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Episode 9 - Teenage Wasteland

6 March 2012

Credit Showtime

I really enjoyed this. By diverting away from Jordan Chase for a week the show felt much more unpredictable and intriguing.

Twice Astor's presence created dramatic scenes out of essentially uneventful occurrences. First when she and Olivia arrived, scaring Lumen and then when they fled from Barry. The fear that Astor had been kidnapped turned out to be an excellent plot device. We know Dexter slowly learnt to love his family or at least have a fierce desire to protect them from the horrible things of the world. But by seeing his reaction to her abduction the emotions came tumbling out of him in a way that seemed far more interesting than his voiceovers. I really liked his anguished expression as he phoned the police. He knew that he was endangering himself, Lumen and their whole operation by doing it but Astor's life was more important to him. Then came his initial anger at Barry where he nearly unleashed the full force of his serial killer powers and anger. That scene worked nicely because Deb and other police officers would see Dexter's behavior as normal. That parental anger is the kind of display which would fool others into assuming Dexter is one of them.

By now he had had to admit publically to both seeing Jordan Chase and having a hot blonde tenant. The Chase reveal was good as it puts him in danger of being a suspect, both when Chase goes missing soon and when Deb's DNA hunt uncovers the barrel-girl murderers. But it was Deb and others meeting Lumen that was really good. No one was fooled that she was simply a tenant and it exposed Dexter to the kind of social questioning that he doesn't know how to deal with. It also led to the best moment of the episode where Astor asks him if helping Lumen out helps Dexter deal with what happened to Rita. Again Dexter's face told the story as he looked utterly shocked by the revelation he was experiencing. It's as if he didn't know he needed help dealing with his grief and loss and readjustment. It underlined what we saw last episode where he began to appreciate having Lumen around on more than one level. That moment, again, was more powerful because there was no voiceover. Instead Dexter told Astor that he loved her. It's finally dawning on him and his Dad (who may be him as well) that he really does care about others and maybe could change who he is altogether. It's one of the few times I can remember really believing in Dexter's character development and credit to him for playing it so well.

I think in general having Astor around made for a good episode. Being a teenage girl makes her the most difficult kind of person for Dexter to relate to and so it pushes him out of his comfort zone. It was good to see her swearing at him, pushing the limits of rebellion to try and get a genuine reaction out of him. It also helped prevent the sense that the show was just sweeping Rita's kids under the carpet and trying to forget about them. It also brought up the Rita story again which absolutely should continue to affect him for a long time to come.

The constant questioning of the Lumen situation kept exposing the two of them to whether or not they have feelings for each other. Neither seemed prepared to offer any kind of answer which makes sense. The final phone call where Chase calls and realizes what Dexter and Lumen are up to was suitably creepy and moved the major storyline forward well. I'm not sure how Deb and Miami Metro will get involved yet but that adds another obstacle for Dexter to overcome. I liked seeing Chase catch Dexter's blood swipe. So many times we see him retrieve evidence at the last second; it was good to see someone suspicious of his behavior.  

Speaking of which I thought the Miami Metro stories were also well handled here. The Quinn story has gone in a very different direction from a Doakes rip-off. Although it has fallen straight into the Deb failed relationship file. I like the way he has abandoned his investigation because of love. He genuinely doesn't seem to care about Dexter anymore and that makes his feelings seem real. The way she forced him to admit the truth piece by piece was excellent. You could see him hoping she would stop asking questions before uncovering it all.

Batista-La Guerta too found a better note to play. La Guerta managed to make a very strong case that she was balancing the needs of her own political career with a genuine concern for the members of her department. I really enjoyed Deb playing the voice of moral reason in her own special way and asking "What the fuck are we doing here?" Her desire for truth and justice is admirable and presented in such a plausible blunt way it's likeable as well. La Guerta's interaction with Batista too made them seem more like a married couple, who want to get past their struggles. There's still not enough depth but seeing them working on their problems was better than the cold standoffs.

Finally Liddy, who is playing the hell out of his sleaze bag of all sleaze bags role, looks set to be the catalyst in all this. Now he sees a way to turn the Dexter investigation to his advantage and clearly he won't stop. It's a nice fly in the ointment that leaves the end of the season delightfully full of possibilities. Sure Jordan Chase's days are numbered, but what about Lumen's? Is she going to be collateral damage in all this or could she survive into another season? Will Deb finally start to see what her brother is actually like? Will Quinn go to Dexter-like lengths for love and stop Liddy? I am faintly hopeful that it won't go the same way it has for five seasons.



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