Circle Us—combined with week 6’s Everything is Illumenated—is like the second half of a 1-2 punch that now has me completely plugged in to season 5. I’m not suggesting I didn’t like episodes 1-5; they were slow, but the writing still strong, with plot points—large and small—introduced and then calculatingly formed into a scattershot picture.
Episode 7 is like an “a-ha” moment; at last, the writers offer a concrete glimpse of where the story’s headed. That insight does nothing to diminish season 5’s momentum or suspense, either; there are still plenty of unanswered questions and narrative possibilities.
After the kidnapping and murder of “Dan the Dentist” last week, the shadowy gang that abducted and brutalized Lumen go into defensive mode. Led by their apparent ringleader—a man Lumen describes as “Suit Guy”—they retrieve the corpse-filled barrels from Boyd Fowler’s swampy dumping ground, assuming Lumen will contact police.
As Suit Guy drives the barrels through Miami, though, providence takes a hand and his pickup truck (with five barrel-encased corpses in the bed) is T-boned at a STOP sign by a drunk driver. The violent collision flings the barrels onto the pavement, popping the tops and hurling the bodies onto the asphalt. Suit Guy has to flee the scene.
Police from Dexter’s department (unsurprisingly)—including Deb, Quinn and Batista—are called to the gruesome scene the next day and discover the truck registered to Jordan Chase (Jonny Lee Miller), the self-help guru Boyd Fowler was obsessed with. When Chase and his head of security, Cole Harmon (Chris Vance), visit the station to answer questions, Dexter snaps photos of both men and shows them to Lumen.
She doesn’t recognize Chase, but immediately identifies Harmon; he’s Suit Guy—the only one of her captors who always removed her blindfold before doing evil, thinking she’d be dead soon. Although Lumen doesn’t recognize Chase, Dexter suspects—based on a watch he wears—he might be the captor she describes as “Watch Guy.”
“I’d hear this watch by my ear,” she explains in the episode’s opening minutes, “And then he’d lean in and whisper: ‘Tick tick tick; that’s the sound of your life running out.’” Whether he’s “Watch Guy” or no, late in the episode, it becomes clear Chase is indeed involved in with the murderous gang that abducted Lumen.
The police make Harmon their primary suspect in the barrel killings, creating a problem for Dexter—and for Lumen. She wants to deliver justice and vengeance herself. As such, Dexter plants Boyd Fowler’s wallet into Harmon’s pickup, causing police to make Fowler their new prime suspect; it’s a perfect, almost karmic maneuver, as Fowler was the enigmatic gang’s “finisher,” and was indeed the man who killed all the women.
A police search of Fowler’s home uncovers mountains of evidence, freeing Harmon from the legal frying pan, but dropping him into Dexter’s—and Lumen’s—vigilante fire. Dexter wastes no time targeting Harmon for a spot on the killing table, either. When a trip to Harmon’s home in Boca Raton goes awry, however, Dexter’s lucky to have Lumen riding along to swoop in and bail him out, pounding Harmon with a Maglite flashlight in the process—but not killing him.
The trip’s not a total loss, though: Dexter steals a picture of Harmon and his gang as teens; apparently the gang has known each other a long time. Now Dexter and Lumen need only identify everyone in the picture they don’t recognize—oh, and they still have an appointment with Harmon.
Elsewhere in week 7, the Santa Muerta murder investigation takes a startling turn when last week’s key witness—Yasmin Aragon (Jessica Camacho)—wears a wire and lures the Fuentes brothers back to the club. Things quickly spiral out of control, however, and LaGuerta’s attempts to improvise backfire; both the witness and Carlos Fuentes are killed. With Captain Matthews gunning for LaGuerta’s head anyway, she’s likely in deep doo-doo. At least Deb gets a measure of vindication here, as she’s the one who shoots Carlos Fuentes dead in yet another hostage standoff.
Quinn continues pursuing Debra in week 7, even pressuring her to shack up, but shows signs he’s having second thoughts regarding his hunt to uncover Dexter’s secrets. Stan Liddy plays on his ego, though, and reminds him that duty to the law supersedes romantic entanglements. Liddy’s ploy works, too, winning additional funding from Quinn, keeping the investigation going and assuring Quinn his own good-sized pile of doo-doo.
My primary complaint with “Circle”—as with many “Dexter episodes—is its use of coincidence to move the story along; Cole Harmon’s car accident is the most egregious example, but not the only one. I would’ve preferred the writers add a storyline where Lumen served as bait to help identify the gang and lure them onto Dexter’s killing table, but who knows how that might’ve worked.
Otherwise, however, this episode represents yet another season 5 high. With Jordan Chase’s gang, Dexter has found an adversary like no other, a conspiracy of killers cloaking themselves in self empowerment. Dexter still has the upper hand, but the gang now knows someone’s watching. You can bet they’ll be searching for Lumen, too.
In Lumen, Dexter’s found a living embodiment of Harry’s code and—owing to his own guilt over Rita—he can’t deny her desire to be his partner; her desire for vengeance. I suspect it’s no coincidence that Dexter’s inner Harry doesn’t appear in Circle Us. Has Lumen taken Harry’s place in Dexter’s psyche?
Without doubt, Lumen is, on an emotional, conscious and subconscious, and symbolic level, Dexter’s second chance at saving Rita; moreover, each of Lumen’s tormentors is yet another manifestation of Arthur Mitchell—aka the Trinity killer. Here’s a chance to kill Mitchell again—and again and again—and get it right each time—no hesitation; no waiting until what’s done cannot be undone; no guilt.
As a victim himself, Dexter also relates to Lumen’s vulnerability; he senses a dark passenger forming in her and sees a chance to teach her as Harry taught him; to save her, as it were, from her own darkness—another reason he can’t deny their partnership.
The episode’s conclusion hints, too, that Dexter might eventually grow to see Lumen as a love interest—the ultimate replacement for Rita; a lover that knows his true self—that shares it, in fact. None of that will change the fact, though, that the dark passenger ultimately leaves no room for partners—romantic or otherwise. In the end, I suspect Lumen will get her pound of flesh, but that she’ll pay a heavy price for it; a heavy price for succumbing to the darkness within.