4.6 If I Had A Hammer
Since the outset of this season we’ve been waiting for John Lithgow’s Trinity killer to meet Dexter, and this week we’re not disappointed. Having identified Arthur Mitchell last week, Dexter decides to get close to his prey and learn how this particular example of his kind works.
For Dexter, his methodology and psychology is a major revelation, as he breaks many of the rules that have kept him a free man. Yet Trinity has been killing people for thirty years or more, reliving the deaths of his own family.
What’s quite shocking is how much of a personality flip switch Arthur has, making Dexter, by comparison, a very mild-mannered serial killer.
Having gained his confidence, Dexter gets inside the family home and locates the urn containing his sister’s ashes, and decides to push that particular button by picking it up in front of Arthur. The reaction he’s looking for isn’t long in coming, as Arthur gently takes the ashes from him, before violently assaulting him.
What worried me about this, on reflection, is that Dexter’s taken the view that, as Arthur has completed his cycle of murder, he’s not actually dangerous. But this reminds me of people who work with big cats or other dangerous wildlife, who become overly confident, and end up regretting their bravado.
Arthur is very dangerous, and Dexter needs to be much more careful with him than he’s being. He also assumes, while he knows all about Arthur, that it isn’t a two way street. That assumption might well be as wrongheaded as his belief that Arthur gunned down his sister. Where is Anton these days?
Another very powerful scene this week was one where Debra goes to accuse directly the women she thinks attacked her and Lundy. Her realisation is that, despite all the other horrible things this woman did do, she probably didn’t do this crime. This was an excellent example of how Jennifer Carpenter has grown into the Debra persona, and how much the character has grown with her.
I guess if there was part of this show I could live without it’s the Maria and Angel plotline. It gives them something to do, but these characters are better than the light interlude that they’re being used for currently. In this story I did start to wonder if their relationship is a prelude to a tragedy, but I might be totally off target there.
What is hinted at is that Dexter doesn’t want to kill Arthur just yet; he’s got too much to learn from him. This reticence might cost others their lives, and turn Arthur into an alternative mentor for Dexter.
The hammer that Arthur used to kill his last victim he gives to Dexter, symbolically passing on the torch. Is Dexter about to trade in his ghostly father figure for another, more animated one?
As Dexter has reached the halfway point of this season, perhaps it’s a good point to take stock. The path trodden so far is a much less certain one for Dexter, where he’s been involved more in tracking the activities of others than hiding his own. I might have miscounted, but I think he’s only killed two people this year so far, which looks remarkably restrained
In the first season 11 people died, 9 in the second and 10 in the third. So, unless a bloodbath occurs in the final six stories, Dex is becoming dramatically less prolific. I guess being married does occupy your time.
That’s not to say that season four hasn’t been riveting stuff so far, although I haven’t reached the watching through my fingers stage that season three achieved so far.
What I’ve liked so far is how natural the writing and acting now is. All those involved in Dexter seem to understand the show entirely and it all moves effortlessly from drama to terror and comedy without missing a beat.
The casting of Lithgow was another inspiration, following the brilliance of Jimmy Smits last year. His ability to portray both an internal and external personality makes Arthur Mitchell infinitely watchable, and gives Michael C. Hall an admirable source of motivation for upping his acting game.
As such, I’m massively optimistic that the final six this year will take Dexter places neither the viewers or the character is expecting.
Next week’s episode is called Slack Tide, in which I’m told Dexter tries to strike the perfect balance between home life and hobby time.
Read Billy’s take on episode 5 here.