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Serial-Killing Family Men

By J.K. Barlow | TV | October 29, 2009 |

By J.K. Barlow | TV | October 29, 2009 |

This week’s title, “Dirty Harry,” is open to interpretation, and I’ll be indulging in that interpretation at the end of the recap. Right now I’ll just say that this episode is an example of the series at its best. Without further ado…

We’re in the parking lot of Lundy’s hotel. Dexter walks up to the scene of the crime looking frantic, like he’s on the verge of tears. He sees a body on the pavement, covered by a yellow blanket. “Deb.” Jumping the tape, he’s stopped by a police officer, and has forgotten the credentials that would get him off his back. With rising panic, he tries to get the officer out of his way; finally Angel sees him and calls it off, saying he’s “one of us.” He tells Dex that Deb’s alive but has lost a lot of blood. We see her being loaded into the ambulance. Dex thinks, “If Deb dies, I’ll be … lost.” Altogether a far cry from season one, when the Ice Truck Killer wanted them to kill Deb together; Dex’s only argument against the plan was that he’d “grown very fond of her.”

According to LaGuerta, the paramedics don’t think Deb is seriously injured. Dexter is visibly relieved. According to Angel, Quinn was first on scene and suspects the Vacation Murderer. When he tells Dex it’s Lundy on the pavement, Dex is confused: why were they together at five in the morning? The awkward silence makes that pretty obvious. Angel orders Dex off the case, tells him to go see his sister, but he wants to check things out first. He reflects on Lundy, his “worthy adversary,” who deserved a more dignified death. Quinn comes over to express how sorry he is, and to confirm what we thought from last episode: that Deb didn’t see her assailant. Also, Deb’s cash and credit cards are gone, as are Lundy’s watch and wallet. Dex skirts the puddle of Deb’s blood to talk to Vince. According to him, Lundy didn’t stand a chance. Dex is surprised to hear that Lundy was shot twice. He ponders: why did the killer make so sure Lundy was dead, but leave Deb alive, a potential witness? Everyone’s pledging to “get this guy,” meaning Johnny Rose, but Dex thinks they’re looking in the wrong direction, though he doesn’t say so.

Christine Hill is there and, despite the fact that Dexter was physically restrained when he tried it, she easily jumps the tape, apparently just to see if Quinn is all right. Sure, how generous. That’s why immediately after offering her help and support, she scampers after Angel for a statement. He’s just about to brush her off when he has an idea; he tells her Johnny Rose has syphilis, bad, and wants her to publish that story, with pictures. She agrees. Nice move, Angel. Hell hath no fury…

Dex breaks into Lundy’s hotel room, looking for evidence of the “interesting encounter” Lundy mentioned the other day. Harry’s there. Is it just me, or are Harry’s visitations happening more and more as the series goes on? At first we only knew him through Dexter’s memories, but now it’s commonplace for him to show up and start discussing the details of Dexter’s daily life. But it works as a window into Dexter’s mind, and it’s more entertaining than a monologue. And somehow we only occasionally stop to think how weird it is that Dex is talking to his dead dad all the time.

What we learn from this particular conversation is that Dexter thinks there’s no way Johnny Rose did it; he’d have finished them both off. It’s got to be Trinity, and Trinity’s a monster who needs to be killed. To find him, Dexter feels justified in lifting most of Lundy’s research, and taking a picture of the map on the wall.

Arthur, the object of Lundy’s obsession, is sitting at a diner watching news of Lundy’s death. His expression is pretty unreadable; it could be sadness, or confusion, but is definitely neither satisfaction nor surprise. The waitress delivers Arthur’s Denver omelet, which does not contain diced tomatoes, as requested. She offers a side of tomatoes, but he insists she starts over. He’s kind of a dick about it, but when she tells him (with a forced smile) that it’s coming, he tells her very nicely she’s a dear.

Rita’s hurrying the kids out the door, on her way to the hospital. Dexter’s phone starts ringing and Rita tells Astor to answer it, so obviously it’s going to be some secret thing. Sure enough, it’s Dexter’s landlord, calling to say there’s something wrong with Dexter’s apartment. I guess Harry was right — Dex should have fixed that leaky tap.

