The good news: We've escaped the muddled Brain Surgeon storyline! He's dead as Trinity after Sunday's "This Little Piggy" episode.
The not-great news: The episode was otherwise pretty sleepy, and a new murder case was introduced that looks right out of a CBS murder-of-the-week crime procedural.
So I'm going to say it: Five episodes into Dexter's final season, it feels like we're killing time before the dramatic fireworks that we assume/hope are eventually coming. The season 8 premiere was tense, emotional and gripping; it felt like the show was evolving into an interesting and non-formulaic animal for its final round. But since, we've been lost in Dr. Vogel's psychotherapy and chasing a Not-So-Big Bad.
Maybe everything we've seen so far will pay off later. Maybe all these various threads will tie together into a stunning knotty climax. And there have been developments this season -- Deb and Dex's relationship has continued to evolve. But I wish the final season was increasing stakes and tension every week and felt more like a cohesive story instead of a compartmentalized series of new killers for Dex to dispatch. There was the Brain Surgeon (and his minion), now there's the Maid Murder, and the return of Hannah McKay is still waiting in the wings. Plus there's the Jake Elway character who will eventually be doing ... something other than drinking electrolytes, presumably.
If this season only exists to set up the rumored Deb-focused spin-off, then okay, maybe we care whether Quinn or Miller become sergeant. Otherwise, Quinn's test, Masuka's daughter and Dex's hot neighbor all seem like pretty low stakes situations for what should be a ramp-up to a stunning climax (FX's The Shield, for example, kept turning the screws on its characters every hour during its final season). Yet by the end of this episode, Dex and Debra's relationship with each other and with the suspicion-free Miami Metro (you can't even convince them you're guilty by confessing!) feel like everything is more or less back to normal (more on this at the end of this recap).
It's perhaps worth nothing that this final season of Dexter was written faster than previous years. The summer premiere date was picked to help fuel the launch of Showtime's Ray Donovan, instead of Dexter returning in the fall like usual -- which hugely crunched deadlines. So we arguably shouldn't hold this season to the same standard as other seasons. But we gotta focus on what we're given.
So let's recap Sunday's episode with eight things that happened:
1. Dexter and Deb had to scramble in the wake of the accident. Crashing a car into a lake along a suburban street in front of a witness and nearly killing Dexter naturally had plenty of serious consequences for our characters and the story -- the police were called, Dex had to go to the hospital after being revived, the Morgans had to explain what happened to the insurance company, Dex had to buy a new car and .... and ... and ... oh. None of that actually happened! Or maybe it did and we were just spared it. Okay, there was some reaction, and that brings us to the first real thing that happened this week:
2. We see a new side to Dexter. Our favorite blood-spatter vigilante was uncharacteristically pissed about his sister trying to murder him. "You almost left my son an orphan," he tells Deb. "I'm not perfect! You think it's easy being your brother!?" Yeah, you tell her! We're ready for mopey Deb to get a verbal smack upside the head. She has every reason to be depressed and upset, of course, but we're ready for her to turn a corner. Dex declares to Dr. Vogel he's going to get back to hunting a serial killer, "which according to you is all I'm really good for ... don't forget to write all this down." Seeing bitter, angry, self-pitying Dexter is actually pretty fun.