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TV Review: Dexter – “Practically Perfect”

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Recap: The episode opens with Debra interrogating a twenty-something year old woman. She is pretty, blond and frightened out of her wits. Is this a new case? A new perpetrator? So often nothing is as it seems on this show and this is no exception. Pull back for the big reveal: Dexter in the background, giving Harrison a bottle, while Deb gives the third degree to this poor, prospective nanny.

“The way it’s going only Mary Poppins would make the cut,” Dexter muses.

Sonia, the woman they eventually choose, seems stable, sane and proficient. Practically perfect in every way.

Boyd Fowler, the sanitation department’s dead animal pickup specialist, is still very much on Dexter’s mind. On Dexter’s laptop are a series of photos of the woman Boyd stuffed into a barrel and sent floating on the lake. “I don’t know if killing you will fill the void,” he muses to Boyd. “But it’s a start.”

At Miami Metro, the gang thinks they have a line on who might have left the decapitated head in the park. Alfaro, the late husband of the dead woman, is on the survelliance video, attempting to extract money from an ATM using his dead wife’s birthday as the PIN. He tries over and over to no avail. Quinn says the guy is crazy and must have been the murderer. But Deb begs to differ, pointing out that Alfaro didn’t have a drop of blood on him. How could he have cut someone’s head off and not be saturated? Debra wants to re-canvas the neighborhood with Angel, who is part resentful, part accepting (Hispanic in a Hispanic neighborhood…).

Later, Maria questions Angel about the barfight the night before. He will not go into detail and refuses to tell her what started it. “We hashed it out,” is all he will say. Is he trying to protect her feelings? He has already protected her honor. In a way he is right not to elaborate. Why does she need to know the crude implications made about her by the guy her husband beat up? Angel assures her “It’s settled,” and leaves it at that.

Then it’s off to the crisis counselor who questions Dexter about Harrison and his sleeping patterns. Although the baby wakes up crying three times a night, the counselor is unconcerned. She tells Dexter that Harrison’s cognitive abilities are just developing and there is no chance he comprehended what was happening when he witnessed his mother’s murder. Dexter seems relieved yet, from the look on his face, it’s obvious he can’t quite believe what he is being told.

He tells the counselor how he saw something pretty traumatic when he was three, and how much it affected him. She reminds him that Harrison is only ten months old and she thinks he’s going to be perfectly fine. When Harrison pulls the head off his doll, the counselor says that he might seem violent but that he’s only releasing energy. The most important thing Dexter can do now is find some time for himself and find away to release his own energy. “Do something for Dexter.”

“Dexter will,” he assures her.

Debra and Quinn canvas the neighborhood where the decapitated head was found. They go door to door, asking questions but, of course, no one knows anything. Debra’s frustration grows but Quinn is more frustrated that they haven’t slept together in nine days (yes, he is counting). This riles her and she lashes out at him, lambasting him for using the words ‘we’ and ‘married’ when referring to the two of them.

Angel joins the party, telling Quinn and Debra that no one’s talking to him either. The neighborhood’s residents are scared. Manzon, the rookie officer Debra has been working with, thinks these murders are of a religious nature, which doesn’t sit well with Debra. But Angel says Manzon might be on to something.

At lunchtime, Dexter goes to an outdoor cafe. While checking in with Sonia on his cell, his attention is diverted. He smiles, catching the eye of his prey, Boyd Fowler, who sits at a table at the other end of the patio. “Thought he’d never spot me,” Dexter thinks and introduces himself to Fowler as Darryl Tucker. They dine together and chat about life. Does Fowler like what he does? Loves it, he proclaims. Playing along, Dexter says it must be better than sitting in a cubicle all day. “It’s not boring. You never know what’s around the next bend,” Fowler enthuses and offers Dexter a chance to go out on the job with him. “You gotta like being around dead things, though,” “I don’t think that’s a problem,” Dexter replies, thinking, “I would have settled for his work schedule but this is better.” His anticipation builds as they make plans to meet the next morning.

With only twenty four hours to get ready, Dexter begins his initial preparations. He drives Fowler’s route, scoping out a place where they can spend some ‘quality time’. He discovers an old tourist welcome center and scales a fence to have a look. It is totally abandoned and isolated. For this, Dexter silently thanks the city of Miami.

