Part of the brilliance of Dexter is that it never resorts to being just a show about a relatable serial killer. Yes, it’s a model of black humor, filled with ironic commentary on the epic blankness of modern life and the “neat monster” said blankness breeds in all of us. It does this very well. And if this were all Dexter did, it would still be a good show. Funny, weird, and intimacy-breeding because sometimes we all feel as at odds with existence as Dexter actually is. And we’ve all wanted to kill someone. But Dexter is not just a good show, it’s a great show, in part because of episodes like this one, in which the writers demonstrate their willingness to let the characters be real, feeling humans, not just postmodern avatars. And the actors prove they can display that vulnerability without resorting to sentimentality.
“On my wedding day, I tried on the dress and I looked out the window at the backyard where the aisle was and I saw everything that aisle was leading to,” Lumen says as she sits, freshly bathed and knee-to-knee with Dexter in the episode’s final scene. “Babies and matching dinnerwear and Sunday barbecues and I couldn’t breathe, I had to get out of there. Then everything happened and I actually thought, ‘this is what I get for trying to live my own life.’” Dexter nods. He’s familiar with the idea of being punished for pursuing your desires. “Do you have any idea what I’m talking about?” she asks. “A little,” he replies.
This scene could be cringe-inducing. I mean, there’s nothing subtle about the torch-passing going on here. Lumen is wearing Rita’s bathrobe! But the explicitness doesn’t take away from the emotional resonance. Lumen is perfectly like Dexter. Reborn in blood via the trauma she suffered at the hands of Boyd, et al. — she’s damaged goods now, warped forever, and destined to spend life obeying her new dark passenger. And Lumen is also perfectly unlike Dexter. She’s impulsive, reckless, and unskilled in the minutiae of serial killing. She has no code, no Harry to guide her. She’s like one of those newly converted Twilight vampires, all animal id. “This started out as an ordinary day,” Dexter muses. “And in one second everything changed. Lumen happened.”
Helping Lumen occupies a lot of Dexter’s energy. At first, he’s looking forward to getting back to his “simple life” — clean, well-researched, satisfying kills that result in one more neatly filed slide. Dexter targets Lance Robinson, a murderous pretty boy who uses the gay personals to choose his prey. Posing as an interested party, Dexter lures Robinson out to a rented RV and has just wrapped him in a very Herv– Léger–esque cellophane getup when Lumen texts him a photo of the guy she just shot. She’s panicked. “There’s so much blood,” she says when he calls her. “What do I do?!” Dexter dumps Robinson in the back of his car and heads to the warehouse to help her. What follows is like a warped take on classic Tracy and Hepburn: impassioned banter ostensibly about one thing (in this case, the guy Lumen shot and where he’s crawled off to) but really fueled by something else (bonkers levels of sexual tension).
“You killed somebody,” Dexter scolds.
“Because you wouldn’t do it for me,” Lumen shoots back.
“But you call me to clean up after you,” Dexter says.
“I didn’t know what to do with the body! Just go if you want to go,” she pouts.
“I’m responsible for you! Everything you do leads back to me,” he seethes.
Then he mocks her for being a bad shot and she calls his shoulder bag a purse. As Janeane Garofolo says in Reality Bites: “Would the two of you just do it and get it over with?”
Meanwhile, it’s become about much more than just sex between Deb and Quinn. Back at work, Quinn gets sent to Club Mayan with instructions to chat up girls and find out what they know about the Fuentes brothers, who hang out there. This means that while Deb and Batista sit in a van out back watching live video of Quinn’s performance, he’s inside licking salt off blondes’ body parts and shooting tequila. Deb’s jealous. Which means she cares. Which is horrifying and elating (for her and for us). Post-stakeout she confronts Quinn:
“Fuck, I have feelings for you, I tried not to … ” Deb says.
“I like you, too, more than like,” Quinn replies.
“You do?” she says, lashes fluttering.
“Yeah, I mean you’re the one who keeps putting the brakes on,” he says.
“Well, what if I don’t want to do that anymore?” she inquires.
“That would make me very happy,” he says.
“If this is going to end badly would you please just tell me now,” she says.
“Morgan, I just said I want to be with you. I mean, what more do you want?” he responds.
Awwww! Once again, here’s a scene that could be really cheesy and false-seeming but instead totally resonates. We all know that Deb’s foul-mouthed bravado conceals a thin-skinned, vulnerable girl who has not had the best luck with men. And it’s not like this promises to end any better: (a) Quinn is shifty player who likes to party. (b) They work together. (c) He’s probably using her to get to her brother. And yet, I want to believe. I love how he calls her “Deborah.” Maybe it could work out for these two?! I mean, just until it doesn’t? Sigh. Moving on.
The other major couple at Miami Metro, LaGuerta and Batista, seem to have reconciled. Batista confronts his wife about the fact that she teamed up with Internal Affairs as much to preserve her reputation as to protect his career. We’re baited into thinking he’s going to cheat on her with some cute young thing from Club Mayan (worst name ever, BTW), but it turns out he’s true blue. The whole Internal Affairs drama, though, carries on via the chief of police, who starts putting pressure on LaGuerta and her team to solve the Santa Muerte cases more quickly. “If another murder goes up on the board, it’s your ass on the line not mine,” he threatens. Also: The dirty narcotics cop LaGuerta helped bust, Stan Liddy, is still investigating Dexter at Quinn’s request. He hasn’t found anything yet, but that just fuels suspicion. “It’s all too neat and a little too phony,” he says of Dexter’s squeaky-clean record.
But this episode is really about the union between Dexter and Lumen. He’s no longer fighting her presence in his life. She’s here. He’s changed because of her. She’s changed because of him. They are in it together and they both know it. “Tonight I felt this peace and it’s because he’s dead,” Lumen says post-kill. “And I know that it’s not going to last. When it wears off I’m going to have to find the rest of them, because that’s the only way that I’ll find that peace again. I don’t even have a name for what I’m feeling.” Dexter does. “The Dark Passenger,” he thinks. “I can’t get revenge for Rita’s death, but I can help Lumen avenge what was done to her.” Then he speaks up. “How many more were there?” Lumen’s quest for vengeance has officially become Dexter’s as well. What could be more romantic?
All the emphasis on love does leave a few major questions lingering:
Lumen keeps saying they blindfolded her and she couldn’t see anything, but when Dexter pushes her to explain how she could possibly properly identify her victim she contradicts herself, saying, “I saw everything.” What really happened to this girl?
What will Batista’s new recruit, Yasmine Aragon, reveal about the Fuentes brothers? This case is going nowhere and it’s not just the chief who’s feeling restless about it.
Harrison said his first words! Dexter hears “die-die,” the nanny hears “bye-bye.” The meaning behind the gurgle is a matter of interpretation for now, but as Harrison grows up he is going to start talking about what he sees. How will Dexter handle having to shield his son from parts of his life he’s so far excitedly shared?