With a little less to work with on Sunday as far as new programming goes, I’m going to try to check in with Dexter more often moving forward, even if it’s just for a quick take.
“Everything is Illumenated” (haha, punny, that title) is a solid extension of the budding relationship between Dexter and the horribly-named Lumen, as it gives both characters more personal motivation and thus the story more narrative drive. Moreover, the episode is often thrilling and pulsating in the way that Dexter be when firing at all cylinders where we know that Dex isn’t going to be caught by Deb or whomever else, but the episode makes enough of an effort to convince us otherwise that it’s almost believable.
One thing that has always annoyed me about Dexter is that it allows the lead character to get comfortable and really emphasize that everything is going to be okay or that things are going back to normal for 35 minutes of an episode and then destroying them in the last 10 minutes. It’s an obvious byproduct of having Dexter monologue constantly because we’re supposed to see that as him trying to rationalize the horrible situations he finds himself in, but as a viewer, it’s exhausting. We know that things aren’t going to be okay, just as we know things aren’t going to get overwhelmingly bad in the sense that Deb and company will find out his secret. Instead, Dexter always exist in this middle ground where his life is in a complex swirl of complications, but ones he can ultimately handle.
Anyway, “Everything” brings that to the forefront again, as Dexter spends a good deal of the episode talking about how things are improving for him. He’s moving out of the house Deb was murdered in, Harrison’s in good hands with the babysitter and he’s ready to start killing awful people again. This is hammered home repeatedly.
But of course, we know that Lumen’s back in Miami and Dexter’s constant referencing to her departure as weight of his back serves as this invisible weight that we are aware of, but he is not. Thus, because the series follows these same beats so often and we are just waiting for Lumen to return, the first half the episode is subsequently stale in a number of ways.
This is most obviously true because the series has decided to make Dexter absolutely stupid when it comes to his son. A few weeks ago, he was concerned about Harrison’s violent tendencies because he may or may not have scratched a kid during play time, and now because his first words may or may not be “die die” instead of “bye bye,” Dexter is overly concerned in a generally stupid way. I think we all understand what the series is trying to do with this story with its implications that witnessing a violent act could thus make you violent — and of course, pull in parallels with Dexter — but c’mon, the kid is 10 months old! He has little agency! He’s not a murderer! Even Michael C. Hall can’t sell that material.
Thankfully, things pick up with Julia Stiles’ Lumen appears (I can’t believe I’m saying “thankfully” and “Julia Stiles” in the same sentence with a positive tone), because she’s just completely derailed Dexter’s good day. He has to stop his murdering of some freak killer, drive across town and figure out how to solve Lumen’s problem of what to do with a man she suspects had something to do with her kidnapping.
Though I do think the episode missed an opportunity to really explore what could happen when Lumen kills someone accidentally — I know they covered it last week, but Dexter stopped her, damnit — this episode jumps from a middling C-pllus range to a high B pretty quickly. Dexter has to determine if Lumen’s just insane or really on to the people who came after her, but also admit some of his skills and personal traits to someone he’s been trying to get rid of for a while now. And of course, then the cops show up. And Dexter’s original intended victim of the night escapes. All hell generally breaks loose.
But this being Dexter, things get wrapped up fairly quickly. Dexter and Lumen confirm that her victim is one of her attackers and dispose of him (but not before he calls the rest of the crew). Dexter runs down his escaping victim, kills him and then makes it look like both dead guys were involved in some weird sex game — I believe Masuka refers to it as something involving a Mummy — and the two of them get out fairly unscathed. It’s Dexter, that’s how things work.
However, the final scene really plays up the effects of this kind of lifestyle on both Dexter and Lumen. She cleans up in his bathtub, the one that Rita died in, and they both realize that killing the rest of these guys has to be their mission now. Lumen makes a wonderful speech about being empty without hunting these mofos down and Dexter recognizes that doing just that will be some sort of makeshift therapy for what happened to Rita. He’s still feeling guilty and this is a way to expunge that.
Moving forward, the relationship between these two should be really compelling because there are so many ways to take it. Are Lumen and Dexter going to be something like partners — notice she smiled when the dude was killed — moving forward? Is this just a one-or-two-time thing where he’ll help her and then she’ll be gone after this season? Are they setting up a romantic entanglement where Dexter can fully embrace both sides of his life and have a female accept them too? Any path could be exciting and that is what is really holding this season up right now.