Dexter, Ep. 7.07: “Chemistry” a superbly written amoral joy

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Dexter, Season 7, Episode 7: “Chemistry”
Written by Tim Schlattman
Directed by Holly Dale
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on Showtime

There was a moment during last night’s episode of Dexter in which this reviewer blinked in surprise, suddenly aware of something very significant occurring which had been too familiar to consciously recognize as it started. Then he grinned, both in childlike delight and semi-professional satisfaction. The aptly named “Chemistry” was doing something exclusively and consistently that had been missing for over a year’s worth of television viewing. The inner monologue was back, and it spoke of a pattern.

Taking a seemingly limited theme and running it to its absolute driest, the episode pays attention to Dex’s interesting take on personal dynamics, the inscrutable and dangerous cause and effect of feelings for one another. As he tries to break off his brief, ill-advised union with Hannah, Dex finds that every time he says goodbye he is drawn back to her against his own iron will. Raw lustful emotion turns to necessity, however, when crime writer Sal Price discovers their fling and puts the squeeze on the murderous duo, intending to expose Hannah’s true nature and ruin Dexter’s career in the process. Beneath a veneer of stupefied horror, Dex hatches a scheme to get the scribe off his and Hannah’s back. Of course, he isn’t the only one plotting such a caper, and unfortunately for them both Debra has already gotten herself in on the matter.

Elsewhere, Isaak is released thanks to the corrupt efforts of Quinn, who is duly bitten for his troubles when it becomes clear that paymaster George has no intention of honoring their agreement, ensuring the dirty cop’s continued cooperation. Tailed 24 hours a day at the insistence of an indignant Deb, Isaak is forced to put his revenge on the backburner until the heat cools down, but wastes no time in visiting his nemesis and making his intentions clear. Batista’s efforts to get his restaurant off the ground are aided by an unlikely, morally duplicitous source, while LaGuerta’s investigation runs dry, sending her back to square one and a very different angle to approach the case from.

There’s most certainly a feeling of the early seasons about “Chemistry”, mainly due to the previously mentioned return of fluidly written and classically torn thoughts from the titular character, who unintentionally sabotages his own attempt at damage limitations because of the surfacing feelings he has towards Hannah. This is a woman who portends nothing positive towards Dex, something he is all too aware of, and his despairing confusion at being drawn to her is made very clear very eloquently. He knows he’s screwing up every time he thinks of her out of turn, but cannot help himself. This is Dexter the animal, not Dexter the drone.

Around the same time, the same things are happening to Debra and Quinn. While Deb’s huge stake in this season means her growing connection with Sal Price gets much more time to shine, it is Quinn’s equally dangerous liaison with Nadia that proves far more critical. Were it not for the former narcotics cop’s own raging testosterone and unstoppable affection, Isaak Sirko would still be behind bars. It’s of little surprise that none of these important bonds benefit the holders by show’s end, with all three left either with nothing or facing a deepening quagmire.

Beyond the currently running romances is that same logic-defying strand of human feeling dictating irrational behavior. When Maria LaGuerta gets nowhere with the Barrel Girls case and seems destined to stow her reinvestigation into the BHB, she continues to spend her free time pouring over case notes and old logs due entirely to her near obsessive desire to redeem and clear James Doakes. Isaak could save himself a world of trouble by not looking a gift horse in the mouth and simply return to the comparitive safety of Kiev, but instead stays put to avenge Viktor. Even from beyond the grave, emotional connection is directing the characters down potentially lethal avenues. This pattern isn’t the subject of sledgehammer shadowing by the excellently incisive and subtle direction of Holly Dale, it simply leaves a notable impression and allows for the audience to draw the lines.

Those lines are well penned by scripter Tim Schlattman, who produces a superbly written installment of great balance and earns many brownie points by displaying a gift for Dexter’s narration, which here is both practical and pleasing on the ear. It’s about time it delivered more than quick info-dumps and endless, pointless prattling.

When it isn’t wrapped around a motif, the episode also delivers some nice scenes and memorable moments while it continues to move the plot closer to the precipice which will be the season finale. Isaak broods and snipes here, back on the streets but hamstrung by police surveillance, keeping down his screen time and essentially keeping him on hold for his next crucial mark. This may dampen his menace, but the conversation between he and Dex at a restaurant is memorable and means the build up continues.

On a less teasing note, the fate befallen by Sal Price is a genuine surprise due to how soon it came about, and the manner in which it occurs. This is a character of significance to the story who appears with a distinct voice, makes his mark and is then abruptly taken out in troublesome manner. This isn’t short term trouble solving, it’s long term impact; Debra was starting to form a bond with the writer, and as often happens her once would be love is killed. Now she’s on Hannah’s case, which doesn’t bode well for Dexter. Conflict, conflict, conflict, exactly the way it should be.

The stunning final moment of the episode not only serves as an epic set up for next week’s ‘Argentina’, it also continues the black and black morality that season seven has been pushing forward since it started. For the poor souls inhabiting the world of Miami serial killers and Russian crime syndicates, the good times are pretty much permanently gone. For us on the outside, looking in and observing the biology and chemistry of the players, it’s an amoral joy.

Scott Patterson

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