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Dexter Recap: Shattered

Wow, what an episode! In the ramp-up to the season finale (only three episodes left!), things are getting intense. We usually include the what-do-you-guys-think-about-all-of-this questions at the end of the write-up, but we can’t contain ourselves: Is LaGuerta going to get away with scapegoating Deb? And if not, will it be because Batista sells her out? If he betrays her will that end their marriage? And Quinn, Jesus — what about Quinn? Now that his hired sleuth has come up with some serious ammunition on Dexter, will Quinn use it even though he’s totally in love with Deb? What if he tells her what Liddy found? Could this be the season that Deb finds out about her brother? Would the series survive that revelation? And how about Jordan Chase?! Now that Dexter knows for sure he’s Lumen’s “watch guy,” he has to come after him, but they’ve kind of bonded: Will that complicate the kill? And speaking of Lumen, what is she, really, to Dexter? It seemed clear that this was a romance, and this episode they grow even closer, but they still aren’t making out. Do these two like like each other or is their intimacy based on other things, like shared trauma, revenge fantasies, and a thing for great takeout?

The episode opens with a montage of images from a Jordan Chase seminar. Chase prowls the creepily blue-lit stage, ranting about the disenfranchisement of man from his most primal self. Dexter, his I.D. tag hanging sweetly around his neck, looks genuinely freaked out by all the charged-up dudes around him. “I’ve never been around so many people that made me feel normal,” he says. Chase whips the crowd into a frenzy then delivers his central message: “We are born primal, conceived with the impulse to fight for what we desire. It’s written in our genes; it's ingrained in our souls. But we’ve traded the wilderness for pavement, tress for skyscrapers, we’ve lost touch with our instincts. It’s time to tap into your primal selves and seize the power of instinct.” Dexter is just there for the kill, but it turns out Chase is saying something that really connects. “Instincts are all I’ve ever had,” Dexter thinks to himself.

Chase spots Dexter in the crowd and has Cole invite him up to Chase’s suite during a break in the seminar. As per usual, the set designer on this show is on fire: You can practically smell the oppressively sweet stench of the ostentatious bouquets set up on tables lining this posh-but-cheesy Miami hotel corridor. Chase is on the phone when Dexter comes in. “Call me back when you stop being a piece of furniture,” he says into his Bluetooth, then to Dexter, “Sorry, new client.” Can I just say I can’t wait to see this guy on Dexter’s table?

Turns out Chase does almost as much research on new acquaintances as Dexter. He knows all about Rita, having followed the Trinity case very carefully. The Trinity profile — established, well-respected family man concealing such animalistic rage he has to kill people — really suits Chase’s worldview. “I have to say, he fascinated me on a deep level,” he admits. “What else did Jordan and I have in common?” Dexter wonders. And it’s a good question. The writers have really made an effort here to align Dexter with Chase. True, the guy is a batshit-crazy cult leader, but he’s a batshit crazy cult leader who’s on to something.

Meanwhile, back at the station, the shit is hitting the fan. Miami Metro’s botched takedown of the Fuentes brothers at Club Mayan has become a PR nightmare. It couldn’t be clearer that the entire ill-executed mess was LaGuerta’s fault. She was under a ton of pressure to make a serious break in the Santa Muerte case and she let that pressure make her reckless. Knowing that, it’s probably naive to expect her to handle the fallout any better, but it’s still hard to watch her behave like such a spineless, self-interested wimp. Initially, she wants to give them Ciara, but Deb objects, suggesting that since she was the supervising officer, LaGuerta should use Deb as the scapegoat — but also insists that if the team sticks together, no one has to go down. “We were all there together, so why cant we just hold tight and weather the fucking storm together,” Deb asks.

LaGuerta is panicked and panic makes people stupid. Instead of counting on the loyalty of her crew, LaGuerta capitulates. Deb is at Quinn’s place when she sees LaGuerta’s press conference announcing that Deb has been suspended. “Not the plasma!” Quinn shouts as Deb winds up to throw the remote at the screen. I already know I’m going to regret saying this later, but Quinn is turning into kind of an awesome boyfriend. “Not even La Guerta can deny that you’re a great detective,” he tells her. “At the end of the day, you’ll be the one left standing.” Awwww! Still, Deb is livid. She assumes (as do we) that LaGuerta manipulated her husband into backing up her bullshit story, but it turns out it was Ciara.

I love this story line. The women-sabotaging-women element of it is so realistic. Very All About Eve. Deb confronts her former protégée. “I came here hoping to learn from you,” Ciara says. “What you did, you would never learn from me. Good luck, you’re going to need it,” Deb responds and storms out. She’s got an unlikely ally in this burgeoning inter-office showdown. Batista stops Deb outside the department to express his support. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to set the record straight,” he says. “I was stuck between a rock and my wife, but I decided I’m backing you. You’re like my kid sister, but better because I actually like you.”

