Whoaaa. Last night's television offerings gave us three grim twists or surprises that jarred us out of our holiday stupor. Let's take a look at each one. Obviously spoilers abound from here on out.
1. A fun, kinda goofy Dexter twist. So you know how all along we've been feeling bad for Colin Hanks' sad little lackey character, the guy compelled by an apocalypse-junky serial killer to be his accomplice? Well, it seems we, and of course Dexter, were wrong about that! In an end-of-the-episode twist, we found out that the evil professor (Edward James Olmos) has been lying dead in a freezer for some time now and that Hanks is really the evil one. He's been, we guess, talking to EJO only in his mind, much like Dexter (aggravatingly) talks to his dead dad. So that's kind of exciting! And in a way, in a good way, it almost seems like it's poking fun at Dexter's constant hallucination conversations, which are always so literal and heavy on emotional exposition they should just start putting big flashing arrows in the scenes. So yes, please make fun of them! Plus an evil Colin Hanks, usually so lovable, should be interesting to watch. Dexter always does this to us, doesn't it? The season starts out sorta slow and meandering but then all of a sudden it slams on the gas and we're on a wild, albeit bumpy, ride. Aside from the doomsday killer twist, we also got the satisfying reveal that, duh, that geeky lab tech intern is not as innocent as he appears. In fact, he bought the Ice Truck Killer's severed arm after it was stolen from the police station. What will that plot amount to? Is Angel's sister going to make it out alive? And will this new therapist help Deb finally put the pieces together and realize that her brother is a serial killer? Who knows! But we're suddenly excited to find out.
2. An unpleasant end to an unpleasant storyline on The Walking Dead. Ugh, weren't we all so sick of everyone looking for Sophia, the girl who went missing in the first episode of this season? Yes, we were all so sick of it. There's little narrative thrust to episode after episode of people walking through the woods looking for someone, so it really needed to come to an end. And boy did it come to an end last night! As it turns out, gulp, lil' Sophia was zombified somewhere along the way and was one of the ghouls shacking up in old farmer Hershel's horror barn. Yikes! After the bloody dispatching of the whole barn horde (incited by an increasingly unraveled Shane), one last walker stumbled out into the daylight and, yeah, it was Sophia. Her mom shrieked and cried, everyone else seemed equally horrified, and Rick, doing that whole noble hero thing we've seen him (tiresomely) struggle with since this show began, took it upon himself to put the girl down. Boom, that's it. No more Sophia plotline! No more gal pal for little Carl Grimes. And no more Walking Dead until February?? Yes, this was a midseason finale and we'll have to wait 'til well after the holidays before we see our shambling friends again. Just when it was getting good, too.
3. A gruesome execution on Boardwalk Empire. Prior to last night, Michael Pitt's Jimmy Darmody could have been called the Teflon Kid. He was always mucking around in things, wreaking bloody havoc in an already bloody world, and yet he never seemed to suffer many consequences for it. Well, no longer. In a brutal second-to-last scene last night, his scorned business partner Manny Horvitz paid a visit to the Darmody household with the intention, it would seem, of popping Jimmy. But instead he found Jimmy's wife Angela in bed and her lady lover (remember how she's kind of a lesbian?) in the bathroom. He shot the girlfriend thinking it was Jimmy coming out of the bathroom and then, despite her pleas for mercy, killed Angela with two bullets to the head. Really grim, really scary and, we'd suspect, really game changing for the show. We're now going to get a grieving, revenge-bent Jimmy, maybe even one who teams up with Nucky in some capacity? The rift between them can't last forever, so maybe this tragedy will be the thing that brings them back together. Whatever the outcome, the scene itself was horrifying and shocking and expertly acted on all parts. William Forsyth is a terrifically unnerving gentleman monster (gently calling someone "darling" right before you kill them is pretty sinister), and Aleksa Palladino has always been such a warm, soulful presence on the show. We'll miss her! But if she had to go out, this was certainly as memorable a scene as possible. And right after she and Jimmy had their little heart-to-heart! Maybe we should have seen it coming.