At the hospital, Deb wakes up, and Dex waves awkwardly from the bedside chair. She says she’s fine — she doesn’t sound fine — and didn’t even need surgery; just some stitches. She’s on some strong painkillers, which probably explains why she’s mumbling — well, more than usual — and is tired but feeling no pain. Dexter starts asking her what she remembers, but she takes offense to his questioning; that’s Angel’s or Quinn’s job. He’s her brother. But when he asks what he can do for her, she says there’s nothing he or anyone else can do. She describes what she remembers from last night, which is more or less what we saw; she says Lundy had a look in his eyes “like he was apologizing.” She felt helpless, and still does — she can’t even walk to the bathroom. Dex offers to help her. As he leads her across the room, Deb looks tiny and fragile. As he waits, he reflects that although he doesn’t know why Deb’s life was spared, he does know he won’t be returning the favor. Just then Anton walks in, and I guess Dexter’s lack of real human emotions explains why he doesn’t know an empty bed is not the best thing for panicky Anton to see. Anton: “Oh, God, Deb, is she…” Dex: “Peeing.” Anton sighs with relief — peeing is much better than dead — and enters the bathroom, which weirds Dex out. He goes out into the hall.

Rita arrives just as Dexter exits the hospital room. She’s relieved to hear that things are okay, and would have been here sooner if she hadn’t been so busy talking to Dexter’s landlord. Dex is totally blindsided, and has a very guilty expression. To Rita’s inquiring look, he claims it was all about the security deposit, but that doesn’t explain why he told her he’d gotten rid of the apartment. Rita suggests they discuss this at a better time and place. “Family comes first.”

Anton has got Deb back in bed and is hovering over her, worried and grateful, but Deb won’t have it. She confesses everything, and even though he was suspicious, Anton is still shocked by her infidelity. Amazingly, he’s willing to see her through this, but she tells him to go, that he deserves better. Anton ignores Dex and Rita as he hurries out the door.

At the station, Angel brings a cup of coffee to LaGuerta, who just got off the phone with Lundy’s daughter. Did we know he had a daughter? Are we all wondering how old she is? Deputy Chief Matthews is loitering outside LaGuerta’s office, talking on his cell phone, and Angel complains that he’s not helping anything by hanging around. Of course, he might be there because LaGuerta made the official disclosure yesterday; when Angel hears she told the brass about the relationship behind his back and against his wishes, he is very pissed. LaGuerta protests that she made a judgment call. Angel retorts, “The problem, Maria, is that you made it for the both of us.” He stalks out, and Matthews walks in.

The team meets to discuss the shooting. Quinn repeats what he told Dexter in the parking lot. Vince says he’s waiting on some lab results. According to Quinn, there are APBs out on both Rose and Wald, and security has been heightened at airports and high-profile hotels. Vince muses, “If my face was all over the media for shooting a cop and a fed, I’d be digging a hole all the way to fucking China.” Quinn and Angel smirk. “No one fucking go there.” Isn’t he Japanese? Anyway, way to be inclusive, Miami PD. Angel thinks the suspects will be watching the papers to stay one step ahead of the cops, and reveals that he’s the source of the Johnny Rose syphilis story. Nikki isn’t listed by the county as one of his sexual partners. Devious Angel. I like it.

Dexter’s taking in the view from his apartment balcony and thinking that family really does come first. “Is this a new page of the code? Revenge?” Inside, the floor is covered with towels and mops and rubber gloves. His sanctuary is desecrated. Without it, he doubts he’ll be able to hide his Dark Passenger, to keep the mask in place. His phone rings — it’s Deb, calling to say she’ll be out of the hospital tomorrow, and that she wouldn’t mind a ride and a place to stay. Dex says it’s no problem; he’ll take care of everything.

