“People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one” – Leo J. Burke
The highly-anticipated season opener of Dexter proves that the story-telling remains fresh and vibrant as this unique series enters its fourth season. The familiar elements remain, however these elements are now woven in between and in front of a universe that has taken shape over the last three seasons. The unanticipated return of characters from season three, plus the addition of a few surprises, promise an exciting up-coming series of events.
At the same time that this initial episode sets up Dexter to face what may be his most formidable opponent ever to the form of the Trinity Killer, it chooses to focus on a more immediate enemy that is familiar to us all, the confusion and chaos that results from the lack of a most basic human need: sleep. Dexter is as usual surrounded by enemies and animosity, although none of these rival forces is as detrimental to him as lack of sleep due to his duties as a new father. I thought I was experiencing déjà-vu during the first few minutes of the episode when the beginning sequence began to re-play itself. However the parody of this familiar routine is quickly determined: Dexter’s whole life is getting screwed up due to his new family addition. He misplaces a file during an important murder trial, falls asleep while scoping out his latest victim and may face a murder trial himself if any pieces of newly-deceased Gomez are recovered from the crash site.
Dexter’s misplacement of a file from the Gomez trial creates a two-fold result: he has created an enemy within the department and simultaneously found his most immediate victim. The interplay between Quinn and Dexter is similar to the exchange that Dexter and Doakes experienced, only with different motivations. In another familiar fashion, Dexter methodically plans the location and means to carry out his latest kill. However, lack of sleep and Dexter’s new family duties interfere with his kill at every turn. Even during the now familiar kill-scene, Rita’s interruption of Dexter’s activities, (and the fact that he even bothered to leave his cell phone on), provide the audience with insight as to how interrupted Dexter’s familiar routine has become.
One pleasing factor of this first episode is the fact that the audience is set up to follow the cat-and-mouse chase of the Trinity Killer. John Lithgow’s performance is both disturbing and fascinating. Within minutes of both opening sequences, the audience is bombarded with an extremely disturbing and erotically charged murder sequence that will remain lodged in memory for the duration of the episode. What at first appears to be a rather ordinary strangulation-in-the-bathtub scene quickly degenerates into a vicious series of softly spoken words and a chance for the viewer to see through the eyes of the murdered, self demise. Later, as Lithgow lashes himself with the scalding water of a locker room shower, the audience is left to wonder: what penance is he paying? Is this an attempt to wash himself of the crime, or just an attempt to feel anything, emotionally or otherwise?
The addition of Lundy to the Trinity case, newly retired and unencumbered by the procedures of the FBI, sets up a series of interesting questions. Of course in regards to his relationship with Debra, we are left to wonder if there will be any rekindling of their previous romance. But mostly importantly, it now seems that Dexter is in a position to collaborate, rather than run from the questions of this law man. After all, it’s Dexter who opens up the timeline of the Trinity case, identifying it as a series of killings that have taken places over three decades instead of half that time. Will Lundy and Dexter continue to share knowledge and help each other? And if so, once the identity of the Trinity killer is revealed, how will Dexter get away with serving his own brand of justice without arousing the suspicions of this mythic FBI enforcer?
The antics of the rest of the cast reveal a mixture of the familiar and the strange. As usual, Masuka provides comic relief with his off-color jokes and social interferences. There’s no reference yet to his developing relationship from season three. One has to wonder if this is plotline that was abandoned similarly to the Angel-Gianna relationship subplot. The LaGuerta-Angel office romance comes as a bit of a surprise given that in previous seasons there is a not a focus of sexual tension between these two. The apparent explanation of Angel’s break-up with his former girlfriend, (they “wanted different things”), may explain this sudden new romance to an extent, but one hopes that further background will be provided. While it is true that both LaGuerta and Angel both have suffered loss at the hands of people they were close to, one wonders how they ended up falling into each other’s arms.
Debra’s search for Harry’s marital infidelity continues to provide no answers. But a lingering camera focus on Laura Moser’s file, yet to be examined, hints that she may eventually stumble upon the truth. Besides now being torn between her new relationship to Anton and her previous interlude with Lundy, Debra also provides that audience with a solid explanation for why she has not moved into her brother’s former apartment. One has to wonder, if the relationship with Anton fizzles, will she encroach upon one of Dexter’s only remaining arena of privacy?
Overall, the season opener provides a good set-up of characters and settings that will move the story forward, yet there are still some primary elements that need to be fleshed out: Does anyone know that Dexter kept his former apartment? What about the infamous “Slice of Life” boat? Perhaps most importantly, how will Dexter’s killing methods change, now that he is “killing for two”? The second episode of the season promises many more surprises and answers to some of the questions posed. It will be interesting to see how the intertwining storyline develop.