Dexter Recap: Feeling Burned

Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime
Episode Title
Helter Skelter
Editor’s Rating

"There are no two stronger human emotions than fear and love," says Dexter at the start of last night's episode. Not that he'd know from experience, of course — when it comes to feelings, he speaks with the curious detachment of a sociologist from another universe. By the time the credits rolled, I wondered what Dex would have to say about my disappointment. Granted, following the sublime "Argentina" was a tough task. But in a season that's reminded us how good this series can still be, last night was a letdown.

That's not to say there weren't some major developments, beginning with the cutest darn couple of wackjobs on television since Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. It's surprising to see Hannah on the Slice of Life boat tour — for Dexter, that's like bringing her home to meet his parents. In the "not-so-shocking revelations" category, it turns out Hannah has daddy issues, dating back to when hers threw her in a lake before she could swim. Still, neither Hannah's fear of water nor her kidnapping is enough to keep these two crazy kids apart, thanks to some awkward FaceTime chats and this touching exchange:

Hannah: I miss you.

Awwwwww, you guys! Deb, of course, is still not thrilled that Hannah won't go away, but along with her, Dexter, and Isaak, she's got a new killer to deal with: a homicidal arsonist who likes to cook his victims and watch them roast. At first, the prime suspect seems to be the exceedingly creepy investigator who tells Deb they've met already ("at a church burning") and gives Dexter some 'tude. But who's "Bobby," the name scrawled on the elevator door?

I'd trade the answer to that question for more awkward emo-talk between Deb and Dexter, which is partly where this episode fell flat. As agonizing as their chat on the porch was last week, the aftermath felt a little too tidy. During their heart-to-heart at the first arson scene, Dexter sounds like he prepped by watching Dr. Phil. "We endure"? That's all we get after Deb tells her brother she like-likes him? Points awarded for this pitch-perfect bit of awkwardness as Dexter tries to relate:

Dexter: It’s logical. Like, the way I love M&Ms even though I shouldn’t.
M and fuckin’ Ms.

But Deb's line to Hannah in the hospital about "doing things for herself" seems to signal the resolution of this story line, as if she's somehow moved past all of her messy romantic feelings. If that's true, it's an unsatisfying end to one of this season's emotional high points.

Another bummer is Isaak's demise. His two would-be hitmen are so fearsome that this badass is quaking in his bespoke suit. So how do they go out? Like suckas: Dexter stabs one at a gun range (in broad daylight) and Isaak ruins a perfectly good knife fight by shooting the other (again, daylight). Then George shows up, fires a round in Isaak's gut, and scampers away. His horrible aim allows us to hear more relationship advice from Isaak, who acts less like a stone-cold killer and more like Tim Robbins as he nears his end. Yes, he and Dexter had a strange kinship, but their swift shift from adversaries to BFFs didn't work for me. Isaak was destined to die, but he deserved a better, bolder sendoff.

As for the Miami Metro gang, Quinn's story line takes an unfortunate turn when he learns one of the perks of George’s job is sleeping with the staff whenever he's in the mood. At least the LaGuerta story line is picking up, thanks to the return of Captain Matthews, whose retirement hobby seems to be coming up with devastating one-liners for LaGuerta Friar's Club roast (she is rather Godzillaesque, isn’t she?). Elsewhere, Batista's got mold and Masuka delivers his best gross-out line of the season:

Batista: The universe is giving me the finger.
With proper lubrication, nothing wrong with that, hombre.

It all ends with Hannah's bloody and unnecessary attempt to escape from Jurg, breaking one of his cardinal rules (do not scream, do not flee, do not watch Real Housewives). At the hospital, Deb finally says what we've known all along: She's not cool with letting someone die (or asking her bro to kill his girlfriend). Inspired by Isaak's deathbed pep talk, Dexter opens up to Hannah about the two most traumatic events of his life: seeing his mother butchered as a 3-year-old, and thinking he might not see Hannah again. Wait, what? No Rita? No thoughts of how he’s frequently put his sister and son in potential life-threatening danger? Dexter ends with a line he probably lifted from a Hallmark card: "All I know is that when I’m with you, I feel ... safe." It sounds more ominous than sappy, especially considering Deb's earlier warning ("You'll never be safe with her"). Let's hope Deb's right — and that the tension in their triangle, along with LaGuerta's snooping, can fill the hole that Isaak left behind and keep this season from fading in the home stretch.