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Review #3131: Dexter 6.7: “Nebraska”

Posted on the 15 November 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

Considering the surprise ending of the previous episode, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this one. It was never really in doubt that Brian was nothing more than a hallucination (it wouldn’t be the first time Dexter had hallucinated Brian), but I did wonder how this could play into the season arc. Dexter’s personal journey this season has evolved into an effort to overcome his inner darkness (his Dark Passenger), and find whatever light might be in him. I think this theme has started to present itself a little too blatantly this season, but the re-appearance of Brian did seem to fit with that theme.

Review #3131: Dexter 6.7: “Nebraska”

“Nebraska” has its connections to Dexter’s personal journey, but it feels like an odd detour in the context of the episodes that preceded it. It doesn’t seem to cover much new territory, either. This idea of Dexter facing his darkness and rejecting it in favor of his shard of humanity has been utilized a great deal over the course of the show, and that’s pretty much exactly what this episode covers. There are certainly things to like about the episode. Brian has some amusing moments. And I liked the little scene near the end where Dexter picks up the hitchhiking Harry. But it’s disappointing that nothing seems to have significantly changed as a result of the experience. The re-appearance of Brian seemed to promise a substantial change in the direction of the season, but it ended up being little more than a brief detour. This season was rumbling along with a nice sense of building momentum, and then these last two episodes kind of deflated that momentum.

The writing is a bit more problematic than normal. I get that they wanted Dexter to explore his darker side for a while, but this episode doesn’t quite fit with his previous characterization. I’ve seen Dexter’s darkness, and it’s not screwing random girls, stealing revolvers, or shooting up signs. The writers had Dexter steal the gun so Norm would have it later to threaten Dexter with it, and that’s about it. Dexter’s decision simply doesn’t make sense. I don’t see why Dexter embracing his darker side means he has to become a reckless idiot. Harry’s code or not, Dexter should still be portrayed as a smart serial killer. The real Brian was a smart serial killer too, and he was cautious, meticulous, and completely devoid of any moral compass. It would make more sense if Dexter’s hallucination of Brian was trying to push Dexter into becoming more like the real Brian.

The point of all this rambling is that something felt “off” about this episode, and I’m struggling to put my finger on exactly what it is. I could blame some of this on the episode writer, but the show has begun to struggle from some overall direction problems ever since Brother Sam was shot. Religion is a tricky subject to tackle, but I liked the show’s complex approach. It would have been easy for the show to paint every religious character as a villainous zealot, but the way Travis, Gellar, and Brother Sam were all portrayed felt both believable and often sympathetic. Now it seems like these complexities are being sidelined in favor of Dexter’s inner struggle between “light” and “darkness”, which seems rather boring and childish in comparison.

I thought the whole question was not “does Dexter have light in him or not”. Previous seasons have already successfully established that Dexter has a human side to balance out his blood-lust and psychopathy. I thought the question posed by the season was whether or not religion could help him avoid passing on his negative qualities to his son, and additionally, whether or not religion could help Dexter fight back against his own darkness. “Dexter”‘s commentary on religion was not always as insightful as it was intended to be, but I liked that the season had such a strong focus stemming from the religion theme. And I liked that the threat from Travis and Gellar seemed to escalate, even as Dexter journeyed deeper into religion himself. The season had a nice sense of direction, and then Sam’s death derailed it somehow.

“Nebraska” is one of the weakest episodes of the season, but it’s not an outright disaster. I’ve already mentioned a couple of its good points above. The Mitchell family always did feel like a bit of a loose end that was left hanging, and I thought the twist was reasonably good. I’d just rather that this side-story had been included a little bit more organically. The episode also includes some of Travis and Gellar. Their scenes aren’t quite as interesting to watch as they have been in the past, but they progress the story well enough. It’s interesting to see Travis attempting to break free of Gellar and spend more time with his sister. Of course, it’s becoming almost impossible for me to watch the show without seeing Gellar as a hallucination now, as the theory still fits like a glove. So that affects my expectations and mars my enjoyment to a certain degree.

Rating: 7/10

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