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Dexter – This Little Piggy Review: OK Episode Hindered by Rushed Character Development

"The family that kills together…” Sometimes it’s better to embrace one’s messed up family instead of turning one’s back on them, regardless of whatever faults they might possess. Even if your only remaining relative is a semi-psychopathic serial murderer, well, that's still better than being miserable and alone. Debra has no choice but to stay with Dexter, realizing that she can’t imagine her life without him. Her decision to accept her brother for who he is and reconcile with him (even going so far as accompanying him on his quest to get rid of Yates) is a bit abrupt, especially since the show spends the first four episodes showcasing her intense struggle with Dexter. The sudden change in thinking slightly undermines her self-destructive, depressive phase and diminishes her personal experience in those times of difficulty. Certainly it hasn't been an easy time for Debra; she's obviously been going through a traumatic experience, and it wouldn’t be easy for anyone to get past such a crucial stage in his/her life, so to have her point of view shift so easily makes little sense. If this episode offered a hint of some conflict or struggle within Debra throughout the episode, some unease in hopping back on the Dexter bandwagon, then it wouldn’t be so jarring. The fact that the writers have Debra nonchalantly joking by the end of the episode and seeming generally unfazed by the events that transpire feels like they are in a hurry to neatly wrap up the story arc. It's as if they thought, “Okay, we showed Debra going off the rails and being mad at Dexter, check. That was depressing. Let's do the complete opposite now.” The series has so many episodes in which to narrate the story arc, but it could afford a couple episodes to show Debra’s transition in a more truthful way. A scene with her discussing the situation with Dr. Vogel would have been wholly welcomed; there is definitely material in the episode that could have been trimmed to make room for more Debra contemplation.

The episode does open with the Morgan siblings at odds in a great therapy session scene. The aftermath of last week’s car crash is still fresh, and Dexter is not having any of Debra’s shit. It is greatly amusing to watch Dexter be all high and mighty and feign moral superiority over poor Debra. I’d expected his hurt to manifest itself as more sad and crushed instead of righteously indignant. He really lays on the guilt trip (though I agree that the important part is that she did NOT let him die) and is openly antagonistic to both Deb and Dr. Vogel. Michael C. Hall expertly weaves through the scene ranging from slightly crazed “I’m stupid that way, my brain is limited. So when my sister tries to kill me it doesn’t make sense,” to bitter and nasty. And has there ever been a better therapy session opener than: "Debra, it seems that you tried to kill Dexter as well as yourself"? Charlotte Rampling’s casual delivery of that line is absolute perfection. She continues to play Dr. Vogel with an intriguing ambiguity that is always compelling. If one takes the events of this episode at face value, assuming that Yates was the brain-scooping killer and Dr. Vogel an innocent victim in this whole ordeal, then it seems that her story has likely come to an end. Rampling has been a great highlight of the season and it would be great if the writers could justify a way to keep her around a bit longer. There is still some suspicion surrounding the character, so it won't be surprising if Vogel makes her way back or simply remains in the narrative. It doesn’t feel like the writers are saying goodbye to the character, especially in the final scene of the hour in which Dexter communicates that he considers Vogel like family.

Rampling remains slightly sinister, even in her scenes with the disturbed Yates. It's just fun watching her interaction with him, playing the victim one moment and then assuming the persona of his abusive mother; she can obviously be a very shrewd and manipulative person, and the writers seem to be intentionally showing the audience these qualities. Their efforts will hopefully pay off in the future. Ultimately, the demise of Yates feels fairly easy. There was a lot of build up to something interesting happening, but it doesn't seem to pan out. Yates had a threatening quality to him, or at least the show imbued in him a sense of danger that is eventually eliminated. He quickly became a pathetic figure who preys on those weaker than him and is truly cowardly and craven. This characterization gives me the impression that he is not the brain-scooper and instead a red herring. Rather than a tense confrontation, we get a killer cowering under the bed. Though this approach to the killer could be a way for the writers to subvert audience expectation (hopefully), and though watching him be stabbed through the mattress is incredibly over the top, it is also effectively surprising and deliciously campy and fun.

This is a fun episode, even though the narrative sometimes wanders (there are a lot of disparate threads going on right now) and some of the plot points and character progression is fairly rushed. “This Little Piggy” is an adequate installment of the final season, and it definitely marks a turning point in the season. Dexter and Debra are once again on good/agreeable terms, and what may come from this new dynamic will hopefully offer dramatic material for the season’s upcoming episodes.


Random Thoughts

-- What’s up with Cassie? The writers wouldn’t introduce a new romantic interest in the last season if it will not pay off in some way. Hannah has yet to make her appearance this season; maybe she’ll be reintroduced in an attempt to sabotage the new relationship?

-- Again, we are spending so much time with the secondary characters. How will Masuka’s perhaps gold-digging daughter tie into the larger more overarching narrative? Quinn’s quest to make Sergeant and his struggle with the corruption within Miami Metro still isn’t compelling. Give me more Morgan family therapy time.

-- This is the second time Mama Cass’ Make Your Own Kind of Music makes its appearance this season. It is such an identifiable song (especially for all the Losties out there) that one cannot help but assume its appearance is significant. The first time it was heard was in episode two, in which we see the video of the brain-scooper forcing his victim to strangle a man, and now Dr. Vogel plays it in her home. Both times the song is heard clearly and its inclusion is very deliberate. This does not seem like a coincidence, so either the writers are playing with the audience, or there is a deeper tie between the killer and Dr. Vogel. She is pretty shady.

-- Not going to lie, the “That poor, sweet child” line made me chuckle.



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