Harry appears and asks if Dexter plans to kill in the daylight, worrying how risky it will be. What if someone comes by? That could happen at night too, Dexter says, still high from the anticipation and discovery of this ‘practically perfect’ killing room. Concerned, Harry pushes. Dexter needs to do this right. It will be the first kill since Rita’s murder.

“I need this,” Dexter says.

“That’s the problem,” Harry replies. “This kill won’t put everything right. It won’t bring Rita back.”

Dexter is not the least bit dissuaded as he removes his tools from his pack. “It might bring me back,” he tells Harry.

Dexter methodically lays out the plastic, arranges the table, displays the photos of Fowler’s victims. He adheres to the ritual; the room is ready but this is about more than just preparing the kill room, Dexter tells us. “It’s like I’m putting my life back in order.” He roams the room, reveling in his work, the hanging plastic giving the area a dusky, dreamlike quality. “Almost,” he croons, entranced. “Almost.”

Debra takes a ride with Officer Manzon to visit the owner of a Venezuelan shop, which is filled with religious icons and trinkets. Manzon is surprised at Debra’s sudden willingness to delve into the religious, spiritual side of the case. But, at this point, Debra is willing to go any route to find more clues. “You won’t be sorry,” Manzon assures her.

They meet with Fauzi, the store owner, and ask if he’s heard about the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Alfaro. When he says he has, Debra presents the evidence from the crime scene: a golden religious icon. He denies having to sold it to Alfaro and says that Alfaro was a strict Catholic; he would never have visited this shop. If someone did buy it from him, he doesn’t remember who it was. He dismisses Manzon and Debra by saying, “Yo no se nada”. He doesn’t know anything.

“He’s holding back,” Manzon tells Debra on the way out. She says she’ll have to speak to him by herself. Maybe he’ll be more forthcoming talking alone with someone he knows. The visit is planned for the next day.

When Dexter arrives home, Sonia and Harrison are gone. To say he is upset would be an understatement. He is worried, thinking the worst, that Harrison’s been abducted. He admonishes himself for leaving the baby with a stranger. Not long after, Sonia arrives home with the baby, explaining he’d been a little keyed up and she thought the fresh air might make him drowsy. It worked. She shows Dexter the explanatory note she had left for him on the fridge. He forgives her and says he’s lucky to have her, that they both are.

Maria still wants to know what happened at the bar. She’s not happy with Angel’s secretiveness and presses him for specifics. He relents and tells her everything: how Sgt. Lopez started ‘talking shit’, how he was out of line, how Lopez called Maria a sugar mama, that she is her husband’s boss and makes more money than he does. Lopez finished it off by saying Maria gives the best blow jobs in Miami. “That’s when I hit him,” Angel says. Now Maria understands completely. She is a woman in a position of power. Some men feel threatened by that, feel the need to spread rumors. Maria asks Angel if he can work through this without the barfights. He replies by kissing her.

The next day Dexter calls in a dead gator report, which will take Boyd past the tourist center. When Boyd arrives to pick Dexter up for their day together, Dexter has already sedated and entrapped his prey in his mind. The self help tapes play in the cab.

“You gotta know what it is you wanna take,” Boyd says. “What do you wanna take, Darryl?”

“It’s kind of a hard question to answer,” Dexter says.

“Yeah,” Boyd says, “but I really think it’s what we’re on this earth to find out.”

Meanwhile, Quinn is studying the police artist’s drawing of Kyle Butler, while Manzon tells Debra she was able to get more information from Fauzi. Two men, neither of them Alfaro, purchased the golden icon from him. Deb has a different idea: what if Alfaro was upset because someone had Alfaro’s wife and threatened to kill her unless he paid them cash? Maybe she was held hostage. They head off to find out if Fauzi might agree to tell them more.

Dexter is reluctantly learning the tricks of the trade from Fowler. But it seems like a waste of time. They drove a different route and are nowhere near the tourist center. Despondent, Dexter thinks the kill is dead until Boyd gets the call that will take them where Dexter wants to go…

Deb and Manzon return to the store to find it closed but not locked. Everything looks to be in order until they explore the back room. There they find the decapitated head of Fauzi on a table, his body laid out in a pool of blood on the floor…

Boyd and Dexter arrive outside the tourist center. Dexter follows close behind Boyd and manages to inject him in the neck with a sedative. Unfortunately, Boyd whirls around as he falls and gets a shot off with his tranquilizer gun. The dart hits Dexter in the chest…

Dexter wakes up in an ambulance next to Boyd, who tells the EMT his tranquilizer gun went off by accident and that he must have passed out from all the excitement. Dexter’s needle wasn’t found, giving these two the opportunity to handle this new wrinkle in their relationship in their own way.

