Something extraordinary happened on "Dexter" this week. As Dexter split into two personas as he struggled to hang on to his remaining humanity, a show that’s been MIA suddenly reported ready for duty.
It’s as if the death of Brother Sam (Mos Def) last week performed a ritual cleansing of all that was wrong with "Dexter's" sixth season. Gone is the ceaseless God talk, the ill-advised forays into slapstick comedy — serial-killer slapstick golf, really? — and even a super-tardy entry into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl sweepstakes.
Brother Sam’s murder also quashed any hope that Dexter (Michael C. Hall) had in redemption, as it led to the rebirth of the ghost of Dexter's brother Brian (Christian Camargo), a killer who Dexter himself killed in the show’s first season. Brian is here to remind Dex of some core principles, such as “You don’t turn the other cheek — you slice it.”
Brian’s monstrous effect on Dexter runs parallel to Travis’ attempts to free himself of the monstrous Professor Gellar (Edward James Olmos). And you know what? Salon readers discussing the show in the comments were probably right. There probably is no Professor Gellar. The Apocalypse-crazed installation artist may actually be Travis’ killer alter-ego. It would have been nice if it hadn’t taken six episodes to get to this fascinating juncture, but let’s not dwell. Instead, let’s appreciate how this episode didn’t feel like the writers dutifully hitting plot points they didn’t care much about. About how director Romeo Tirone favored long, moody takes of this gifted cast.
Right off, Deb tells Dexter that Trinity is back, that he killed his wife and daughter. Which is totally impossible as Dexter killed him. Dexter wonders if Trinity’s son, Joshua, who lives in Nebraska, is the killer. Only way to find out is a road trip to the state Bruce Springsteen named his most depressing record after.
Back at Travis' sister's house, siblings enjoy breakfast as Travis admits that he almost texted her tickets to something called “Jizz Fest.” Warm laughter is shared. Oh, these crazy kids and their incest.
Out on the lost highway, Dex and Brian find a coffee shop. Dex charms and beds a waitress, steals her guns, the brothers hit the road -- and suddenly the image is all crazy flashing lights and Dutch angles.
Dex crazily shoots his shiny gun into the night, the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” plays and it’s like a student film version of "Natural Born Killers." It works because it’s like Dexter pitifully imagining himself as a cinema badass.
Back in Miami, Angel and Deb gently interrogate the girl who was captured and then released by Travis. I played this scene several time. Clever writers. Nothing she says places both Travis and Doctor Gellar in the same room at the same time. Let’s say it together: Hmmmmm…..
In Kearney, Neb., Dex and Bro get a room at the very David Lynch-y Shady Lane Motel and talk about The Code.
Brian, who’s really Dex’s Dark Passenger given apparitional form, says the guide to living that Dexter and his Dad worked out -- killing only other killers -- is bullshit. He calls Dexter’s attempts to have human feelings utter nonsense. They argue about this. but that’s OK — this is really Dexter arguing for the only part of his "soul" that’s left.
Anyway, the pot-bellied dick running the place steals Dexter’s knives. When Dex and Brian find out, the dick demands big money. Goaded by Brian, Dexter stabs him with a pitchfork.
Dexter’s giddy. Brian too. He asks Dex, “How do you feel?”
Dex: “Like anything is possible.” Hall truly looks terrifyingly batshit crazy. Brian asks what they’ll do after killing more people. Dex: “We keep going.” Scariest acting moment of the year? Yep.
Meanwhile, Travis tells Professor Gellar — or himself? — that he’s done. “What I want is to be free.”
So does Deb. When asks for validation of the existence of what they lost, Deb gives it, looking for gentle closure. It’s a deft bit of the inevitable for/by adults.
Dex spots Joshua working at a hardware superstore. That night, Dex and Brian break into Joshua’s house. They find residual blood spatters. Proof that he’s the killer.
Brian is practically doing Dark Passenger handstands when Joshua appears and Dex fights and pins him down. He’s about to kill him -- before the kid breaks down and begs Dexter to kill him.
He explains that his sister killed herself because she couldn’t stand living with her insane mother. She blamed her children for causing her father to become a monster. And so, in a rage, Joshua beat the mother until dead. “Kill me!” he screams. “I’m my father’s son!”
But Dexter can’t. “He has a conscience… and regret.”
Dexter won’t take away the things he can never have. It’s small things like this that keep this fantasy of a serial killer on the knife-edge of our sympathies. Like all monsters, Dexter, raised in unimaginable violence and horror, was made, not born this way.
Back on the road, Miami looms. There’s a hitchhiker. It’s Dexter’s ghost father, the one who gave him The Code. The brother disappears. Dexter lets his Dad into the car as they drive off.