In the Dexter fifth season opener, Dexter took the difficult yet necessary steps toward accepting Rita’s death. But as the opening scene of the most recent episode, “Hello Bandit” proves, he’s not quite there yet. “It’s said there are seven stages of grief,” he muses, his voiceover as dreamlike as the image of him diving and drifting in the clear water of a pool. “I suppose killing someone with my bare hands in a men’s room was my way of working through the anger stage. Whatever the other six stages are…I don’t have time for them ‘cause now I’m a full time dad.”
His murder of the derelict in the prior episode notwithstanding, Dexter has been off his game. In fact, he has been acting kind of…normal. His concerns lie more with the well-being of his children than where he might find his next victim.
He feels the kids would be better off not living in the house where Rita was murdered. So he moves them and himself into Debra’s apartment. Temporarily. The apartment is small and crowded, which serves to make the situation worse. And his attempt to brighten the mood by cheerily perusing the newspaper classifieds for a larger place doesn’t work.
Astor is especially combative, claiming she doesn’t have any of her things. When Dexter offers to get them from the house, she tells him she wants to go with him. Bringing her back to the place where her mother was brutally slain is not an option for him. He can’t bring himself to honor her request, can’t get past his grief to see her side of it. The gloom deepens.
The FBI call Dexter in, questioning him about the night of the murder. Although he is good at keeping a tight reign on his rage, at one point it escapes him. He pounds his fists on the table. How could they even hint he would slice Rita’s artery and let her bleed out in the bathtub?
The agent then tells Dexter they know he was at Arthur Mitchell’s house. Again, Dexter is thrown. If they know this, do they know about Kyle Butler, the pseudonym he used when dealing with Mitchell’s family? His relief is palpable when the agent clarifies her statement, saying that at the time of Rita’s death, Dexter was part of the team that raided Arthur Mitchell’s house. They know he didn’t kill his wife. They are simply trying to come up with a reason why Arthur Mitchell might have targeted her. “Because he’s a serial killer?” Dexter offers meekly.
Dexter is relieved; he is in the clear and thinks it’s over, that he can move on. What he doesn’t know is the FBI’s main person of interest in the death of Rita is actually Kyle Butler. They think Kyle has disappeared but a sketch artist has been dispatched to the Mitchell family to help put a face with the name.
It ain’t over yet.
Meanwhile, Angel accidentally gets a look at Maria’s bank statement and finds she has a stash of over a quarter of a million dollars. This troubles him greatly. Why would she keep this money a secret from him? They are married, after all.
As we ponder this, Dexter goes to rent a truck to move some of the family’s belongings over to Debra’s place. One truck in particular captures Dexter’s interest. A spot of blood on the floor of the cab sets his mental wheels turning. But he can’t allow himself to dwell on it. He rents the truck then drives it to the house to pack up a few necessities.
A visit from Elliott, the neighbor with whom Rita once shared an illicit kiss, stirs Dexter’s rage. He is transformed. Now it is easy to see the demon behind the eyes, sense its hunger. When a box of kitchen utensils falls to the floor and Dexter kneels to retrieve it, he clutches a butcher knife inches below Elliott’s stomach. Could it be Dexter’s found his footing again? He wrenches himself away, struggling against his murderous impulses and heads back to the truck. The bloodstain pulls at him like his own dark demon.
Back at Debra’s apartment, it’s getting even more crowded. Between the items the neighbors have provided and the stuff brought from the house, it’s difficult to move across the rooms without tripping over something. Still, Astor’s school clothes are missing and Dexter’s misguided comment that no one will notice causes the gap between them to widen even more.
The bloodstain in the truckbed continues to prey on his mind. So in the middle of the night he goes to investigate further. Using his materials from work, he discovers a blood spatter stain on the wall which corresponds to the the one on the floor. Baby Harrison is his partner in this endeavor, seated happily in his baby seat as Daddy softly coos about all the horrors that might have gone on in this truck. Dexter’s expression is not one of horror but of wonder and joy. He determines the victim was female with little hands, killed by blunt force trauma. Harry appears, reminding Dexter that he needs to think about the kids, that they are not only his responsibility but his salvation, as well. But Dexter needs to tend to his own needs, lest he go “spinning out of control”. Another hunt has begun.
He discovers through rental truck records that the truck was previously used by Boyd Fowler, sanitation worker in the Dead Animal Pick Up Division. Could the blood have come from one of those dead animals? A logical assumption-except for the little hand prints and the fact that the blood sample Dexter took from the truck bed turns out to be of human origin.
