Dexter season 8 episode 11: Monkey in a Box

Review Billy Grifter 17 Sep 2013 - 09:30

Billy gets ready to say goodbye to Dexter as we reach the penultimate episode

This review contains spoilers.

8.11 Monkey in a Box

With any hope that Dexter would deliver something truly special before bowing out now disappeared over the horizon and sipping mojitos in the Titty Twister now, it's time to embrace the imminent end. Or is that the coming storm, metaphorically preparing to wreak destruction on Miami and the characters in this show? Yes, one and the same.

When I watched Monkey in a Box I kept being drawn to something that I was taught at film school about narrative. The journey that all characters must travel must change them in some way, or they're purely part of the scenery. That change was the focus of the opening scenes where Dexter is cleaning the Vogel death scene of any evidence relating to him. This wasn't very well thought through, because not only did Dexter not wear gloves at any point, but he didn't consider the possibility that Vogel didn't mention him in Zach's notes.

You'd also think that Dexter's ability to turn up at Vogel's death scene would concern someone, but Batista has never been the smartest cop has he?

While flawed, this did lead into the pivotal meeting between Dexter and Debs, where she realises that her brother is affected by the doctor's death. This completes their reunification that started with Vogel and brings them to a new stable place. Some really good acting went on here, especially from Jennifer Carpenter who owned this scene.

And then, something totally unexpected! The final season has almost been entirely devoid of links to story lines the distant past. But I almost cheered when Valerie Cruz walked through the door as the Mrs Sylvia Prado, the widow of Miguel Prado from season three. They could have made anyone the character brought in to sell Dexter's apartment, but having someone recognisable made more sense. Selling a boat with such a small beer cooler at short notice isn't easy, so we can safely conclude that the Slice of Life still has a part to play in the final story. 

After business is not concluded, we get down to the meat of this story, the dance of death between Daniel and Dexter, who seems determined to get in our heroes face.

As Dexter's final nemesis I've been very critical of the Daniel/Oliver character, because compared with almost every other murderer that Dexter's faced, he's by far the least threatening. He also doesn't have a real handle on the hornet's nest he seems intent on sticking his head into. Daniel seems to think that threatening people close to Dexter will make him walk away, but that doesn't really make sense - if Daniel assumes that Dexter shares his psychopathic mindset, he wouldn't care about the threats, but if he does care (and we know he does) then, well, Daniel doesn't really understand his thinking, and can't predict how Dexter will react.

Daniel's also gloriously unaware that, with the possible exception of Harrison, every family member in immediate range is also a murderer.

But every Dexter episode comes with a WTF moment, and the one that slapped me hard in this one came next when the whole homicide department turned out for a Vogel wake. That's showing great respect, but the very next day after she was murdered seems extraordinary. Really, they would do that?

The drinks after the service did however throw up a few interesting things, not least that Dexter seemed mildly confused that he might miss some of his co-workers. But the bit that really grabbed me was the conversation with Tom Matthews, the retired-then-not Deputy Chief. He was a friend of Harry's, and his line about 'family' was revealing. I think Harry told him about Dexter, and he's known all along, but kept it secret for old allegiances.

Sylvia rings to draw Dexter away and back to Daniel who wants to crack a deal with Dexter, because he's obviously not up to actually killing him. Meanwhile, the fly in the ointment is Hannah, whose entire purpose is to give Dexter and Debs something else to worry about. As if they hadn't already got enough.

The arrival of Elway, who is about as subtle as a swinging piece of 2-by-4, signals the end for her beach holiday, and also the final exchange between her and Debs. With peace made with both Dexter and Hannah, the exit light is on and flashing for Debs. But before that, Elway and Cooper turn up at Debs' apartment and ransack it without a warrant. Good luck when that one goes to court, guys.

How easily Daniel is trapped underlines how he's hardly a danger to Dexter, and it's only with a completely blundering U.S. Marshall Cooper that he ever becomes one again. But for that to actually be a factor, Dexter must move into the light, and decline to kill him, even though he knows he should. The idea that Dexter's dark passenger could be dropped off at the nearest Greyhound station once love entered his heart is a nice thematic idea, but I could hear hordes of therapists shouting "BS!" in unison across the world.

In so many ways this was the reworking of the season 4 ending that the writers so desperately wanted to repeat from the outset, where the real danger is that Dexter doesn't kill, and has to face the consequences of his lack of action. Why Daniel didn't dispatch the mortally wounded Debs I've no idea, as his injury was just a flesh wound. She's obviously not going to make it, and given that Joey is now back on the scene, that doesn't bode well for the final episode.

Despite my personal frustration with the direction this all took ultimately, I couldn't help but be touched by the final bow for James Remar as Harry. He's been a great foil for Dexter over the seasons, and his early exit reinforces the idea that there isn't any going back for Dex now.

