Sunday, October 05, 2008

Dexter, "Finding Freebo": Dexter dearest?

Spoilers for "Dexter" coming up just as soon as I borrow a Buddha and a crucifix to help my next article get published...

"You couldn't picture this, could you? I could've surprised you. There's no reason it couldn't turn out like this." -Dexter Morgan

Some of my proudest moments as a father are when my daughter does something that I know she inherited from me. Some of my lowest moments as a dad come from the same thing. As parents, we want our kids to copy all of our best qualities, and fear that they'll duplicate the worst. And we're just regular people. Try to imagine being Dexter. Did he and his brother turn out the way they did solely because of that traumatic experience, or is it a path they would have followed under any circumstances? And what does that mean for a hypothetical Dexter Jr?

To me, the strongest moment in this episode -- maybe in the four episodes I've seen -- is the one quoted above, where Dexter tears into an imagined version of Harry, wondering if this really was the path he had to follow. From the flashbacks we've seen of Dexter as a kid, it seems like Harry did try to steer him elsewhere, but it didn't take. But did Harry do everything he could, or did his fear of letting the rest of the world find out about Dexter -- say, by sending him to therapists -- end up sabotaging any attempt to reform the kid?

While I enjoyed Dexter facing the fears of impending parenthood, the rest of the episode felt pretty flat to me.

I think Jimmy Smits is giving a very interesting performance as Prado; there's something clearly off about this guy beyond his simple grief about his brother, and so his attempts to push his way into Dexter's life are as unsettling to watch as it must be for Dexter to experience. My problem with the character, and with the Deb subplot about Internal Affairs, is that it trades so much on things we have to be told rather than shown. Prado and Laguerta have some history that they talk endlessly about, and then Angel uncovers info about some case that we're told was a big deal for Prado, but all of it -- plus IAD's interest in Detective Quinn -- is so abstract that it doesn't engage me at all.

Dexter has really been the only fully-formed character on the show, with Deb the only other one who comes close. When someone else's story in some way ties directly to Dexter -- Prado coming across Dexter moments after Freebo's death, for instance -- then I care about them. But as soon as they leave his orbit even slightly, my interest level plummets.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Surprised you weren't more interested in the Dexter/Prado scene. I, don't want to go into spoiler territory -- and I don't know anything, just inferring a lot and knowing what happened on set this week. I'll just say I LOVED that scene.

I'm not real into the baby plot though. That's kind of a drag for me, although the Harry scene you mentioned was one of the better spots in the ep.

Anonymous said...

I liked last night's ep better than the premiere. It's been established previously that Dexter likes kids, so him having anxiety over a possible progeny who will be just like him resonates. And watching him instill the Code of Harry (filtered through the new Dexter) could be fascinating, though I doubt the series will make it that far.

Also, I just finished reading the first Dexter novel and it's got me wondering about Prado's possible problem. This is total speculation--I haven't seen any future eps: In the first novel (and I think we saw this in the first season), Dexter can look at other serial killers and see that they are like him--he can look in their eyes and see the depths of their soullessness. If Prado is also a killer (and given his actions last night, going after Freebo with a gun, I have a feeling he's killed before), wouldn't Dexter see it? Or is he so un-Dexterlike because of Rita's pregnancy that he's losing his edge? If so, this could be very interesting. If Prado's just a druggie who's happened to kill someone before, though, then...meh. Again, all speculation on my part because I avoid all spoilers as best I can :-)

Susan said...

I agree, the episode felt a bit flat. It's definitely Dexter's baby dilemma that has me the most interested - nature vs. nuture and all that, with Dexter sort of losing out in both cases. First season Dexter might have turned and left Rita in a second, but he knows now that he cares for her (and her kids) more than that, and he can't just walk away.

Other than that, I'm not all that interested. I was a HUGE Dexter fan in season 1, and I really enjoyed season 2, but my husband and I were talking last night about whether they should have just left it at that. season 2 took the premise in a logical direction - after all, a throughline of the series is "what would happen if Dexter was discovered and his loved ones had to deal with finding out who he really is?" - and forced Dexter to confront those fears and then escape them. Now it just seems like the show doesn't know what to do with him anymore.

Rev/Views said...

Surprised you weren't more interested in the Dexter/Prado scene. I, don't want to go into spoiler territory -- and I don't know anything, just inferring a lot and knowing what happened on set this week. I'll just say I LOVED that scene.
Likewise, I was rather annoyed to read that story (which had no indication about how spoiler intensive it was for anyone with half an imagination). But it really did bring a little something extra to life when watching the Dexter/Prado scene.

