Dexter season 8 episode 1 review: A Beautiful Day

Review Billy Grifter 2 Jul 2013 - 08:45

Dexter returns for its farewell season with an intrigue-heavy opener. Here's Billy's review of A Beautiful Day...

This review contains spoilers.

8.1 A Beautiful Day

Having reviewed this show for most of its run, I can appreciate what it does well and where it's less wonderful. Where Dexter works well is in the interaction of central characters, mostly Dex and Debs, and it's less engrossing when it focuses on the chaff of Batista and Joey, and their ilk.

A Beautiful Day doesn't break that model, and given the panic that Dexter seems to be going through, the minor characters appear to be more of a hindrance than a help.

The new serial killer, "The Brain Surgeon" is really a background element, though one that brings with it the intriguing character of Dr. Evelyn Vogel, played rather wonderfully by the infinitely watchable Charlotte Rampling. But initially at least, it's Debs who has his full attention, having retreated to an undercover gig where she's snorting cocaine and having sex with those she's supposedly trying to arrest. It's a reaction to the death of LaGuerta, and a typically self destructive one from Debra.

The thrust of this plotline was marginally corny, with Dexter coming to save her, only to discover that their roles are effectively reversed. Some great acting here from both parties, who are notably never as good when they're playing off other performers.

Especially strong was the scene where Debs outlines to him where Dexter really is in the greater pictures, and the depths of her own personal despair. That was worth my time, and so was the introduction of Vogel, where she locks onto Dexter like a hawk that's spotted a mouse. Her ultimate revelation; that she knows all about the other Dexter Morgan wasn't that much of a shock given those looks. The big question is why turn up now, what's the trigger for her appearance? My guess is someone from the past, who probably isn't dead, which puts Lumen and Hannah in the picture. Another key to this puzzle is probably Capt. Tom Matthews, whom I suspect may have known about Dexter all along.

These elements of intrigue and the general sense of foreboding that the premiere instilled were involving, but other elements seemed strewn throughout proceedings like discarded gum. At the top of that list, undoubtedly, I'd put Joey and Jamie having sex. This contributed very little than to remind me that I've not liked Joey for at least three seasons, and wish that something unpleasant could happen to him. The LaGuerta seat conversation was equally disposable, along with some other pointless interactions.

The question the story ultimately asks is can a person who is lost find himself, and become more than the hand he's been dealt by life? Part of me wants to go with that notion, and another more logical side thinks that's a naive concept which is wholly unrealistic.

The loss of Harrison, briefly, talked to the fears that Dexter has, which logically, if he's a true sociopath he just wouldn't have. But I can't really accept you can become a reformed sociopath, in the way that butterflies can't turn back into caterpillars as a lifestyle choice. Dexter can't become a 'good' person, because he's missing the empathy that drives those actions, irrespective of what external forces act on him.

In my wildest imagination, Dexter isn't going to end well, it's just how badly events will conclude and what mitigation and redemption they can introduce without entirely jumping this shark. The writers have so far kept their conclusion powder very dry so far, so it's far too early to call if this season is going to rival the triumphant crescendo of season four, or end with a less-than satisfactory thud that we've experienced in others.

Read Billy's review of the season seven finale, Surprise Motherf***er, here.

Please, if you can, buy our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.

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I think, given that she knows of Harry's Code and has Dexter's drawings from when he was a kid, that she must be the psychologist Harry must've been frequenting for advice. Her info is outdated, as Dexter hasn't really followed the Code (for the Code's sake in any case) since season three, and last season he killed for personal, human, reasons, outside of the Code, twice, if we count LaGuerta).

It's strange that given all this character development over these last seven seasons that all of a sudden we return to this 'psychopath model', which Dexter clearly doesn't fit, although he lacks empathy at times. The false dichotomy of 'monster or man' has been deconstructed and exposed in season 5 and 7, so to bring it back is a bit... unhelpful? But now Vogel wants to separate Dexter from 'humanity' again...

You could call it a thematic throwback linking it to the beginning, but we'll see where it goes.

I think you're selling Dex a bit short here. It's been a very long while since I was so engrossed in a Dexter episode. The last two seasons were both rather naff so I'm not predicting this season will be the closer the show deserves but based on the excellent premiere I'm cautiously optimistic.

Season 6 was more than a bit disappointing, but season 7 was a cracker. All in all it's only been 3 and 6 that have really let me down.

As Michael said below, i think Dr Vogel was the pshychiatrist, harry went for advice once he noticed Flags of abnormal behavior on Dexter personality. As the voice off said on the preview of the rest of the season, Dr vogel thinks Pyschopaths are a gift from nature, and i think she was the one who suggested to harry, to work w/ his personality reason why he invented that code, even though he has killed for personal reasons.

Does Dexter have empathy? He would seem to, in his quest to reach Deb and his reaction to Harrison's momentary disappearance. Personally, however, I think this is learned behaviour, something that sociopaths realise that they need to possess and project. They learn to lie and mimic in order to fit in. He *knows* he should be concerned about his son and sister (and is aware of the trouble that can befall him if something happened to either), but that's not the same as feeling genuine emotion for another's situation.
Of course, it could be that he is just a fictional character, and can be inconsistently written :-)

[Thanks to my intelligent and qualified girlfriend for her input on this subject :-) ]

But what is the point of Dexter reacting that way when he is by himself? He has shown that he is progressing into an empathetic person as he has these reactions solely by himself w/o the prod to "act" that way in front of others.

It's not a question of doing it only in front of others.The more intelligent children that possess Aspergers and similar conditions recognise that they lack something, and observe others' reactions, mimic and learn to fit in, without actually directly experiencing those emotions on an instinctive level (similar to the way Data, pre-emotion chip, could laugh without genuinely feeling humour). Perhaps Dexter is even fooling himself?
I'm not saying it's impossible for him to learn empathy. Assuming that it *is* possible, Personally I don't believe it is, any more than you can learn to feel hot or cold if that portion of your brain is damaged.

Awesome explanation! I didn't realize that.

Your review is spot on! My thoughts exactly. I too fear, and hope, that things won't end good for Dexter.

Sorry, I meant end well for him.

Dexter was a child with issues. PTSD certainly and some disturbing behaviors, but you really can't diagnose kids as sociopaths. Harry assumed the die was cast and maybe that fit into Vogel's theories as well. Harry constantly told Dexter that he was "different," didn't have feelings, etc. He convinced him. Harry and Vogel built themselves a monster.

For my part I've wildly enjoyed everything that's happened since rita's death. To me the show is more about questioning society's morality and anti-social behavior than a realistic assertion of psychopathy, with a cop soap opera on top of all that.

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