Everything Is Illumenated marks both season 5’s halfway point and the season’s best episode to date. It’s not a perfect episode—certain plot points come across as badly contrived—but the faults are easily overlooked (including the title’s corny pun).
Illumenated feels streamlined and tight, like there’s little filler material; not even the normally dull-as-wax Batista-Laguerta plot thread slows the momentum. In fact, with Batista and Laguerta’s relationship at a crossroads in Illumenated, we get some interesting character development and interplay between the two.
The episode belongs to Dexter and Lumen, though, and, in the closing moments, a truly empathetic relationship finally blossoms between them. That’s a far cry from the direction the relationship was initially headed in—and from what Dexter wanted—but the two are drawn together in ways neither could’ve anticipated, hinting at an intriguing, compelling course for season 5’s second half.
Dexter left Lumen at Miami International Airport at the end of episode 4, having purchased a plane ticket to Minnesota and finally convincing her to go home. Imagine his surprise when, in the middle of a kill, he gets a call from Lumen accompanied by the photo of a bleeding man. “Dexter,” Lumen tells him when he finally returns the call, “I shot one of them; I killed him; please help me.”
Turns out, Lumen never left Miami and Dexter suddenly finds himself forced to interrupt his kill session. He packs up his drugged and unconscious victim—already partially wrapped in Dexter’s trademark shrink wrap—and drives to the scene, a closed warehouse across town.
When Dexter arrives and Lumen leads him to the site of the shooting, however, the victim isn’t quite as dead as she believed. Despite being shot twice, he’s gotten up and staggered away, leaving a puddle and trail of blood behind him. Making matters worse, someone heard the gunshots and called police; they’ll be there soon.
Dexter and Lumen find the man—whose name is Dan (Sean O’Bryan)—a few minutes before the police come, but Dexter’s unsure what to do. Was Dan really part of the gang that kidnapped, tortured and raped Lumen? Lumen swears it, but Dexter’s not so sure. The evidence Lumen offers—Dan’s scent; a gut feeling—is extremely thin. In her favor, she at least found him in the same bar where she was initially kidnapped.
In an unexpected twist [SPOILER], after initially denying he knows Lumen, Dan incriminates himself when he uses Lumen’s cell phone to call one of his accomplices (he conveniently doesn’t carry his own cell phone). Lumen—who dropped the phone by accident—and Dexter have briefly left the room and reenter as Dan’s finishing.
“She’s alive,” Dan husks into the phone. “You hear me? That last one is alive.” He turns to see Lumen and smiles. “They’re gonna find you,” he promises and then Dexter, finally certain they have the right man, snaps his neck like a wishbone.
Dexter then sends Lumen off to his and Rita’s old house, intending to rendezvous with her once the situation’s contained. As Dexter leads her out, another unexpected complication arises: the victim stashed in Dexter’s SUV awakens from his drug-induced stupor. Dexter and Lumen see him run around the corner like some naked, shrink-wrapped exhibitionist and disappear. After ordering Lumen to go, Dexter’s off, racing to corral Shrink-Wrap Man before the police arrive (the police that come, conveniently enough, are Deb and Masuka).
Dexter rustles Shrink-Wrap Man down in the nick of time, kills him, drags him in with Dan and arranges the scene to look like some weird, S&M-driven, gay murder-suicide. It’s a terribly pat resolution, reeking of contrivance, but, thanks to the show’s stock-in-trade sharp wit and strong writing and acting, it works.
Quinn continues his ill-advised romance with Deb in week 6 and his perilous pursuit of Dexter as well. His partnership with disgraced cop Stan Liddy (Peter Weller) deepens, too, with Liddy running a background check on Dexter and pronouncing him too perfect; too clean. Dexter, Liddy concludes, is hiding something—which is the very suspicion that drove Quinn to hire Liddy in the first place. But what is he hiding? Liddy also chastises Quinn for being romantically involved with their target’s sister—as if that’ll do any good.
A key witness emerges in the Santa Muerte murder investigation—a woman who agrees to help Batista’s team nab their suspects in exchange for dropping several drug charges, which Laguerta agrees to. Otherwise, not much happens with Santa Muerte beyond a bit of frolicking by Batista’s team in the bar the suspects are known to patronize—frolicking that puts Laguerta and Batista’s team on Chief Matthews’ (Geoff Pierson) crap list.
Illumenated is not only a strong episode, but it also drastically sharpens season 5’s focus. Whereas Lumen was previously a nuisance for Dexter to rid himself of, she’s now evolving into a partner and, perhaps, into a trusted friend. It seems possible that she might even become Dexter’s student and protégé in the ways of vigilante serial murder, much as Dexter was Harry’s student. Might she even become a romantic interest? It seems possible, albeit unlikely.
There are shades here, too, of Dexter and Miguel Prado’s (Jimmy Smits) relationship from season 3. Lumen is more raw and inexperienced, though—not to mention more vulnerable and motivated; for her, killing is far more personal; far more essential to survival and that makes it far less likely, I think, that she’ll come to the same ill-fated ending on Dexter’s kill table that Prado did.
Now that Fowler’s gang knows Lumen’s alive, they’ll be coming for her; but Dexter will be coming for them, and, at least for now, he has the element of surprise on his side. Watching Dexter—with Lumen assisting—stalk his prey even as they’re on the hunt could make for highly compelling TV. Considering “Dexter’s” consistently strong writing, I’m guessing it will.