Is it just me, or is this season going by really fast? I suppose that's a good thing. Lately I get the feeling that Dexter could handle a 22 episode season with little to no problem. Though the finite number of episodes in a 13 episode season probably helps the sporadic writing team stay a bit more focused. That being said, "That Night, a Forrest Grew" was something of a maddening affair. It was probably one of the most uneven exercises of the season, writing wise. Dexter is usually pretty good or pretty bad. With this, the seventh episode of the second season, things were just massively disparate.
We were dealt moments of shining clarity, and the obligatory misstep (or two) that...seems to happen in every epsiode. Here, though, they seemed a bit more prevalent. It's nothing major--which is what is so annoying. The main arc of the epsiode was executed fairly well. It was the peripheral storylines; the ones the show has been trying to get a handle on that really had me scratching my head. Surprisingly, one of the elements I minded the least: Sgt. Doakes.
I've spoken extensively on my dislike for the character of Doakes. However, "That Night, a Forrest Grew" ups the rivalry of Doakes and Dexter to irreperable heights. And, really, that's what I've wanted all along, because it means that he'll be DEAD soon. Well, I don't need his blood, necessarily. However, the closer he and Dex come to a final confrontation, the closer we are to ridding the show of the character...one way or another. That's where the final part of the phrase comes in.
Dexter finally fighting back Doakes in his own methodical and evil genius way was great to watch. Similarly, his decision to toy with the detectives hunting the Bay Harbor Butcher, by sending the local paper a "manifesto" filled with moronic red herrings and easily defined psychosis was viciuously droll. Both of these decisions being a direct result from his relationship with Lila. Lila has been providing him a sort of pro-active clarity these days, though, by episode's end, the mystique seems to be wearing off. We learn this when Dexter gets a call from Cody (Rita's son) and his previous felings start bubbling to the surface. Dexter used to lead a simplistic life. Sure, it involved a lot of murder (he hasn't felt the need to "use" in some time, btw) but living the simple life with Rita and her two children had him grounded in a reality that he could handle. What we are slowly learning is that while Dexter likes the idea of not being ruled by some misguied ethos, he does seem to need some form of structure. While freeing at first, he needs a blending of the two (the free spirit and the grounded) in order to remain centralized. The last shot of the episode, when he seems to realize that it was Lila who may have set her own apartment on fire is a really well-done foreshadow of things to come. It was also kind of ominous and creepy. Which is always aces!
Everything with Dexter was perfectly fine. That's usually the case. Debra's stroyline, and her proposed love affair with Lundy, however, is way forced and ultimately rings hollow and...annoying. This week they were given more than ample screentime to make this nonsense work, and they failed. The two have absolutely no on-screen chemistry. Carradine is not to blame for this. He is a good-to-great actor with an okay character (if not a tad too dry at times). However, I have yet to see Carpenter have real, passable chemistry with anyone, really. It's a shame, because she is a perfect fit for the role, but is constantly given arcs that inadvertantly put the focus on her shortcomings as an actress. They finally kissed, and I think I am supposed to care, but I was mostly creeped out (in a BAD way) and uncomfortable. I think Lundy deserves someone smarter?
Also, Rita has been having to deal with her judgmental tyrant of a mother coming back into her life since ousting Dexter. She is a miserable, one dimensional character and this is a really lame way to try and provide Rita with growth and strength as a female character by telling off the ass. That's really all I have to say about that.
In retrospect, I suppose this wasn't that uneven of an affair--but the two components that didn't work for me...didn't work AT ALL. They presented a serious weight on the episode. Otherwise, things are really moving along nicely into the final third of the season here. Dexter seems to be approaching a crossroads in every aspect of his life, and the end result really isn't all too clear. At this point, I think that is pretty high praise for a show with such a simplistic premise. Thumbs up from me.