I've watched this episode three times now, and each time it has grown more on me as my favorite episode of the season so far. Director Keith Gordon (the guy who falls in love with the car in 1983's "Christine," now a full time director with five "Dexter" episodes already under his belt including last year's standout "The Dark Defender" and this season's first episode "Our Fathers": http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0330360/
) has directed an episode that is all about showing the inner angst that every other character in the episode is experiencing. We all know and share Dex's inner struggle through his monologues and clandestine-to-the-outside-world activities, but in "All In The Family" every character exemplifies and is living Hemingway's quote about all men (and women) leading lives of quiet desperation.
Rita putting a polite front at her hotel desk job (before cracking up), honest-to-a-fault cop Batista seeking a prostitute (anybody think he and the vice cop that almost busted him will hook up down the road?), Mazuka seeking the support of his co-workers with bribed doughnuts, Quinn playing nice to Deborah's witness (who is also living in her own made-up world) while secretly laying the foundation for the perp's confession (with Deb pretending she isn't beginning to notice Quinn's eccentricities now that the temptation to succumb to the Internal Affairs officer's request to rat him out is getting stronger), LaGuerta going behind his longtime friend Prado's back to undermine a conviction she believes is wrong, Miguel pulling the Doakes card on LaGuerta to back off (which misfired badly) so she doesn't notice he's covering for Dex... every normal character is playing a role in this "Dexter" episode except for Astor (and to a lesser extent Cody).
Astor's displeasure with the news Rita's having another baby manifests itself as openly and normally as most kids do. The use of slow-motion and a classic "Dexter" BGM music cue (which sadly are in short supply this year) as Astor runs away from her mom when Rita tries to talk to her was both moving and indicative of why Dex has survived for so long with his secret: HE OBSERVES AND UNDERSTANDS LITTLE THINGS PEOPLE DO OR SAY TO HURT/LIFT EACH OTHER, AND USES THEM TO HIS ADVANTAGE WHEN NECESSARY
. Dexter has both the smarts of a grown man (with the street smarts his old man, a cop, trained him to use to stay invisible) and the wide-eyed clarity of a child (the way Michael C. Hall has said he approaches the character). Does Dex like Vince Mazuka any more than his fellow cops in the precint? Of course not, but seeing Vince hurt when everybody else rejected his doughnut bribe for tickets to the symposium made him realize being nice to Mazuka by accepting his doughnut/ticket at that particular moment might pay off down the road with a favor (alibi?). Like Deb with the 'MISSING' flyer last week (and his orchestration of the Prado bros. meltdown this week, complete with hilarious informat act!
) Dex is the consumate manipulator of those around him. He's good at it because he's had practice and has been doing it his entire life to survive undetected. As proven by how everybody else is falling flat in their face with their pretend roles (except for Quinn's smooth operator act, which should be a tip to Deb that the IA woman may be telling the truth) being a master deceiver is a full time job that normal civilians with everyday lives and worries can't dedicate themselves to.
archiguy's revelation that Dex's 'family marriage proposal' was verbatim the confession of the crazy woman that killed her pretend lover (which becomes obvious in repeat viewing when watching the intensity with which Dex watches the monitor) adds another layer of awesome to Michael C. Hall's performance. Watching the proposal scene again I knew I was watching (a) an actor (Hall) (b) pretending to be a serial killer (Dex) (c) faking emotion (sincerity) while (d) pretending to propose marriage to his girlfriend (and fatherhood to her children) which I now knew (e) was something overheard from a crazy female killer with emotional issues. And guess what? Again, like the first time I saw "All In The Family," I balled a little and completely bought Dex's proposal act hook line and sinker even though I (as an audience members) know things about the character not known to Rita and her kids. As repulsive as I find the idea that there are people out there idealizing Dexter Morgan as a hero or a TV character worthy of admiration (the type that write in internet fan groups about Dex being 'hot' or 'sexy') the end scene of this episode made me realize nobody is immune to the "Dexter" charm when all it's cylinders (writing, directing, acting and a specific moment in the show's storyline) are firing all at once.
Throw in some funny stuff (Rita throwing up when Dex proposes marriage for health/financial reasons) plus a few 'WOW' moments for the faithful fans (Quinn talking back at Mazuka with the cold hard truth about why he is disliked, something missing since early in Season 2 when Doakes was still terrorizing everybody in the precint) and you can see why this one is going down as one of my all-time favorite "Dexter" episodes. The fact Dex didn't kill Prado's brother but orchestrated an almost-permanent division between them (plus the previews for the next episode, which if truth are freaking wild) signals that Dex is almost selfishly seeking Miguel's friendship to himself. Notice Dex called Prado over to his apartment to consult after Rita shot down his first clumsy marriage proposal. And this is completely off-the-cuff speculation, but I'm guessing one of the places "Dexter" is gunning for by season's end is a way for Deborah to leave law enforcement as a profession. Quinn's comments about Deb only having a hammer as a tool hit her (and me as a viewer) hard, almost to the point (IMHO) of making DEb realize she's not cut out for this line of work. Because, if the theme of "All In the Family" is pretending (by Dex and all the other characters), who's a biggest pretender in this series (besides Dex of course) than the daughter of a cop that is only in her line of work to seek the approval of a now-deceased father figure she idolized in vain because of father's attachment to her foster brother? Deb's got issues, and every episode this season is one more tick in what could be a detonation that leads her to decide she doesn't even have what she thinks she does (which is the only thing that's keeping her going): her job. It might just come to Deb deciding that she'd rather quit being a cop instead of being a snitch because that's what her old man (whom she still idolizes) would have done.
Or maybe not! Dex found out the hard way Harry Morgan was hardly worth the admiration bestowed upon him by his kids. But Deb has yet to find this out.