Spoilers for "Dexter" coming up just as soon as I change my shirt...
"Don't get caught."
Last night's episode, "Resistance Is Futile," asks the audience to take a lot of things on faith, but maybe none moreso than the idea that Harry Morgan would make that the first rule of his Code.
Harry (making his first appearance in a couple of episodes) is still something of a mystery to the audience, and this season has made him even moreso, with the revelation of his relationship with Dexter's mom and the mechanics (but not explanation) of him adopting Dexter but not his brother. There's certainly a chance that he could have decided that Dexter's continued life and freedom were worth risking the lives of innocents, but doesn't track for me with what we know of the guy. The Code of Harry always seemed to be about channeling Dexter's bloodlust in a useful direction first, self-preservation second.
If Dexter were a more normal character -- as normal as any serial killer could be -- than Dexter's willingness to frame and/or kill Doakes in order to evade Lundy's task force wouldn't be an issue. A normal person, even a mass murderer, would be capable of independent thought in ways that Dexter simply isn't. He needs The Code to function, not only as a killer, but as a man. Even when he seemed to be abandoning The Code for selfish reasons in the middle portion of the season, it wasn't an independent act; it was him being manipulated by Lila, who briefly succeeded in replacing Harry's Code with her own.
Even Dexter admits to being torn about Doakes; if it were up to him, he might actually give himself up to protect Doakes, even though Doakes hates him, but he makes it clear that he's turning the decision-making back over to Harry. And I see Harry's priorities here -- as well as several other actions taken throughout the episode -- as less true to character than a contrivance to keep the story going. "Dexter" is usually so well-crafted that I don't see the hands of the writers pushing the characters around; last night, I did.
We all knew Doakes would be framed sooner or later -- the reference last week to his dad being a butcher was the final giveaway (though that's not the damning evidence that Lundy and the Captain tried to make it out to be; after all, the Bay Harbor Butcher didn't name himself) -- but few of his actions in this episode made sense, even within the context of Doakes' hot-headedness and hatred of Dexter. What the hell is he doing leaving the blood slides in the trunk of his car? What was the value of the trip to Haiti, especially with the slides left behind in America? Doakes kept acting like he had some brilliant master plan, but other than planting the GPS on Dexter's boat and following him (without benefit of any kind of recording equipment he might use to prove he's the framee and not the framer), it seemed like he was just running around in ways designed (by the writers, not him) to raise the FBI's suspicions.
Meanwhile, on what planet does an FBI agent -- especially one as smart as Lundy has seemed until now -- place crucial evidence in the hands of a man whose life is being threatened by the prime suspect? I'll go with Lundy being tricked into thinking Doakes is the Butcher -- as I said last week, we have knowledge he doesn't -- but why not give the slides to Masuka? He works for the Miami PD and therefore meets the Captain's criteria, and he also doesn't have any kind of motive to make sure Doakes goes to prison. It just doesn't make sense except as a bit of plot mechanics.
I'm also bothered by Dexter's complete inability to protect Angel from whatever bit of emotional vampire voodoo Lila has planned for him. Yes, Dexter is an emotional cripple, but he's also capable of giving out just enough detail -- say, telling Angel she's a pyromaniac who once set fire to her apartment to keep Dexter from breaking up with her, or, even simpler, asking him friend to friend to stay away because the break-up was so painful -- to make even a hard-luck horndog like Angel run screaming from that pale wackjob. Again, I was watching the scenes and picturing the story meeting the whole time:
"Okay, so how do we keep Lila around now that Dexter's dumped her?"
"I know! We'll have her start dating Angel!"
"But wouldn't Dexter just tell Angel to stay the hell away from her?"
"Well, what if Dexter tries to tell him but Angel doesn't want to listen?"
"He'd have to be really vague -- like, idiotically vague -- for that to work."
"I think I can do that!"
And yet, all that said, Michael C. Hall is so wonderful and the production team casts such a spell that some of these objections (not all, but some) didn't occur to me until after the episode was over and I began thinking about the review. The moment when Doakes appeared on the dock with his gun drawn took me completely by surprise. I knew something bad was going to come of Dexter leaving Jimenez's body alone for so long, but I just assumed Lila would be involved, or that some of Jimenez's drug-dealing cohorts would have turned up, that the house would be completely empty, whatever. For whatever reason, Doakes' presence just didn't occur to me; I have one of those computer brains that's constantly trying to predict where stories are going to go, and it's rare that I have a "No way!" reaction the way I did there.
(And yet, even that scene required a leap of faith, as the hair-trigger Special Forces badass Doakes had previously been established as would never allow Dexter to take control of that situation. He would have at least kneecapped him and figure out a plan later.)
I wouldn't call "Resistance Is Futile" a bad episode; Hall alone all but prevents the show from having one of those. But it's the first time all series where I'm genuinely concerned about the plan going forward. Writers are supposed to pull strings; it's their job. We're just not supposed to see them as clearly as we could last night.
What did everybody else think?