October 2, 2012



DEXTER:  Sunday 9PM on Showtime

WHERE WE WERE:  In a frozen instant of time, as Detective Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) watched her adopted brother Dexter (Michael C. Hall), a blood spatter expert on her own forensic investigative team, murder a man in cold blood.

WHERE WE ARE:  That same moment.  And there was reason to fear where this 7th season of DEXTER was headed after the opening sequence, because it appeared that once again, although Dexter was clearly caught in the act of killing last season’s (Not Very) Big Bad Travis Marshall, he was going to somehow talk his way around and underneath it, in this case by convincing Debra that he had “snapped” this one time only, and even convincing her to help him cover up the crime.  Thank heaven (or hell) that Executive Producer Scott Buck’s script (directed by John Dahl) was just biding its time, letting Debra absorb the shock before her crime-solving mind started asking some serious questions.  In a way, the real cliffhanger everyone was waiting for came at the end of this season premiere:  Dexter unambiguously admitting to Debra that he’s a flat-out serial killer.

Dexter has spent most of the past 2 seasons in a slump (creatively–the ratings were fine), unable to come near its brilliant season 4 with its combination of John Lithgow’s chilling Trinity killer, and the pitiless season finale murder of Dexter’s wife Rita.  None of the villains since have been worthy of Dexter, and last year’s imaginary Edward James Olmos was a low point.  But Dexter always had an ace in its hole, the one storyline everyone wanted to see–and with the announcement that the clock has started on the series’s final 2 seasons, it was time to begin that endgame.

Michael C. Hall was, as always, excellent in the episode as he desperately tried to contain the damage around him, but the hour belonged to Jennifer Carpenter, as she moved from a numbed semi-consciousness to a reluctant and then driven need to keep pushing toward answers she half-realized she might not want to know.  Debra has always been the humanizing character in Dexter, and her jumble of emotions grounded the hour as it hasn’t been in a long time.

With 24 episodes to go, of course, there will need to be other storylines beyond whatever’s going to happen with Dexter and Debra, and this year’s isn’t off to a particularly promising start.  We have a dead stripper, a semi-surprise killing of a relatively minor regular character, and what appears to be a Russian mobster on his way to Miami to become Dexter’s antagonist.  No doubt there are twists and surprises to come, but so far nothing to seriously compete with the mythology story.

The supporting characters, too, are much as we left them:  LaGuerta (Lauren Velez), having discovered what she doesn’t know to be Dexter’s blood slide at Travis Marshall’s crime scene, is already playing games with the evidence; Batista (David Zayas) and Quinn (Desmond Harrington) are in their love-hate partnership, with Quinn having just pretended to be quitting his drinking; and budding wacko Louis Greene (Josh Cookie) is taking advantage of his relationship with Jamie (Aimee Garcia), Batista’s sister and the nanny of Dexter’s son Harrison, to snoop on Dexter and, for now, cancel his credit cards.

With the exception of the John Lithgow season, Dexter has always been more provocative than great, content to be “outrageous” by featuring a serial killer (with a code!) hero rather than explore disturbing resonances.  But with two seasons remaining, it still has its best story left to tell, and perhaps that will finally raise the series to its full potential.


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."