Dexter: Let's Give the Boy a Hand

Dexter: "I can't kill this man. Harry wouldn't want it. And neither would I."

This was an intriguing Halloween episode. For us, Dexter has been unmasked. He couldn't kill a helpless, innocent man; he wasn't even tempted. And he just discovered that he likes having sex with Rita. This was the episode that made me actually start to like Dexter, almost in spite of myself.

The discovery that Tony Tucci was still alive was one of those omigod moments. What happened to him was unspeakable. Why didn't Dexter take advantage of his "present" from the Ice Truck Killer? Tucci was begging for death, and no one would ever have known. The answer was that Dexter's "standards" are so much a part of him that he didn't want to kill Tucci. He generously gave Debra the credit for finding Tucci, too.

Like that interesting childhood photo, Dexter as a child was initially a reflection of Harry. Smile when you're having your picture taken. Don't be a bully because it will get you noticed by cops. When Dexter was young, what Harry taught him was rote. As an adult, though, it was long ago internalized. Dexter is not an automaton set in motion by Harry. He is no longer Harry's shadow. Dexter is himself, and he makes his own choices.

Smiley faces. The Ice Truck Killer left Dexter smiley faces. They can't possibly mean "have a nice day." What do they mean? I see you? I like you? Maybe it means what it does online: that ITK intended all this to be funny. Why on earth would ITK want to recreate scenes from Dexter's childhood? Why places that used to be other places? Places associated with Harry? It's so bizarre. And what are Dexter's intentions toward the ITK? Dexter just refused to "play" with him. Does he want to catch and kill him?

Again, the scenes I liked most were about Dexter, Rita and her kids. The dog neglected by the unfeeling woman next door was like Tony Tucci – a helpless victim who was ultimately and unexpectedly rescued by Rita, as Tucci was saved by Dexter. Rita's success with her dognapping caper gave her the courage to leave her unawakened Snow White persona and costume behind and become Lara Croft, scantily-clothed tomb raider and adventurer. She finally took the initiative and seduced Dexter. I found it just delightful that Dexter liked it. He liked it a lot. Since he's had several girlfriends, it's unlikely that this was his first time. Is Rita special for him? I think she is.

Dexter as a character is so overpowering (pun intended) that most of the supporting characters have been pretty much just background until now. They started emerging in this episode. The very likeable Angel Batista struggling to find the right tacky anniversary gift for his estranged wife, and his ultimate choice to give the gift to his daughter. James Doakes calmly confronting Kara's angry brother about Kara filing for divorce. But most particularly, this episode finally added a third dimension to Maria LaGuerta. By not blaming or attacking Maria, Tucci's mother made Maria share her anguish; their scenes together were so moving. Maria just turned into a human being. She even gave Debra some credit, as well as a real assignment.

The subject matter of this episode could have turned me off this series forever. Instead, it was handled (pun intended) so deftly and beautifully that this was the one that hooked me. I had to know what happened next. Just had to.

Bits and (again, ew) pieces:

-- Dexter loves Halloween. It's sort of the reverse for him, since he's a monster wearing the mask of a normal person, a wolf in sheep's clothing. He wears a lot of light-colored clothes, too.

-- I liked Debra trapped in a small room going through surveillance tapes, but still engaged to the point of constantly sticking her head out and making comments. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I really like Debra.

-- Dexter found Tony Tucci in the abandoned Angel of Mercy Hospital. A little irony there.

-- This episode also made me realize how much I love the score. I particularly like the absurd cha-cha music, the dark carnival music over the credits, and the eerie, serious theme music that emphasizes Dexter's darkness. It all works together somehow.

-- We got a satisfying resolution of the Guerrero/Doakes subplot. Doakes is such an angry man. It was a lesson to him that talking calmly with Kara's brother probably saved Doakes' life.

-- Gold acting stars for Lauren Velez as Maria LaGuerta. There was also a gem of a performance from Erin Daniels (from The L Word) as the nasty woman next door.

-- Watching garbage being buried soothed the young Dexter. Very in character. Dexter enjoys cleaning up his own corner of the world.

-- The title of this episode, "Let's Give the Boy a Hand," was a song from the movie, Footloose. Foot loose? Multiple body part puns?

-- This one was written by producer Drew Z. Greenberg, a Buffyverse alum. Like many Buffy/Angel fans, I feel somewhat possessive of Buffyverse writers, and I like seeing their names. (I got to meet and talk to a number of them at Buffy/Angel events, too, so they feel like old friends, even though they really don't know me from Eve.)

Quotes:

Dexter: "Human bonds always lead to messy complications. Commitment. Sharing. Driving people to the airport."

Dexter: "Interesting hand job."
Angel: "That's funny."
Dexter: "It is?"

Dexter: "I could make things so much easier for Rita. But that would be wrong." (That was a Buffy line!) Dexter doesn't kill animals any more, then. I'm glad. Murderers are one thing, but helpless puppy dogs are something else again.

Dexter: "That was... unexpected."
Rita: "Yeah. For me, too."
Dexter: "I have no problem with... unexpected."
Rita: "No, you certainly don't."

Dexter: "I'm not the monster he wants me to be. So I'm neither man nor beast. I'm something new entirely, with my own set of rules. I'm Dexter." In the last moment of the episode, Dexter looked right at the audience again.

Outstanding. Four out of four stars,

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

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your review, billie, because like you, this was the episode that hooked me. This episode is very well-done and it made showed me Maria in a whole new light. Amazing, indeed.

ChrisB said...

Interesting that this was the episode that hooked you, Billie. I thought it was the best to date, for two reasons.

First, I like the way Dexter interacts with the world and I liked seeing the genesis of how he does it. The conversation with his dad in the hay wagon was funny in its own way -- he was already taking in the lessons. He may be a monster now, but he is very sweet with both and Debra and Rita. I loved the conversations with Angel. In his own way, he steered Angel to the right gift.

Secondly, we didn't have to watch him kill him someone in this episode. I find Dexter much easier to relate to and like when he isn't killing...