Anyway, Fatherhood does seem to be the big theme for this season.

Anonymous said...

Also, I just finished reading the first Dexter novel...

I've read all three, and I can tell you that other than Season 1 being loosely tied to book 1, there doesn't seem to be a lot of correlation between the two. It's too bad, because there's an awesome bad guy in book 2. Maybe too brutal for TV though.

Anonymous said...

^Thanks, Chris. I need to find the next novel and read it because I'm dying (heh) to know how Lindsay handles Deborah's knowledge of Dex's activities.

I do wish they'd followed the end of the first book in dispatching LaGuerta and leaving Doakes alive to chase Dex another day. I'm really missing Doakes this season, siiigh.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I am not that interested in the baby storyline. Yes, it's interesting to see Dexter contemplate the whole nature vs. nurture idea (although he's never seemed to worry that he might be a bad influence on Rita's kids), but for Rita and everyone else in Dexter's world, it's just the same tired "can he commit?" issues. I thought for a minute they were going the brave route - Rita honestly deciding the cons were too much for her, and deciding to end the pregnancy - but of course not. I worry that the season will end with a beaming Dexter holding his newborn child, after one or two "scares" with pregnant Rita in jeopardy.

I was on the edge of my seat, though, when Prado started walking toward that garage with Dexter inside. And then, when Dexter walked out with the knife - so many possibilities of what could happen next, and I love that you could read all of them in Michael C. Hall's face at that moment.

That too me was far more compelling than wondering if he'll agree to stand by Rita and his baby. (It would be a far more interesting show of course if he chose not to. But there's no way he won't.)

Jarvis and Anita said...

I'm surprised you didn't like Finding Freebo more, Alan. After being left nonplussed by the season premiere, I loved this week's episode. "Finding Freebo" has it all: the superb voiceovers (wonderful poetry), intrigue and mytery, Dexter's moral development, and of course a very exciting final few minutes.

The sequence with Dexter and Prado at the end was superb, forging an unlikely bond and conspiracy between them. Dexter's evil genius was never more apparent than in that scene - the knife was an especially nice touch, as was the line about "plausible deniability". Sometimes I have my doubts about this show, then the writers come up with something like that and just hit me - AND make it seem plausible. I can't wait to see where they take this storyline.

The parenthood theme is compelling because the writers have to develop an overarching arc about Dexter's continuing moral evolution. Can Dexter continue to develop as a person? Well, fatherhood is one of the big tests he has to pass! This is an issue we will have to watch unfold over the course of the season.

On another note, it was nice to see Rita get some strong moments this week (I'm a fan of Julie Benz going back to Angel days). When they went to Prado's for dinner, my girlfriend commented that it was nice to see Rita with a friend - it would be nice to see more of this, though I doubt we will, because she's really just a foil for Dexter when it comes down to it.

I agree with Alan that the Deb/IAD thread is weak, not least because a beautiful young Asian woman as the IAD officer is probably the least believable casting choice ever made on Dexter. She is like someone out of Sex and the City. But Quinn is an interesting figure so I would like to see where they go with that, and also the question of Deb needing to have something else in her life outside of police work.

Finally, I agree with the poster about wishing Doakes was still there instead of LaGuerta. Her character seems to have gotten weaker, athough based on past form I predict she will cause some major havoc with Prado's marriage this season.

Looking forward to next week...

Anonymous said...

the asian woman is terrible. blimey.

Anonymous said...

^Agreed. She's so bad, she should be on Californication instead.

Anonymous said...

Don't you all remember IA chick as Russell's secretary (Maggie) from Huff? She must be under contract with Showtime.

Anonymous said...

I'm still a week behind on most shows here. I have to say I really enjoyed the episode, but I'm going to get grumpy is Dexter keeps doing stupid things like walking into a house before knowing who is inside. Part of my love for him is his intelligence and ability to almost innately KNOW if something's off.
While I think Rita's thing about needing to make a decision two days after finding out about the baby is a bit much, it's nice that we can skip the agonizing over WHETHER to keep it and then move into how Dexter WILL manage being a father.
I also wonder about the area, every season the big case is billed as the "career maker" and yet no one's career ever seems to actually be made? Mentions are made of previous killers but somehow this little brother of the DA is bigger than two serial killers in a row?