He stays in the apartment to listen to Lundy’s tapes. None of it is new information to Dexter, but he listens to them anyway, looking for a clue. Lundy knew he was closer to Trinity than he had ever been, and Harry reflects that he was closer than he thought. Dexter says Lundy just couldn’t see how the pieces fit together, what they form: a sacred ritual. As Harry notes, Dex is something of an expert in that area. What Lundy didn’t know, they agree, is how far Trinity would go to keep his ritual intact. Harry says forcefully that if anyone has ever deserved to be on Dexter’s table, it’s this guy. Dexter doesn’t argue.

Well, speak of the devil: here’s Arthur at a hardware store, picking out a hammer. To the salesman, he says it’s for a project he’s taking on. He says it might be more than he can handle, but he needs to finish it alone, to finish what he started. What does he mean, “finish?” The salesman looks a little creeped out, but recommends the framing hammer. Arthur thanks him for his help.

Nikki Wald, walking down the street in denim cutoffs and a pink hoodie, catches sight of herself on the cover of the Miami Tribune, under the headline, “VACATION MURDERER LISTED IN STD DATABASE: Police add Nikki Wald and Johnny Rose to list of prime suspects.” Horrified, she covers her face and runs down the street.

Dexter sits in his car outside Trinity’s next kill site listening to one of Lundy’s tapes. He’s describing the building, and Trinity, who is “the perfect predator.” Trinity’s victim of thirty years ago, a bartender and father of two, was found bludgeoned in a tavern that used to be on this site. So, if he remains true to his ritual, this is where he will strike again. But Harry reminds Dex that he doesn’t know who he’s looking for. Dex is sure Lundy would have made a physical description of Trinity if he’d had the chance, but has listened to all the tapes and hasn’t found a thing. Harry reminds him that there might still have been one on Lundy’s tape recorder. It wasn’t in the hotel; must be in evidence. He has until tomorrow to find it.

A screaming Christine is receiving cunnilingus from Quinn. She’s logging almost as much time naked as clothed on this series. Anyway, she’s on the brink … and then she’s over it. Apparently they have not made a date for this cunnilingus; the cunnilingus has been somewhat unexpected. Quinn suggests that it’s a thank-you for running the syphilis story, wisely not using the word syphilis in bed. Christine is a little giddy, but gets a hold of herself and asks what happened to the “too complicated” bit. Quinn responds that he likes complicated. Yeah. We know.

Next morning, Deb is kicking Astor out of her room. Astor, in turn, will be kicking Cody out of his room. Deb apologizes to them both, and notes the stiffness with which Rita accepts a goodbye kiss from Dexter. She wastes no time in asking if everything’s okay. Rita says they just need to have a talk, but it isn’t about Deb — she’s family and it’s no problem that she’s staying here. As soon as Rita is out of the room, Deb, moving with difficulty, grabs her pain pills and throws them in the trash.

As the kids file out the door, Dex thanks Rita for letting Deb stay here. Rita: “Well, it was either here, or at your apartment.” Oh, snap. Actually, I really thought that was where she was going to stay when she called Dexter. But Dex can’t talk about that now, so Rita faux-politely asks when might be a good time to discuss it. For once, her aggrievedness is totally justified. Dex lays a little guilt trip on her, saying that right now he needs to focus on finding who did this to Deb. It works.

In the kitchen at the station, we find that Angel did not sleep at LaGuerta’s last night. He coolly tells her he thought he’d get more rest in his own bed, which is probably true. She takes this opportunity to apologize, awkwardly. Her hair looks fantastic; she should never straighten it. She explains that she’s a bit of a control freak, and Angel begins enumerating all the clichéd ways in which that is true. She says she told the boss about them because she wanted to get rid of at least one threat to their relationship. Angel: “The only thing that could ruin what we have is that we’re not honest with each other.” They promise not to have any more secrets, and then he steals half of her freshly-toasted bagel. You know, Angel’s cute and everything, but I would not let that go.

Dexter’s gotten into the evidence room on the pretense that Deb has lost a ring, a precious family heirloom. It hasn’t been logged in the inventory, but Dex plays it like he’s just being an indulgent brother. He then purposely breaks the glove he’s putting on, and asks the officer for another pair, effectively getting him out of the room. He quickly locates Lundy’s tape recorder in the pocket of his khakis, takes the tape that’s in it, and replaces it with another. But if Trinity was the shooter, why wouldn’t he have taken that? He knew Lundy had a tape recorder. The officer comes back with a pair of gloves and Dex pretends like he’s just received a text from Deb saying she’s found the ring. The officer chuckles. Women!

At the office building where Arthur hopes to commit a bludgeoning, the security guard is giving him a tour. He’s happy to be doing rounds with another person — he’s been doing them alone since the other guard was let go. They bitch about the economy. Arthur is posing as a recently laid-off man going into business for himself. The security guard is glad to hear it; he wants more tenants so the building can hire another night guard and he can see his kids once in awhile. He has kids? Red flag! They turn a corner and come across a little café. The friendly man at the counter pours the guard some coffee and offers Arthur a cup, but Arthur refuses, saying “caffeine makes me a different person.” Well, that explains the scene at the diner yesterday.

Continuing down the hall, Arthur learns that the guard makes his rounds every two hours, and that each round takes about forty-five minutes, “give or take a smoke break.” Arthur allows that “we all have our vices.” Indeed. He gets into the elevator, and as soon as the doors close, his jovial expression turns empty and blank.

Chez Morgan, Deb’s sitting on the couch staring dispassionately down at a crying Harrison. She calls for Rita. She runs over, cooing, “Someone’s wet!” Deb: “Good. I thought it was me.” As Rita changes his diaper, she asks Deb if she knew that Dexter had kept his apartment. It’s news to Deb. She says it must be a Morgan family curse to make the worst choice possible, but at least Dexter doesn’t get folks killed. Well, no, he doesn’t get them killed … Rita’s seen Deb’s pain pills in the trash and guesses that Deb is punishing herself. She tells Deb it’s not her fault; “Sometimes bad things just happen.” Deb does not like that explanation.

Dexter is in the lab listening to Lundy’s last tape. We learn that he never found Trinity’s signature at any of the kill sites; we know it’s that little bit of ash. Finally Dex comes to the part of the tape he’s been looking for - Arthur bumps into Lundy, and Lundy records what he’s seen. Just then Dexter’s distracted by a commotion in the office outside. There’s been a shooting at a motel, and the body’s a match for Johnny Rose. Dex can’t go because he’s Deb’s next of kin, and I guess this constitutes a conflict of interest.

Sure enough, Johnny Rose is at the Colony Hotel, lying dead in a pool of his own blood. “Karma,” says Vince. “What a fucking concept.” He’s been shot three times. News comes over Angel’s radio that Nikki Wald has been cornered in an alleyway by the liquor store. The cops file out, leaving Vince with the corpse. When Angel, LaGuerta and Quinn arrive at the scene, a beat cop tells them that Wald is agitated, and that every time they get near her, the gun goes up. She’s been blocked in with cop cars on both sides. Agitated is right; she’s pacing, mumbling and screaming, and gesturing at the ground with her gun as though talking to Johnny, telling him he ruined everything. LaGuerta ascertains that she’s wasted. Genius! LaGuerta and Angel try to reason with her, but this sets her off again, screaming about a boat and Bermuda and how Johnny ruined it all. Quinn sneaks up behind her with a Taser gun. He shocks her, and she falls.

Back at the station, he calls Deb with the news. Lying on Astor’s pretty pink bed, she agrees it gives her peace of mind — I guess she never suspected Trinity. Quinn’s got to take Nikki to booking. Deb hangs up the phone and looks pensively out the window.

Angel and LaGuerta are discussing the waste of all those lives just for a boat in Bermuda, when Deputy Chief Matthews interrupts them and orders LaGuerta into her office for a chat. He starts by congratulating her, but she gives Angel all the credit. Matthews cuts to the chase. He can’t risk LaGuerta and Angel’s relationship becoming a “courtroom sideshow” every time they work a case together. He’s transferring Angel out of Homicide. NO! LaGuerta is pissed, and stammers that they followed protocol, that he made this bust. Matthews says Angel will receive a promotion, but he’s got to move. Angel comes in to see what happened, and can tell from her face it’s not good.

Dexter’s driving around, gloating that in a few hours Trinity will be on his table, “a riddle wrapped in plastic.” The phone rings. It’s Deb, and she needs to see him; he makes excuses, but when he hears she’s standing where Lundy was shot, he shuts up and drives over.

Why does Deb look so fragile, standing in that empty parking lot? Is it that we’re unaccustomed to seeing her out of her kickass work clothes, her heels and shirts and pinstriped pants? She’s standing there in sweats and sneakers looking like a little girl. There’s no blood. “It’s like it never happened.” She’s pissed at Dex about the apartment; he has it all, and he’s ruining it. She says she’s the fuck-up, not him, and that he has the choice to be a good husband and father, but Dex says he feels trapped. By what, Deb says? Yesterday she had it all and now she has nothing, and it’s her own fault. “It doesn’t matter what I do or what I choose, I’m what’s wrong,” she says, her voice wavering. “There’s nothing I can do about it. If I’m not hurting myself, I’m hurting everyone around me and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m broken. I…” It’s truly heartbreaking. “No you’re not,” Dex says, “I am.” He walks toward her, wanting to take her home, but she won’t let him near her. She’s sobbing and not making sense. Finally he gets close, and she lets him take her in his arms.

He knows Deb doesn’t deserve this kind of pain, and goes to the apartment to prepare for hunting Trinity tonight. But Rita’s there with the baby; the manager let her in. He didn’t know they were married, and Rita’s got her doubts. She had hoped to make sense of it all by coming here. She’s been thinking Dexter has relapsed to his Lila days of affairs and “drug use.” She went through everything in the apartment looking for something that would be terrible enough to justify his secret, except for one thing: she couldn’t open the trunk in his bedroom. Yes, that trunk. She resents even having to consider breaking the lock. “Do you really want to know what’s inside?” he asks. She does. He sighs, bends, and opens the trunk … and reveals an old rifle that belonged to Harry (all that other stuff is in a secret compartment below). He says he didn’t feel comfortable having it in the house with the kids. But Rita’s not appeased. “The most disturbing thing about your lying,” she says, “is that I’m beginning to see how good you really are at it.” She suggests he sleep in the apartment tonight, which will actually work quite well for the murderin’, and says they’re really going to have to work on their marriage.

The office building by night. The security guard swings by the café for a little more free coffee, exchanging some banal chit-chat with the counter guy. The perspective switches to the guard’s reflection in the rounded security mirror, and as he walks away we can see Arthur walk out of an office and toward the café carrying a black duffel bag. The guard, unfortunately, doesn’t notice a thing.

As Dexter pulls up to the building he reflects upon the poetry of this particular murder. Then he sees that the security guard isn’t at his desk.

Cut to a shot of the bloody framing hammer and Arthur holding it, dressed in a blue rubber suit. We hear the sound of whimpering.

As Dexter rushes into the building, he realizes that he’s been so focused on Trinity he hasn’t even considered the victim. Behind the security desk is a picture of the guard with his two kids — the victim thirty years ago had two kids.

There’s Arthur again, breathing heavily, and the sound of terrified sobs.

Just as Dex is about to get into the elevator, it pings; Dex hides; and the guard walks out. He’s not the victim, the café guy is. And we see café guy on the floor, crying in pain as Arthur strikes him again with the hammer. To distract the guard, Dex hits a button in the elevator and sends it toward the twelfth floor. As soon as he’s gone, Dex runs. At the café, Arthur lowers a visor over his face as the café guy pleads with him: “I’m a father.” Arthur leans in and says, “You were no father,” and then, lifting him to his feet, bludgeons him repeatedly in the head, looking pained as he does so. Shots of Arthur hitting the guy and repeating “You made me…” are interspersed with shots of Dexter breaking into the surveillance room and finding that the recording disk is gone. Harry is with him all the way. Dexter frantically scrolls through all the screens until he sees Arthur beating the man to death. “Oh, my god,” he thinks. “You made me do this,” Arthur cries in anguish. His visor is spattered with blood. He takes it off, turns, and Dexter gets a clear view of his face — the monster’s face. He then moves the man’s arms so they’re both spread out at his sides. Dex pushes a few buttons — Trinity’s on the fourth floor.

