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Dexter, “Circle Us” (5.07)

“She’s starting to sound like me.” – Dexter Morgan

Dexter isn’t one of my typical focuses for The Signal, but after spending the weekend catching up on season five, I’ve definitely become interested in sounding off. A review of the episode written by Scott Buck and directed by John Dahl, as well as the season so far, after the jump…

Dexter has been, for a long time, a show of ups and downs. This started in season two, when a strong season drew to a close with Jaime Murray‘s Lila becoming an over-the-top villain who frustrated more fans than she pleased. Season three was also up-and-down, starting promisingly with a pair of intriguing villains, only for it all to come undone in a trio of awkward endings, none of which paid tribute to the excellence before. Season four, though I have yet to go back and watch the back half, is remarked as the best season in years.

Seeing the fantastic quality in season five, I would have to say I’m unsurprised.

First off, this is the best balancing of supporting cast stories I’ve seen on the show. Angel and LaGuerta are oddly compelling as a married couple where both characters once felt like absolute filler, while the show is finally pulling the trigger on the addition of Quinn to the cast by having his antagonism with Dexter come to a head – just as he finally consummates his long flirtation with Deb. The cast are doing great work, particularly Desmond Harrington as the embattled Quinn, who somehow manages to be a complete douchebag and retain his likability.

And the new supporting cast are also fantastic. Maria Doyle Kennedy‘s Sonia is a breath of fresh air, a delightfully normal and admirable woman who grounds Dexter’s life as much as Rita ever did, and I can’t help but hope she remains a part of Harrison’s life and doesn’t become another Lila. And the ever-turning wheel of villains allows the show to do some fun things with recurring villains without either taking one Big Bad too over-the-top or sacrificing a big seasonal arc, and every piece of this puzzle (barring the bland dentist of “Everything is Illumenated”, 5.06) has been oddly compelling. Shawn Hatosy‘s Boyd may have been my favourite short-term baddie in Dexter history, while Jonny Lee Miller and Chris Vance make excellent debuts here as fellow villains. And we can’t forget Peter Weller‘s antagonist ticking away in the semi-background, yet to make his final marks on the season.

This season’s key figure (the Brian/Lila/Prado/Trinity of season five) is Lumen, a victimised young woman Dexter saves from Boyd, and Julia Stiles is fantastic in the role. Essentially, Stiles is one of those actors where, though being a fan, I’ve never seen beyond Julia Stiles. Here, she’s Lumen first, Stiles second, a welcome change that allows a known actress to nonetheless bury herself in a meaty role. Lumen’s story of struggle to recovery, and then her inability to live a normal life after and her need for revenge, are very engaging, as is her complicated relationship with Dexter. I have to say I’m happy they never even offered the idea of sexual tension between she and Dexter – not only do they not mesh, but she’s recovering from a series of rapes and he just lost his wife. This seems obvious, but lesser shows would definitely test the waters; here, it’s purely a professional relationship, which makes this episode’s final moment heartwarming instead of groanworthy.

And the show hasn’t forgotten that its key relationship is, in fact, Dex and Deb. After Rita’s death, the focus returns to their sibling relationship, which allows for Jennifer Carpenter to do some of her best work as Dexter’s harried but amazing sister.

This was less a review of the (very strong) “Circle Us” than the season so far, but this episode is an extension of those strengths. The ending, where Dexter allows Sonia to influence Harrison, and allowing Lumen to meet him, feels very earned. Meanwhile, the show gives us a moment where Dexter’s plan works, while he forgets something key: by implicating Boyd in the murders, he sends a message that Chase and Cole pick up on. Things are coming to a head, and as there’s five episodes left for it all to play out, I’m honestly quite excited.

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  1. […] I reviewed another episode in Dexter season five, “Circle Us” (5.10) in greater depth here. […]



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