The next day, Dexter calls in a report of roadkill, which summons Boyd to a lonely stretch of highway. There is a freshly killed raccoon on the asphalt by Dexter’s car. Boyd wonders about the raccoon, why there are no tire tracks by the corpse. He surmises it had been killed elsewhere and that it seems to have put up quite a struggle, judging by its defensive wounds. “He is definitely peculiar,” Dexter muses about Boyd. “But the best and brightest don’t generally get into dead animal pickup.” Peculiar is an understatement as Dexter will soon discover.
Dexter throws himself into his research and finds that Boyd Fowler has a prison record for assault. The house he has lived in for over twenty years has no mortgage under his name. He inherited it from his parents.
Meanwhile, Quinn, Angel and Debra are called to a murder scene where the decapitated head of a woman is discovered. But Maria’s flush bank account is still the on Angel’s mind. When he asks Quinn his opinion, Quinn says the money belongs to whoever saved it and is no help to Angel at all.
Tired of having to sleep in such tight quarters, Deb takes Quinn up on his invitation to spend the night at his place. After a previous one-night stand, Quinn expects more from her than just company but Deb is adamant. She came over just to sleep. They banter briefly and discuss Kyle Butler before retiring for the night in separate rooms.
The next morning, Dexter and the kids make breakfast and it seems like the situation might be improving. But when Astor accidentally sets an extra place at the table, things quickly fall apart. Again she yells at Dexter that she wants to go home. Still, he will not relent. When she leaves the room, Dexter relaxes, taking solace in the fact that soon he’ll be doing something to make himself feel a whole lot better.
Boyd Fowler works the 7 to 4 shift, which gives Dexter the opportunity to check out his house. Outside he finds a garbage can filled with dead animal parts. Inside he discovers a loaded handgun in an end table drawer. The house is too “normal” looking to be real. Boyd arrives just as Dexter finds a locked attic door, which raises Dexter’s suspicions tenfold.
Boyd, it seems, is a big fan of self help tapes, popping one on the minute he enters the house. “If you want something, take it!” is the primary message. It is the soundtrack to Dexter’s hunt as stealthily he moves from room to room. Finally he discovers something truly interesting: a lock of hair wrapped in a ribbon, identified only by a number.
He gets into his car and follows Boyd to a wooded area by a lake, watching from behind the trees as Boyd unloads trash from his truck and throws a metal barrel in the water. Before Dexter can investigate further, Debra calls to tell him the kids never showed up at school. At first Dexter is confused and concerned but then realizes where they must have gone.
He drives to their house and finds Astor and Cody in the bathroom, staring at the now spotless tub. “They wanted to see where it happened,” Dexter’s tells us. “Where they lost their mother.” He assures them they’ll move back in, find a way to make it work. But Astor lashes out at him, telling him things were better before he came into their lives. When he arrived he made them think everything would be alright. But things got worse. She no longer wants to live with him; she wants to live with their grandparents. Dexter watches them leave the room. He is devastated. Other than Harrison and Debra, they are all he has.
At the precinct, Maria shows Quinn the police sketches of Kyle Butler (which, of course, have more than a passing resemblance to Dexter). The suspense heightens; things are beginning to close in on Dexter, without him even knowing. Will Quinn end up like Sergeant James Doakes, who also had his suspicions about Dexter and who Dexter eventually murdered? Another strike against Quinn is that he has started a relationship with Deb, whose romantic relationships generally come to a bad end.
Angel finally confronts Maria about the money. She tells him the savings are her retirement fund and that, perhaps, she has a more practical side than he does. He lives every day like it’s a party; he spends money faster than he makes it. To prove her right, he walks out of her office and announces to his co-workers that tonight the drinks are on him,
At the bar, that night, Angel gets into a fight with an old “friend” who remembers Maria as a “fine piece of ass”. He proceeds to beat the man senseless before being pulled off him.
“Cody and Astor made me believe I could still believe in something. That’s why letting them go is even harder,” Dexter says, watching the grandparents drive them away. He then takes a trip out to the lake, rips the top off the barrel still floating in the water and shines his flashlight on the decapitated head inside. All the while, Boyd Fowler sits at his desk, separating locks of hair, methodically wrapping them in ribbon and numbering each one. He then lifts up another body, dumps it into a barrel filled with water, which he zaps with an electric charge.
“Normally having a target gives me a sense of purpose but now it doesn’t,” Dexter says. “And I don’t know what’s going to make me feel better.”
We’re left wondering so many things: how will Dexter deal with these conflicting emotions of who he is (a monster, a serial killer) and who he has gradually become (father, caregiver, a much more human being)? Will Astor and Cody’s departure cause Dexter’s demons to become more prevalent? He still has Harrison, who will most likely be the force that keeps them in check. Harrison and Harry will now have to be his salvation. If Dexter’s demons allow it.
Dexter airs on Showtime, Sundays at 9ET