***WARNING: SPOILERS CONTAINED THROUGHOUT***
Dexter is still reeling from the death of Rita at the end of the last season. He was so shaken that he nearly left everything behind to flee the country at the end of the last episode. However he did return, re-dedicated to doing what is best for what is left of his family. The first thing that Dexter must face is the FBI interrogation that he skipped out on last episode. This actually turned out to be a bit of a tease, as the FBI knows conclusively that Dexter couldn’t have killed his wife. So it really was just the formality that they told him it was. And this is certainly a good thing since Debra’s partner Quinn continues to nose around Dexter. If the FBI had been on Dexter’s case at the same time it would have been redundant.
Dexter’s first mission is to find a place for him and the kids to live. Having made the decision to not return to the house where Rita was murdered, Dexter and all three kids are forced to crash at Debra’s apartment (formerly Dexter’s.) This living situation does little to alleviate the tension that is brewing in the broken home. While young Cody seems to be coping as well as can be expected this is most definitely not the case with teenage Astor. She had started to become a surly teen the previous season and now she has the perfect target for all her anger: Dexter. By the end of the episode it’s clear that Astor’s anger towards her would-be father figure isn’t so much that she blames him for Rita’s death, it’s wonderfully more complicated than that. Astor blames Dexter for coming into their lives and making them believe that everything could be OK. With all of that hope yanked out from under her Astor has come to the conclusion that she would rather Dexter had never come into their lives to offer that fleeting hope in the first place. At the end of the episode Astor puts her foot down and says she doesn’t want to live with Dexter and would rather be with her grandparents. Not wanting to break the two of them up Dexter sends Cody off along with her, even though the younger boy doesn’t want to go. This leaves Dexter with only his infant son Harrison, the rest of the family he had build now either dead or sent away.
While Dexter is taking time off from work (much to the chagrin of his blood-work hating colleague Masuka) the detectives at Miami Metro homicide come across a particularly brutal killing. A woman’s head is found in a park with her tongue cut out and her eyes removed. The first instinct is to label it as a drug related killing. However an officer who works the local beat (played by series newcomer April Lee Hernandez) suggests that it may be linked to a rumored cult. Quinn is quick to dismiss the notion, however Debra seems to feel that there might be something to the idea. When the husband of the victim is found dead by what appears to be a suicide the mystery deepens.
While removing his belongings from the house he shared with Rita, Dexter spots a drop of blood in the moving van. This seemingly innocuous piece of evidence soon leads Dexter to his next potential victim: a department of health worker named Boyd (Shawn Hatosy ) specializing in dead animal removal. The urge to take up the hunt once more is one that Dexter at first resists. However he soon rationalizes the choice to look into Boyd further, even as his visions of Harry seem to question his reasoning. Dexter concludes that killing keeps him sharp and focused, so the better killer he is the better father he will be. Boyd is a somewhat run of the mill catch for Dexter, which is probably exactly what he needs right now.
There’s a bit of relationship material in this episode. First there’s the legitimate question of what exactly is going on with Debra and Quinn following their frenzied bit of sexual fun last episode. Quinn seems eager to move things along, or at least re-live the moment. Debra on the other hand prefers to pretend that it didn’t even occur, quite literally in fact as she tells Quinn flat out that “it never happened.” While the pairing of the two in a way that goes beyond working partners still seems out of place it’s being handled well. It’s frankly a bit of relief that the show didn’t quickly launch the two into anything serious. By contrast the relationship between Laguerta and Batista continues to be the weakest link of the show. The pair are still trying to get things to work completely following hasty marriage the previous season. Not only is the relationship between the two not particularly interesting, it’s quickly becoming the defining feature of both characters. Every scene that either of them were in either dealt directly with their relationship or at least touched on it. Both are becoming less enjoyable to watch as it’s only a matter of time before one or the other complains about their relationship.
Despite the pointlessness of the Laguerta/Batista relationship and the questionable wisdom of what’s being done with Debra and Quinn this is still a strong episode. It’s comforting to see Dexter start to get back to what he does best, especially since it’s become clear by this point that Rita’s death him harder than he probably ever thought was possible. Much of the groundwork for the season is being laid in this episode. Boyd was confirmed to fit the code but Dexter hadn’t yet made his move against him by the end of the episode, though that will likely get resolved in the next one. The decapitation killing is probably going to lead to a season long killer that the Miami Metro (if not Dexter himself) will be tracking. The decision to remove Astor and Cody, at least for the time being, was probably for the best. It’s important that Dexter try to find his stability again and that would have been next to impossible if he had to juggle three kids (it’ll be hard enough with just the baby.) While there are a few clear paths for the show to take at this point exactly where Dexter himself is headed is still very just up in the air. That sense of possibility for the main character is part of what makes this show impossible to not watch every week.