Stars: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Lauren Velez, Desmond Harrington, C.S. Lee, David Zayas, James Remar, Aimee Garcia, Edward James Olmos, Colin Hanks, Molly Parker, Brea Grant, Geoff Pierson, Mos Def
Writer: Tim Schlattmann
Director: SJ Clarkson
Network: Showtime, Sundays @ 9 PM
Release Date: October 9, 2011
No DEXTER episode is ever less than good, and “Once Upon a Time …” has plenty to recommend it: big changes for Dexter’s (Michael C. Hall) sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), Dexter’s relationship with (and concerns about) his two-year-old son Harrison and a very solid guest performance by Mos Def as an ex-con who may or may not have truly changed his ways. However, as we see the bizarre religious serial killings continue by Professor James Gellar (Edward James Olmos) and his disciple Travis Marshall (Colin Hanks), some concerns arise about the arc of the season. We can be pretty sure Dexter is not going to undergo a religious conversion while the show is on the air, so how exactly is all of this going to impact him?
Deb’s world is rocked by two developments. Partner and boyfriend Joey Quinn (Desmond Harrington) shocks her by proposing marriage, and Deputy Police Chief Matthews (Geoff Pierson) shocks Deb even more by offering her the Metro Homicide lieutenant position, vacated by LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) when she was bumped up to captain. This is partly the result of Deb’s thwarting of a nightclub shooting becoming a YouTube sensation (captured on somebody’s cell phone) and partly the result of Matthews wanting to stick it to LaGuerta by foiling her plan to give the promotion to her ex, Deb’s friend Batista (David Zayas). Deb confers with Batista, who tells Deb he supports her. He is angry with LaGuerta, asking his former wife why he gets punished every time she gets in trouble. Deb declines Quinn’s proposal, hurting him badly.
Meanwhile, Dexter has his suspicions about Brother Sam (Mos Def), a theoretically reformed ex-convict who got a mistrial after committing a cold-blooded murder (the judge died on the bench). To his astonishment, Dexter discovers Brother Sam is genuinely reformed and believes in helping his fellow ex-cons to turn their own lives around. Dexter therefore steps up to help Brother Sam when he is menaced by some gang members. Brother Sam in turn can’t help but notice Dexter fights better than the average lab geek. Dexter fulfills his own peculiar urges by taking out the gang leader, and then tells Harrisona bedtime story.
Dexter as a single parent of a toddler is a sight at once comical and poignant, and there is something very sad in Dexter’s realization that he can never show his true self to his little boy. Deb as lieutenant promises to be intriguing. Dexter’s reaction to discovering he’s misjudged Brother Sam is very funny and Mos Def is convincing as a man who battles his own darkness every day but has found an inner light.
Even so, “Once Upon a Time …” feels as though it’s wandering a bit. Dexter spends so much time lost in philosophical reverie here that we don’t see him tracking his eventual prey at all, we just see the victim once Dexter has him bound. We know how Dexter stalks his prey and that he’s usually successful, so it’s not as though the build-up is strictly required, but it is part of what makes the show what it is. Dispensing with it entirely doesn’t seem entirely right.
Further, although Metro Homicide is investigating their actions, Gellar and Marshall have yet to intersect directly with the main storyline, and their motives seem at once grandiose and psychotic. This may be an unfair complaint – after all, John Lithgow’s Trinity Killer started slowly and became perhaps the single best villain in DEXTER history so far. The killers may well come into their own, but so far, they are more odd than impactful.
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Article: TV Review – DEXTER – Season 6 – “Once Upon A Time …”