Sunday, December 16, 2012

'Dexter' Tests His Code, While Debra Shatters Hers...

No series had a greater comeback story than Dexter-- this year or arguably in general. Season six was lackluster at best, and with all of the changes made to Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) character, I worried that something snapped and somehow I was magically smarter than our favorite serial killer who always managed to outsmart everyone around him. But I don't want to harp on shortcomings past. Season seven infused Dexter with a new energy, one even stronger than the series had at its initial start. Each new episode was eagerly anticipated and thoughtfully dissected upon its end; that is quality television at its best.

Watching Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) struggle with coming to terms with her brother's true self while watching Dexter find someone who was actually worthy of being his soulmate put him in a unique position of having to chose between two people he loved, and come to terms with his Dark Passenger not really being all that separate from himself in the process. Meanwhile, LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) in a move that didn't seem all-too-convincing actually wisened up and caught onto Dexter's true hobby.

At the end of last week's episode, I was surprised to find quite a few Dexter fans Tweeting us and asking if maybe Debra had set Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) up for poisoning her as a way to get her out of her brother's life. Personally, I didn't think there was any question about that; Debra is not a sociopath; Debra has had such a hard time shooting on the job and seeing what her brother does to his victims, it would be completely out of character for her to turn around and be so devious and cunning. Dexter's explanatory voice-over aside, though, if there was a question about that for some fans, rather than just a hope, which I admit I felt, too, I'm glad the season finale took time to answer it. Because rather than repeat something I thought was already obvious, what Dexter visiting Hannah in prison really gave us was a sense of closure for her chapter in his life-- and a driving home of just how deep Dexter and Debra's bond is.

Last week I lamented Dexter's choice, not in picking his sister over his new girlfriend, but rather the way in which he went about it. If he couldn't trust her, and she shouldn't trust him, then he really should have just killed her, rather than allowed her to live out the rest of her days in jail. We're not going to rehash what we said then, but I hope you will go back and read it because it is pretty much what "Surprise, Motherf*!" was saying. Dexter and Hannah are the only Gone Girl I will ever need. Though Hannah may truly be "the only person in the world [Dexter doesn't] have to hide anything from," Dexter is not allowing us to assume there will be a happy ending. For them as a couple or Dexter in general. Actually, or for Debra in general, either, but I'll get to that. He may be our hero, but he's still an anti-hero, and those kind of characters, traditionally, get their comeuppance in the end.

But "Surprise, Motherf*!" wasn't the end for Dexter-- just for the season, so there were still a few twists and turns left. Flashbacks to see Dexter's earlier years on the job with Doakes (Erik King) offered new insight into a rare moment Dexter accidentally showed his own true cards. It never made sense that Doakes had something out for Dexter before, but the show finally delivered a real reason. It's a bit of a shame that it happened so far after Doakes' storyline wrapped up, though, because had I known then what we know now, I may have been a bit more sympathetic to his plight. Seeing him resurface now, in Dexter's mind, though, just made me sad I didn't get to know Mike (Billy Brown) all that well, either.

And Dexter may have thought on his feet quicker with LaGuerta than he ever had to with Doakes, but considering the guy who killed his mother wasn't actually already dead, it was certainly a prematurely risky move. I have been waiting for LaGuerta to get some kind of comeuppance herself for all of these years, and some short disapproving looks and the accusation of being an idiot was not enough. She has exhibited such terrible behavior and lack of professionalism for so many years, even though she's right about Dexter now, it's way too little too late, and she doesn't deserve the collar, all personal attachments aside.

LaGuerta second-guesses anyway. One minute she's so sure about Dexter, the next she's trying to make a case for why it's Debra who is committing atrocities around her fair Miami. It's perfectly indicative of the kind of trial-and-error guesswork police officers have to do when they have only circumstantial evidence, but that kind of scrambling just makes us think she is the one who needs to retire, not Angel (David Zayas). Any cop who grasps at any straws possible is a stain on the department.

However, if she's able to catch onto Dexter, he may actually be getting a little too comfortable. Having Debra to help cover for him is a crutch he could never rely on before, but now that he can, he's getting a little brazen. Taking Estrada in broad daylight is ballsy enough; leaving him in the trunk of his car while having a conversation with Debra is a whole other story.

Finally being ready to kill LaGuerta, well, as much as I may have personally wanted it to happen long ago (mostly inspired by the speed of events in the books this series was based on), I'm glad the show exhibited self control. It's extremely important to see how far Dexter has come in life, intercut with the toughest decision he's ever truly had to make. LaGuerta isn't entirely innocent, though she certainly doesn't fit the Code Dexter has come to abide by. But what is that Code anyway but a way to protect himself? Harry (James Remar) enacted it so Dexter could scratch his itch and still maintain a quote-unquote normal existence. And what is killing LaGuerta but the ultimate way to protect himself? The fact that Dexter struggled with it anyway was all I needed to know he was not just the unfeeling robot he has claimed to be for so long. Sure, he came out and verbalized (to Harry, so ultimately only to himself, but still) just how much his "cover" life actually meant to him, and that was fine for the cheap seats in the back. But actions speak so much louder than words, and in the end, Debra pulling the trigger ultimately meant Dexter kept his Code intact, while Debra shattered her own.

Cue her unraveling in three, two, one seconds into the next season premiere...

What screams deafened us were Debra's actions, heading towards the ring of fire, so to speak. Last season she stumbled across her brother's "heinous" actions by accident and then got emotionally manipulated by her feelings for him, talked down from stopping him. This season, though, she actively tried to stop him and still found she couldn't. Maybe it would have been different if he was standing there threatening her, too, saying she knows too much and now he has to put her down. But he wasn't. He dropped his knife, like he dropped his guard and gave her all of the power. And she took it and used it to solve his problem.

Of course, Debra is so emotional she immediately felt the weight of her actions and seemed to regret them. In no way do I think her shooting LaGuerta unleashed something inside her the way Dexter being born of blood did, but I couldn't help but yell "Stay out of it, Debra Morgan!" at the screen when she busted into the shipping container anyway. As Hannah pointed out earlier in the episode, Debra has trouble sleeping, knowing all she knows; she has trouble coping with all she knows. Now, though, she has a secret of her own to live with. Couple that with Hannah's escape (honestly, I assumed she was just going to have Arlene bring her something with which she could kill herself, but I'm glad to know she's still out there somewhere, maybe to still pop up in Dexter's life again someday), and we don't see Dexter ending well for Debra. Even more than the man himself.

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