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 7.10 with Alex Moaba, news and video editor of HuffPost TV. Read Moaba’s recaps of Dexter Season 7 here.
Katy Waldman: Hey Alex. Let’s talk “The Dark…Whatever.” Which, by the way, seems like the quintessential Dexter title, right? Macabre but dressed in the language of normal people. Poking fun at its ghoulishness. What’d you think of the episode?
Alex Moaba: I liked it. It felt like a turning point episode, pivoting towards the stretch run.
Waldman: Yes. We met Hannah’s sociopath father Clint, saw Dexter solve the Phantom Arsonist case (and leave the perp for Miami Metro to catch), and learned that the big concerns as the season wraps up are likely to be who Dexter is as a killer and boyfriend, rather than some external Big Bad. Especially with LaGuerta and Mathews zeroing in on Dex as the Bay Harbor Butcher—yikes!
Moaba: The story was definitely freed up with Isaak gone. But it also felt like the writers were setting up storylines that could last beyond this season. Like the LaGuerta and Mathews investigation, and putting Deb at odds with Hannah and Dexter, who grew closer in this episode. I came away from “The Dark…Whatever” thinking that Hannah will survive the season.
Waldman: What makes you say that?
Moaba: Well, she and Dexter exchanged "I love yous" for the first time. Of course, it was after he killed her abusive father, but still. And she challenged him to re-assess his "Dark Passenger" and the code he kills by. And I think shaking up that formula makes for a more interesting character, and show. When you add the Deb dynamic to their deepening connection, suddenly there's a twisted love triangle there that could sustain the show its last season.
Waldman: How did you feel watching Dexter abandon the code? It was almost a relief, I thought, because it allowed him that moment of grace with the arsonist, Joseph Jensen. (Of course, that mercy was cancelled out by Clint's murder in the next scene—a more sinister violation of the code.) But what are we to make of a codeless Dexter? Isn't he just like his brother Brian, the Ice Truck Killer, now?
Moaba: I enjoyed seeing Dexter put "the code" away. I think the show benefits when it takes Dexter out of the black and white morality that the code allows him to live comfortably in. It challenges the audience to think about Dexter as something other than a vigilante superhero. Hannah's dad was pretty awful, but he hadn't done anything that you could say he deserved to die for. Then again, I can't see anyone lamenting his death: He showed himself to be pretty horrible in about fifteen minutes of screen time. So maybe it wasn't such a daring choice by the writers after all.
Waldman: True. Clint was vile. I would have been much sadder to see Bosso, the arson investigator who sniffs crime scenes and re-enacts Civil War battles, go. But he never seemed like a plausible Phantom anyway.
Moaba: Speaking of Dexter's moment of mercy with the real Phantom, did you notice that was the second epiphany he's had this season with his knife raised and somebody on his table? Hint: the other one had to do with Hannah, too. Clearly that situation is where he does his best thinking.
Waldman: Interesting! We should all try it.
Back to the ending, though, when Dexter and Hannah exchange "I love yous," do you think Hannah realized Dexter had killed Clint?
Moaba: I thought so. They're both killers! They have their own unspoken lingo. All he had to say was, "He won’t be bothering you again" and I think she understood.
Waldman: I wondered whether she’d incorrectly gathered from his statement that “the Dark Rider doesn’t exist” (intriguing hedge there, by the way!) that he had resisted or overcome the urge to hurt her dad. And that was why she said “I love you” immediately afterward. Hannah doesn’t care for Clint—nor is she invested, like Deb, in Dexter not being a killer—but weirdly, that was how the comment struck me. So then I wondered if Dexter meant to convey (falsely) that he had spared Hannah’s father, and whether that was a deception that would pose problems down the line.
Moaba: I don’t think so. Earlier in the episode, when Dexter suggested they should kill Clint, Hannah said, "No Dexter, I can't do that." (Emphasis on the I). I think she was giving him a wink and a nod. Plus, we know that she has a history of getting off on that sort of thing. I wonder if the "I love you" was of the “thank you for killing my dad” variety.
Waldman: Clint did seem to have a powerful sway over her. What did you make of her meltdown in the greenhouse, after he accused her of Bringing Shame on the Family?
Moaba: I guess I took it as a sign of how abusive he may have been to her when she was a child. Maybe the no-floatie swimming lessons were just the tip of the iceberg.
Also, she really likes that greenhouse! Where else is she supposed to harvest her poison?
Waldman: I guess I found the show's messaging a bit perplexing. It wants us to accept that these parental figures continue to exert a really extraordinary power over their grown children. And it wants us to do this so that we feel maximum sympathy for them. But the theme of the episode was all about taking adult responsibility. Maybe there’s no real contradiction there, but it felt sort of muddled.
Moaba: I see your point but didn't have that thought. Clint was saying some really nasty things, right? He blamed Hannah for her mother's death. That's pretty heavy, even for a serial killer to handle.
What did you think of the LaGuerta-Mathews alliance investigation? I have a feeling, possibly based on how quickly they connected the dots, that it's going to crumble. I feel like Mathews is going to sabotage it somehow.
Waldman: Mathews seemed intent on sidelining LaGuerta after she'd built a pretty convincing case against Dexter. Maybe lingering loyalty to Harry is pushing him to protect the remaining Morgans?
Moaba: That was my thought. Between the fact that LaGuerta forced his early retirement, and that he was good friends with Harry and mentored Deb, who would also surely be taken down by this revelation, it just doesn't quite make sense that he'd help LaGuerta bury them. It would be like Susan Rice asking for John McCain's help in an investigation about Benghazi.
Waldman: Ha! Plus, from a practical standpoint, the writers need to throw some sort of wrench into this rapidly unfolding investigation—otherwise Season 8 may be a nonstarter.
That said, I think the BHB subplot is playing out really nicely: It's been simmering all season, and it's a welcome source of suspense. Keeps things complicated while Dex, Deb and Hannah work out their romantic lives.
Moaba: Very true. Every week commenters point out to me that LaGuerta died in the first "Dexter" book. I'm not saying Mathews will up and kill her, but I'm waiting for a twist there. In any case, the show is always when at its best when the walls are closing in on Dexter. And it also usually means that a miraculous escape is not far behind.
Waldman: Yes! I can't stop speculating about what role (if any) Deb might play in that escape. She has been making a lot of statements lately along the lines of "I always give in to you, but not any more" or "I'm going to start doing things for myself." If Dexter comes into Miami Metro's crosshairs, do you think we can count on Deb to help him?
Moaba: She seems to be pretty lost. Swinging back and forth from love-sick to playing things too tough. It can be hard to watch at times. Maybe the writers are as confused as the character seems to be. One thing not to discount in whether she would turn on Dexter is that she's been complicit in a few of his schemes this season. It's hard to imagine that she wouldn't go down with him too.
Waldman: We didn't actually see much of Deb this episode, outside of her role as homicide LT. (Although: Is she going to develop a drug problem? She furtively popped a Xanax at one point, not that I really blame her.) In general I’ll admit to some confusion about her motivations. She went from puppy love with Sal to pining after Dexter in, like, two days. And, yeah, she hates Hannah, but is that because Hannah killed Sal, or because Hannah is dating Dexter? I’m not sure the show has worked it all out either.
Moaba: The common denominator that all these inconsistencies stem from is the Deb-loves-Dexter storyline. It was an interesting and titillating idea, I guess, but it’s been thoroughly botched. When it needed to be developed, the writers ran away from it. Now they appear to be sprinkling it back in as a factor in Deb's decision-making whenever it’s convenient.
Waldman: Great point. Meanwhile, I appreciated Masuka’s skeevy/delighted reaction to the news that Dexter and Hannah were dating. At least the relationship has one fan.
Moaba: Yes, Masuka's pervy comic relief has been underutilized this season. Glad to see it back in action. But this brings me to my next point: Miami Metro needs to institute a "no dating people who are involved in ongoing investigations" rule. Between Dexter with Hannah and Quinn with Nadia, it's out of control.
Waldman: QUINN. I’ll always associate that name with the sound of my forehead striking the keyboard.
Moaba: He's got to be doomed, right? He's stolen evidence, killed a mob boss and now drawn Batista into this ridiculous cover story. The character's demise must be coming soon.
Waldman: Well, the Slate TV Club has been prophesying his doom for weeks. Maybe he's secretly indestructible, like the Rolling Stones!
Moaba: Or Twinkies! Wait. How do you think he will be killed off?
Waldman: I *thought* the Kashkas might get him. But at this point, I'm not sure the writers would even spend the show's emotional capital on taking out Quinn. He could just go to jail—in which case the question will be whether he brings Batista’s dreams of restaurant ownership down with him.
Moaba: Oh man, Batista losing that restaurant would be way more heartbreaking than seeing Quinn killed off. The guy doesn't deserve a great exit. Maybe the writers should just banish him to the worst fate of all: getting back together with Deb.
Waldman: That is COLD.
Monday: What other writers and Slate commenters thought about Episode 10.