Dissecting Dexter: Season 5, episode 4 "Beauty and the Beast"

Just for the record, I balked at pre-premiere predictions that this season might be the one in which Dexter jumps the shark.  Saddled with the weight of killing off Dexter's sweet and innocent wife, the show isn't submerged under its own pressure just yet. But I'm worried for dear Dexter amid this weak-ish run of episodes.

Dexter struggling to deal with the new and mysterious Lumen was the most interesting part of "Beauty and the Beast," which felt like a more entertaining episode than last week's but ultimately didn't amount to much for most of the characters.

Julia Stiles' young, tortured rape victim Lumen Pierce was cast Sunday night as a character in the same vein as season 2's British horror Lila and season 3's Miguel Prado; the next potential confidant/accomplice(?) for Dexter but of course connected to him through something dark and terrible. But unlike the strange relationships Dexter has had in the past, the Lumen situation is going to be even more tricky to navigate. Tons of weird squinty shuddery looks from Lumen lead us to believe early on that she is tormented by something far more serious than Dexter locking her in that abandoned building (which seemed way worse than him locking season 2's Doakes in that cage). We eventually learn she's been captured multiple times before, initially fearing that Dexter will sell her like others have apparently done before. Julia Stiles is far more interesting to watch when she opens her mouth and talks with Dexter in that husky voice of hers; her darting eyes and feral movements (not to mention hair) got on my nerves.

Dexter struggles this episode (okay, more like the whole series) with getting people to trust him, mostly so he can manipulate them into doing what he wants. He quickly realizes he has to win Lumen's trust (or kill her) to keep her from running away and turning him into the cops, because she saw him kill Boyd Fowler. He ends up winning her over by showing her Boyd's other victims, letting her know sternly that he saved her life. He also lets her in on the fact that his wife was brutally murdered by "someone like Boyd." Dexter missing Rita is so sad and sweet (if not a cruel reminder that she's gone and her death has created some  big holes for this season to fill). I loved Lumen's efforts to get away from Dexter; too often victims in TV shows don't fight hard enough (if at all) to get away, and I liked that it wasn't easy for him to keep her subdued. I also appreciated Michael C. Hall taking his blood-stained shirt off to reveal an impossibly great-looking physique.

What's the purpose of keeping Dexter out of work though, for four episodes now? To keep him free to handle Lumen? To make it seem realistic that he's mourning Rita? To let other characters do more of his work? I miss the zeal and fascination he brings to dissecting crime scenes, so it was nice to see him analyze one of Deb's Santa Muerte beheading cases. Masuka says, "Good to see you back, in a supporting role."

A word on Masuka: I think we need to keep an eye on the clever forensics guy. My theory is that he, if anyone ever does, will be the one to figure out who Dexter truly is. Or at least, he will come very close. Quinn's efforts to nail Dexter as Kyle Butler intensified pretty rapidly in this episode. He follows his FBI buddy to the Trinity family's safe house (really, it was that easy? That is so not comforting) and eventually intercepts Jonah, Arthur Mitchell/Trinity's son, in a convenience store. His choice to go after Jonah is good for Dexter, who recruited the teen late last season to help him expose his father for who he really was. Jonah is definitely smart enough to know that Kyle Butler/Dexter probably is in just as much danger as he is, and I don't think he's likely to give Butler to the authorities anytime soon. The exchange is terrible for poor Quinn though, who gets caught by Jonah's detail, handcuffed (why?), and then yelled at by Maria LaGuerta. Oh, and he's suspended from his job, too, which will only free up more time for him to search for the real Kyle Butler. Nice going, Maria.

Quinn also has an exchange with Masuka, who accuses him of stealing medicine from his stash. It was actually Dexter, who uses the meds to nurse wounded Lumen back to health, but Masuka denies this when Quinn suggests it. "No motive," he says about Dexter. Quinn, on the other hand, is apparently using them to tend to any STD's he might give Deb? That logic was laughably weak, but still, the ordeal brought Quinn and Masuka together, and I think it's a sign we're going to see them collaborate in the future. Masuka's smart in a Dexter sort of way, but not so close to Dexter that he would never suspect foul play (compared to, say, Deb). Either way, my vote is always for more Masuka.

Other than the Masuka/Quinn stuff, the rest of the cast had very little to work with this week. If the writers don't start giving Maria/Angel some interesting material soon, I'm going to lose it. I cannot stand to listen to one more middle-aged man talk about Maria's blow jobs. And how unbelievable is the notion that Angel  (a stand-up cop for how many years?) is actually at risk for career-altering consequences from this investigation? I thought their ridiculous, spontaneous marriage last season was as bad plot-wise as things could get. I was clearly wrong. I've grown to like these two as characters a lot, but get them out of the spotlight if they're so irrelevant that this is material they have to work with.

I've decided to give Deb another chance. She's been solid so far as the strong, supportive Morgan, and I still think her Santa Muerte stuff has promise. But she does not need to be calling on Quinn for late-night companionship. He could barely choke out his awful cliche: "I'm no good for you," before she replied with the equally ridiculous, "I'm not looking for good right now." Why not?! Your sister-in-law just died, and you just let a nasty murderer run free, but you'd like to surround yourself with more bad things right now? Ok, sure, that's plausible, because you're destructive and emotional. Unless their relationship is going to trigger something in Quinn's quest to expose Dexter as a killer, it's useless and unwatchable.

We're only four episodes in, but that's about a third of Showtime's short season. I can only hope that all of the characters move in the direction that Dexter did this week and develop more entertaining (wouldn't hurt if they were believable, too) stories. See you back here next week for "First Blood," which will hopefully center around the increasingly adorable baby Harrison.

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