Dexter: Born Free

Dexter: "I can't. Not Deb. I'm very... fond of her."
Brian: "You can't be a killer and a hero. It doesn't work that way!"

Wow. They built up to this episode for the entire season. And what a fabulous payoff it was.

When I saw season one the first time, I wasn't writing about it; I was just gulping down one episode after another, like visual candy. And I did not see that revelation coming. When I started writing reviews, though, I saw clues everywhere and couldn't believe I'd missed it. Rudy had to be someone from Dexter's past, so it made sense that he was Dexter's brother. Christian Camargo as Rudy looked a bit like a darker version of Michael C. Hall. It was even possible to feel sorry for Rudy/Brian. Both brothers experienced the ultimate horror in the cargo container, but Dexter was adopted by a wonderful family and had a foster father who loved and accepted him as he was, while Brian was shipped off to grow up in a mental institution. Brian never had a chance.

Brian's love for Dexter was visible throughout the entire first season, if you look for it. In the pilot, he gave Dexter a doll, which was a sort of twisted, big brothery thing to do. (The chopped up doll represented their ultimate connection: their mother being dismembered in front of them.) Their different reactions to the extreme trauma of what happened to them was expressed through homicide. They both dismembered, but not in the same way. Brian drained the blood out of the bodies, while Dexter became a blood spatter specialist. Blood was, understandably, tremendously important to both of them, and they both found different ways to control it.

Again, the "unemotional" Dexter showed constant emotion, so frantic about Deb that his singleminded determination to find her almost made him one of Brian's victims. Putting Brian "down" was quite possibly the hardest thing Dexter has ever had to do. And yet, I knew all along that Dexter would never kill Deb, even for something as huge as a "blood" brother that knew and loved his secret self. Brian wanted Dexter to kill Deb because it symbolized Dexter discarding his fake life as a Morgan, but Brian miscalculated. He didn't realize that Dexter does have feelings, and that he's closer to Deb than anyone else on earth – even if she doesn't know his darkness. I think a part of Dexter really wanted to be with Brian, but knew he could never do it. Again, Dexter is not the sociopath that Brian was.

Outstanding performances. Michael C. Hall was just amazing, expressing an entire range of emotions while still retaining Dexter's emotional straitjacket. Jennifer Carpenter did some outstanding work, nearly all of it behind a great deal of duct tape. And Christian Camargo was just so damned likable as Rudy/Brian, as well as believable as the worst of killers. The scenes between the two brothers were exceptional in content as well as the range of emotion. Brian's death scene in particular was strangely intimate and touching. Dexter was clearly upset, but never faltered. Brian was oddly accepting.

In other news, Paul emerged from his stupor, put two and two together, and came up with Dexter. And now we have the tale of the missing shoe. (A dropped shoe. How metaphorical of them.) They had to leave us with something for the next season, and Rita looking at that shoe was a big one. Along with Doakes, who has now seen behind Dexter's mask. Loved that scene, too. Dexter took Doakes down. Special forces Doakes. That was impressive. Doakes was certainly impressed.

I loved that final scene with the "We heart Dexter" and "Way to take out the trash." Confetti, appreciation, and acceptance for Dexter as he really was. He will never have that acceptance. No one will ever really know him. But Deb, whom he rescued, was with him in that fantasy. And in a way, so are we.

Bits and pieces:

-- Laura Moser wore different colored fingernail polish on each finger, which was where Brian's obsession came from. I don't know if it was conscious casting or not, but Rita resembles Laura Moser. Rita even has two kids. I want a girl just like the girl who married dear old dad.

-- Dexter fooled Brian with Brian's own prosthetics, including the ones of Deb's legs, I assume. The "Jiminy Cricket" comment pointed to our continuing Pinocchio theme. Brian and his fake limbs was the little wooden puppet who would never, ever be real.

-- If you think about it, Brian the serial killer and Deb the cop, Dexter's siblings, represent the two sides of Dexter himself. Dexter chose the good side of himself when he chose to save Deb and kill Brian.

-- Dexter let Rita see a little of what he was feeling. He nearly cried in front of her. That was big. Another emotional step toward humanity for Dexter.

-- Another song title as the episode title.

-- I finally understood the plastic wrap. It doesn't leave ligature marks. I can be slow at times.

-- Esme Pascal, the new lieutenant, sized up Maria and gave her a lot of credit. Esme might not be so bad.

