For this entire season of "Dexter" the whole skinner storyline seemed about as useful as a hangnail. It was almost a plot device to move the characters around where the producers needed them for each episode. Now it has taken on a life of its own, and maybe given Dexter his greatest challenge ever.

Before we get to that; however, let's look at the devolving relationship between Miguel and Dexter. The serial killer, it seems, is regretting his decision to make a friend, as Miguel's slaying of Ellen Wolf has broken Dexter's code and led to his wanting to extricate himself from Miguel's good graces.

This led to a game of one-upmanship between the two, as each attempted to gain leverage on the other. Dexter thought he'd achieved checkmate when he found a ring Miguel took off the fallen Defense Attorney as a trophy. Turns out Miguel had one last trick for him, when he alerted the skinner to his whereabouts, telling the killer that Dexter knew where FreeBo was and could get George King his money.

One of the refreshing aspects of this season was the lack of jeopardy Dexter faced. There was no fear of his being caught for his vigilante slayings and instead we got to explore his psychology in greater depths. Still, the time seems right to put our hero in some peril, and what better way than to bring a threat that always existed in the shadows right to the foreground?

Speaking of background characters, each member of Dexter's supporting cast got their moments as well. Masuka was in full swing planning Dexter's bachelor party and possibly finding love with its planner, Angel had his hands full tracking down someone who assaulted his faux-prostitute girlfriend, and Debra had her own problems between an unraveling relationship with Anton and the latter's finding out he's been used by Quinn the entire time. Also, LaGuerta seems to be filling her grief over Ellen Wolf with a little bit of Miguel, at least that's the way it seemed during a wine-filled tryst that Sylvia stumbled upon. Another nail in the coffin of Dexter's and Miguel's relationship.

The best of these supporting stories was certainly Angel's: It created a nice contrast between Dexter's treatment of Miguel and someone who might be his real friend. Dexter tracked Angel's girlfriend's attacker with blood Angel found on a key and gave Angel the information, not before warning him that some doors shouldn't be opened. It seemed Angel would ignore this advice, but eventually brought the perpetrator into the station in shackles, thanking Dexter for the help. Seems Dexter has learned his lesson, but it may ultimately be too late as he finishes the episode locked in the Skinner's truck.

Finally, mention must be made of Rita. Her character has become absolutely useless this season. She used to be Dexter's grounding in reality and now she's nothing more than a plot device to give Dexter some tidbits of information that motivate his actions. Also, how does she not care about Dexter's being out all night most of the time? Didn't she think he was a drug addict? Wouldn't he be on a shorter leash now that they're getting married? Their engagement should have made Rita a greater focus of the series, instead she's become its most one-dimensional character.

Dexter Cast: Michael C. Hall / Julie Benz / Jimmy Smits / Jennifer Carpenter / Erik King / Lauren Vélez / David Zayas / James Remar / C.S. Lee / more

Story by Andrew Payne

Starpulse contributing writer