Dexter, Episode (2) Review: Once Upon a Time ... (Season: 6)

Season (6) Episode (2) Review by Time Spiral: Once upon a time ...
Season (6) Episode (2) Review by Time Spiral: Once upon a time ...

By: Time Spiral
October 10th, 2011, Tampa - **SPOILERS**

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Previously, on Dexter: The opening scene for the Dexter Season (6) Premiere Episode: Those Kinds of Things set us up with a nice tease. We learned that certain relationships have been rebooted (*cough* Batista and LeGuerta *cough*), and that other potentially life-altering revelations have been forgotten for no good reason (*cough* Quinn knows Dexter is a killer *cough*). But, with all that behind us, they moved right in to a few token kills and Colin Hanks' new character, and a dark passenger of his own, and introduced us to the beginning of what is bound to be a holy-Hell / Jesus-freaking / God-fearing season of religious serial killing!

Once upon a time, on a foundation made of ...

Season (6) of Dexter is set about one year removed from the death of his wife and the departure of Lumen. Now Dexter is in a more fundamentally sound place in his life. The relationship with his son is strong and dear to him. Episode (2): Once Upon a Time is rich with character development, foreshadowing, and is bound to continue to blur the lines between the various story arcs and how they relate to Dexter's quest for a deeper meaning.

Dexter's narrative in the opening scene (always eerily similar, whether he is talking about various methods of killing, or the deep love he has for his child), continues to pour the foundation for this season that he is in a more grounded place and is not looking to his future as much as he is looking to his son's, his legacy. We learn he now places paramount significance on the nightly rituals with his son, as we watch him play with toys in an innocent bubble bath, and you really feel that Dexter's character has changed in a monumental way.

That's always been a challenge for this show: How do you realistically grow and evolve Dexter's character? In the last season it felt like Lumen may be helping achieve that goal, but with her departure I think some fans were undeniably left with a feeling that Dexter just reverted back to the same old vigilante serial killer (which we all love, of course).

This season is going to be different.

Dexter's struggles with his Dark Passenger are leading him on a journey, but not so much for himself as for his son. What will his legacy be?
Dexter's struggles with his Dark Passenger are leading him on a journey, but not so much for himself as for his son. What will his legacy be?

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Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Joey Quinn, err ... the new Lt. Deb Morgan, err ... What?!

Jennifer Carpenter (playing Debra Morgan) is given the opportunity to show off some of her acting chops. We love Deb!

In this character-centric episode of Dexter we experience two life altering decisions thrown at Deb nearly simultaneously. I imagine some of you are dubious about the Quinn and Deb relationship. Well, apparently so is Deb. Their relationship is hostile, sarcastic, highly circumstantial, built on a foundation of mistrust and lies, and yet at the same time seems so perfect for the both of them.

Last week Quinn's obvious marriage proposal plot was foiled by a disgruntled restaurant worker who decided to inadvertently propel Deb into a e-lebrity stardom by suiting up in body armor, shooting up his old workplace, and getting tackled by an instinctive Deb. We're pleased to learn this event is further explored and is actually used to fuel the fire between the Deputy Chief and LaGuerta which of course spills down on and all over Batista. Poor guy ...

Deb is offered the job of being the new Lieutenant and the new Mrs. Quinn. She is flooded with emotions and can hardly handle the decision making process.

Are they fueling the fire for a future Dexter vs. Quinn standoff?

Quinn's erratic personality is showcased when he approaches Dexter, humble, and asking for assistance with Deb. Any information will help him. The recurring narrative, creepily orated by Hall, suggests Quinn will get what he wants over Dexter's dead body. After Deb's heartwarming beerfest on Dexter's couch, we see a very different encounter with Dexter and Quinn. Now Quinn suspects Dexter has something to do with Deb's decision. You can see it. They've hinted at it. I think Quinn's going to resume his investigation into Dexter (just a hunch).

Dexter even thinks to himself, if Deb takes this job she will be running the department that will one day be hunting me down. Is this foreshadowing the discovery of a murdered Quinn? That would be a bold direction. Maybe too bold? You tell me.

She deserves it ... or is this part of the Deputy Chief's nefarious plan to burn LaGuerta for trying to set him up? Will this ultimately lead to a Deb vs Dexter over a dead Quinn? Who knows ...
She deserves it ... or is this part of the Deputy Chief's nefarious plan to burn LaGuerta for trying to set him up? Will this ultimately lead to a Deb vs Dexter over a dead Quinn? Who knows ...

Samuel Wright - The shepherd, the Wolf, or both?

Samuel Wright (played by Mos Def, most well known for his supporting role in 16 Blocks, the Italian Job, and lately his rapper chops in the group Black Star) is introduced as a possible new mark for Dexter. The first scene we see him in, brought in on a connection with the murdered fruit stand vendor, he's being escorted through the police station. Dexter cannot believe he has turned into a man of God and needs to find out whether his table has a new occupant.

But Dexter's journey into discovering the true nature of now-Brother Wright is not as straight forward as he hoped.

Brother Wright is running an autobody shop and employing some rather shady characters. Dexter has to check this out for himself. Dinging his own ride gives Dexter the perfect chance to speak with this man face to face. In a penetrating deluge of self-indictment Wright admits the darkness in his soul readily to Dexter. Dexter probes Wright about his belief structure and finds himself confused. Is Wright the real deal? Are his beliefs dissolving his darkness? Can man really change? Dexter is dubious.

Dexter's confusion changes when he witnesses Wright willing to die at the end of a ganster's barrel to protect one of his sheep; like a true shepherd would. Dexter involves himself and helps to defend Wright. This strengthens the character's bond and marks Julio, the gun-toting gangster, as Dexter's token kill for this episode.

