Dexter, Season 7
Can everyone please stop hating on Deb?
Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan (Season 7, episode 4)
Photograph by Randy Tepper/Showtime
To lust after one’s brother or not to lust after one’s brother? That is the question. Dexter fans all over the web want to know whether Deb still has romantic feelings for Dex, whether he’s actively seducing his sister to prevent her from turning him in, and whether bathing in a tub of blood necessarily has erotic undertones or is just a super-creepy way to unwind after work.
Commenter Helen Love thinks Laura and I underestimate the prevalence of incest, though OskarS defends the Westermarck Effect, which suggests that young children growing up in close proximity—even if they’re not related—don’t feel sexual attraction for each other: “Certainly, there are exceptions…but the Westermarck Effect is most definitely a real thing, it has very solid scientific support, and such exceptions are exceedingly rare. And it does indeed apply to Deb and Dex (especially Deb, since she was younger than Dex when they were brought together),” Oskar writes. Josh Miller chimes in with the not-entirely-welcome observation that the two characters may in fact share the same father, thanks to Harry Morgan’s involvement with a confidential informant who later becomes Dexter’s mom. Ami is less concerned with science but declares Deb an “unworthy love interest” for the Miami avenger. (“Too needy,” she says.) I see where she’s coming from, but I’m a little disappointed with all the Deb-hate that is constantly churning among Dexter viewers. Deb has shown plenty of strength, resolve and intelligence this season! And as Laura pointed out in our chat, she rocked the Ray Speltzer interrogation. I don’t want to see her get with Dexter—ew—but if she did, their children would be gorgeous little crime-fighting hotheads who would certainly warrant their own spinoff. Anyway, commenter Good Eric objects to the Deb-plus-Dex plotline not because of implausibility or impatience with Debra but because “Rita was the one. I don’t like dream sequences, but I wouldn’t complain one bit if everything after Rita’s death was a bad dream that Dexter wakes up from during the series finale.”
But! It turns out all our speculation about incest is moot because TV Line just published an interview with Jennifer Carpenter—and she says the showrunners never took the prospect of a romantic relationship between Dexter and Debra seriously. Quoth Carpenter:
Anyone who does what Dexter does has to be seductive at some point. He can look at a person, know what they need and deliver, which is why he can manipulate so gracefully. The tease at a possible relationship between the two last season was really a tool to let Deb discover and not attack when she found out who and what he is. At the end of the day, a real relationship is about intimacy and endurance, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a sexual element for them to be relating to each other in an intimate way… which they are.
So I guess that’s settled. Critics are also rushing to pick apart Dexter’s outburst in the parking lot—the one where he responds to Deb’s accusation that he is putting Harrison in danger by darkly rumbling, “Everything is in my control.”
Alex Moaba at the Huffington Post reflects, “There are moments every now and then when watching Dexter that you are reminded that it feels a little weird to be rooting for a serial killer, even if he only kills other serial killers. I had this experience mid-way through "Run," when Dexter showed off some of his sociopathic hubris and maniacally yelled at Deb, "I control everything!" (Which is not exactly what he said, but close enough, and point taken.)
Over at Guyism, Chris Spags calls the retort, delivered in the “most criminally insane of voices,” “fairly crazy.” But the Baltimore Sun’s Cassandra Berube just thinks Dexter is “[reestablishing] himself as top Miami dog,” and adds, “You might as well run now while you have the chance.” I’d still love to hear more about how control factors into the Tao of Dexter, and whether his desire for control is an asset or an Achilles’ heel. Commenters?
Finally, some people challenged our automatic assumption that Isaac and Viktor were father and son. “Is Isaac Viktor's father, or his lover?” wrote Spectrum Rider, before noting the “paucity of ordinary, everyday gay characters on Dexter, and the lack of any of them among the regular police supporting cast.” As Beth in CA argued, an erotic relationship would explain why Isaac showed no interest in the naked women at the strip club—although we could also understand if he were preoccupied at the time by the mystery of Viktor’s killer.
Oh, and here’s a handy visualization of Ray Speltzer’s heavy metal rave-and-murder labyrinth, courtesy of commenter Dark Passenger.
Katy Waldman is a Slate assistant editor.