Dexter, Season 7, Episode 8: “Argentina”
Written by Arika Lissane Mittman
Directed by Romeo Tirone
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on Showtime
Last night’s Dexter could just as easily be called ‘There’s No Place Like Home’, such was the focus on daunting realizations and lack of closure brought up by its train of thought. By taking a quiet moment to reflect on the darkening storm engulfing the main players, it becomes increasingly clear just how far from sweet comfort they truly are, and how much has changed for the worse and nightmarish.
Torn between loyalty and his own budding feelings, Dexter rejects Debra’s order to kill Hannah McKay under the pretence that he is looking to avoid his sister’s collusion in dark deeds, a course of action which sadly doesn’t change the fact that Isaak still wants him dead. The powerful mobster’s increasingly reckless pursuit of vengeance costs him his bulletproof status within the Koshka brotherhood but doesn’t halt his mission as he shakes off his tail long enough to take a crack at Dex’s life. To add fuel to the fire, a family emergency means a prolonged visit from Astor, Cody and Harrison, a nostalgic trip only increasing the degree of danger.
Meanwhile Quinn’s dance of death with George Novikov speeds up when barefaced deception turns to flat out blackmail, with the nightclub owner ensuring the detective’s participation in overseeing a drug deal ensured by a recording of his duplicitous conversations. Batista, unknowingly with the help of his partner’s drug money, finally gets his restaurant off the ground and speeding up his route to a new life, and LaGuerta’s new line of enquiry leads her ominously and fatefully to the Slice of Life.
Thanks primarily to Astor and Cody’s return to screen, their first appearance since the Season Five finale, there’s a distinctly old school feel to ‘Argentina’, something laid out flatly by an end of episode montage which is straight out of the show’s canonical archive. But the beauty in the episode comes by contrast; whereas there was always an immoral tint to seeing shots of Dex and Rita playing with the kids at the end of episodes during the early seasons, now the sheer level of despairing chaos falling upon the main characters makes for a sad tone, particularly in light of the revelations that come to light.
From a narrative point of view, the true motives fuelling the actions of both Isaak and Debra are finally brought out in to the open in grand style, with the latter’s confession further fracturing her messy relationship with Dexter, and the former’s giving his blood debt a tragic edge. Having previously served as little more than a glorified sidekick, George Novikov’s double dealings and scheming has seen the season’s big bad shorn of his privileges and one of the show’s main protagonists put in to an utterly untenable position. This has undoubtedly put him high up on the list of important players as the march to Seven’s endgame intensifies.
Dexter’s relationship with Hannah unofficially develops from recurring encounters to a fully fledged romance, right down to talk of sharing private lives and full exposure to those who would most scrutinize it. As Dex remarks at one stage even when he has his whole family under one roof in moderate safety, he would much rather be in the arms of his murderous lover. Considering the likely destination that this arc will take, it’s a bold move to return said family to the fore, and the writing team should be given credit for rescinding the plot exile served by the children long enough to provide more conflict for Dex. Having them hidden away represents plotting convenience, bringing them back is a sign that the scribes are no longer afraid to meddle with the show’s format for storytelling purposes
The same praise applies to Debra admitting to her ‘in love’ status, a complicated character development which has been left unspoken since the end of the previous season. While there it was a squicky suggestion that was used as a method to get Deb into the church, here its deployment when the Dexter-Debra relationship seemed to be healing further pushes the notion that as a trusted brother/sister team the bond will not survive.
For the second episode running, the taut plotting and chain of events is matched by excellent dialogue and superb handling of the inner monologue, and Arika Lissane Mittman deserves huge credit for an expertly balanced and thematically bold and daring script which buzzes with life and shows a pledge of loyalty to the show’s history. Standout scenes include an awkwardly staged crime scene at Isaak’s apartment, and the Ukrainian killer’s later exchange at a bar with Dexter. While it’s egregious that Isaak’s pursuit of vengeance has seen more quiet conversations with his enemy than actual attempts at action, when the caliber of said moments is this high one simply cannot complain.
And, finally, LaGuerta’s understated hunt for the Bay Harbor Butcher bears poisonous fruit as she uses old leads to fuel her new enquiries. Her method in finally getting Dexter in her sights as a possible killer is both a satisfying nod to Season Two’s arc and also a logically sound method of getting her into the action after more than half a season being frustrated by small segments of possible danger. What she does with this new information, and how the writer’s handle the level of seriousness in her finds, is absolutely key. In short, what happens next is vital to the show.
It all makes for a brave and thematically pleasing episode, one that in terms of balance and objective quality may well be the most consistent of an already brilliant season. The ‘Argentina’ of the title serves as a recurring motif, represented by Hannah’s once dream of finding home, and by episode’s end it is very clear that Dexter and co. are, more than ever, further from home or safety than possibly imaginable. Dark days grow darker.