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Dexter Recap: Feeling a Little Horse

Dexter.

The Lord works in mysterious ways. Sometimes it’s through life’s little ironies, like when you keep wrecking your car, thus ensuring more hang time with your spiritual auto mechanic as you wait for your real auto mechanic. Then there are the less subtle moments, like when, I don’t know, four horses with the Alpha Omega symbol painted on their foreheads gallop through downtown Miami ridden by half-mannequin, half-corpse zombies holding swords and caked in blood. In an otherwise uneventful chapter of Dexter, the big reveal of Travis and the Prof’s macabre arts-and-crafts project stole the show. PETA disclaimer: no animals bearing Horsemen of the Apocalypse were harmed in the making of this episode. I think.

This season’s ongoing religious motifs weren’t quite as heavy-handed last night, save for that ending. But while this week’s title is “Smokey and the Bandit,” it could have been “Back to the Future,” given all of the setups for what still lies ahead. The Lieutenant Debra Morgan era begins with some intense power plays, as LaGuerta and Quinn align against Deb and Angel. I don’t think any fans will be making “Team Maria” T-shirts. Remember when LaGuerta was sort of likable, back when she was sneaking around with Angel, career consequences be damned? Now she’s returned to season one form — self-preservationist schemer and manipulator. Anyone else waiting for Deb to lose her cool and cold-cock Diva LaG one of these days? Maybe that’s the endgame for Deb’s inevitable demotion.

Speaking of our favorite foul-mouthed po-lice, as they’d say on The Wire, can we pause to give Jennifer Carpenter some props? Michael C. Hall is so masterful that it’s easy to overlook her performances. To wit: In the scene where Deb is hyperventilating to Dexter about her first briefing, she’s all nerves and self-doubt. Her quirky conversational tics come so naturally that you’d think Carpenter herself talks that way. Later, when the new guy from Chicago plays the sexism card, she’s in total control as she puts him in his place. That’s Deb in a nutshell — socially awkward and unsure of herself, but when the shit hits the fan, she rises to the occasion. The four-letter rants are fun, but it’s her combination of goofiness and strength that makes Deb so appealing. Now, if she could only figure out why her brother, who has no hobbies or interests outside of work and his son, is always so busy …

Dexter also sees a glimpse of what his future might hold thanks to his next mark, who, it turns out, was a childhood hero of his (other kids idolized quarterbacks; Dexter kept a scrapbook with news clippings of his favorite serial killers). Alas, Walter Kenney, a.k.a. the Tooth Fairy, falls far short of Dexter’s expectations; that body he dumped on a sheriff’s front lawn was an accident, not a ballsy F-you to the cops. You’d think that Dexter finding Walter’s box of teeth would be like a Beatles fan finding Lennon’s sheet music. Instead, it bums him out as he begins to contemplate his own mortality: “Is this what happens to serial killers at the end of their lives?” Slow your roll, Dex. If you somehow avoid a dirt nap or death row, a retirement filled with golf, porn, and meds ain’t a bad fate.

Walter ends up being one of Dexter’s most memorable targets, and in a twisted way, brings out his humanity. Dex is so repulsed by Walter’s contempt for his own son that he decides to smother the ol’ Fairy and leave the body behind. That way, he figures, Walter will just be a miserable geezer who had a heart attack, and the family he left behind will never learn the truth about the monster within him. For all the talk of Dexter’s inability to feel emotions and relate to other people, the Tooth Fairy makes him look like Dr. Phil. Before Walter’s demise (nice touch using the Barcalounger as a kill table), we’re also treated to two of the most horrifying scenes of the season: Walter tonguing his fake incisor with horny delight at the sight of a waitress bending over, and Walter in his tighty-whities.

In third place for stomach-turning developments isn’t the scary horse parade, it’s the Miami PD’s new pro-sexual-harassment policy. I love me some Masuka and his weaselly innuendos, but let’s recall this exchange between V-Suka and Ryan, his busty blonde intern, after she admits her Ice Truck Killer fetish:

Ryan: Is that just wrong?
Masuka: Is it wrong that it makes me hot? Huhuhuh.

Not to be all Gloria Steinem here, but when did he go from lovable perv to creepy workplace Beavis and Butt-head? And “makes me hot”? That’s not a clever Masuka comeback, it’s a line from an eighties porno. Not to be outdone, Quinn tries his best to close-talk his way into Ryan’s pants, but she’s not having it. We eventually see why she’s so sweet on her boss; Ryan’s not preparing a lawsuit, she’s stealing some Ice Truck evidence (maybe she has a scrapbook, too?). In the montage near the end, a bored-looking Quinn doggie-style bangs his pain away. For a show with such a strong female lead in Deb, it all felt oddly off-key (sort of like the way Dexter’s hot classmate thanked him after her oral presentation at the reunion; who did whom the favor there?).

Then there's the final scene. As jaw-dropping as it was, the utter implausibility is sort of laughable. Where did the horses come from? How did they transport them? How does one set all of that up in broad daylight? Will catching the perps be as easy as looking into who's purchased livestock and mannequins in the last twelve months? As for Travis and the Prof, we’re a quarter of the way into the season and we still have no idea what they're up to, besides some really demented performance art. If not for the Internet, we wouldn't even know Edward James Olmos’s character's name. Hopefully last night’s ending means there's some payoff in store next week. Brother Sam didn't make much noise either, save for asking Dexter to stop by his “company get-together” (who doesn't love a beach-barbecue baptism with a few ex-cons?). In a way, that offer sums up the episode itself: a promising invitation to what we hope is some really good stuff that's yet to come.

The Postmortem
Best Quote: “I checked your car registration when you were filling my prescription. And then I goggled your name. That's right, dickwad. Maybe I haven't taken a decent shit in ten years, but I'm not fucking stupid!” —Walter Kenney turning the tables on Dexter.

Debra Morgan Vulgar Outburst of the Night: “Fuck off and die” —Deb’s response to her brother’s request for a raise.

Kill Tools: pillow.

Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime