Generosity of Spirit!
By J.K. Barlow | TV | November 5, 2009 |
By J.K. Barlow | TV | November 5, 2009 |
In this week’s episode, “If I Had a Hammer,” Vince laughs like a doofus, Dex acts like an idiot, and Angel and LaGuerta are complete morons. Arthur Mitchell is just the nicest serial killer you’ll ever meet, except maybe for that choirmaster in the series premiere. And last but not least, the episode is completely, one hundred percent Harry-free. I needed a break, didn’t you?
In a typical, modern church, Arthur Mitchell is leading a rousing rendition of “Are You Washed in the Blood”. Um, yes. Dexter is among the parishioners, singing along. He’s been following Arthur all weekend; he’s up at six, breakfasts at seven, and is at work by eight-thirty on a Saturday, for a high school study session. Eats lunch at noon, leaves at three, dines at six. “Father, husband, teacher, deacon, all in the name of blending in. Camouflage is nature’s craftiest trick.” True enough.
Back at the house, Rita is totally freezing Dexter out. She seems to think the moving is taking longer than necessary. She also won’t let him eat the kids’ snacks; retaining his composure, Dex says he could go for a sandwich, but Rita informs him they’re out of bread. He suggests to Harrison that he should maybe keep the apartment, just in case. With the baby in one arm, he picks up a lamp with his free hand and blunders in front of the television screen. Astor and friends loudly voice their disapproval. He gets awkwardly out of their way, and happily finds some space on the kitchen counter for his lamp. As he opens the fridge Rita sneaks up behind him and says she made an appointment with a counselor. She says it’s an emergency. I KNEW it. I knew Rita was the couples-counseling type. Not me. I’m the let-it-fester type; it’s way healthier. “Whatever you need,” Dex says, but she reminds him that it’s not for her; it’s for them. She picks up the lamp and tells Dex it doesn’t belong there. Class, in this scene, “The Lamp” is a stand-in for “The Real Dexter.” Discuss.
Next morning, Deb wants a ride to the station to watch the continuing interrogation of Nikki Wald, which will be a healthy and constructive part of her recovery process. Dexter gets a call to come to the scene of last week’s bludgeoning, and when he tells Deb about it, she knows exactly where it happened: right where Lundy predicted it would. And they could have stopped him. Dexter does not like her getting so close to this case; perhaps to distract her, he agrees to drive her to the station.
Apparently coffee guy has been lying there for two days, because the building was closed all weekend. No one reported him missing? Didn’t he say he had kids? Quinn is bothered by the smell, but the forensics guys remain unfazed. According to Dexter, the cause of death was “blunt force trauma to the head”, to which Vince replies, “Duh.” The blood spatter indicates that the killer was tall, over six feet, but that’s all he knows — or so he says. Is he lying? I mean, he’s obviously lying about knowing more, but does the spatter reveal things he’s purposely hiding? He remembers that Arthur moved the victim’s arm after killing him, and following the line of the arm, sees the victim is pointing towards a smudge of ash on the wall. If Trinity’s signature was that obvious at any other kill site, I’m starting to think Lundy got a bit sloppy. Dex tries to collect the sample secretly, so no one else will notice it, but Vince sees him and demands the sample, calling him an “evidence hog”. They move back over to the body, where Vince notes that the grid pattern on the victim’s head was made by a framing hammer. Dex: “Duh.” Aloud, he says he’ll check it out in the lab, and then asks how Vince knows so much about hammers. “Not a tool I haven’t played with, my friend.” I bet C.S. Lee got this part based solely on that stupid laugh. He sounds like such a doofus.
Arthur is in the garage, with the door open, whistling “Are You Washed in the Blood” while he takes his hammer from a bucket of what I assume is water and bleach and cheerfully cleanses it. It’s an interesting choice of song. Could it be that his cycle of murders leaves him feeling cleansed, or redeemed?
At the station, Deb is watching a live feed of Nikki Wald’s interrogation. Nikki vehemently denies any involvement in Deb’s shooting and Lundy’s death. Quinn walks up just in time to hear Deb call her a “fucking junkie whore”; he suggests that watching the interrogation is only going to fuck Deb up. Deb retorts she’s already fucked up, which is hard to deny. He tells Deb she’ll have to be satisfied that Nikki is going away for a long time, because no one can connect her to the shooting, even though they’re all certain she’s guilty. But it doesn’t look like that will satisfy Deb.
Angel walks into LaGuerta’s office, pissed that he couldn’t get anything out of Nikki. He didn’t want to leave this case unsolved. He and LaGuerta agree there’s no need to tell anyone about his transfer yet. He spots a nice new folder on LaGuerta’s desk; it’s the bludgeoning case, but LaGuerta saw no point assigning him to the case or even telling him about it. He wants details, but she won’t give him any; she’s feeling guilty about the transfer. Angel won’t have it. He can see now that she did the right thing, and being transferred to fraud will be good for him. He lists the advantages - promotion, raise, increased life expectancy - but LaGuerta points out that he hates sitting behind a desk. Angel: “But I love being with you.” Aww!
At the therapist’s office, Rita is adding a soiled Kleenex to the pile on the table in front of her, and taking a fresh supply. Dexter clarifies to himself that it’s not the bodily fluids that bother him; it’s the emotion. Yes, Dexter. We know. He fails to grasp what it is that’s upsetting Rita, and really thinks this is just about the apartment. Rita is exasperated. She says he never listens and he lies all the time. She mentions Lila, and when the therapist asks who that is, they respond at the same time. Dex says, “My sponsor,” and Rita says “A homicidal bitch he slept with.” The therapist is diplomatic. She points out to Rita that she knew Dex was a good liar, even before they were married. Rita hoped he would change, but didn’t she hope the same thing about Paul? This is true, and Rita begrudgingly accepts a little responsibility. Dex, on the other hand, can hardly believe it’s not all his fault. Neither of them wants to keep making the same mistakes, but Dex believes they’ll work it out - they always do. But Rita wants total honesty, or Dex is out the door.
Luckily his next task is bludgeoning fake heads full of fake blood. He’s losing his family; he can’t picture his life without them, especially Harrison. LaGuerta and Quinn are watching from behind the Plexiglas, waiting for Dex to find the right hammer so they can trace it. Vince runs excitedly in and slams a paper against the glass. He’s found DNA. After he catches his breath, he reveals that the smudge on the wall was cremated human remains (this we know), plus a fragment of bone. What’s more, he’s found two strains: one from the bone, and one from saliva, which the killer used to stick the ash to the wall. Quinn fist-bumps him and LaGuerta tells him to run it through every database imaginable. But Dex knows Arthur´s DNA isn’t in any of their databases. He hides his real self; “he can only be honest with the dead.” Whack.
Deb is sitting at her desk, ignoring her ringing phone and reviewing the Vacation Murder files, when Angel comes over to demand them back. He tells her to go home. She’s on sick leave. Bereft of her files, Deb checks the message that has just been left; it’s from one of Harry’s CI’s, one Valerie Hodges. She sounds like she’s got something juicy to share, but just when she’s about to spill it, Angel barks at Deb to hang up the phone and go home. Deb obeys, but protests that the call was “way personal.” Angel says there’s no difference for Deb. Sadly true. She looks up, and LaGuerta is erasing names from a whiteboard; Lundy’s name remains under “Unsolved.”
At Dexter’s house, Rita is washing dishes. Two kids and a baby and they don’t have a dishwasher? Does the neighborhood committee know about this? Dexter starts drying, and tries to think of a conversation starter. Work? No. Trinity? No. Food? He’s about to tell her he’s hungry, but she finishes up and leaves the kitchen, telling Dexter they’re out of bread again. Oh well. It probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.
At church, Arthur and his family are listening intently to the sermon, displaying genuine affection for each other. Dexter, watching from a neighboring pew, can’t deny that it’s real. How does Arthur do it? Dex is willing to put off murdering him to find out — he’s just finished his cycle and is probably not an immediate threat. After the sermon, Arthur stands by the door, handing out fliers and chatting with the churchgoers. Dex introduces himself. We see their clasped hands from below, lit by a warm orange light. After a pause, Dex gives his name as Kyle Butler. Arthur is handing out fliers for an organization called “Four Walls, One Heart” that builds homes for the homeless, and Dex accepts one, saying he’s been looking for a way to get more involved. He tells Arthur that he’s at church because his wife kicked him out of the house and took the kids, and he didn’t know where else to go. You could almost mistake Arthur’s reaction for empathy; he assures “Kyle” that he’s come to the right place.
Christine Hill, Intrepid Girl Reporter, is at Quinn’s house checking her email. Quinn is dressed, but Christine has remained in bra, panties and unbuttoned shirt for maximum bargaining power. Her editor wants more on the vacation murders. While she’s not asking for the inside scoop, she would like Quinn to get her an interview with Deb. Quinn, to his credit, flat-out refuses, and not just for Deb’s sake - he still thinks Dex doesn’t like him. Christine mounts him, the better to get what she wants, but just then Quinn’s cell phone rings (of course). It’s Deb. She’s sitting on the curb outside his building.
When he goes down to investigate, Deb tells him she wants to be an eyewitness for the shooting. She says the reason she couldn’t remember before was because she was in shock, but she’s bullshitting. Quinn reminds her that lying about this could really fuck up her career. Apparently Harry used to say, “A good cop does whatever it takes to close a case” — typical — but Quinn urges her to think hard before she makes a decision. Christine has been watching the entire time.
Dex is in his lab, thinking that his colleagues will never find Trinity. He takes out the flier for Four Walls, One Heart, on which “rejuvenate” is misspelled — nice touch. Looks like he’s going to skip work and check Arthur out. On his way out of the office he hands LaGuerta the preliminary spatter report, saying he’s going to do some field research. It is way too easy for him to get out of work early. Just then Vince arrives and tells LaGuerta that he’s found no matches in the criminal database, but after a whole lot of self-congratulation reveals that the killer is related to the cremated person — something about mitochondrial DNA. The team’s reactions are pretty revealing. LaGuerta thinks he wants to get caught (screwing a subordinate). Vince thinks he’s sending a message (I’m lonely and insecure). Angel thinks he’s leaving a legacy (before he’s stuck behind a desk in Fraud). It suddenly occurs to Vince that Angel isn’t working on this case; Angel bluffs that he’s busy finishing a report.
Artie’s looking quite manly as he hammers a nail into the frame of a new house, using his murder weapon right out in the open. Dex would never do that, but surmises that Arthur’s confidence comes from his family, all of whom are there and happily helping out. When Arthur catches sight of “Kyle”, he greets him jovially, remembering his fake name. “I’m like an elephant. I never forget.” You’ve said a mouthful there, my man. “Kyle” says he’s lost all his tools in the move, so Arthur hands him The Hammer - second shot of their hands connecting, second prophetic meeting of the murderers — and tells him to take care of it. Dex notes the make and model of the hammer and gets busy nailing some beams into place. Spotting Arthur’s son, Jonah, by the water cooler, he saunters over to see if he can get some dirt. He can’t be thirsty; he’s only hammered like one thing. Jonah is a ridiculously pleasant and well-adjusted young man. Okay, and he’s also ripped. He apparently likes coming to the building sites, and he thinks his parents are awesome, and they never fight. How … enviable. Arthur apparently just gave his son his prize convertible. “Generosity of spirit,” says Dex. “Foundation of love, man. Best dad ever,” Jonah responds enthusiastically. “Father of the freakin’ year,” Dex thinks to himself. Just then Best Dad Ever looks their way a little quizzically. Jonah drops the paper cup and hurries off; daddy doesn’t like idle hands.
Deb’s found Nikki in her holding cell. Judging by her face, she’s looking for trouble. Nikki isn’t looking for anything; she’s sitting cross-legged on her cot with her head in her hands, rocking back and forth. Deb gets her attention by asking if she recognizes her, “the cop you shot.” Nikki is a woman at the end of her rope. She covers her face with her hands; “I told your boss everything.” Deb tells her to come closer and say it to her face. Nikki does so, and repeats that the night Deb was shot, she was in a hotel room with Johnny, taking meth, watching porn, fucking and watching cartoons. She will not change her story, even when Deb tells her it’s bullshit. “I didn’t shoot you; I didn’t kill that old man.” Deb loses control; reaching through the bars she grabs Nikki’s face and says she’s going to be an eyewitness and say it was her. Nikki cries that people get mugged every day, that cops piss people off for a living, but Deb has no mercy. She’s hurting Nikki, but it could never hurt more than watching the man she loves die right in front of her. Then she remembers Nikki knows what that’s like. She shot her own boyfriend. Deb pushes her away, calls her a piece of shit, and Nikki collapses, moaning about Johnny, how she knows she killed him and how she misses him. She points at Deb accusingly and says that if Deb testifies against her, then Deb is the liar. Deb suddenly sees another grieving woman. She leaves without another word.
