent the night trying to help her and then was called to a crime scene by my sister. That’s where I was and I’m here now because we interviewed 30 people and you’re the one that didn’t scare me. Basically, you’re the only one I could trust Harrison to.” Sonja has already said she doesn’t trust Dexter, but he’s doing a remarkably emotionally savvy thing here, in showing that he trusts her, regardless of her disdain for him. And it’s foreshadowing for how he ends up handling the Lumen situation. Sonja agrees to come back to work. “It’s a leap of faith on both our parts,” she says.
This idea — that to earn trust you have to demonstrate trust — resonates with Dexter. After Lumen launches a failed escape, Dexter binds her wrists and drives her out to Fowler’s dump site. Bruised, bloody, and shaking, he forces her to look inside the barrels. “I saved your life,” he shouts, gesturing at the terror-filled faces of Fowler’s previous victims. “How do I know that you didn’t’ kill these girls?” she asks. “You don’t,” he says. “It’s a leap of faith for both of us.”
Dexter offers Lumen the knife he’s been using to keep her in line. She cuts him, but quickly realizes he’s serious when he says she can trust him. The episode ends with her delicately dressing his wound, just as he dressed hers in the opening. All this mania has bred a real intimacy between these two and whenever that happens with Dexter and a cute girl, they usually end up dating and then she ends up dead. Is that where Lumen is headed? It all depends on the code, which has been the northern star in Dexter’s addled psyche but now seems less certain than ever. “What’s the first rule of the code?” Harry asks Dexter at the beginning of the episode. “Never kill an innocent,” Dexter replies. The look on Harry’s face is true alarm. “It’s 'don’t get caught,' Dexter!” They’re both right. Both rules are incontrovertible. When push comes to shove, which is more important?