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 7.2 with Rachael Larimore, Slate’s managing editor.
Katy Waldman: Hey! Let me know when you're all set up. I don't think I was followed.
Rachael Larimore: I am ready to go. I am going to be by your side 24/7.
Waldman: So tonight was the episode of the Symbolically Freighted Dinners, starting with bloody spaghetti and moving on to drugged steak.
Larimore: I had a feeling things were going to get messy when Deb started spooning out the marinara. “Maternal Deb” is not a role with which she is comfortable or familiar—and then she tried to confront Dexter about his dark passenger.
Waldman: Definitely not the most functional family meal. At the same time, though, I thought it showed the writers' sense of humor. They're playing around and having fun, which I think makes the show better. In the past it’s felt a little leaden or self-serious. I loved Dexter’s big chomp at the end of the spaghetti scene!
Larimore: I think sometimes the more obvious attempts at humor fell flat, but then I wondered if they were supposed to. Like when Deb said she found a website with "10 easy steps to cure a serial killer." It's like she was trying to be her sarcastic self, but it rang hollow given the enormity of the situation. On the other hand, her admission that “I’m the worst detective in the world” was hilarious for those of us in the audience. What did you think of Deb in this episode?
Waldman: It's hard to answer that question because I think she did the only thing she could have done for the show to continue. But I'm not sure how true it was to her by-the-book character. In the first scene, there seemed to be a real sense of danger: Would Dexter harm Deb? But once it became clear that he wouldn't, that set the tone for their relationship afterward. It would stay the same, sort of. Just with a twist.
Larimore: There were parallels to last season, when she was thrust into the role of lieutenant while most certainly not being ready for it. She responded then by cursing and freaking out and worrying that she couldn't handle it. But this time, even though she was similarly in over her head, she stayed calm. I feel like she's coming across as naive, but it's necessary for her to hang onto hope.
Waldman: Either she's naive, or Harry Morgan was too pessimistic in his conviction that Dexter can’t be cured. Do you think rehab will work? Are we supposed to see Deb as her brother’s moral salvation?
Larimore: For years while we've watched Dexter, as he's racing against Miami Metro to kill the exact same bad guy they are looking for, my husband and I have turned to each other and say "Why doesn't he just make it so the guy gets arrested?" Aside from the fact that it would make for more boring television, it would have also indicated that Dexter could be rehabbed. And he's never done it. So after all this time, I don't know that Dexter can be rehabbed. I don't know if the fans WANT him to be rehabbed. It might be entertaining, though, to watch Deb try.
Waldman: Great point. Now it's a contest of wills between brother and sister, and I’m not even sure who to root for. It's an exciting place to be, as a viewer. Because I want Dexter to be good, but I also want the show to continue.
Larimore: I do love Dexter, and I dread the end of the show for various reasons. But how long can they keep it up? We've seen Dexter contemplate his end before, but never in so stark or brutal example as the ending of this episode. Just when I thought Wayne Randall might be this season's Brother Sam, to give Dexter a chance to explore his conscience, Randall met a horrific end.
Waldman: I did not see that twist coming. But I wasn't super convinced by or interested in the Wayne Randall character. His talk about surrender struck me as clichéd and generic. Maybe that was the point—it wasn't supposed to be sincere. But then, he introduced more Symbolic Food: the frosty swirls that signify embracing "normal life." Deb tosses the cones to the ground when Randall jumps in front of a truck.
Larimore: Ice cream happy time with little sister Deb, just like when they were kids, and were more innocent. And yes, definitely symbolic, because it brings home to Deb how much work she's going to have to do to save Dexter from one terrible fate or another.
I agree that Wayne Randall himself wasn’t the most interesting character, but given that Dexter will be doing some soul-searching this season, I didn’t see the end coming. When the episode opened, the chaos of the competing storylines echoed the chaos in Dexter’s personal life. You have the Russian mob, Lewis seemingly on Dexter's tail, and then Wayne Randall.
Waldman: Speaking of the mob, what did you think of Isaac, who makes his Miami debut in this episode?
Larimore: I could be wrong, but I don't feel like Isaac is going to be the villain this season. Or at least not Dexter's nemesis. Lewis is a twisted nutjob, and he's close to Jamie, which means he has access to Harrison. He's going to drive Dexter crazy.
Waldman: Lewis is fascinating. I thought he showed real weakness in the confrontation with Dexter—suddenly, he was just an immature gamer, over his head. But then he came back so cool and collected a few scenes later. I loved when he told Dexter, "I'll catch you at work." Talk about a double entendre!
Larimore: Did you make anything out of the fact that Deb and Dexter had so many scenes in pitch darkness? For so long, Deb has been "in the dark" about Dexter's true nature. And now that she knows what he is, they have all their conversations outside. At night.
Waldman: To me darkness is associated in the show with a loss of control. And control is such a huge buzzword this season: whether Dexter can control his urges, and how he kills to maintain control over other things.
Larimore: Deb is trying to take control, like it's just another problem that needs to be solved. Lewis thinks he can control Dexter. Isaac thinks he can control the Kaja mess.
Waldman: And meanwhile so many things characters have taken for granted are unraveling. Like the "closed" Bay Harbor Butcher case.
Larimore: It will be interesting to see how many profanities Deb invents when she realizes that LaGuerta is sniffing around that one.
Waldman: Drinking game!
Larimore: Have we missed anything? Is it time to stab this meaty chat with a tranquilizer?
Waldman: Sure. And then why don’t you take the bed, and I’ll take the couch by the door.
Larimore: Excellent. I hope you have a big shower.