So what does that leave us with for the final episode of Dexter? Having bought his transformation at such cost, including Rita and now probably Debs, I can't see that Dexter can sling his killing hat back on. That begs the questions; who will actually stop Daniel, and will anyone actually get to see Argentina?

I'm not even going to guess. But just a week from now we'll all know, and Dexter will be utterly done.

Read Billy's review of the previous episode, Goodbye Miami, here.

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It looks like the reddit spoilers were true going off this episode which would be a decent end to the series. I thinK Dexter has been hurt with it's final season going up against Breaking Bad which is was never going to live up to. The problem they were always going to face was that having the bay harbour butcher season so early they couldn't really go back to that so the threat of dexter getting caught for me died with laguetta last year. This last series was always going to be about if he could ever change and if he did what the consequences would be and it looks like they will cost him his sister. It's probably gone on 2 seasons too long but even though the quality has dropped I've still enjoyed the final season

This season is still too filled with situations previously intelligent characters wopuld not have allowed to happen. I just don't see, or more to the point believe, Dexter would have left Daniel to the police and if indeed he had that he would have left him in a kill room with his knifes on hand without Daniel being fully sedated and restrained. Again it has taken a character to do something stupidly out of character for a plot devise to be hacked into the plot. I know the idea is Dexter has changed, but no one ever really changes, especially someone like Dexter. This series is looking like it's going to leave a bitter taste :(

I actually find the negativity to this final season breathtaking. I never thought Dexter was anywhere near the best TV show and it does always demand a suspension of disbelief, but I actually find this season quite entertaining and the penultimate episode very suspenseful. Just go for the ride and let the pieces fall into place.

I know what you mean about it not being anywhere near the best, but I have watched it from the start and it's always been solidly watchable entertainment. Some seasons have been much better than others though, which I think is what fans are very aware of.

As well as going against Breaking Bad, I think a problem Dexter has had for a long time is that it's been going against its own fourth season. Dexter set a very high bar for itself with season four, which it's struggled to match in its following seasons. I think it would have been better for this show to have taken a different approach in season five, wrap things up, and quit while it was ahead.

As someone who used to love Dexter, I think the reviewer is STILL being way too forgiving.

"I think Harry told him about Dexter, and he's known all along, but kept it secret for old allegiances."

I guarantee you're barking up the wrong tree on this one and NOTHING will come out of that line one way or another. The writers haven't but that much thought into this season.

But do you feel this season is more about "wanting" to see what happens as opposed to "can't wait" to see what happens. As in, we're watching to see how it is going to wrap up as opposed to being intrigued by the current series storyline.

This season started off so awesomely, but it is withering, along with various character storylines. Mauksas daughter...withered! Matthew's always being on the case about Zack...withered (seriosuly, why was so much emphasise put on Zach when after he died, there has been no mention of his disappearance......

I wish it wasn't ending this week, only because i think Dexter deserves a better send off than this season.

I'm sorry but honestly _life_ will always leave a bitter taste in your mouth if you actually believe "no one ever really changes"...

I'm in good company, I think a Milan Kundera novel begins with something along the lines of 'no one ever changes'. And as a psychologist I am certain it is true you can't fundamentally change who you are, that is pretty much set from early age.

Oh ok. Psychology... *sigh*
Maybe one day you'll see this is an assumption rather than a conclusion...

You know, when Daniel threatened Dexter with killing people around him, I think that the threat was not - beware, I will kill those you love; but rather - beware, with so many dead people around you, police will ask questions and they will get you. In fact, I think that he did say something like that. Even though, I really don't know why does he need to make it so complicated. Killing just Dexter should be probablt easier. And he must already know that police will get him sooner or later, so I am not sensing any plan for him to get out with it.

