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Last week, I found myself slightly annoyed at Dexter due to the lack time spent with both Brother Sam and our two killers, time that was instead invested in a hunt of Dexter’s that didn’t really deliver. It would seem that somewhere out there, someone may preemptively have heard my frustrations and written this week’s “A Horse of a Different Color.” Despite last week’s showing still maintaining a general air of quality about it, it would not be at all a stretch to say that this week’s episode blew it away. Whilst the majority of the time was still devoted to the employees of Miami Metro, Travis, Professor Gellar and Brother Sam all boosted their screen time in a more than pleasing way, with further insight being given to the killers, as well as further depth added to Dexter’s relationship with God.
We picked up with that faith factor being played upon as Dexter attended Nick’s baptism, performed by Brother Sam. It may just be that I have a weakness for the discussion of topics of such great magnitude as faith, science and belief in either, but the following scene between Dexter and Sam was one of the highlights of the episode for me. It wasn’t exactly in depth or even very long, but it established a sense of what it is to believe in the two men; Sam in God and Dexter in science. It was fairly lighthearted, but to me showed signs that Dexter’s faith is less than absolute, while Sam’s is unshakable. The notion that belief in science is itself a belief in a high order of things sets a foundation for Dexter throughout the episode to where he ultimately ends up.
From one talk of religion to another, Dexter arrived at the crime scene that we got just a glimpse of at the end of the last episode, in which four horses were mounted with the dismembered body parts of men attached to mannequins. While their first murder wasn’t exactly breaking the bank on spectacle, Travis and Gellar just about established themselves as the successors to the Ice Truck Killer with this crime scene. It is probably the most outlandish that we’ve seen in the show’s entire run and rightly so, as the four horses signify to them, the beginning of the end of the world. The symbolism isn’t lost on the homicide department either as Mike puts forward the idea of the four horsemen, making the religious angle the focus of the investigation now that they know they’re looking for a killer with more than one victim to his name.
From showmanship to subtlety, Dexter finds a message hidden in the lower eyelid of the latest victim once he gets his hands on the body, the number 1242 written on a small piece of paper. Assuming that this isn’t a new addition to the ritual, he checks the first victim for the same thing, finding 1237 inside disemboweled intestines. As her department sets to work on what exactly the numbers mean and try to find a suspect, Deb has the responsibility of a press conference thrust upon her as the case becomes a public spectacle. Unhappy with Matthews’ decision to give the conference to Deb, LaGuerta attempts a subtle version of sabotage by telling Deb to be herself, possibly the worst advice that anyone could ever give to Debra Morgan. Unsure of herself in her new position, Deb also takes on board Mike’s advice to dress the part.
Back with the investigation, the Book of Revelation undergoes a dissection and Dexter breaks the code of the numbers - simply a countdown/up to the end of the world. With logical inference that the killer isn’t done, the team set about finding themselves an expert on the subject matter, both as a helping hand and as a potential suspect. Dexter instead takes his own approach to investigation by talking to Sam, leading to another conversation about the complexities of faith and the fact that belief means different things to different people. While it isn’t likely to have escaped anyone that Harry has been an imaginary father figure to Dexter throughout the years, in a sense his own personal God, that idea was also reinforced to great effect.
Back at the department, Deb’s press conference finally came up and the "being herself" advice had clearly seeped through as she managed to swear on live daytime television within thirty seconds of speaking. Although everyone’s initial reaction was that it wasn’t exactly going to go over well, the public’s reaction according to Matthews was quite the opposite. Ignoring the formality of politics and using a blunt nature scored points for Deb with both the general public and within the department, pretty much putting to bed the idea that she would lose the job by the season’s end. She may still quit as she expressed concerns with her workload throughout the episode, but the likelihood of her being demoted seems to have diminished greatly.
The majority of the rest of the episode then fell to deep conversation and emotional expression for Dexter as Harrison was rushed to the hospital after having appeared in discomfort throughout the episode. With his appendix on the verge of bursting, Harrison had to undergo surgery, giving Dexter the perfect opportunity to find God. Although he didn’t exactly pray in the conventional sense, Dexter seemingly turned to God when he was unable to act himself, something that he denied when Harrison turned out to be fine, but nevertheless it left open a possibility with both us and him that he might be opening his mind to faith. With the child drama over, the case had its opportunity to shine as Quinn and Batistia hit a lead that coincided with something that Mike was following up on.
After talking to religious offenders, the two came across the name of an expert on Revelations who had more than a slight link to the case, that expert of course being Professor Gellar. It is revealed that Gellar was fired from his job after being suspected of stealing an ancient sword that, according to legend, belonged to John the Revelator, the author of the book in question. Earlier, Masuka had posited that the victims were killed with an extremely old sword and thus a number one person of interest is formed. Things weren’t quite done however, as one final crime scene for the day was discovered at which the alpha-omega sign of the killers was once again found. Following a blood trail, Dexter led the police at the scene to a woman strung up in a Saw movie type contraption before the misstep of one of the officers saw her jugular severed by a spiked collar.
To make things just that little bit worse, a swarm of locusts was left laying in wait, leading Dexter to come face-to-face with Travis outside the crime scene with a look on his face that reinforced a previous notion of Dexter’s that there is more than one man behind these killings. With Gellar’s identity now known and Dexter’s private suspicions that Travis is also involved, things have gone from confusing mystery to compelling murder case in the space of one episode. It is that fact combined with the strength of acting and of writing that made “A Horse of a Different Color” such a strong episode. I was worried last week that the plot was progressing too slowly, but now I can’t imagine how it can carry the remainder of the season. It still isn’t completely clear how things are going to wind up, with the small possibility that this may be the last season of the show if Michael C. Hall’s contract negotiations don’t work out, but I am now completely hooked into this season regardless.