Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you haven't seen the Season 7 "Dexter" finale, titled "Surprise, Motherfucker!"
After a season-plus stretch of Dex-Deb drama in which Deb discovered her brother's secret, became his accomplice and fell in and out of love with him, she finally sank to his level in the Season 7 finale. In a harrowing and intense and climactic scene, Deb shot LaGuerta to save Dexter from being discovered as the Bay Harbor Butcher and herself from the infamy of being the homicide lieutenant who aided and abetted her serial killer brother.
Just as Dexter was faced with a choice last episode between Deb and Hannah, Deb had to make a choice of her own in the finale. With LaGuerta yelling "Put him down!" and "This is not who you are. You're a cop. You're a good person. You're not like him," Dexter put his arms up and invited Deb to shoot him to save her last shred of innocence. "Do what you gotta do," he said calmly. But she was in too deep, and chose her brother -- and career -- over LaGuerta's life. After she pulled the trigger, Deb rushed over to her former rival in a scene that Jennifer Carpenter apparently improvised, sobbing and screaming out "Oh my god" over and over again, in disbelief of what she had just done. At one point she looked at Dexter and mouthed, "I hate you."
In retrospect, Deb's character has been devolving to this point all season, and her co-dependent relationship with Dexter finally got the best of her. She has been steadily sliding towards her brother's twisted code since the Season 7 premiere, when she helped him burn down the church where he killed Travis Marshall. She's planted evidence, lied and covered his tracks. Shooting LaGuerta capped Deb's tragic descent into Dexter's bizarre and murderous world.
Now she's just another murderer, and not even the vigilante kind. Hanging on Dexter's arm back at the holiday party, she looked completely dazed. Hopefully she had taken a Xanax.
By the way, why didn't have they have blood on them at the party? And while we're at it, how was Dexter able to inject and kidnap Estrada in broad daylight at a public park without being seen? How did Hannah, who had just been charged with murder, just walk out of the hospital? At least these days, "Homeland" has as many plausibility and continuity issues as "Dexter."
But back to LaGuerta, who learned the hard way that the Morgans are not to be messed with ... at least until "Dexter's" final season. She had arrested Dexter earlier in the episode, but wasn't able to outsmart him. He had already set up her up, making it look like she had planted an old shirt and wallet of Hector Estrada's on him in a crazed attempt to have him framed. And that was almost that. LaGuerta could have dropped it there, accepted some discipline from the department and maybe apologized to Dexter at the holiday party. Dexter was content to just ruin her career to save himself.
But then Mike Anderson's widow had to conveniently send her an envelope full of photographic evidence that showed Deb filling up the gas canister the night Dexter killed Travis Marshall. LaGuerta confronted Deb with the pictures, and Deb got flustered and caught in a lie. "I think I'm not the only one who made a mistake trying to protect someone they care about," LaGuerta taunted her, before promising she would continue her investigation. At that moment, I found myself thinking, "Will Deb take out LaGuerta?" And as it turned out, she would indeed.
Meanwhile, Dexter searched LaGuerta's apartment and found warrants awaiting a judge's signature to track Dexter and the GPS on Deb's cell phone the night of the Marshall murder, which would have given more definitive proof that Deb helped Dexter burn down the church and incinerate Marshall's body.
Deb and Dexter were both pushed into a corner. Dexter resolved to murder LaGuerta before Deb got to the storage locker and initiated that final dramatic stand-off. Taking a page out of Quinn's book, his plan was to make it look like Estrada -- who he had just stabbed in the heart -- and LaGuerta had shot each other. But Deb walked in just as he was setting up LaGuerta's body. And just like that, the show was in the exact same place it was a season ago, with Deb again walking in with her gun drawn as Dexter was about to kill someone.
Only Deb has changed a lot over these last 12 episodes, and so has Dexter. He's gradually replaced "the code" with doing whatever it takes to survive and evade arrest. The "Dexter" writers did a great job bringing both Deb's and Dexter's downward trajectories full circle over the course of the season. Dex's corrosive influence on Deb caused her to cross that awful life. It was a sad development for both characters, one that makes it a lot harder to root for them as protagonists, but it opens up a ton of new, amoral ground for "Dexter" to explore in its final season.
Perhaps this moment will represent a turning point for the show. It's hard to imagine Dexter and Deb getting out of next season as a happy-go-lucky sibling vigilante team. According to the show's own mythology, they've crossed a line. As Harry warned Dexter, LaGuerta didn't even come close to fitting the code. Next season, they pretty much have to go down, and that will be fascinating to watch.
One thing Deb didn't do was poison herself to have Hannah McKay sent to prison. That was a popular theory that gained a lot of traction in the comments of last week's recap, but Hannah admitted to dosing Deb with Xanax in a jailhouse conversation with Dexter. "You were supposed to choose me," Hannah told him, before she promised to keep his secret, then bit his lip as they kissed goodbye. Channeling Tony Soprano, Dexter said, "We both knew it would come to this, one of us dead or behind bars."
The episode was full of one-on-one showdowns, and Deb and Hannah's chat at her arraignment was a catfight for the ages. Hannah called Deb out for being a hypocrite: "How do you justify arresting me and not him? Or is the law just something you make up as you go along, turning a blind eye whenever you feel like it or Dexter is involved?" And Deb shot back with a classic Deb reply: "Fuck you. You are a liar and a murderer." Now she is one too.
Speaking of Hannah, that was a truly bizarre sequence that led to her escape. Arlene Schramm passed her some poison at her arraignment, and Hannah took it while getting transported back to jail. She had a seizure and had to be taken to an emergency room, where she regained consciousness and snuck out of the hospital so she could creepily leave her signature poisonous flower on Dexter's doorstep. So maybe Hannah McKay will be back for Dexter's final season after all.
As it turned out, Doakes' return was all in Dexter's head, as the episode was peppered with flashbacks to the early days of their strained relationship. Dexter remembered Doakes calling him out for energetically recreating a murder, and lamented how he let Doakes see through him. The episode got its title from Doakes' "Surprise, Motherfucker!" line, and thankfully the show didn't pull the Doakes is still alive twist. Misleading promos aside, I think we're all glad Doakes stayed dead.
Before the episode aired, Showtime flashed a warning related to the Newtown school shooting that read: "In light of the tragedy that has occurred in Connecticut, the following program contains images that may be disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised." It got me thinking about how desensitized we've become to TV violence, and I felt conflicted watching, writing about and enjoying "Dexter" for the first time. Yes, it's crazy people with guns who commit these terrible crimes. And I'm not calling for censorship or saying I'll stop watching "Boardwalk Empire" or wasn't on the edge of my seat throughout this "Dexter" finale, but I was feeling a strange sense of guilt and shame about how much I enjoy shows like this, and wondering if any "Dexter" fans felt anything similar. Maybe it just felt weird to be rooting for an antihero serial killer -- who used to only kill serial killers -- from the comfort of my couch after all the real-life sadness I watched on the news this weekend.
What did you think of the season finale of "Dexter"? Where do you think next season is going? Leave your thoughts, theories and observations in the comments. And thanks for reading and commenting on HuffPost TV's "Dexter" recaps this season.
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