Sunday, October 29, 2006

When the Predator Becomes the Prey
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"Let's Give the Boy a Hand," the fourth installment of Dexter, steers the series more deeply into the darker recesses of Dexter's psyche. With this episode, it's obvious that what came before was merely expository.
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It's a few days before Halloween in Miami, and the Ice Truck Killer has struck again-- but with a twist. This time, he's only left a severed human hand propped on a beach blanket by the seashore, prompting Dexter to remark, "interesting hand job." Angel, the detective on this case, thinks it's a funny line, but the irony is lost on Dexter. He's more perplexed by the difference in modus operandi-- this is a male hand, not the usual hooker victim. And while the amputation was surgical, there was no attempt to drain the blood from this hand. Oh, and one other thing, the Killer left a polaroid with this one.
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It's becoming increasingly clear that the Ice Truck Killer has some sort of personal score to settle with Dexter-- not only does the polaroid trigger childhood memories in Dexter, it makes him realize that the Ice Truck Killer knows entirely too much about him. For the first time, Dexter's cool facade is in danger of crumbling. More importantly, he's exploring his dark motivations more closely.
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That doesn't mean he's going to share his doubts with anybody. Instead, his ongoing inner dialogue focuses on the joys of Halloween, the one time of the year when everbody puts on masks. It makes him feel more at home in his own skin, since he's in disguise 24/7. His inner ruminations reflect that. "It would be so much easier for Rita if... but that would be wrong," he muses after an encounter with a rude neighbor who refuses to quiet her dog.
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Meanwhile, fingerprints from the severed hand show it belonged to Tony Tucci, the watchman who LaGuerta was convinced was the Ice Truck Killer. She's discredited and humiliated, of course, but has a chance to redeem herself when more body parts (accompanied by polaroids that reflect Dexter's childhood) turn up. The stakes are raised even higher when Dexter realizes that Tucci is being dismembered alive. LaGuerta, ignoring Deb's research on the matter, appoints a task force to find Tucci, headed up by Doakes.
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Doakes has a lot on his plate at this point, since his one-man vendetta against crime boss Cuerrto has taken a decidedly southern route. With his fellow cops looking the other way, he's abducted by Cuerrto's thugs, and taken to the man himself. But at the precise second Cuerrto is about to rid himself of Doakes once and for all, his fellow cops come rushing to the rescue. As cliche as that resolution was, I have a feeling that the subplot is far from finished.
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While this episode may signal a darker direction for Dexter, it's not all doom and gloom. Rita is becoming more self-assured, or so it seems. It could be that her victim personna was a charade all along. At any rate, she takes a decidedly bold, and completely uncharacteristic, step in moving her romance with Dexter beyond the platonic. Dressed as Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, for Halloween ("You raid tombs dressed like that?" Dexter asks), she unabashedly gives Dexter an oral treat. Not surprisingly, Dexter discovers he enjoys this new sensation.
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The episode climaxes (no pun intended) in an abandoned hospital basement, when Dexter, following the clues that only he would understand, finds Tucci alive. He's not in good shape, but he's alive. Blindfolded, missing limbs, and strapped to a surgical table, he begs to be put out of his misery. The Ice Truck Killer even left Dexter the tools to finish him. That's not Dexter's way, though--it goes against Harry's Code.
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With "Let's Give the Boy a Hand," Dexter is a third of the way through its initial twelve episode run. The mystery and the adjutant subplots just get more tantalizing as it progresses. We're finding that Dexter doesn't know himself nearly as much as he thinks he does--or, at the very least, he's in denial. Something about the unseen Ice Truck Killer holds the key to the puzzle. It has to be more than a professional rivalry. . . doesn't it? At this point, nobody is beyond suspicion--including Dexter himself.

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