Back at Rita and Dexter’s old house, Lumen is preparing for the Cole kill when she gets a phone call from her ex-fiancé, Owen. He’s in town and she agrees to meet him for coffee the next day, just before she’s supposed to join Dexter at the hotel. Dexter comes home with dinner for Lumen (“hot and sour soup and fried rice with tofu,” he says, “that’s what you like, right?”). She’s distracted, but she doesn’t tell him why. Lumen is like Dexter, she’s been changed by an extreme experience that no one in her old life can understand. Dexter is the only one who really knows her now, and he can’t even eat with her. “I’m not staying,” he says as she takes out two plates. “Oh right, Harrison,” she says.

The next day, Dexter is preparing to sneak out of Jordan Chase’s session to kill Cole when Chase calls him up onstage. Like a skilled Scientology auditor, Chase extracts from Dexter the sense-memory details of the trauma he experienced when he returned home to find Rita murdered. “There was so much blood,” he mumbles, LCD screens conveying his genuinely anguished face. “What did you feel in that moment,” Chase asks, and when Dexter can’t come up with the right word Chase provides one for him, “shattered.” “When the primal self is shattered it reaches out in search of what will make it whole again,” Chase explains. “Do you feel that, Dexter, that hunger inside for what will make you whole again?” Dexter nods.

Dexter’s talking about finding Rita, but he might as well be talking about his dead mother. He’s never had a shrink; his victims have always been the only people he’s able to really confide in. But Chase has touched on some things Dexter’s never really articulated before. Like the ways in which trauma has made him go through life feeling as if something’s missing and how dealing with that lack — day in and day out — has fomented an insatiable rage that has to be expressed.

Chase has no idea how right he is. A few moments after leaving Chase’s stage, Dexter is plunging his knife into Cole’s heart. It’s a classic Dexter kill in some major ways — the photos of Cole’s other victims are prominently displayed, the kill room is pristine in its plastic-covered perfection. But in most ways Dexter is breaking all his rules here. First of all, the kill takes place not in some remote warehouse but in the hotel room next door to Chase’s suite, in broad daylight, and, most unusually, Dexter has a witness, this time on purpose. Lumen has been tasked with doing the shopping to prep the kill room. She’s not supposed to meet Dexter at the hotel but shows up there anyway. Just as she’s preparing to leave, she sees Dexter on the screen confessing his pain. She’s standing there, gobsmacked, when Cole spots her and chases her into the kill room. He’s about to strangle her when Dexter intervenes. Once again, he’s saved her life.

Dexter knows that she owes him and perhaps that’s part of what allows him to open up with her. The ease with which he sets up this kill have already made Lumen suspect that Boyd wasn’t a fluke, but after they lock eyes in time for Dexter to plunge the knife into Cole’s heart (the most erotic moment they’ve shared so far), she’s sure. And Dexter doesn’t make her ask.

“You said I’d done this before, that’s true, this is who I am,” he says, Cole’s cooling body between them. “When I was a child my mother was murdered in front of me and it shattered me. I’ve done this ever since, because for the longest time it was the only way I could feel unbroken. And then Rita was killed and none of this made sense anymore. Until now.” He looks meaningfully at Lumen, whose face reflects a mix of emotions from shock and horror to admiration and adoration. “Miguel couldn’t, my father couldn’t. Can anyone live with the truth of what I am?” Dexter thinks as he hands Lumen the slide of Cole’s blood, the ultimate intimate act. “Is Lumen what will make me whole?”

As Dexter’s leaving the hotel, post-Cole kill, he runs into Chase, who’s managing a swarm of security officers. Dexter asks what’s up. “Nothing important, just a little security glitch,” Chase says. “Like your chief of security’s head is in my luggage,” Dexter thinks to himself. Chase apparently doesn’t care that his friend is dead, he’s already got a new mark, Dexter. “Don’t forget what happened here this weekend,” he encourages. “Act on what you’ve learned, that’s what I tell my clients, ‘tick tick tick, that’s the sound of your life running out.’” Right. So any doubt that this Chase is Lumen’s "watch guy" is now eliminated, as that’s exactly what "watch guy" used to say to Lumen before raping her.

The episode ends with Lumen and Dexter on Dexter’s boat, dumping Cole’s body. Dexter let’s Lumen do the honors of dropping the victim’s head into the inky water. They talk about letting go. It’s a touching scene immediately followed by a harrowing one: Liddy is photographing them. Is he going to give this evidence to Quinn? They aren’t on such good terms right now, as Quinn hasn’t paid him in a while and Liddy has started threatening him. Quinn doesn’t like to be bullied. Will his souring relationship with Liddy be to Dexter’s advantage? Where is Harry in all of this? Is Lumen’s closeness to Dexter supplanting his need to confide in his father’s ghost? What would he think about all the risks Dexter’s taking right now? Did Owen go around the world by himself, or is he going to come looking for Lumen? He seems sort of spineless, so perhaps he’ll just disappear, but that isn’t likely, given the show’s history. Every new character has a purpose: Will Owen’s be to inspire jealousy in Dexter? Can you get jealous of the ex-fiancé of a girl you’re teaching to murder but haven’t yet seen naked? These and other questions will presumably be answered in the final three episodes.

Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime