Every week in Slate’s Dexter TV club, Katy Waldman will have an IM conversation with a different Dexter fan. This week, she rehashes the season finale with Jeffrey Bloomer, SlateV’s blogger/editor.
Katy Waldman: Season 7 is officially wrapped up and in the bag (unlike Dexter double entendres, which are obviously deathless). Jeff, based on where things left off tonight, will you be tuning into season 8?
Jeffrey Bloomer: I will, but I am stupidly loyal when it comes to TV shows. I watched The X-Files all the way through, along with some embarrassing others I should never have been watching in the first place (pouring one out for you, Desperate Housewives). But this episode did feel very final, and very climactic. Dexter's lifestyle has been taken to the logical extreme.
Waldman: By targeting LaGuerta, a true innocent, Dex slid to the bottom of a slippery slope that has beckoned him since day one. What's surprising is that he took Deb with him. I did not see her murder of LaGuerta coming, and am not sure how I feel about it.
Bloomer: When Deb turned up at the dock, I had a pretty good idea of how things would go down. It used to be that people debated whether Dexter as a show is morally corrupt, whether it induces a sense of collusion with a killer. Somewhere along the line, those objections quieted down, but after this episode, I have to say: There may be something there. I wanted Deb to shoot LaGuerta, and not only because her character has always irked me. I wanted Dexter and Deb to make it another day in Miami.
Waldman: You will have to explain to me at some point why LaGuerta is so despicable. Am I the only one who doesn’t hate her? Like you, I can’t help rooting for Dex and Deb—but these new terms of survival worry me. The contrast between Deb’s basic morality and Dexter's darkness has sustained the show for so long. Will their dynamic be as interesting now that they’re both murderers?
Bloomer: I don’t know, and this episode didn't give us any obvious pointers. The cutaway to the fireworks at the end seems like a visual joke at the end of a very eventful hour, but what’s next? The show has fundamentally changed this season.
Waldman: It has! I think it’s only going to get chillier. So many quasi-sympathetic characters went “full psychopath” in episode 12. Remember all our handwringing over whether Hannah could have actually spiked Deb’s water? Tonight that mystery was solved within minutes: She did. And then she bit Dexter! Meanwhile, he strayed far, far from the code and Debra, as we discussed, shot her police captain. Are we seeing a sea change?
Bloomer: Definitely. For a show about a guy who ties people to a table, stabs them to death, then tosses their body parts into the ocean, Dexter has always been very funny—lighthearted even. The episode felt grim and workmanlike. The flashbacks to what seemed like simpler early days with Doakes made the contrast even sharper. Like Harry said, we knew this day would come, but it's still a little jarring how bleak this world has become.
Waldman: I wanted to ask you about those flashbacks! What were they doing there, besides adding to the "should old acquaintance be forgot" New Year's theme? They seemed a bit random to me.
Bloomer: I thought they were weird too. I think part of it was to signal what a pivotal episode this was, and to mark the beginning of something different. But they didn't reveal anything we didn't already know: The natural sleuth in Doakes saw through Dexter's donuts and fake smile.
Waldman: Well, this episode belatedly vindicated the Doakes worldview—that Dexter is, simply, a “creepy motherfucker.” Maybe we’re supposed to pay homage to Doakes now for seeing what we didn’t want to see. (Full disclosure: I have this odd fantasy of Doakes supplanting Harry to become Dexter’s tough-love spirit guide.)
Bloomer: But those were original scenes, right? Not re-cut ones from old episodes?
Waldman: Right. I don't remember Doakes confronting Dexter about his “glide” in season two.
Bloomer: There was something else surprising about this episode: Hannah McKay and Joey are alive! Who knew?
Waldman: It does defy all prior TV Club predictions! Hannah took a back seat in the finale, after delivering an evil but also justifiable J’accuse to Deb (“At least I’m not a hypocrite.”) But she placed a plant on Dexter’s doorstep after escaping from the hospital. Do you think she’s out for revenge—or more lovin’?
Bloomer: Yes, I enjoyed that speech. Talk about perfect casting. It looks like Hannah did what Dexter was too stupid or too selfish to do—run away—but after all that, I have to believe we'll be seeing her again. But in the near term, I think Dexter's complete focus has to be on Deb.
Waldman: I was struck by Hannah’s words to Dex: "You were supposed to choose me." How ironic that Dexter chose Debra, finally, only for Debra to “become” Hannah.
Bloomer: That's true. Deb took her devotion to Dexter to the absolute extreme. We saw her return to the party after shooting LaGuerta in a hardened daze, so I wonder if her feelings of doubt and regret are over now. She isn't protecting a killer anymore—she is the killer.
I do wonder why it never occurred to LaGuerta that this was a possibility!
Waldman: Good point. I also couldn't believe that LaGuerta went to the shipping yard a second time without any back-up! Secret death wish?
Bloomer: Yes! My issue with LaGuerta was that she always seemed to make things more difficult than they needed to be—everything was always so fraught. But tonight, she was admirably tough and ruthless, and in the end it was that that did her in. I renew my objection that her entire crusade against Dexter felt like a catalyst to move the show along, but at the end of this episode, I can honestly say I am looking forward to the final season. This winding, wild season made me want watch more than I have in a while, and I am genuinely curious to see where it finishes.
Waldman: Amen to that! Do you think a happy ending is still possible?
Bloomer: I shudder to imagine what a "happy ending" looks like for Dexter at this point. He and Deb did what they had to do, as Hannah put it earlier this season and Dexter echoed tonight, but they cannot walk away unscathed. And as we know from watching this show for all these years, more characters will die next season. My lone plea: This fall was about consequences. I do hope next year will be allowed a little more room to return to the procedural roots that got us hooked in the first place.
Waldman: Watch out for those procedural roots! As Doakes observed, taking too much delight in them may indicate some kind of mental disorder.
Bloomer: Guilty as charged?
Waldman: Me too. See you next season!
Monday: What other writers and Slate commenters thought about Episode 12.