In Deputy Chief Matthews’ office, LaGuerta tells him she wants to be transferred out of homicide - to PR, perhaps. Matthews acknowledges PR could use her political skills, but when she reveals she wants a transfer so that Angel can stay in Homicide, Matthews gets more cautious. He says she’s not easily replaced. She reminds him of Season Two’s demotion, and the woman who did, in fact, replace her. She stares at him. There’s a tense silence.
Dexter comes home with a bag from Best Buy. Rita hopes it’s the last of the apartment stuff, but no, it’s actually merchandise from Best Buy. He’s hoping to buy happiness with electronic treats for the kids, a cute onesie for the baby, and a bread maker for Rita. Oh, Dexter. You’re such an idiot. He says he got the bread maker because they’re always running out of bread, and Rita asks, “We’re always running out of milk. Did you get me a cow, too?” Zing! The kids are thrilled and oblivious. Rita is cold, and tells him they don’t need gifts — they need Dexter. She wants him to talk to her, but he’s flummoxed: “People just do this? Just say what they’re thinking?” He pauses too long and Rita exclaims, “How hard can it be?” She’s moving up their next therapy session.
LaGuerta is lighting some candles in her boudoir, clad in a satiny robe. What’s the special occasion, Angel asks? He hopes it’s that he gets to see her naked, although I’m thinking that with these two, that’s not really such a special thing. Actually, the surprise is that he gets to stay in Homicide. Maria reveals that only after putting on his hat. Seriously, any seduction between these two is just so icky, it’s almost incestuous. Anyway, Angel is amazed to hear that LaGuerta has saved his job, but when she won’t tell him how she did it, he get suspicious and guesses what happened. For some reason, he can’t let her leave Homicide. But she can’t let him leave Homicide! Whatever shall they do? Seriously, kids, what’s the problem here? This is a pretty good solution, right? But these two morons are completely baffled that they cannot have their cake and eat it too. It’s such a non-drama. Writers, do you know why I don’t watch “Grey’s Anatomy?” Because “Grey’s Anatomy” sucks. Can’t we just nip this in the bud?
In the lab, Dexter stares at Vince’s computer screen and Arthur Mitchell’s DNA profile. He wonders if Arthur has some kind of family-keeping gene that he’s missing. Vince pops up behind him with the news that the mitochondrial DNA indicates that the ashes came from a female. According to Vince, “It could even be his granny on that wall. Probably whacks off with her ashes.” Yes … probably. Thank you, Vince. Dexter ignores that — smart choice — and theorizes that Arthur’s history with this woman shapes who he is. Vince: “Like how my other breast-fed me till I was six and now no one will ever match up.”
Wisely ignoring this new revelation, Dex rushes up to LaGuerta, handing her a hammer identical to the one Arthur used in the bludgeoning. She’s distracted by her inner emotional turmoil, and it takes her a minute to remember what he’s talking about. He’s finished his work for the day and is hoping to go and take care of some personal stuff. LaGuerta is very supportive of this. “Take care of your personal stuff, Dexter. Take very good care.” By choice or otherwise, Dexter does not read anything into this.
Deb is at the station, because she doesn’t know how to take a holiday. She’s rolling her chair - because it’s hard to stand up? - from one loaded table to another. She appears to be keeping her energy up with Red Bull and Twinkies. She jokes to Quinn that she’s had the Twinkies since she was a rookie, then tells him she’s changed her mind about being an eyewitness. “Just ‘cause Nikki’s a piece of shit and my dad was a lying sack doesn’t mean I have to be.” … Well said? Apparently, and unluckily for Dex, Deb no longer believes that Nikki was the shooter. She’s been going through Lundy’s research and personal effects, and she knows some of it is missing. Books, tapes — she knows they were there, but Quinn isn’t buying it. Even after Lundy predicted that bludgeoning, he still believes Lundy was chasing a ghost. Deb is adamant, but Quinn just wants her to go home, relax — “And what? Paint my fucking nails?” Deb snaps. Well, sure! For starters. Doesn’t look like there’s much chance of it, though. Deb’s sick of being told to relax.