-- Angel's roomie in the hospital kept saying "she knows." Deb did know. Angel got to be heroic; he was the one who figured out what Rudy/Brian was.

-- I had never put it together before, but Dexter wears light-colored clothing at work, but dark when he's "off the clock," or himself. He wore brown in most of this episode.

-- "Dearly damaged Debra." More alliteration, like the book titles. I've chosen not to read the Dexter books. I don't want future plotlines to get spoiled for me.

-- Laura's last name wasn't Driscoll. Was Joe Driscoll Brian's father, too, or were they half-brothers? Did Brian kill his own father?

Quotes:

Deb: "This isn't you."
Rudy/Brian: "I'm pretty sure it is."
Even wrapped up in duct tape, Deb just couldn't believe her perfect boyfriend was the Ice Truck Killer.

Dexter: "Thanks to Rudy, now I know where dearly disturbed Dexter was born. Born free of all that's human."

Dexter: "No cameras, no patrols, no dogs. With billions spent on homeland security, it can't be as easy as a couple of snips. So much for the War on Terror."

Doakes: "Lab geek, my ass."

Doakes: "You trying to be smart?"
Dexter: "Not trying, no."

Rudy: "I got it for you, actually."
Dexter: "I'm really more of an apartment person."

Brian: "Mom always told me to look out for you. Imagine how I felt when I tracked you down and found out you were exactly like me."
Dexter: "I don't have to imagine."

Brian: "You can be yourself with me. Your real genuine self. Takes the breath away, doesn't it?"

Brian: "You don't have a code. Harry did. He's been dead ten years. You can't keep him sitting on your shoulder like Jiminy fucking Cricket."
Another Pinocchio reference.

Deb: "Back the fuck off my brother. He just saved my life! He's a fucking hero!"
I loved the way Deb just screamed this at Doakes.

Deb: "Dad would be so proud."
She was right. Harry would have been, too.

Dexter: "I can give you more tranquilizer if you want. It's a service I don't usually offer."

Rita: "How's Debra?"
Dexter: "She has all her limbs."
Rita: "Thank God she's alive. The poor thing must be a mess. Falling for a serial killer?"
Dexter: "What are the odds?"

Dexter: "My tragedy is that I killed the one person I didn't have to hide from. And I'm the only one who mourns him."

I just have to say again that the writing, the pacing, the acting, the way the story spun out over twelve episodes, was just exceptional. This season of Dexter was an extraordinary viewing experience, and I honestly don't think they can top it. Five out of four stars,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

12 comments:

Josie Kafka said...

Hi Mark!

I'm so glad you're enjoying Dexter.

I did delete your comment, though. There was a spoiler, and there's a slim chance that there's someone out there who doesn't know it yet. (I got spoiled by a passing mention of something in an early Torchwood review, so I'm very cautious now.)

I tried to email you, but couldn't find contact info on your blog. I've saved your comment--email me if you want me to send it to you, and you can re-post it with some of the information taken out. Or I could just throw the aforementioned soft cushions at you. josie.kafka@gmail.com

Mark Greig said...

Sorry if it let a spoiler out the bag there, Josie. I should’ve known better. I willing await the onslaught of soft cushions.

Its okay about my original comment, I’ve still got it saved so I’ll rewrite and repost it later. Thanks anyway.

Josie Kafka said...

Hmmm...I think I need something to shout as I begin my onslaught.

Maybe: "For Billie and the Blog!"

Or: "The White Rose of Doux!"

Mark Greig said...

How about “Death to the spoiler!!!”?

Mark Greig said...

(Here we go again, now 100% spoiler free. River Song would be so proud)

Put away the soft cushions. I’ve started watching Dexter and I’m enjoying it.

While it took me some time to get fully invested in the whole Ice Truck Killer arc I was instantly invested in the characters, especially the leading man. Dexter is a fascinating and surprisingly sympathetic central character. You just can’t help rooting for the guy. I wasn’t a big fan of Michael C. Hall on Six Feet Under but he’s terrific here. How he hasn’t won an Emmy yet is staggering.

Ditto Jennifer Carpenter and Julie Benz. I love Debra, she’s quickly become my favourite character and being a Buffy/Angel fan I adored Julie Benz so much and the awkwardly blossoming relationship between Dexter and Rita, although a lot of the time I kept getting distracted from the drama by Jacob’s freaky ‘70s hairdo. Forget a replacement he should’ve lured a decent hair stylist to the Island.

