Dexter, Season 7

Every time I dip back into Dexter, without fail, I’m reminded why I missed it and dumbfounded that I still haven’t finished it yet. I guess it’s a savoring-what’s-left type of situation. After this, only one more season remains.

When Season 7 debuted, I remembered hearing grumblings about how Dexter had truly jumped the shark — but not because of the big reveal to Deb (Jennifer Carpenter). Something else happens this season between Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and Deb that actually trumps the entire crux of the series, which is that Deb confesses she’s in love with Dexter. It’s a weird, gross twist, but after thinking about it for a very long time, I realized that it’s not completely far-fetched. Given how unconventional their relationship was from the get-go, how involved they are with each other’s lives, and how much of his story was known to her as they were growing up (he was adopted after his mother died), someone like Deb would wrestle with difficult, complicated, taboo feelings and have no idea how to process them or reveal them. And it’s not like they actually made out or anything on the show. She talked about it with Dexter, it was a really uncomfortable moment, and then it tonally affected the rest of their scenes together. Given the circumstances, that seems pretty accurate to me. It also served as a way to distract from the thing we all knew would happen, which is that she’d find out he was a serial killer. I have to hand it to the show for creating surprise out of an extremely built-up, possibly predictable element of the show.

Carpenter keeps getting better and better throughout her Dexter run. Hall does, too, but Carpenter really was the underdog here, especially considering the fact that the two of them were divorcing as this incestuous plot was coming to light. Hall had the fortuitous benefit of being able to hide behind Dexter’s emotional wall, whereas Deb only got more unstable, more raw, more exposed the more information she was given. From far away, the season might appear like a soap opera, but up close, it’s far more nuanced than that, because there are so many qualifiers and details that led the Morgans to this point. Had Deb not fallen for the Ice Truck Killer, who was Dexter’s biological brother, she might not have forgiven herself for falling in love with Dexter, too. And had Dexter himself not already taken an interest in someone else, he might have been just vulnerable enough to indulge Deb’s feelings, because he wouldn’t know what else to do. Despite the bizarre, unfortunate turn that their relationship took, Dexter manages to be more human with Deb than with anyone else, because he knows he’s got no other choice. They control each other’s fates, so they may as well continue to be on the same team.

That “someone else,” by the way, is Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski). I hadn’t seen Strahovski in anything before, though I know she was one of those fan-favorite types on Chuck, and now I see why. She has a very obvious sweetness to her, but she also convincingly understands Dexter’s “Dark Passenger,” while also admitting how nauseating that phrase sounds when said aloud. (Only took the show seven seasons. Seriously, what a deplorable combination of words.) Dexter actually fumbles around her — he loses whatever control he had, mostly over his romantic inclinations but also over his ability to actually feel feelings — and it’s both superficially cute and deeply revelatory. After 40-plus years of being a clenched person — a term that the late, wonderful Heath Ledger used on Ellen to describe his character, Ennis Del Mar, from Brokeback Mountain — Dexter unclenches a little, and the results are actually not terrifying.

The downside to Dexter and Deb’s plotlines being totally unique and unpredictable this season, however, is that the rest of the characters’ plots can be telegraphed from several states away. Of course sad-sack Joey Quinn (Desmond Harrington) is going to fall for a stripper. Of course Maria Laguerta (Lauren Velez) is going to get too close to figuring out Dexter’s secret. Of course Angel Batista (David Zay
as) is going to consider retirement and buy a freakin’ restaurant. And of course Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee) isn’t going to get anything interesting to say beyond “that’s what she said” jokes. They all play a little too much into the personalities we’ve grown to love, and they don’t offer any change or growth or progress. It’s very disappointing, because the characters (and actors!) are quite lovable. They’re just not given much to work with. At least we can revel in the glory of Laguerta and Masuka‘s costumes. Laguerta redefines the pantsuit. Eat your heart out, Hillary.

Oh, andΒ here’s a tweet I tweeted when I was actually watching Season 7. I stand by its sentiments still.