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On The Tube

My son, my psychopath

7/3/2013

On the TubeDexter meets the woman who made him a killer

In episode two of its nail-biting, final season, our psychopathic hero (Michael C. Hall) in “Dexter” makes a troubling discovery about his past (Sunday, 8 p.m., Showtime). A renowned expert on psychopaths, Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), reveals that she’s the one who worked behind the scenes to help him focus his homicidal urges as a young boy. Due to her efforts, she says, he learned to kill “only those who deserved to die.”

“I can’t help but think of myself as your spiritual mother,” Dr. Vogel says with an eerie calm.

Rarely has a mother-and-child reunion seemed less joyous. Dr. Vogel reappears to ask Dexter a favor: finding and killing a serial murderer who might be targeting her. To get what she wants, she plies Dexter with twisted reassurances about his role in society. “I believe that psychopaths are not a mistake. They’re a gift.”

Of course Dexter, with his knack for tortured self-analysis, is the least likely person to be taken in by that line of reasoning.

“What kind of gift,” he retorts, “destroys everything it cares about?”

Touché.

 

“Wilfred”

Thursday, 9 p.m. (FX)

In this modern-day Harvey, a troubled, young man named Ryan (Elijah Wood) forms a friendship with a talking dog (Jason Gann). While other people look at Wilfred and see a regular pooch, Ryan sees an Australian man in a shabby dog suit. As you can imagine, the comic possibilities are endless.

But so are the tragic possibilities. Ryan met Wilfred on the day he tried to commit suicide. The series achieves an eccentric sort of poignancy, particularly in season three, as Ryan starts to think Wilfred might be a manifestation of his mental illness. Wilfred, as you’d expect, is not prepared to accept that conclusion. He suggests that Ryan might never really discover the truth: “Life is just a long, torturous wrestling match of unanswerable questions.”

That’s the wisest statement from an Australian man in a shabby dog suit you’ll hear all summer.

 

“Gasland Part II”

Monday, 8 p.m. (HBO)

Josh Fox’s 2012 documentary “Gasland” won an Oscar nomination and an Emmy for its exploration of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. With irreverent humor and investigative zeal, the film explored the environmental dangers of this method of extracting gas from American soil. The equally powerful sequel reveals the gas companies’ hardball tactics in trying to control the fracking narrative. As they furiously deny the harmful effects of their processes on local communities, residents’ tap water starts catching on fire.

This might sound like a grim way to spend a Monday night, but Fox has an entertainer’s impulses. He begins the film on his own rustic property near the Delaware River, an area now plagued by gas wells. While plucking a banjo, he muses on the connections between “Gasland Part II” and the first “Star Wars” sequel. In both, the empire strikes back with crushing force.

Can Fox stand up to a formidable foe, as Luke and Han do in “Star Wars?” It’s thrilling to see just how effective he can be armed with only a camera and a banjo. CV

Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. He graduated from Grinnell College and went on to become an award-winning journalist, but he’s been a committed couch potato long before he figured out a way to get paid for watching TV. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.

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