In the hospital, Boyd and Dexter are wheeled into separate examination rooms. When the doctor leaves Boyd to prepare a tox screen, Boyd sneaks off to find Dexter, picking up a pair of lethal looking scissors along the way. Not finding him, he makes his way out through the emergency entrance.

Back at the crime scene, Manzon blames herself for the shop owner’s death. He was killed, she says, because he answered her questions. Deb says they’re closer to catching the killer because of Manzon’s actions and that she did good. Deb suddenly has a new found respect for the woman she previously thought of as an annoyance.

Quinn speaks to an agent at the FBI, requesting a visit with the Mitchell family to ask them about Kyle Butler. The family is in a safe house – one step away from witness protection. But since Quinn seems to have a line on something important, the agent says he’ll see what he can do about getting Quinn the visit he wants.

Boyd arrives home and is on edge. He walks through the darkened rooms, his gun drawn. Suddenly, the self-help guru’s voice blares through the house, putting him off his guard. Dexter is stealthy, emerging from the shadows to easily inject him with the sedative. Still, Harrison is never far from Dexter’s thoughts. With Boyd incapacitated, he rings Sonia, asking if she can stay late. She enjoys watching the baby sleep and is happy to spend more time with him. He took his first step, she tells Dexter. He absorbs this bit of news, half enthralled, half keyed up with anticipation of the kill. This extraordinary combination of emotion is electric. Dexter, the serial killer, who has a kill room prepared, who will soon murder Boyd Fowler, stares lovingly at the picture of his 10 month old son on his phone. “My son is walking…like a normal little boy…”

An Internal Affairs agent visits Maria in her office, telling her they are about to begin a formal investigation into Angel’s altercation at the bar. Sgt. Lopez collapsed on the job because of internal bleeding resulting from that fight. He then filed charges against Angel. Also, two witnesses claimed to have seen Angel kick Lopez while Lopez was on the ground. If it’s found to be true, Angel could be accused of using force with a deadly weapon. Not only can Angel lose his job, he can serve time.

Dexter has set up a makeshift kill room in Boyd’s house and laments that Boyd will never see the room he set up at the tourist center or the photos of the murdered women. He paints a word picture instead: “They were young, just starting their lives. Now they’re floating in formaldehyde and stuffed into barrels.” Boyd is trapped, taped to a table. Still, he can’t help but ask, “Who the hell are you?” “Just a fellow traveler,” Dexter says. “Who also likes to pick up dead animals.”

The banter goes on for awhile until Dexter decides it’s time. Boyd’s death, after all, will be the start of Dexter’s healing process. “I want my wife back. But this will have to do,” Dexter says, finally plunging the knife into Boyd’s chest.

Is the kill all for naught? Nothing feels different and the disappointment is evident on Dexter’s face. His attention shifts. Something is moving behind a door. When he goes to investigate, he finds a young woman Boyd had been holding prisoner. She is dirty, bedraggled, seemingly exhausted…and saw everything Dexter did.

Comments: The writers have given us much to think about over the course of three episodes. Dexter’s paternal instincts have grown stronger because of Harrison. But he so desperately wants to regain the redemptive powers of the kill. It is what makes him whole and this is something that will surely never change.

How will the woman Dexter discovered in Boyd’s house figure into the plot? She witnessed the murder but Dexter was her salvation. Will she keep his secret? What will be the nature of their relationship?

Was Boyd responsible for the Alfaro woman’s murder? Did he kill her husband and Fauzi, as well?

Quinn’s obsession with Kyle Butler does not bode well for Dexter. What will happen when the pieces of this puzzle eventually fall into place? Will Quinn need to be silenced by Dexter in the usual way? Debra’s burgeoning relationship with Quinn might force cause Dexter to hesitate before taking Quinn in hand. Who knows? It might take the entire season before these question are answered.

I can only see Angel’s plight worsening. His temper and impetuousness have gotten him into a bad situation. How can Maria can help him? How will it look for a police lieutenant to have a husband who’s in jail? Perhaps it won’t go that far but chances are good that it will.

More questions are raised while few are answered. But that is the nature of the show and part of what keeps viewers coming back for more.

Dexter airs on Showtime on Sundays at 9PM ET.

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About Mindy Peterman