Dexter season 5 episode 9 review: Teenage Wasteland

Can Dexter pull off the tricky juggling act of being a sociopath and a good father? Here's Billy's review of episode 9, Teenage Wasteland...

This review contains spoilers.

5.9 Teenage Wasteland

The unpredictable nature of Dexter was underlined in red marker this week. Having dispatched Astrid and Cody off to their grandparents earlier in the season, both I and Dexter presumed we’d seen the last of them for now. But Astor’s arrival back at the house not only pushed Lumen to the edge, it also put Dexter’s world into a complete spin.

Given the effort he’s put into keeping Lumen’s existence a secret from everyone, how rapidly this entirely fell apart was disconcerting. Soon, Dexter had taken on the appearance of a juggler with a wide distribution of dropped objects around him, and the razor sharp mind of Jordan Chase on his radar.

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As this is a Showtime production, it runs a few minutes longer than the typical hour-blocked network show, but even with that wriggle room, I was singularly impressed how much they managed to pack into this story.

The truly clever part is how each of the story threads is given enough to keep it moving, while avoiding becoming overly diverted by minor events. That said, if I’ve learned anything about this show, it’s that even the small details have significance, and each scene is chock full of them.

All simmering, now we have Lumen, Dexter, Jordan Chase, Liddy and Quinn, Maria and Angel, and Debra, who is something of a rotational centre for many of them to circle.

What I found fascinating this week was that what we’re told, and what’s held back from us, is very selective. Angel and Maria, for example, have had their problems this season, but until this story the extent of their relationship breakdown wasn’t revealed. It’s that sense of the unknown that keeps me watching, and also some of the excellent performances delivered by what are often minor characters.

I’d commented in an earlier season 5 review just how good Christina Robinson (who plays Astor) was becoming as an actress, but she really is brilliant in her scenes with Michael C. Hall. Their uneasy relationship pivots on her friendship with fellow teen Olivia. Maybe it’s not much of a leap for Christina to play a hormonal teen, but it’s the shades of adulthood that she layers into the performance they totally sells it to me.

Real teenagers drift between childhood and adult reactions to events in their lives, and that was in here, and something perhaps the writers of No Ordinary Family might do well to consider.

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The stand-out moment of the show belonged, as usual, to Michael C. Hall. His encounter with Olivia’s stepfather was pure Dexter, as he gives him the analytical breakdown of what’s happening to his body during his attack. No wonder he didn’t return after that lesson in pain management.

Harry’s appearance just after that scene was welcome, as we’ve seen relatively little of Dexter’s moral compass this season. His suggestion that Dexter might not have become a serial killer had he understood the threads of humanity within him was an interesting admission.

For me, the big unanswered question is how much of a threat Jordan Chase really is. Yes, he’s got some dark associates, and a natty line in chilling phone calls to Lumen. But I actually find Liddy more worrying, because he’s got relatively little to lose. There’s also a moral dilemma in killing Liddy, in that while he’s obviously unpleasant, he hasn’t killed anyone yet that we’re aware. Would the code allow Dexter to dispatch Liddy?

With three stories left to run, the good ship Dexter is on a dramatic collision course with nobody at the wheel. Based on what we’ve seen before, I can’t imagine that we’ve got much chance in second-guessing where this might be going for any of the main characters.

I’d prefer that Lumen doesn’t die in the final story, in deference to last year’s dramatic conclusion, but I’ve got a feeling that one major character isn’t going to survive – I just can’t pinpoint which one!

Dexter, I’ve concluded, isn’t a TV show. It’s an adrenalin fix.Read our review of episode 8, Take It!, here.

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