It's a Wild Kingdom on 'Dexter'

Jennifercarpenter_dexter_3_240 Dexter took viewers on an urban safari for Sunday (Oct. 12) night's episode, fittingly titled "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

One of the things that Dexter has been pushing more heavily than usual this season is the idea that our hero's opening monologues can establish a very broad theme and framework for each episode. I know this is something the show has always done in the past, so maybe the past couple weeks have just felt a smidge clumsier than usual? Last week we had Dexter dealing with uncertainty as he fantasized futures for a group of school children. On tonight's episode, Dexter went grocery shopping and described the supermarket experience as "the modern Serengeti."

Now, of course, the most adventurous amongst us -- not me, but others perhaps -- know that the modern Serengeti is still the Serengeti and you can take wilderness tours that allow you to run with the antelope, bathe with the elephants and partake in whatever other pursuits will help you tap into your inner Francis Macomber. [If you need to look it up, read the story. It's a classic.]

I'm not sure the episode had a very profound point to make here, just something about hunters and gatherers, predators and prey and which predators get to be the Alpha Males. I'll leave it to you to decide whether this is more or less depth and anthropomorphism than you get out of a typical episode of Meerkat Manor. Actually, Meerkat Manor is anthropomorphism and this episode of Dexter used zoomorphism (giving animal characteristics to humans), but then we're getting into semantics.

In any case, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" was really all about Dexter asserting his dominant role in his sphere of influence.

How did he do that? In the most obvious way, he protected his pride from another predator. It was a bit one-dimensional, but Dexter's makeshift family was targeted by a sexual predator and we know that even if Dexter's Killing Code only makes room for murderers, you don't dare prey on Dexter.

"In a land of predators, the lion never fears the jackal," Dexter explained, keeping the episode on-message.

In many ways, Dexter has held with the recent Supreme Court ruling that says that no matter how horrible your crime, unless it involves the actual taking of life, you aren't subject to the death penalty yourself. Perhaps Dexter agrees with Justices Scalia and Thomas that if he wants to off a pedophile, he's darned well gonna.

"Nobody hurts my children," he declared. Then, as any good provider would do, he also harvested milk from the child predator's fridge and brought it home to his own cubs. Dexter's cool like that.

Almost on a week-to-week basis, Dexter seems to go back and forth on whether or not people are capable of change. I guess the fact that he wavers so consistently is actually proof of how intractable human nature is. Every time he sees his own transformative possibilities, he reverts to his nature. That's why he was speaking from a position of confidence when he told the allegedly reformed predator, "You haven't changed. It's impossible. We are who we are."

"My name," as Marlo Stansfield would say, "Is my name."

Juliebenz_dexter_3_240 And yet the episode ended with Dexter deciding to be a stand-up man and be a father to Rita's baby, a move that would seem to represent a major change, both in his view of the future and in his present situation. Maybe he believed Deb's insistence that he'll make a great father -- she isn't exactly working from a position of total knowledge -- or he believes his own closing observation, "It's what any good man would do. After all, it's a jungle out there."

The Alpha Male posturing wasn't only on display in the lengths Dexter went to protect his family. Again, the episode found Dexter and his new BFF Miguel talking about parenting, particularly their mutual difficulties living up to the expectations of their own fathers.

"I don't know what's more complicated, having a father or being one," Miguel said.

Dexter isn't a show that wastes much time thinking about whether or not mothering requires much effort. Rita's choice to have the baby wasn't presented as anything more than a hormonal hunch, while Dexter gets to have a full-on existential crisis about a process in which he's already played his most important biological part.

As Miguel says of the women in their life, "They don't know what it is to be a son. To be a man."

At least in nebulous terms, Miguel understands something that Dexter understands, which is the wait of expectations from a father figure. Over shared rum -- not, from what I could tell, Los Duques rum -- Miguel spoke of how he disappointed his father and Dexter was finally able to say that his father was disgusted by him. That's a pretty big step for Dexter, when it comes to opening up, but I like how Miguel rewarded that confidence with the gift of his bloody shirt. Miguel figures they both have something on each other now.

Me, I liked Dexter's reaction to Miguel's late night rum visit, "Is it creepy or is it just what friends do?"

That's a good question. Is that what friends do or is there something creepy about Miguel's new attachment to Dexter?

For the sake of this episode, it was really just two lions discussing life down at the old watering hole.

Other thoughts on this week's episode of Dexter:

  • We didn't see what Dexter actually did do with Freebo's body, did we? So it's a safe assumption that his body really isn't buried in the grave Dexter showed Miguel? Do we assume that with the heat off of the Bay Harbor, he's gone back to dumping his bodies like he did before?
  • Absolutely, positively, without-any-question, beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt, the line of the episode? Deb's reaction to Dexter's baby news: "A baby! A mutherf***ing, roly-poly, chubby-cheeked s*** machine? Are you kidding me?" Could I love Deb any more? No. No, I couldn't.
  • That being said, the show is taking an incredibly slow-burn on Deb's storylines this season. I get that Quinn is suspicious. I get that Yuki, the IA badge, is cute and persistent. And I get that we're supposed to be eagerly anticipating a burgeoning romance between Deb and Anton, the C.I. But we're three episodes into the season and surely that stuff should be starting to gel by now, right?
  • If all Matsuka is going to do is wander around harping on his journal article each week, isn't it time we get Harry Tang back on Chuck? Things are getting lax at the BuyMore and I really doubt Lester's ability to maintain a Tang-y level of order.

    Thoughts on this week's episode?

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