Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you haven't seen Season 7, Episode 11 of Showtime's "Dexter," titled "Do You See What I See?"
Well, that was one of those great "Dexter" endings that waited until the final 10 minutes to weave several storylines together in a rapid succession of twists and turns. In a heart-pouding flurry of action, Dexter barely escaped LaGuerta's trap and sided with Deb, turning in his lover Hannah McKay to the police.
The episode started with Dexter in love, imagining a future with Hannah and contemplating hanging up his knives after one final cathartic kill that would have brought his murdering days full circle. But his dreams of retirement came crashing down thanks to the stubborn ladies of Miami Metro, whose relentless investigations into the Bay Harbor Butcher and Hannah McKay reminded Dexter how absurd and unattainable that fantasy is for a man who's devoted his life to serial killing.
Hannah McKay sealed their relationship's fate, forcing Dexter to pick sides between his girlfriend and sister after she tried to poison Deb with an overdose of Xanax. After Arlene Schramm tipped Hannah off that Deb had tracked her down to question her about the poisoning of a pervy halfway house counselor, Hannah slipped some Xanax into Deb's water bottle, causing her to pass out behind the wheel. Deb crashed her car and ended up in hospital, and from the moment Dexter came to visit her, it was pretty clear that Hannah's fingerprints were all over the accident.
But Deb forced Hannah's hand, too. She was willing to plant evidence to implicate Doakes and throw Matthews and LaGuerta off Dexter's scent, but she just couldn't let her brother be happy with his new lady. When Hannah came to her trying to make peace, Deb vowed, "It's because I love Dexter that I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get you behind bars." Of course, she's also in love with him, which is clearly motivating her vendetta against Hannah. In the fight for Dexter's heart, Deb's law won out over Hannah's poison.
(Or is it possible that Deb poisoned herself and framed Hannah for the Xanax poisoning? There's a great discussion going on in the comments about that theory.)
In a conversation last week with Slate's Katy Waldman, I said I had an inkling that Hannah might survive the season. As it turns out, I was totally right, except not really. She will survive the season, but it will be in prison: Dexter gave Deb the evidence he had stolen from Hannah's prior poisoning of Sal Price. As she was getting hauled off in handcuffs, she heartbreakingly told Dexter, "You should have just killed me." Dexter breaking the serial killer's code was the ultimate betrayal.
The other main subplot of the episode was centered on Hector Estrada, one of the three men responsible for killing Dexter's mom. As we learned later in the episode, LaGuerta had pushed for his early release in an effort to trap Dexter and catch him in the ultimate revenge kill. And her plan almost worked. Like clockwork, Dexter posed as a weed dealer trying to branch out in the Hispanic market, and after Estrada conveniently did not recognize him from the parole hearing, he lured Estrada to a storage locker that was eerily reminiscent of where he witnessed his mother murdered.
But right before Dexter was about to complete the cathartic kill, Estrada started talking about a set-up, and mentioned that a female police higher-up had arranged his release. Just when Dexter realized the set-up was actually aimed at him, LaGuerta and two cops showed up in the harbor with guns drawn. Dexter escaped the scene -- as did Estrada, who hilariously lept into the water -- but LaGuerta found a perfectly set-up kill-room, more proof of her theory that the Bay Harbor Butcher is alive and well.
By the way, with Estrada's escape and Hannah's arrest, that now raises the count of criminals who could plausibly identify Dexter as the Bay Harbor Butcher to three. If the police were to interrogate Estrada, Hannah or the Phantom Arsonist about who the guy was who strapped them naked to a table and almost killed them, it probably wouldn't take them too long to identify Dexter. I doubt the writers will explore that angle because it wouldn't be a particularly suspenseful or exciting way for Dexter's run to end, but it's getting a little ridiculous.
So it turned out to be a bummer of a "Dexter" Christmas for everyone: Dexter had to turn in his true love, and didn't even get to kill Estrada; Hannah's going to jail; Nadia skipped town on Quinn; LaGuerta missed out on finding her Butcher, and crushed Batista's dreams that they might be able to get back together once he retires; and Deb almost died, but at least her brother is single again.
Now we head to the season finale with a surprising number of the season's storylines already sewn up. Still, it feels like a wildcard surprise is in store. The season finale is titled, "Surprise, Motherfucker," which was one of Sgt. Doakes' catchphrases. Jennifer Carpenter has said, "I hope when you watch the finale, you are wearing socks that you don't like, because this finale is going to knock them off." Is it possible that Doakes could have survived the massive explosion that we all assumed left him for dead? That would be beyond absurd, but on "Dexter," anything is possible.
What other surprise twist do you think could be in store for the finale? Let us know your thoughts and theories in the comments.
"Dexter" airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on Showtime.