In Matthews’ office, Angel and LaGuerta are officially announcing the end of their relationship and looking ridiculous while doing so. Matthews is “a little sick of the back and forth.” You and me both, brother. He calls this out as the “middle-school bullshit” that it is, and doesn’t want to talk about it again. Luckily, both of them have signed affidavits to guarantee it’s all over. Matthews regards them with skepticism, and says, just to be clear, that if they’re bullshitting about this, there could be “severe, career-ending consequences.” Oh no! Do you think this will come back to bite either of them in the ass? Gee, I sure hope not. In the elevator back to Homicide, they are apparently both standing with their backs to the door, which is weird. As she leaves she whispers to Angel that it’s over. “Sorry,” he says. They face each other for an awkward moment in the hall before LaGuerta excuses herself, saying she should get back to work. Sad guitar music plays; the elevator door closes; and I throw things at the screen in disgust.
Dex is at his apartment, moving out the last of his stuff, his Dark Passengers. How can he hide them, and save his family? He knows that Trinity has the answer; but what is it? In a flash of inspiration he opens his laptop, which is conveniently switched on, and searches the newspaper archives for “survived by Arthur Mitchell, Florida, obituaries. 1949-1969.” Dude, where’s he getting the wireless? He retrieves exactly three records: one for Arthur’s sister Vera, who died in a bathtub when she was sixteen; one for his mother, Marsha, who jumped to her death off the Collins Canal bridge; and the last for his father, Henry, who was beaten to death in an alleyway. They died in 1959, 1961, and 1964, respectively. Overcome by this new information, Dex lies down on the bare wooden floor. “Sister, mother, father,” he whispers. Trinity is recreating their deaths in cycles of three. He remarks on the similarity of his own case: he watched his mother get cut up, and now he does the same to others. “We both have skeletons, which means we both get a closet to keep them in.” He takes the Four Walls, One Heart flier out of his back pocket. Where is Arthur’s closet?
The Four Walls, One Heart van pulls up to Arthur’s house and everybody scatters to get their own cars and go home. Arthur starts carrying his tools into the garage. Dexter, watching him, slips a box cutter out of his pocket and injures himself with a cut to the knuckle. He walks into the garage, and when Arthur sees him he’s shocked at the blood running down Dexter’s arm. Dex lies that he cut himself at the build and didn’t think it was serious. Arthur hangs The Hammer right there in the open and leads Dexter into the house.
They take their boots off before entering. Arthur goes to get the first aid kit, telling Dexter to make himself at home, which of course he will. Dexter wanders around, looking for clues. Then he spots them: six plaques, commemorating the work of Four Walls, One Heart. Their dates and locations correspond to the dates and locations in Lundy’s books; the charity is Arthur’s cover. Dex marvels that he’s “hiding in plain sight.” Then he spots the urn - the remains of Arthur’s sister Vera. The ashes are getting low. He hears Arthur returning with the First Aid kit and is about to replace the lid on the urn, but thinks better of it; he wants to see what Arthur will do when his weak spot is exposed. When Arthur bounds into the room, he sees Dex holding the urn, lidless, in both hands, and staring up at him challengingly. It’s odd behavior, no matter how you slice it. Arthur stops short. He looks vulnerable as he takes the urn and places it on the table, but his face changes as he turns to Dexter. It’s that blank, unreadable face we’ve seen before, shot in extreme close-up. Then he grimaces, charges forward and pins Dex to the wall, his forearm across Dexter’s neck. “Don’t … touch … my sister!” he gasps. Dexter plays the innocent and says he can’t breathe. Arthur’s face collapses — he realizes what he’s doing and releases Dex, shaken and apologetic. Dexter feigns shock and asks what that was all about. Arthur says that his sister died when he was young, and it was very painful for him — as if that explains it away — but Dex says he understands; he’s lost people too. They sit, and Arthur gets to bandaging the wound. “If the ashes bother you so much,” Dexter asks, “why do you keep them out?” Because his sister is a part of him, he says. Okay, but why he doesn’t put the ashes away? What if his family saw him so upset? It doesn’t matter, says Arthur; he can be himself at home. He used to push people away because of his past, and it even led to the loss of a relationship, but once he met his wife and had kids he realized it would only work if he “jumped in with both feet.” Dexter repeats the phrase, and asks if that’s what saved his family. “Kyle,” Arthur says, taking his hand, “My family saved me.”