This season is missing something greately. The first few seasons had something, you can hardly label. That feeling. That sense. Of loneliness, claustrophoby, hatred, angst. These things are no longer present. With this season, so many more people know about Dexter's secret than in all other previous seasons combined. That feels a bit wrong. Especially since it was always a big deal before, now they made it look like a casual thing.
But the worst thing is honestly Hannah. She was there in the previous season, and the story revolved around her. Now after so many things happened, she left and story was over. It was over from a narrative perspective, as it left the moral point to the story - Dexter learning that he cannot be with her and shouldn't be with her. Now they pulled her back in, it seems so forcefull and artificial. They made the point from the previous season entirely pointless.
Another thing why it does not feel like Dexter: there is no real danger to Dexter and there is no real big bad. Brain Surgeon was a great idea, but he does not really do much. Instead of a great big bad who is threatening the city, police hunting him and Dexter trying to solve this and trying to stay invisible, we get a villain who only really attacks the people around Dexter - the same people who know who Dexter is and what is going on. AND the police investigation feels like it is not really there. AND Dexter is not really trying so hard to stay invisible this time, yet he is fine, his mistakes do not catch up with him.
And the most dissapointing thing about that - those people who actually are after him want to bring him to justice for helping a hot murderess escape the country. They are not after him because he is Bay Harbor Butcher, they are not after him because he is a murderer. This feels so anticlimactic. So many mistakes he has done in the past are completely overlooked and he is being chased just for that? It feels like there will be a no moral to the story after all.
And the thing I have very hard time to get over is Dexter's lack of need to kill. We are talled that Dexter no longer needs to kill since the magical power of love. I mean, the show Dexter was always special because they tried to be realistic. They tried to portray the grimm true. They showed us that the life of a serial killer is a living horror, catastrophy. They wanted to prove that if we romanticize even the slightties little thing about it, it comes back to kill us or the people around us. If you trust somebody, if you mimmick Dexter, become his friend, live with him, be his relative,... anything, it always ends up in death. Yet they want to tell us that even after all that, the magical power of loves solves it.
And it's not even like this happened for the first time. I recall that Dexter had once a similar speech - that he no longer needs to kill... but he still will. Now suddenly he has to claim that it is because of love (needless to say a love for somebody who is killing her husbands for money). That's not the way the series was supposed to be. It was supposed to be grimm and naturalistic.
Maybe if in the last episode, Hannah does something selfish angain and Dexter kills her for it, it might bring that message across again. But I don't see it happening.

I'm open to debate... and in fact I have turned my back on psychology for many reasons and became a manual therapist. But in context it was never meant as a controversial point... more simply that I don't believe the changes Dexter is meant to have had, they don't ring true to the character. If he really wanted to simply get away with Hannah he could have gone the moment she killed her husband. The point is the story just doesn't hang together.

Yes, I think you have it right. I'm not really excited or waiting with bated breath to know how it ends... it's more like I was with Lost, I've come this far, I will watch it to the end. Shame though as Dexter has always been my own almost guilty pleasure (none of my family watch it, they all think it's silly or going back to early days, too gruesome) so it's something I have always watched on my own. And this is why I joined here really, because I have been so disappointed with the last season and wanted to talk to other people about it.

Like. Didn't. Dexter. Think...... to frisk the guy after sedating him? Why didn't Saxon go after Harrison, or Deb or Hannah like he said he would. And why the hell would Dexter let Saxon go - or turn him in to the cops - when he knows pretty much all about Dexter? There are so many more questionable things that have gone on this season I can't even be bothered to list them. What a bunch of lazy, lazy writers that either give the viewers no credit whatsoever, or are just plain bad at what they do.

A room of chimps could have done better. How do these people have jobs?

Hmmm I get your point, but I still don't agree. The changes Dexter is meant to have had point to his awakening to feelings and connections with people, *not* with Hannah alone. That would rather have pointed towards a selfish view of things, which wouldn't be a problem. He didn't get away with Hannah when she killed her husband exactly because he was experiencing the uncertainties of coming back to such a relationship (it didn't end on the best of terms previously, right?) and later (as of this 11th episode) because he couldn't just leave the people in his life unprotected with such a threat out there. It actually makes sense to me. As to if it would be possible for him to change - well, the way our view on things, the way we understand them actually builds them socially rather and "discover" them is a notion that I'm very fond of; he had this view of himself and his "urges" as an expression of this thing called "psychopathy", while he may have never been a person with a brain biologically wired for not having feelings to begin with. Actually I don't know why people in general have such a hard time understanding that, as in the first season he's shown as a baby that's quite happy and loving when he's with his original family and so on. Maybe the point of the season is exactly the contrary of "people never change"; maybe it is "people learn, people adapt, even though they resist and cling on to what they understand of themselves" (lol, long lesson). Dexter changed into a serial killer through his experience and the way people around him dealt with it. And now we've had 8 seasons to see Dexter go through a lot of experiences - from having stepkids to having kids and a wife and a friend and so on until it got to "true love" - serial killer style... And now he's overwhelmed with emotions, not knowing whether or not he needs to kill anymore (actually, he's realized before he doesn't have to, first that he doesn't have to follow the code (multiple times), second that he doesn't have to kill anyway, and now he's considering not wanting to kill at all).

These reviews have been spot on throughout the series. It's like the sort of rubbish that was being trotted out in the "writers strike" era. Ill thought-through and rushed. So many things (Debs boss, Mazuka's daughter) don't seem to have a pay off. It just screams "missed opportunity" and I'm gutted this excellent TV series is going to end on such a bum note that I now don't even care about the ending.

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