In a way, this was the ultimate in “Dexter” season finales, and I’ll stay sequential as to the reasons why. Throughout the episode, I kept thinking, “The luck of the Deb.” Seriously, it should be a phrase you use when everything goes to hell. Unfortunately, this sense of big-hearted sadness curdled, and the show turned ugly on Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter).
But first, the show charmed fecklessly as it opened with a time-filler montage of the season’s more memorable bits.
We enjoyed a brisk summation of the entire God talk thing -- a nun asks Dex (Michael C. Hall) what he believes and our main man says “nothing,” followed by a close-up of the bloated dead guy in “Those Kind of Things” with his belly full of wiggling CG snakes and Deb yelling “Holy Franken-fuck, snakes!” (The perfect Christmas ringtone gift, if you ask me.) Then the “Get Gellar” “Carrie” homage with guts pouring on most of the Miami police department. Who could forget “The Angel of Death’s” angel-wing, girl-throat-slicer machine? Good times. And finally, last week’s live-action slashfic moment: the lead-in to Deb’s lust for her brother.
Cut to: Dexter where we left him last week, in the ocean, having survived Travis’ most recent attempt to kill him in the explosive “Lake of Fire” Biblical “tableau.”
Dex stares into the fog and wonders if the world will be a better place without him. Cuban immigrants discover Dexter, save him, and someone shouts, “God must be looking out for you!”
Then some creep tries to rob a woman and Dexter kills him, and the episode’s other theme — Dexter’s darkness as positive balancing agent — is introduced. So if you’ve ever felt a little queasy about rooting for a serial killer as a hero...
And now we’re with Travis (Colin Hanks), watching TV in the house of an older couple he has murdered. On the wall is this giant painting of an uber-demon with Dexter’s face and several smaller demon heads coming out of his neck. Travis is drawing a picture of what looks like two monoliths from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” with an towering over them.
Deb goes to Dexter’s house. He’s not wearing a shirt. We see he’s been hitting the gym and partaken of the finest in wax or laser chest-hair removal. Overwhelmed, Deb finally just spits out, “I love you!” Dex says he does too. She’s all ga-ga eyed. “You do?” “Of course I do.” The scene is shot in a weird series of cuts meant to evoke nausea.
The Miami police break into the dead couple’s house. Travis is gone.
Deb meets up with Dex; she’s acting uncomfortable. Dex has no clue what’s up with his sister.
Then he goes to that wild place beyond Miracle Clue, to that place where a clue practically grabs you by the nether parts and screams your name. Or, in this instance, Dexter just happens to pass a garbage container, pulls one wad of paper out and you betcha, it’s that drawing of the monoliths and the eclipse. You’re ahead of me, right?
An eclipse is coming to Miami. And with one minute of Googling, Dexter determines where Travis will commit his final crime.
Deb comes to the same conclusion doing some actual deductive reasoning that has a pay-off for us: prime Deb cursing as she commands cops to the top of every skyscraper over a certain height. Or as she says, “big ass, tall-a-shit-skyscrapers.”
Then she corners Dex and asks, “Do we need to talk?” He did almost die, and she is, above all things, his awesome sister, but he’s all, “No, I’m fine.” She tells him to remember to meet up at that decommissioned church for a final forensic sweep. She says this twice.
Now… Captain Laguerta (Lauren Vélez). Let’s just deal with this and get it over with. After a season of non-stop, epic bitchitude, “Dexter’s” writers seriously thought they could pull a one-episode turnaround on this nightmare in pumps. She’s suddenly all soulful and pro-Deb. We’re not buying it.
Travis has Dex’s gear from last week. This allows him to enter Dexter’s house and find the hand Louis sent Dexter last week. (You’ll be waiting until nest season to find out what that was about. Sorry.) Travis avails himself of a little Miracle Clue — the flyer for today’s Noah’s Ark Pageant lets him know that wee Harrison will be at the Catholic day school — today.
Harrison and nanny Jamie (Aimee Garcie), make it to the school, dress the tyke up as a lion and wait for Dexter.
Meanwhile, Deb has cops on every big-ass-tall-a-shit-skyscraper in Miami.
Dex looks for Harrison at school — but a nun says the boy in the lion costume (Harrison) went with the nice man (Travis). Dexter freaks and chases Travis to the building where he plans to kills Harrison as an offering to God to begin the Apocalypse. Instead, he kills one of Deb’s cops.
And then Dexter shows up, one-ups Travis, pumps him full of elephant tranquilizers, and dumps him in his car.
Back at Deb’s therapy session — a breakthrough! While Doctor Ross (Rya Kihlstedt) tries hard to keep her you-are-so-fucked-up face at bay, Deb tells her how totally right she was! That being in love with Dexter explains, like everything, ever!
That when she was with withholding guys, or distant with guys, or with guys she was horrible to, or when she dated a serial killer… well, she hasn’t worked that out yet (oh, Deb). But every other screwed up thing is tied to the fact that she totally wants to be with him — all she has to do is tell him about it!
What makes this idiocy work at all is Carpenter’s total commitment to Deb’s terror. Because me? I don’t buy the incest thing here -- it doesn’t jibe with the people we’ve been presented with all these years.
Worse, it suggests a radical rewrite of Deb which renders her pitiful. It steals power from a very powerful woman — and it gives it all to her increasingly despicable brother. Dexter is now a witless, heartless jerk, dispensing his own brand of justice. Deb, smarter, more in charge of herself and her voice, is slowly being demoted to a nervous, weeping wreck begging for a taste of that manliness for no true dramatic reason.
Director John Dahl hard-cuts from Deb’s pitiful epiphany to Dexter ascendant in Travis’ decommissioned church. Dexter has set up his table and Saran Wrapped Travis to it -- in front of a statue of Christ.
Since this was the season of theology, Dex tells Travis that if there’s a purpose to his darkness, it’s as a balancing force and all that. The knife goes in and we wonder how well Deb is going to take this line of reasoning because, after all, she’s right there. She did tell him twice. No two ways — they’ve both seen him commit a murder.
There’s apparently two seasons of “Dexter” left. And a good deal of the remaining episodes will address the question: How deep is your love, Deb? Or maybe the question to ask the writers is this: How low will you drag your finest creation?