We can already see what is happening here. Wright is representing the power of faith's ability to be harnessed for good, and change, while our new nemesis duo is representing a much darker and insidious side of faith. Both story arcs represent a part of Dexter that he will have to experience, and move through, to figure out what he wants to leave his son as a legacy.

Can men really change, or will Wright end up jading Dexter's outlook even more?

Wolf in sheep's clothing, or Dexter's beacon to faith?
Wolf in sheep's clothing, or Dexter's beacon to faith?

Travis can't be so bad now, can he?

We learn Colin Hanks' character's name. It is Travis. His partner is still somewhat of a mystery. In my review of the season premiere I mentioned how Travis and his partner looked like a reflection of Dexter and his dark passenger, but now I'm seeing Travis's "dark passenger" in a new light. He's more of a "dark shepherd."

Travis and his dark shepherd are plotting their next move and we learn that Travis is the submissive one in the relationship. The dark shepherd is clearly in control. Travis displays a side of him we may not have expected: He's a loving brother to his Sister. Like most crimes of religious fanaticism - they think they are doing the right thing. They think they are doing God's word. That's what is so scary about this character.

The relationship with Travis and his dark shepherd is strained in this episode. Travis, submitting to his sister's plea for some quality time, betrays his partner and pays the price. The Dark Shepherdliterally brands himself, like he would some livestock, with a red-hot bar forcing Travis onto his knees proclaiming he is "his" to do his bidding, and his only. His dedication is set in stone as he swears off his sister for good.

Instead of killing their next mark, they abduct him and bring him back to the dilapidated church, which appears to be their staging ground. Their plan is evolving.

I am worthy! We learn that Travis is submissive to his Dark Shepherd and their plans are advancing.
I am worthy! We learn that Travis is submissive to his Dark Shepherd and their plans are advancing.

The Julio kill scene

Dexter marks Julio, the gangster who confronted Wright in his autobody garage, as his next target. With his right hand he's bouncing a ball for his son, while his left hand is doing something more sinister. He is rifling through a portfolio of Julio's crimes - justifying his need to satiate his dark passenger.

The kill scene was short, and sweet, and fit nicely into the overall story arc. It helped Dexter solidify his relationship with Wright, and allowed for a more detailed look into how he proceeds with his habits around his son.

Once Upon a Time comes full circle

The ending scene of Dexter's season (6) Episode (2) was nothing short of brilliant. The meaning of the title comes full circle. Once upon a Time, a phrase known to all of us, doesn't have such a clear meaning here. Is it simply because his son asks him to tell tales? Or do we learn something deeper about Dexter's character? Does the simple phrase, coupled as the episode title, mean we're supposed to look at Travis and the Dark Shepherd's relationship even deeper? What does it mean for Dexter's relationship with Wright?

The story of episode (2) comes around when Dexter's son asks him to tell a tale of monsters. Instead, he chooses a story of the Wolf, and we hear Dexter's inner dialogue interlaced with scenes of him and his little boy, and Travis submitting to his Dark Shepherd. Hearing Dexter tell the tale to his son, and reflect on the inside, while watching Travis and his Dark Shepherd exchange stares, is just fantastic storytelling!

Is Samuel Wright truly a changed man? Can that story be true? Or is he a Wolf in Sheep's clothing?

What we ultimately learn, in Hall's best monologue of the season so far, is that the only way for this tale to end happily ever after is for it to begin once upon a time, continue as a fairy tale, and remain always as a fairy tale, because the truth is not the legacy he wants to pass to his son.

Looking forward, and closing thoughts for the rest of the season ...

  1. Is Quinn going to cut Deb a little slack, or will her promotion send him over the edge?
  2. Does Wright corral Dexter into a world of faith, or is he a wolf in sheep's clothing?
  3. Will Travis ultimately be forced to turn on his Dark Shepherd?
  4. Does Quinn lose it and put Dexter in his crosshairs once again?
  5. When does Dexter get a bead on Travis and how does he keep Deb off the trail now that she's the boss?
  6. Is this the season where Deb will actually have to hunt down Dexter?
  7. See you next week!

Be peaceful on your way,

Time_Spiraling

Next Week, on Dexter - We learn more about Travis and his Dark Shepherd's plans, and this poor guy they abducted in is big, scary, hellishly religious trouble.
Next Week, on Dexter - We learn more about Travis and his Dark Shepherd's plans, and this poor guy they abducted in is big, scary, hellishly religious trouble.

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2 comments

James 5 years ago

I have met several real-life Brother Sams- it's no secret that people often reform in prison via Christianity, and often become fine citizens. But the Travis/professor characters seem a bit cartoonish. They don't really have a real life equivalent. There are no evangelical, Bible-quoting Christian serial killers like this. If a professor studied the Bible extensively, he'd want to help people, not commit weird ritual murders based vaguely on scripture passages.

I think after Trinity, the show writers are feeling the need to top themselves in the "creepy killer" department. But they're really going to need a compelling reason for the villains to act so unrealistic.


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Time Spiral 5 years ago from Florida Author

Good thoughts @James,

I'm giving the writers a chance to really bring these characters to life (Travis and the professor). Obviously the Trinity arc was amazing. Everyone loved it, and rightfully so.

I don't think we've seen enough of this duo to really gauge where the writers are going with it. What I'm getting from it so far is more of a reflection for Dexter and his Dark Passenger. Both arcs, Wright and Travis/Professor, are directly related to Dexter's inner struggles. I think it can be a really interesting dynamic.

You gonna stick around to see how this season pans out?

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