Every week in Slate’s Dexter TV club, Katy Waldman will have an IM conversation with a different Dexter fan. This week, she rehashes episode 7.1 with Torie Bosch, editor of Future Tense at Slate.
As Season 7 opens, Dexter has just dispatched Travis Marshall, aka the Doomsday Killer—but there’s a catch. His adoptive sister Debra, newly appointed lieutenant of Miami Homicide, saw him commit the murder. Even worse, she witnessed the crime after suddenly realizing that she might harbor romantic feelings for her brother. In Episode 1, Dexter tries to convince Deb not to report him, even as he struggles to conceal his true nature as a serial killer.
Torie Bosch: I've got my rubber apron on. Let's do this thing.
Katy Waldman: One tension that I kept feeling during the episode was: How much was Dexter faking in his scenes with Debra? Was his shock and fear a performance, or was it a genuine reaction to getting caught?
Bosch: I am consistently confused by how much Dexter is supposed to feel. Early on, we were told that he only fakes feelings. But through the last several seasons, we've seen him feel genuine emotions, apparently. The flashback to Deb being forced to give up Banjo the puppy—her father worried that Dexter would kill it—suggested to me that he was indeed feeling empathy—then and in the present.
Waldman: Yes! And the scenes in which he gazes soulfully at Harrison. He seems to feel real love for his son.
Bosch: Of course, with Debra, his empathy and consternation were quite self-serving: He wanted to convince her not to turn him in.
Waldman: Right. I was especially struck by the third (I think?) time Deb confronted Dex about Travis. She was grilling him about why he had a change of clothes and he was struggling to think of a reply. So he started saying very kind/remorseful things: "You sound stressed." “I didn’t mean for you to be involved.” I think we were supposed to see how much of his brotherly feeling was just stalling. It was a dark moment for the character.
Bosch: The kind words were also inappropriate for the situation. Those are the things you say when you ask someone to, say, drive 45 minutes to bring you the keys you forgot.
Waldman: Wait. What are you supposed to say in Dexter’s position?
Bosch: Whenever I am asking someone to help me cover up a crime, I try to convey that I understand the magnitude of the situation. It's just polite, I think. To take it back a few steps, how do you think that last season's storyline of Debra-loves-Dex influenced her reaction to her discovery—both of Travis' body, and then that he was not a novice at this murder thing?
Waldman: I thought the show's writers may have seen that plot thread as a nonstarter. They seem to be walking it back a bit this season.
Bosch: It seemed weird to me that they built that story line up and then dropped it so suddenly. Particularly when this season is supposed to open seconds after the last one ended. What do you think of what appears to be our major crime story line for this season—the Eastern European syndicate?
Waldman: The show is going international! Echoes of Homeland! The accents and the Ukrainian prostitutes ... it seemed a bit clichéd.
Bosch: Totally. Times like this, I miss Trinity/John Lithgow. Now there was a criminal I wanted to watch. However, I did welcome the opportunity for detective Quinn to utter what ought to become an immortal line—when he called their dead girl "a ghost in a G-string." Now I know what I'll be for Halloween this year.
Waldman: Speaking of Trinity, I thought it was interesting how reliant this episode was on the earlier seasons. Debra has flashbacks to the ice-truck killer and starts digging through old evidence. LaGuerta and Matsuka discuss Sgt. Doakes from Season 2. I appreciate all the layers (they make the world of Dexter feel more complete!), but I do wonder about first-time viewers. Do you think the show’s accessible enough to newcomers? I mean, I like to imagine thousands of new Dexter converts every fall, so.
Bosch: I wonder how much showrunners even take that into consideration now—they may expect that newcomers will first binge on prior seasons. Speaking of LaGuerta, I hope that she's in vicious mode this season. I hate it when she is gentle.
Waldman: She had some welcome bitchiness towards Deb, I thought. And she had that line, "You're the hero," which aside from being totally ironic evoked Rudy's warning to Dexter: You can't be a killer and a hero. I feel like that's a big question in the show. Can being a "good" killer make you a hero? This season seems much more pessimistic than some of the others, especially with law-abiding Deb spotlighted as a foil for Dex.
Bosch: My fear is that we'll end up seeing Debra and Dexter become partners in crime—that she will convert to his form of vigilantism.
Waldman: Wow. That's an interesting thought. In a way he's much more stable in his psychopathy than she is in her normalcy.
Bosch: Right! Because for him, it's about the kill. Harry's "code" is, at its heart, about not being caught. Debra wants justice. Her motives are purer—and probably, therefore, corruptible.
Bosch: —In the last couple of seasons, the show has lost its subtlety. It was a neat trick to set it up so Debra is implicated if she turns Dexter in, because she helped cover up Travis’ murder.
Waldman: Right—it’s like the show is as manipulative with our fandom as Dexter is with Deb’s affection. One of the great pleasures of the early seasons was our sense of being let in on a secret, being complicit with Dexter. Now I feel, as a viewer, like one of the duped police officers.
Bosch: Is there recovery from here?
Waldman: I hope so! There will always be flashes of Dexter brilliance. But It’s really hard to sustain any show for seven seasons!
Bosch: And yet ... I'll watch. Maybe only to see where they take this Doakes/LaGuerta thing. The Doakes season was one of my favorites.
Waldman: Absolutely. And to follow the Quinn/Batista bromance …
Bosch: And Matsuka! The more bored I get with Dexter ... the more I love that little dirtball.
Waldman: I can't join you in that love, I'm afraid. But I do like him better than his creepy intern, Louis. I wonder what he's up to.
Bosch: Dexter always needs a nemesis. Louis must be it this go-round.
Waldman: Oy. Not sure that seems like a fair fight. I hate to say it, but I think both the show and Dexter are getting a bit sloppy. Dropping slides, leaving shreds of plastic wrap on feet …
Bosch: Yes—in fact, I wondered briefly whether his decision to murder someone in the airport was almost a cry for help, him asking to be caught. It reminded me of Breaking Bad, when Walt reams Jesse out for driving a meth lab to an airport. But Dexter is meticulous, not thoughtless.
Waldman: Interesting! I thought they just liked the symbolism of Dexter surrounded by tons of baggage. Hey, I want you to know I would never go into your side of the apartment and cancel all your credit cards.
Bosch: That was the weirdest revenge ever. He’s a badass hacker and that's the best he can do?
Waldman: Oh, he's got a grand plan. I'm excited to see where it goes. You think he knows Dexter’s secret?
Bosch: Couldn’t tell you, but it would be funny if that worm succeeds where Doakes the former SEAL failed. Listen. My victim is starting to wake up. I’ve gotta go.
Waldman: Cool. See you at the station tomorrow. I’ll bring donuts.
Monday: What other writers and Slate commenters thought about Episode 1.