He races up the stairs, but when he gets to the fourth floor the door is locked. Back in the lobby, he sees that the elevators aren’t moving. Trinity must be using the stairs — but which flight? He runs outside and wonders which exit Trinity will take; just then a garage door opens and Arthur pulls out in a gray van. Dexter is quick to get into the car and follow him. He’s not going to lose him this time. Harry is in the passenger seat, likening Trinity to a rat scurrying back to his hole. But Trinity isn’t going in the direction Dexter expected — he’s leaving the downtown area and heading out to the suburbs. On a leafy residential street, he pulls into the drive of a brightly lit, welcoming house. Dexter is confused: “He doesn’t belong here. It doesn’t make sense.” Arthur gets out of the car. Dex gets out of his. He’s approaching with the syringe when … Arthur’s wife greets him at the door, saying she’s missed him. He walks into the living room and greets his kids — one girl, one boy. Lundy was wrong. The monster Dex has been looking for is a husband and father, just like him.

All right. I think I’m going to go on a bit longer than usual here, so those of you who are fatigued from all this reading might want to take a break, get a juice or a cookie, do some stretches … or else just make a snide comment about how you shouldn’t be expected to read for 20 minutes in a row. Those of you with more stamina, read on.

First off, anyone who ever said Jennifer Carpenter can’t act can submit their retractions below. I always said she played Deb to a T, but hysterics are somehow better proof of acting skills for some people, so there you go. Are you happy? Second, how bummed out are you that Angel is leaving Homicide?

More importantly, what do we think about the identity of the shooter? Has anyone changed their mind? Me, I feel confident in my original assertion that it wasn’t Trinity, and I feel particularly justified by the fact that Lundy’s tape recorder was still in his pocket. Trinity hasn’t remained free for thirty years by being careless with the details. Why would he go to all the trouble of stealing cash, credit cards and wallet to fake a robbery, and then forget the tape recorder? I agree with Dex that it’s odd that the shooter let Deb live while taking such care to finish Lundy off. But saying that it wasn’t the Vacation Murderer isn’t the same as saying it was Trinity. Maybe it was a random crime, or maybe Nikki started helping Johnny out; we just don’t know.

As for Trinity, I’ve come up with a wild hypothesis. Remember how puzzling it was that Trinity made himself so visible to Lundy, colliding with him and dropping his keys seemingly on purpose, giving Lundy several chances to observe his face and behavior? Compare that with his expression watching the news report of Lundy’s death, and his expression while bludgeoning the man in the café. Doesn’t Trinity seem… well, a little sad? Is it possible he’s tired of the double life? Is it possible that he wants to get caught, to put an end to it all? Either that or he’s going to put an end to it himself, and that’s why he returned to Miami. Maybe that’s why he’s sad.

My final speculation is to do with the title of the episode. Of course, Dirty Harry is the movie in which Clint Eastwood plays a cop who uses whatever means necessary to catch a criminal. Harry himself might have been such a cop while he was alive, and remains one in Dexter’s mind. Dexter also uses unorthodox means to catch his prey, but he isn’t a cop. I guess everyone on the force breaks the rules from time to time, but I don’t think the title is a reference to the movie. I think it’s just a reference to how, in this episode especially, it becomes clear that Dirty Harry let his children down. Harry was dirty because he ignored Deb while training Dexter, making her the self-loathing wreck she is now. Harry was dirty because he insisted Dex would be better off alone, when Trinity’s wife and children have clearly been good for him. Harry was dirty because he slept with an informant, Dexter’s mother. Harry was dirty because he lied to Dex about his real father and brother. Harry was dirty because …

Outside Providence Review | Pajiba After Dark 10/29/09

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.