"Dexter" Season 4, Episode 9, “Hungry Man”: A Review

11/23/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Eva Medoff

Before Showtime’s “Dexter,” it was impossible to imagine how a serial killer could be charming, endearing and even, dare I say, loveable. Of course, it’s only possible because Dexter is a serial killer who solely kills other murderers. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s played by the boyishly handsome Michael C. Hall, whose deadpan expressions and comedic timing in his voiceovers all but make the show. Throw in the hot, dangerous city of Miami and a supporting cast that more than pulls their own weight, and you’ve got a veritable television anomaly on your hands. Which is why Season Four has been such an enormous disappointment.

Along with Dexter’s bachelor life, all the wit and surprise seems to have been sucked out of “Dexter.” Newly married, with two step-kids, a baby, and a mortgage, Dexter has largely been too exhausted to do any murderer-hunting, which, as stated before, is the premise of the show. Wife Rita (Julie Benz), who once appeared touchingly fragile, is now the definition of the nagging wife. Despite the fact that her career is now stay-at-home mom, she constantly badgers Dexter to pick up medicine, make dinner and take care of the kids--all while acting like some sort of self-righteous feminist. Never mind the fact that Dexter is a little tied up working as a blood spatter analyst at the Miami Metro Police Department.

Meanwhile, Sergeant Angel Batista (David Zayas) and Lieutenant Maria Laguerta (Lauren Velez) have been making eyes at each other all season. Their puppy love is downright embarrassing, especially considering that they were formerly excellent parts of the dramatic fabric of the show. Naturally, they can’t be together if they want to continue working in the same department.

On Episode 9, “Hungry Man,” their dalliance finally reaches some level of emotional resonance when they go to inform a man that they found his wife’s killer. Batista had promised to do just that 10 years before, and now comes to find that the man has been in a vegetative state for three years. Realizing that life is short, he admits his full feelings to Laguerta, who of course returns the favor. Now, we’re back to the problem that they had in the beginning: do they love each other more than they love their jobs?


Season Four’s saving grace, hands down, has been John Lithgow, who plays Arthur Miller, this season’s resident psychopath. Arthur is known as the “Trinity Killer” due to his tendency to kill in threes--a young girl in a bathtub, a housewife jumping to her death and a middle-aged father bludgeoned to pieces. Oh, he also leaves the ashes of his dead sister at every scene. (As you may have already guessed, Arthur is repeating what happened to his own family years ago.)

This pattern, according to Special Agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine), has been repeating all over the country for the past 30 years. You may remember that Dexter’s sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) and Lundy engaged in a May-December love affair a few seasons ago. Just as they’re rekindling their fling, Deb is shot and Lundy is murdered--presumably by Trinity, who feels Lundy is getting too close on his trail. But judging by Deb’s wounds and the fact that they know Trinity is over six feet tall, he couldn’t have been the perpetrator. (On a complete side note, I can’t help but focus on the fact that Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall are now married. Yes, Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer of “True Blood” are engaged, but at least they’re playing love interests, not brother and sister.)

In one of the few shocks of the season, we find out Arthur is actually a “loving” father of two who’s very active in the community, rather than the isolated loner we usually associate with killers. Dexter poses as a lost divorcee and begins to infiltrate Arthur’s life. (Of course Dexter figures out who Trinity is long before the police, as usual.) Arthur even admits the past about his family to Dexter, and not long after tries to commit suicide. (He had frightened his sister in the shower, who had slipped and sliced her artery, bleeding out in seconds. His mother then committed suicide, and his father blamed him for both deaths. We are to presume that Arthur eventually murdered his father.) However, Dexter saves him in order to off him in the more violent way Dexter believes he deserves.

On “Hungry Man,” it’s Thanksgiving and Dexter of course shows up at the Miller household. All is not what it seems with the happy family, however--Arthur abuses his son, locks his daughter in her bedroom and has the family in a constant state of fear. When this finally comes out at the Thanksgiving table, his son erupts and smashes Arthur’s sister’s urn. Big mistake. In the violence that ensues, Dexter is forced to intercede to protect the rest of the family, but is stopped just short of killing Arthur.

Back at the Morgan house, Rita is busy being romantically enticed by the neighbor; Deb is busy trying to crack the Trinity case; and Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee, the comic relief of the show), who came as Deb’s wing man, witnesses a kiss between Rita and the neighbor. Deb is still rattled by Lundy’s death, especially after her partner’s girlfriend, overbearing reporter Christine Hill (Courtney Ford, playing the most unethical journalist of all time) brought up some emotional details earlier that day. Being around all the kids with Rita makes Deb realize that Trinity’s murders only happen on school breaks, so he could be employed in the school system. Her next breakthrough is realizing that Christine knew a bit too much about Deb and Lundy’s shooting--details that were not released to the public. And her dumb partner, Quinn (Desmond Harrington), insists he didn’t share them with her. Hmm. Is it possible Ms. Desperate Reporter resorted to violence to make a headline, or is it something darker?

It’s something darker. The episode ends--Spoiler Alert!--on the second big shock of this season (this is a sad thing, there used to be a big shock every episode) when Arthur arrives at Christine’s door. His ominous expression, and the fact that he was reading her article about the Trinity killer earlier that day, leads us to believe he’s there to harm her. That’s all shattered when Christine says, “Hi, Dad.” Wow. “Hungry Man” was the best episode of this season by far. In the remaining episodes, we can only hope there’s less housewife angst, co-worker lust, and partner stupidity--and more homicidal urges and dark secrets.

After all, that’s what “Dexter” (the character and the show) does best.

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  1. Jason said...

    Fabulous review! I was a real fan up until this season. Eva, you got it right. Thanks for the review.


  2. Jing said...

    That summed up my feelings of the episode nicely. Dexter hasn't reached the peak of its brilliance from season 1, but at this point, it's about on par with season 2 in quality.