Dexter, Ep. 7.04, “Run”: Entertaining and eye opening

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Dexter, Season 7, Episode 4: “Run”
Written by Wendy West
Directed by John Dahl
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on Showtime

It’s all about the past in the latest installment of Dexter’s revival, and also a rather dark glimpse at how an uncertain future will be dictated by events past. Despite its teasing misnomer of a title, named for a small detail ultimately not relevant to the plot, “Run” takes the baton from last week’s excellent episode and continues an easy but busy pace brimming with standout moments.

Ever suffering Debra Morgan is thrown into yet another pool of despair after failing to save a woman from crazed murderer Ray Speltzer, but continues to resist Dexter’s alternative method of justice. That is, until a technicality sees Speltzer released despite his blatant guilt and morals are blurred as options run dry. During this conflict, Dexter is confronted with his past mistakes by Deb’s continued trudging down memory lane, namely his part in Rita’s death, a somber warning which pushes him into seeking new means of safety for son Harrison. Meanwhile, Isaac’s pursuit of Dexter is put on hold by Miami Metro’s continuing harassment at his nightclub and the ruthless gangster finds a horrifying solution to his quandary, while the deeply personal motivation behind his hunt for Victor’s killer is revealed.

Throw into this mix another coming together of Dexter and Hannah McKay, former serial killer sidekick and probable love interest, and some hints regarding Quinn’s less than commendable history of turning a blind eye, and you have an hour that isn’t short on material despite taking its time to reach conclusions. Like “Buck the System”, the episode stops for a beat to explore depths through conversation rather than flashy show and tell.

As noted previously, season seven has seen a sharp upturn in the quality of dialogue, particularly between the main characters, and this is prevalent once again, not only in the A Story to-and-fro between Dex and Deb, but notably with Quinn and Batista, who’s scenes are no longer plot-pushers and instead feel like genuine exchanges that stay true to character traits. Said talking is also layered, however, and the continued pushing of Batista’s age and general listlessness suggests the fan-favorite could soon be facing the deep end.

That’s not to say it’s a dull outing, as once again the set pieces are excellent and certain scenes spring into life with gusto. Speltzer’s interrogation is particularly memorable and a much needed reminder that the bulk of the cast are, after all, still cops, while a potentially gimmicky dream sequence is handled with canonical care and Dex’s first kill since the opener proves worthy of the wait. We also have revelations, subtle and unspoken, but fairly clear in meaning. One particular moment makes us reassess the character of our new Big Bad, while a perhaps awkwardly worded chunk of exposition also gives us more background for the villains of the piece.

This week’s best scene comes courtesy of Isaac’s handling of the police problem, which involves putting a man into Homicide’s crosshairs by astonishingly manipulative means. This turn of events, shocking and riveting, sounds ridiculous on paper but comes across as horribly possible in action and gives us yet another insight into just what the latest spanner in the works is capable of. Contrast this with his next appearance, lamenting his dead comrade with the kind of emotion which points a big finger at more than professional motivation. Ray Stevenson’s presence makes Isaac a joy to watch, while material of this quality means he is quickly becoming one of the most interesting antagonists currently on the small screen.

There are some bumps though. Harry has now been absent for consecutive episodes during a story arc which seems perfectly suited to his purpose, while Dexter’s inner monologue still seems to serve as an info dump for facts that could be easily construed by the viewer. The worst example comes with Hannah’s reappearance, which prompts a cringe-worthy recap on who the character is, despite the fact she was only introduced in the previous episode. The resolution of the Harrison situation, a young child clearly not suited to the season’s needs, means that for the third time a Morgan child has been unceremoniously put on a bus, excusable from an entertainment point of view but creatively disappointing.

This particular plot device does at least manage to give Dexter a little bit more depth as a character and it seems the writing team is no longer afraid to tamper with his character for the sake of good storytelling. Him sending away Harrison matches up to the loss he suffered at the death of his wife and certain moments throughout the episode show that Dex isn’t a righteous killing machine.

He’s overpowered by one target, pitting him into a lop-sided duel from which he has to flee, and at an earlier stage a heated exchange with Deb causes him to unwittingly display some perhaps megalomaniacal thought processes. A gleeful outburst in his improvised kill room is a memorable character moment more in keeping with the earlier seasons and his willingness to abandon his blood slides shows he’s at least thinking straight, and also that it’s not too late in the show’s run for some changes to routine.

This gives Michael C. Hall more to work with and it’s worth taking the time to really dish out some praise to he and Jennifer Carpenter, who have been superb in their interactions all season. They were never doubted as actors, but this season has really drawn the best from them. With two lesser thespians we would have become bored by now of the constant conversing, but with this pairing it makes for brilliant viewing.

It may not be on anyone’s list of top episodes, but “Run” serves its purpose well and pushes along a story which only teases out information while at the same time really delivering on character based heart. A continuation no doubt, but entertaining and eye opening in its own right.

Scott Patterson

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