Spoilers for "Dexter" season three, episode three coming up just as soon as I steal some milk...
For a guy who claims not to have any emotions, Dexter sure puts a lot of them on display in "The Lion Sleeps Tonight": frustration at Miguel Prado's intrusions into his world, fear of how a baby might change his life and, most strikingly, pure, unadulterated rage at the possibility that Nathan Marten might have done something to Astor. We've seen Dexter kill while feeling scared, or remorseful, but we've never seen him this angry before.
And yet, as scary as it should be to see Dexter creating his own killing code, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" felt like a continued effort on the part of the show to make Dexter more likable -- or, at least, more human. He has feelings! He's just a lion protecting his little cub! Serial killers: they're just like us!
Character growth is great in most series, but what I really appreciated about "Dexter" in the early days was how they let us understand Dexter without ever asking us to like him. It's the nature of series television that extreme characters tend to get softened over time, but the more "Dexter" does this, the closer it threatens to become to the the moral abomination its detractors call it. I don't want to be in a scenario where I'm cheering on Dexter to kill someone, you know? I always appreciated the way the show drew the line about how Dexter only kills bad guys: yes, he's arguably doing something for the societal good, but he's made it clear repeatedly that he's not doing it for the victims (or potential victims), but just to feed his own hunger.
And then there are scenes like Dexter being dragged along to Rita's prenatal yoga class. Sure, it's funny to hear Dexter fantasize about killing the instructor so he doesn't have to suffer through another minute of this, but that also feels like an attempt to make him into a cuddlier monster. Serial killers: they hate yoga just like us!
Ironically, the only scenes in the episode that felt reassuring were the ones that were the most uncomfortable: basically, any interaction between Dexter and Miguel Prado. Jimmy Smits is doing some really interesting work as a guy who might just be in mourning or might be as crazy in his own way as Dexter. Whenever he's around Dexter, I feel off-balance, which is the way "Dexter" at its best makes me feel.
Some other thoughts on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight":
• Even beside the yoga story, this was one of the more quip-tastic episodes they've done, between Masuka's assertion that "there's a lot more cannibalism in this country than any of you realize" or, after Vince claimed the cops had insulted him and his people, Angel speculating that Vince's people were "Little scientists, I guess."
• Boy, Forensics Quarterly has a much quicker turnaround time than any magazine I've ever heard of, particularly a quarterly one. All these episodes seem to be taking place within days of each other, yet last week Vince was still waiting to hear if his article was accepted and this week he has a stack of signed copies.
• So Freebo didn't kill Teegan, eh? Is there any chance that Dexter has another brother floating around Miami?
• Even with the introduction of Paul Buchman's sister-in-law as the defense lawyer, this Chickie Hynes subplot continues to be boring because it's all tell and no show.
What did everybody else think?