I’ve just finished season 1 and I’m getting started on season 2 now. Hopefully I’ll be all caught up by the time season 5 starts.

Billie Doux said...

"The White Rose of Doux!" I've been laughing for five minutes about that one.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a wonderful finale and I even felt sorry for Rudy/Brian. I even wanted to be together, two serial killers at work. The acting is outstanding, from everyone involved.
Their two big conversations are amazing and touching. And the whole "this isn´t you" from Deb not believing Rudy was the ITK reminded me a bit of Buffy when she couldn´t believe that was Angelus.

TJ said...

So, I finally gave in. Always known that Dexter is a "must see", but have postponed it for years as I thought I wouldn't like the storyline and the gore of the show.
I expected it to be a well-written character-driven show though, and now I have seen season one.

What do I think? Well...some elements were excellent, but I did have a lot of problems with some of the characters.

First, Michael C. Hall is perfect as Dexter. Always loved him in Six Feet Under, and in some ways, this is kind of an extension of that role.

Also thought that Christian Camargo as Rudy was excellent casting. The Dexter and Rudy scenes all had great chemistry. I felt sorry for Rudy in the end, and I'm sorry he's gone.

But perhaps my favourite scenes were the flashback ones with Dexter and Harry. It all made for some great depth into the story.

What I didn't expect was that I couldn't stand the rest of the cast though. I couldn't care less about any of them. Maybe it's just bad casting? Or in some cases bad writing?

Batista: I wanted to like Angel, I didn't. And his wife-separation-substory was just filler for me.
Masuka: Now, he was even creepier than Dexter, and not in a good kind of way. He was just a creep.
Doakes: This aggressive tough black cop routine was just annoying. Irritating.
Lt. Maria: Totally unbelievable character. And her power struggles with the captain and rest of the crew just drives me nuts. Bad casting here.
Debra, Dexter's sister: One of the most unbelievable cop characters ever. I just find her stupid and obnoxious. I didn't believe her (step)sister relationship with Dexter at all. Poor actress. Rudy said it all: "If you were a REAL cop you would have known who I am". Spot on.

I do love Julie Benz though. But her poor-abused-woman-with-kids subplot got thin after abt 3 eps. It was a good thing they brought in the excellent Mark Pellegrino as her husband, otherwise this storyline would have gone awry.

So all in all...a good first season, but I would like to get rid of most of the cast. And now, when Rudy is gone I don't feel confident for season 2, and don't know what to expect.

Billie Doux said...

Hey, TJ: I sort of don't know what to tell you. Jennifer Carpenter's Deb and Julie Benz's Rita are a big part of the series, and their characters definitely grow and change, as good characters tend to do. Jennifer Carpenter in particular is exceptional, in my opinion. For what it's worth.

TJ said...

Hey Billie! Thank you for responding. I kinda feel bad that I posted this whiny negative review. It's not like me at all, usually when I don't like something, I keep it to myself. I guess it was the disappointment of it all.

I think I just have to realize that not everything is my cup of tea. But I always get a bit surprised when I don't appreciate the same things that others are raving about. It doesn't happen often, but I am clearly in the minority in some cases, The Godfather movies which I don't get at all, The Walking Dead's popularity is a walking mystery to me, and perhaps I should just add Dexter to that lot and leave it at that. I will try to get through Dexter, maybe it will grow on me and I'll change my mind? If I do, I will let you know for sure:)

That said, I do love most of the shows this site are covering. I've been with you from the early Buffy years (has it really been more than ten years?) and loooved all the wonderful reviews here. What would the world be without Billiedoux.com? And I think, of all the shows, it's only Dexter and The Walking Dead, where I just don't get it.

Well, to each his own, I guess.

ChrisB said...

I sat down to write a comment for this finale and ended up with an article over a thousand words long. I won't re-print it here, but if you are interested, it's on my blog.

Long story short -- I simply loved it. Truly brilliant hour of television that brought so many stories to a close while leaving us wanting more. It doesn't get much better than this.

Thanks for the great reviews, Billie. As always.

Paul Kelly said...

Chris: "It doesn't get much better than this".

Oh, but it does. Wait until season four. If you don't develop ulcers, you're not human ;o)