Dexter season 8 episode 1 review: A Beautiful Day

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.

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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.

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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.

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