“Dexter’s” God problem returns

After last week's terrific episode, religion talk and silly soul-seeking overwhelm the show's darkness once again

Topics: Dexter,

"Dexter's" God problem returns (Credit: Showtime/Salon)
[This recap contains spoilers for "Dexter" season six, episode four; read at your own risk.]

Just last season America’s most beloved sociopathic killer was learning to suffer grief over his wife’s murder when he hooked up with Lumen (Julia Stiles), an everyday person gone temporarily mad with post-rape rage. It was an unstable bond on both sides — except Lumen found a way to return to her life after hunting down her attackers.

For Dex, her exit revealed that the core truth of his “Dark Passenger” was its absolute, terrible loneliness. “Don’t be sorry your darkness is gone,” he promised Lumen in absentia. “I’ll carry it for you always. I’ll keep it with mine.”

This was “Dexter” as heartbreaking high pulp art. It was monstrosity with tears. It’s that show that I keep trying to find.

And it’s because of last week’s terrific episode, cleansed of the ceaseless God talk and theological hoo-haw that’s so far ruined this season, that I approached “A Horse of a Different Color” with refreshed glee: The “Dexter” I loved was back. Wrong.

Instead of a crime scene or the like, the show opens on a baptism presided over by born-again ex-killer Brother Sam (Mos Def) and passively viewed by Dexter (Michael C. Hall), now a spiritual soul seeker. Concerned that Dex doesn’t get the spiritual meaning of it all, Brother Sam says, “It’s not about the dunk.”

But that’s not true. “Dexter” is now almost entirely  about the dunk, the ceaseless, relentless immersion in chatter and image, one way or another, about God, Jesus and redemption. Everything unique about “Dexter” over five seasons — the thumbscrew thrills, sardonic wit, the unanswerable moral quandaries, that tragic aloneness — all are now secondary to The Dunk.

Post-baptism, the Miami PD crew arrives to ponder the import of the crime scene introduced last week, the horse and pale rider made up of sewn-together mannequin and human body parts.

Newly hired detective Anderson (Billy Brown) suggests the killer’s use of Alpha and Omega lettering — stitched into the first victim’s body and painted on the pale rider’s horse — suggests a killer who’s totally into the “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” from the Book of Revelation.

Dexter thinks, “A killer with faith?” and then jokes about a killer like that being a horse of a different color and, yes, whoever wrote that got paid.

Anyway, here’s what you need to know:

The killer is leaving pieces of paper with numbers in his victims.

Capt. LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez) continues to exist entirely to play a bitchy Wile E. Coyote to Deb’s Road Runner but without the humor that suggests.

Back at the bayou horror church, Dr. Gellar (Edward James Olmos) advises creepy Travis (Colin Hanks) not to go on a date.

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Travis ignores his counsel, and so Dr. Gellar not only secretly watches him have sex with the girl but announce that he has “plans” for her — and so much for this girl surviving the episode.

At Brother Sam’s auto shop, Sam and Dexter talk about God and the nature of misguided belief..

Unfortunately, aside from randomized, clunky storytelling, “Nü Dexter” keeps failing to do what it’s proven it knows how to do, to work in time to create the illusion of character growth as an ongoing dynamic process.

Still, everyone screws up and forgiveness is divine. But I cannot forgive what’s looking like the dilution of Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), our foul-mouthed queen of raw-nerved truth telling into cop-show vanilla.

The Deb we loved for using “motherfucking, roly-poly, chubby-cheeked shit-machines” to describe babies, “a metric fuck-ton” to describe how much she drank, and “Franken-fuck!” as all-purpose exclamation — I worry for that Deb.

For now she’s saying shit like “For the love of God!” and “Jesus!” and “Jesus, somebody went to a lot of trouble!”

Why, God, why?

Meanwhile, some readers have taken issue at my crankiness regarding Ryan (Brea Grant), the cooing, butt-wiggling faux indie/pixie cliché meant to render Masuka even more of a racist object than he already is.

Well, turns out the show really was just adding some temporary T&A. This week, Masuka shows her the door after catching her selling evidence online. Which means the show was flagrantly wasting time it could have spent explaining why LaGuerta has become so awful or why Angel (David Zayas) is so melancholy. (When we do see Angel he’s in a muscle car getting stoned with Quinn. And so a beloved character becomes a cheap joke.)

But suddenly wee Harrison needs surgery. And before Dexter can get around to praying — which he does — Brother Sam shows up and tells the story of his path to the Lord. And then Dexter and Ghost-Dad (James Remar) talk about prayer after which Dexter’s voice-overs about science vs. religion (science is losing).

Finally — a crime scene, thank God. It’s Travis’ girl done up like a Sisters of Mercy EP cover complete with white angel wings, wires and industrial gizmos like a Rube Goldberg device from Hell. It slices her throat open and she dies. And so ends another episode that continues the Season 6 mystery of a show that finds God everywhere but ultimately, only pays lip service to the passions of the people talking about Him.

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