Dexter is a waiting game. Seasons begin with transitional episodes, which can be interesting or funny but never heart-pounding thrillers that define the late-season highlights. Remember last season's initial suburban capers? Total yawners compared to the breathtaking Mitchell family Thanksgiving dinner nine episodes in.
This week we may be moving into the dramatic Phase 2. This phase announces itself with a name, a face, and even a whimper. In the episode's final seconds, we encounter the battered presence of Julia Stiles. She witnessed Dexter kill her captor, an entertainingly deranged Boyd Fowler, who picked up dead animals for a living, killed young women for fun, and listened to self-help tapes for motivation.
Most of the episode had, up till then, been vaguely routine if decent: Dexter hires a nanny for baby Harrison and is still bummed out about losing his family ("Emptiness wasn't always a problem"); Angel suffers career backlash from a bar fight in a decidedly extraneous plot turn; Masuka inspires even more hilarity than usual (Highlights: "This man is a knight in shining armor. You should be polishing his lance" and later joking that the Kyle Butler sketches resemble Justin Bieber); and then the by-the-numbers investigation into some Santa Muerte cult in a Venezuelan neighborhood, and...you know...standard Dexter stuff.