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Dexter Recap: Mama Issues

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan and Charlotte Rampling as Dr. Vogel in Dexter (Season 8, episode 9) - Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime - Photo ID: Dexter_809_1103

In last week’s recap, I wondered who the Brain Surgeon could be at this late stage in the season. Seemed highly unlikely we’d meet a new character with just four episodes to go, though we know Vogel had a husband. The doc herself has been suspicious from the first episode, but sending cranial chunks to herself didn’t make sense. Astute commenter Lisamarie206 added Cassie’s beau to the list of suspects, pointing out — as we’d later see in last night’s “previously on Dexter” scenes — that he played dumb when Quinn showed him Zack’s photo, despite having seen Zack before. I’d dismissed him as too minor a character to consider for such a crucial role. But it made sense — what if this guy was watching Dexter all along and decided to move in on Cassie, like a serial killer playing a game of deadly chess? (But, um, using brainballs instead of pawns? Something like that.)

Well, now the guy has a name — a few of them, actually. Cassie knew him as Oliver Saxon, but Vogel knew him as her son, Daniel. As Dexter learned by matching DNA samples, he’s also the Brain Surgeon. The big reveal when Dexter’s lab results showed a familial match to Vogel wasn’t much of a shocker; even if you weren’t onboard with the Cassie boyfriend theory, Vogel had to be mixed up in all of this somehow. What’s far more surprising is that in all of her time with Dexter and Deb, no one apparently asked Vogel a single question about her family. Deb knew she had a husband. But two sons? The youngest died in a pool? The big brother killed him, was institutionalized in England, and died in a fire without Vogel identifying the body? The Morgans can be a bit self-absorbed; hard to blame them, considering all of their baggage. But they’re just finding out Dexter’s spiritual mom has a family tree that’s almost as twisted as their own?

Of course, everyone’s learning this now for the purposes of storytelling, not realism. That doesn’t mean the story itself is great. Although this episode was a step up from last week (and the week before), the show still doesn’t feel like it’s ramping up to the epic finish it deserves. The key plots are now well defined. Dexter is facing off with Saxon, a serial killer whose skills match his own and has Vogel, with all her knowledge of the Morgans, seemingly at his disposal. Elway and the U.S. Marshal are in hot pursuit of Hannah while Quinn closes in on Saxon, leaving Dexter in his usual race against the clock. Meanwhile, Dexter’s planning to run away with Hannah and Harrison to Argentina. And we’re all hoping we’ve heard the last of that friggin’ song (which still feels like it belongs to Desmond from Lost).

My problems with these loose ends are as follows: Saxon/Daniel/Brain Surgeon isn’t Dexter’s greatest foe, not by a long shot. Trinity was his Lex Luthor, his General Zod; going up against this guy on his way out is like Superman mic-dropping after defeating Mister Mxyzptlk. We’ve seen Dexter bob and weave with the cops a million times as he tried to beat them to his prey. Hannah has grown on me — and really, what guy, psycho or not, would be immune to her charms? — but the “let’s fly away and start a new life” idea rings false. From the first episode, we’ve seen that the urge to kill isn’t a switch that Dexter can flip. Then there’s Deb. How could he leave her behind? In a sense, she’s the true love of his life. Next week, he’ll probably rationalize by saying that leaving Miami will allow her to get her life back; Deb can rejoin Metro without worrying her brother will suck her into yet another “fucked up situation.”

 More observations from last night’s chapter:

  • Early on, before Dexter finds Saxon’s DNA at Zack’s studio, he discusses “Make Your Own Kind of Music” with Vogel. For some reason, it doesn’t occur to her that it’s same song her dead son always played when he was a child. Note that she also tells Dexter he’s no longer the “perfect psychopath,” thanks to his love for Hannah. She sounds like a disappointed mother — Mrs. Bates playing mind games with young Norman. Now she’s upgraded, replacing her flawed spiritual son with her real one, who appears to be an emotionless killing machine. He killed his brother and his girlfriend. Definitely not down with the Code.
  • Jamie hits Deb with a nice passive-aggressive zinger while Deb questions her about Cassie’s relationship with Saxon. “We should all have someone who worships us like that, right?” Ouch. Though Deb didn’t pick up on the Quinn reference.
  • With so many close-ups of Deb’s badge at her apartment, it seems significant. Maybe it will come in handy if the Argentina plan goes to hell and Hannah needs help getting out of Miami.
  • Minor nit-picky point, but Saxon doesn’t look like he’s in his mid-40s, as Dexter’s research suggested. He should give up the home inspecting and serial killing and peddle his skin-care regimen.
  • Enough with the tension between Deb, Quinn, and Jamie. None of them should be together.
  • Arlene sure has cleaned up since last season.
  • Great moment when Deb takes a bite of Hannah’s salad and says exactly what we’re thinking — can’t believe she’s eating dinner courtesy of Miami’s most accomplished poisoner. Nice touch by letting Deb take the first bite. For a second there, it looked like she might have been dosed again.
  • Perhaps the only person more smitten by Hannah than Dexter is poor little Harrison. For his sake, let’s hope their escape plan doesn’t work. Hannah isn’t mommy material.
  • If the Brain Surgeon somehow ended up on trial, the “not guilty by reason of insanity by repeated exposure to Mama Cass” defense might work.  

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Vogel knew exactly where her son was in the end — at her apartment. With Dexter’s lovesickness clouding his judgment, taking on both of them will be a challenge. Only one thing appears certain from here: Dexter won’t make it to Argentina.

Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime