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Review #3850: Dexter 7.9: “Helter Skelter”

Posted on the 28 November 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

Written by Tim Schlattmann
Directed by Steve Shill

What a confounding season of “Dexter” this has been. First, it starts off reasonably strong with Dexter dealing with Louis, Deb’s discovery of his true nature, and the appearance of the Ukrainian mob. Then, only three episodes in, Louis is abruptly murdered by newcomer Isaak Sirko, seeming setting him up as the new Big Bad of the season (and delivering a somewhat anticlimactic end to a villain who’d long been built up as someone more dangerous and important than he apparently was). Then the season begins to slowly meander its way along as Dexter deals with Deb, Isaak Sirko, and Hannah McKay.

Review #3850: Dexter 7.9: “Helter Skelter”

And now Sirko is dead, Deb and Dexter seem to be on reasonably good terms, and Dexter and Hannah are now in a seemingly healthy, happy relationship. The compass begins spinning again and the show begins to head in a new direction. So that’s it? This season has been largely built upon the Isaak Sirko arc, which had its interesting points, but was never enough to hold the season on its shoulders. This season has been trying to do too much with too little story content. Isaak’s battle with Dexter was dragged out unnecessarily long, and then ended with Isaak’s anticlimactic death (seeing a pattern here?).

But I’m being a little unfair to Sirko. In truth, I think he deserved better. His death comes just at the point where his relationship with Dexter finally starts to become interesting. Isaak was never a very compelling threat to Dexter (despite earlier indications to the contrary), so humanizing him and allying him with Dexter was exactly the right thing to do with him (though it should have happened a whole lot earlier in the season). Ray Stevenson deserves at least as much credit as the writers for rendering him so sympathetic in such a short period of time. But with his death comes the loss of any important of the Koshka Brotherhood, at least outside of Quinn’s little sub-plot.

It’s clear that this season involved a fair amount of pre-planned story elements, but the result is still a haphazard, unfocused mess. Where’s the theme? Where’s the suspense? As an antagonist, Isaak never lived up to all the earlier build-up. He was at his best in the moments when he and Dexter would find some common ground and mutual respect. But it’s all too little, too late. And I’ve never really bough into Dexter’s relationship with Hannah. I get that Hannah is meant to be the kind of person Dexter has been really needing all along, but it all feels so forced.

Dexter’s issues with Deb have mostly amounted to arguments between the two of them, punctuated by moments of reconciliation. It’s a frustrating cycle that never seemed to go anywhere truly interesting; no indication that there was much of an overall plan for where it was all headed (though I know there must have been). Dexter has done almost nothing this season outside of dealing with Deb, Isaak, and Hannah, and it just hasn’t been enough to keep the season interesting or suspenseful. Why not do more with Isaak and Deb’s newfound friendship? Perhaps have the two of them go up against the whole Koshka Brotherhood?

I’ve tried to maintain some optimism that the resolution would be worth the slow build, but if it was all headed for this, just to shift to a completely new direction, then my optimism may not have been warranted. That said, this new element is interesting in its own right; at least, it looks more interesting than most of what we’ve seen this season. I quite like the idea of the Phantom Arsonist, actually. But something like this should have been introduced much earlier in the season, so it could play into everything else. As is, this basically feels like the end of the season and the start of a new one.

Maybe at least part of my waning interest in the season can be attributed to the lack of real intrigue and mystery. “Dexter” has always thrived on its mysteries and its ginormous twists and reveals. Who is Dexter? Why is he a serial killer? Who is the Ice Truck Killer? Will Dexter be found out? After so many seasons, there seems to be little mystery left to anything in the show. The writers have long ago established their comfort zones. And what little mystery that was presented during this season all-but vanished once we knew all about Hannah and Isaak. Where are the twists? The shocking reveals?

At least with the appearance of the Phantom Arsonist we finally have a legitimate mystery on our hands. It may not be enough to save this flagging season, but it probably can’t make things any worse at this point. LaGuerta is quite possibly one of the worst things about this show, but I hope she actually succeeds in finally outing Dexter. We probably won’t be seeing much of that until the final season, but forcing Dexter into a corner where he can’t just easily slip out of it could give the show the juice it needs for a satisfying send-off.

Score: 6/10

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