Psycho, Dexter

Sunday’s episode of Dexter was a lot of things, but above all it was very, very good.  As I have said, this season of Dexter is, in my opinion, the strongest since the second.  I want to clear that up before saying anything else because the tone of the rest of this may seem distinctly negative.

Warning Spoilers Ahead!

Dexter had a very different feel in its most recent episode, especially the scenes involving Travis and Dexter.  I was wondering why this was happening, why the episode was a tale of two stories that is, until the big reveal at the episode’s end.

As Travis slowly crept across his hotel room, or Dexter lurked in the dark corners of the church there was a nagging feeling of déjà vu.  It seemed that the episode was channeling its inner Hitchcock.

Of course, this is an easy assumption to make given the Psychoesque way the episode ended.  Still though, there was something about the way that the camera refused to pan closer or further from Colin Hanks and Michael C. Hall that was unnerving even before the big reveal took place.

This job was done quite expertly.  What’s really weird though is that Dexter stole the cinematic style from Psycho, before ripping off that movie’s main plot device.  A move that is either brilliant or pathetic.  I choose to go with brilliant though.

The episode’s homage to the suspense genre, which went so far as to incorporate a 50’s style suspense-noir score during its final moments, was not exactly thinly veiled, but it did accomplish it’s task.  It allowed the story to progress, in exactly the way the writers wanted, without having people call foul on the Psycho (or Fight Club) thievery.

It really is a brilliant thing to be able to do something un-original and get away with it in today’s world filled with cynical viewers, but I think the obviousness of the, let’s say, homage, is what makes the episode immune to that type of scrutiny.

I just have one question about this episode though.

Is it trying to take the place of another niche favourite?  One that has been temporarily put on hold to make room for a series adaptation of John Grisham’s The Firm, a reboot of The Munsters, and an as yet untitled Hannibal Lector series?

The charming little show that I am obviously making reference to is of course TV guide’s new cover-gracers, NBC’s Community.

I say this as a joke, but really, really think about it.  If Dan Harmon and his writers team were given a crack at producing just one episode of Dexter, don’t you kind of think it would have ended up like this?

Sure, there’s more to Community than overly obvious movie themed references, and there was more to this episode of Dexter than just a Psycho parody.  But, the end of this episode would have perhaps been the most meta thing to exist outside of a Charlie Kauffman picture had Community not made that particular act their bread and butter, and that, cannot be ignored.

As far as the other story lines f the episode go, everything was fairly status quo.  The department’s newest edition (Billy Brown) was under used.  There is a weak, and overly ominous story line involving the department’s new intern, which needs to proceed or die.  Quinn is Quinn.  And Jennifer Carpenter gives a performance that she hasn’t been able to unleash on us since mid-season four.

If the series is to progress much further it will have to do so on the shoulders of this story line, and the acting of Jennifer Carpenter.  The show realized that a kill of the week and some possible light at the end of Dexter’s tunnel, which just turns out to be a carrot tied to a stick on his forehead, will not be enough to keep the audience’s full attention.  It hasn’t since the second season and the show has tried to fill that void with celebrity guest stars instead of developing a new plot.

To really draw the audience in, the show cannot ask for outside help. It has star power.  All of the current leads are more than capable of emotional captivation they simply require the space to do it.

The Present of Canadian Film

Jay Baruchel and Sarah Polley to the rescue! I felt the same about Canadian films as most, but then something happened.  A few years go, Canada stopped making pure art house pictures and started making movies. no disrespect to either of these categories, but until the mid 2000’s Canadian films were a genre by their own right. They were raw, depressing, and usually overly sexual.

I’m not sure what is responsible for the change, but the Canadian film landscape is by no means as one-dimensional as it once was. We still are able to create those wonderful art house pictures, but now we can make “The Trotzky” and “One Week,” films that are enjoyable, and light.

We may have taken a long time to evolve as a country, but that evolution is now in full swing. The Canadian film landscape is nearly as diverse as any country’s. with the exception of a big budget special effects vehicle, anything the States can do, Canada can match. In fact, what is so special about modern Canadian film is that they can tell the stories that Canadians were previously unable to witness.

We are a different people than our neighbours to the south. Our sense of humour is different, we put the letter “U” in weird places, and we have a natural way of blending comedy and drama that is not often seen south of the Border (the most notable exception to this may be Juno, and that had Maple Leaves plastered all over it). It is because of this that, if Canadians would be more open, they would find that our industry is producing quality films. Films that could not be produced by any other country in the world.

Goon and Bon Cop Bad Cop for instance are films that feel like they were tailor made to be ingrained in the Canadian toque. Then there’s films that are not so obviously made for Canadians, such as Daydream Nation or the Tracy Fragments.

This is the great thing about Canada though, we mix well.

We can do whatever we feel like with celluloid without limiting ourselves by our own preconceived notions of personal identity. More so than any other country in the world, Canada may actually define itself by the art it produces, rather than the more traditional practise of art being defined by its country. This difference may be subtle but so are we as Canadians. We can laugh at the little things, and make little movies about them.

This is not to say that we should forget about Goin’ Down the Road to discover our past. But we have not experienced our golden age yet. We don’t have to pine for the days of Bogart and Grant. We don’t lament Grace Kelly’s decision to run of with royalty and abandon her film career. And we don’t have to hold our directors up to Billy Wilder and watch them pale in comparison. We get to start fresh, in the digital age, and that prospect, is a beautiful thing.