On the way out, Arthur gives Dex a bag of tools, including The Hammer. “I thought you should have your own tools,” he says. “It’s the least I can do.” Dex thanks him, and they agree they’ll meet at the next build.
At the next therapy session, Dex says he wants to be part of his family, and uses the “jump in with both feet” line that worked so well for Arthur. Dex says his mother’s murder shaped who he is — which is one of the most insightful things I’ve ever heard him say out loud — but he wants to change. The murder is news to the therapist, but I forgot that Rita knew about it. Under questioning, Dexter admits that he’s afraid to let Rita get close to him, because he thinks she’ll abandon him if she finds out who he really is. Rita is shocked. “You think I would leave?” Dex: “Yes, absolutely.” Rita protests that she married him because she wants to know him better. The therapist takes this moment to ask Dexter why he really kept his apartment. It takes twelve full seconds for him to choke out, “Because … I need … space … to keep … my stuff?” Rita points out that they have a whole house for his stuff. The therapist interprets his remarks to mean he needs space for himself in the marriage. Okay, Dex says, but he really does need a place for his stuff. He’s so literal, and everyone keeps thinking he’s so deep. Rita says of course she’ll give him space. Dex is astounded. The therapist concludes, “See what happens when you’re honest? You get what you need.” This chick is good.
The camera approaches a door. A bathroom door, open a crack. The door creaks as Arthur pushes it a little further open. His wife is there, soaking in the tub, and says with a smile, “I know you’re here.” He smiles. “You always catch me,” he says. He joins her in the bath, and water splashes down to the cold bathroom tile, like it did in Lisa Bell’s house. He puts his arms around her neck, then reaches over and takes a hand mirror from the shelf, holding it to see his wife’s face. “Look how beautiful you are,” he says. “I’ll never get tired of hearing that,” she answers. She leans her head on his arm and closes her eyes, smiling. He pensively lowers the mirror into the water.
At Casa Morgan, Deb and Dex share a coffee in the kitchen. He tells her she looks better. She says she feels better, because she knows Nikki Wald didn’t kill Lundy. She reasons that only Trinity would shoot them and then steal Lundy’s research. She’s right when she fingers the newspaper article as something that would have brought Lundy to the killer’s attention, and even theorizes that Trinity saw Lundy outside the office building. “He killed Lundy, he shot me, he stole Lundy’s books to cover his ass.” Dex monologues, “Not exactly, but you were on a roll there for a while.” Deb is a new woman; she has a mission, and no one will stand in her way. On her way out, she tells Dex that she thinks she knows who Harry was fucking — Dex almost chokes on his coffee — but won’t tell him anything until she knows more.
In the backyard with the family, it turns out Dexter’s longed-for space is a pink-and-green shed in the backyard. He muses, “I was born of primordial ooze; I crawled out of my own mother’s blood; I hid among the humans, hoping not to be seen. But somewhere along the way I grew legs, stood upright.” Rita helps him move the trunk into his new space. Is it too stuffy, she asks? Nope. He’s got an air conditioner, with his slides safely tucked inside. Rita is happy. She trusts him so much she gives him a padlock and key for the front door. “We have three young children,” she says. “There’s dangerous stuff in there.” Dex can hardly believe his luck; for a split second, he looks right at the camera, and gives us a devilish grin.
Well, it looks like Arthur has been living in Miami all along, which is unexpected. And now we know more about his family. What’s the consensus on how they died? My own opinion is that his sister committed suicide due to abuse or neglect. His mother either killed herself out of grief or was forced to do so by her son, who felt she wasn’t grieving enough; and he definitely killed his father, who he seems to regard as the root of all evil.
Beyond that I have no comment. Who else is sick of LaGuerta and Angel, and hopes they’re done for good? How do we feel about Dexter’s family life? What’s up with Vince lately? What is Dex going to do about Deb? And when will Christine put some clothes on?
J. K. Barlow lives in Europe, which stresses her out. She doesn’t currently have a blog — or not one she wants you to see — but she can be reached at i.barlova at gmail dot com.