December 17, 2012



Although there was plenty more going on–too much, in fact–it was fitting that Season 7 of DEXTER came down, in the end, to the women in Dexter Morgan’s life.  One could even say that this season might have been titled Deb, as a great deal of it tracked the journey of Dexter’s beloved adopted sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) into Dexter’s darkness.

The season finale, written by showrunner Scott Buck and Executive Producer Tim Schlattmann, and directed by Steve Shill, may not have marked the end of that journey, but it reached a major milestone, as Deb crossed a line that even Dexter (Michael C. Hall) had been loathe to touch, killing LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) not because of an unquenchable compulsion to kill, but with the very ordinary motive of saving herself and her brother.  LaGuerta’s investigation of Dexter had (not entirely convincingly) made its way to Deb and her help in burning down the church after Dexter had killed Travis Marshall, and faced with the choice of letting Dexter be caught–or killing him–Deb opted instead to shoot LaGuerta (Carpenter’s impulsive rush to tearfully embrace LaGuerta’s bloody corpse, in mourning for her own lost innocence–which according to Buck in a post-airing interview wasn’t scripted–was a tremendous moment, even if it left unexplained how Deb’s dress was spotless in the next scene).  If her discovery of Dexter’s true nature at the end of last season was enough to change Deb forever, one can only wonder what this act will do to her in the show’s next, and final, season.

Dexter now has two murderous women in his life, as the show made the happy decision not only to let Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski) live, but to free her from jail, thanks to careful ingestion of some of those poisonous leaves she’s so fond of.  Her delivery of a favorite fatal plant to Dexter’s door might have indicated a fond farewell, but hopefully she’ll be back to further muddy the waters between Dexter and Deb next season.  Strahovski, who had previously been best known for her charming but not exactly profound work on Chuck, impressively held her own with both Hall and Carpenter all season, which definitely counts as a stint in the major leagues.

This season of Dexter was far better than last year, with its feeble quasi-pair of Big Bads played by Colin Hanks and Edward James Olmos (“quasi” because Olmos turned out to be imaginary), but still not at the level of the great Trinity season.  When the show stuck to its two main threads, the increasingly dysfunctional Dexter/Deb relationship and the remarkably functional one between Dexter and Hannah (and Deb’s jealousy about it), it rarely took a wrong step, including its daring revelation that Deb has more than a sister’s love for Dexter.  Hall and Carpenter have been giving world-class performances since the show began, and Carpenter, in particular, more than stepped up her game this intense year.  But much time was also spent with Russian gangster Isaak (Ray Stevenson), lovesick Quinn (Desmond Harrington) and his Russian stripper girlfriend, and psycho computer whiz Louis (Josh Cooke), and even though Isaak was redeemed as a character in his last episode or two, none of it seemed worth the time.  Even the LaGuerta investigation, which dragged in retired Captain Matthews (Geoff Pierson) along the way, was more attenuated than it needed to be.  Economics aside, the show would have been better served by a more focused 8 or so hours than it was by a full season.

Assuming everyone involved stays the course, next season will be the final one for Dexter (the show is still successful enough that Showtime might feel pangs to see it depart).  Final seasons are high-risk (cough, Lost, cough), but also have the potential to cement a show’s legacy.  The stage is set for a taut, emotional climax for Dexter and Deb, one that hardly seems headed for a happy ending, but may be no less dramatically satisfying for that.  As it enters its last stretch, Dexter‘s stakes are as high as they can get.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."