Note: Do not read on if you have not seen the Season 7 premiere of "Dexter," entitled "Are You ... ?"
"Dexter" (airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime) returned for its Season 7 premiere Sunday night, and made good on the promise of its Season 6 finale, a game-changing episode that breathed new life into the series. With the show's end now two seasons away, "Dexter" has embraced the freedom to ditch some its more tedious procedural elements and refocus on its new central tension: What happens now that Dexter's true identity has been revealed? Deb's struggle to uncover and come to terms with the the truth about her brother's murderous (but only for good!) ways throughout the episode showed just how suspenseful, complicated and emotionally-resonant "Dexter" can still be. Now, let's dissect the episode's developments a little closer.
The season picked up with Dexter making a frenzied escape to the Miami International airport, with his car running on empty, all his credit cards getting declined and his bags packed with cash and passports. Or so it seemed. What appeared to viewers to be a momentary flash in Dexter's head in the moments after his step-sister Deb walked in on him murdering Travis Marshall turned out to be fast-forward to later in the episode.
Dexter initially sold Deb a self-defense story, that Travis attacked him and he snapped, but she's a trained detective, and eventually started to catch on to the fact that his story didn't add up. "That still doesn't explain why he's wrapped up like that," she observed. He tried to convince her that his forensic expert instincts kicked in, and she gradually put her gun down as he plead with her not to call the station and let him cover up the crime.
Deb went through a rapid process of coming to terms with what she'd seen, cycling through the classic stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Mind racing, she grasped at every possibility, from Dexter pleading temporary insanity to getting him a great lawyer, but he pushed back, pointing out how there's no way he wouldn't lose his job and family before sheepishly suggesting, "Maybe we should just get rid of the body." Becoming more confident, Dexter pitches Deb an elegant solution: They can cover the murder up as a suicide and burn down the church, playing it as Travis Marshall's final tableau. Deb even goes out to get the gasoline. In only a few minutes, Deb is transformed from the embodiment of the law to an accessory-after-the-fact.
But Deb's journey of realization was only just beginning. Studying Dexter's facial expressions as he explained his theory to the Homicide team, brilliantly manipulating them to get himself out of trouble, she began to wonder how many times he might have done this before. But as conflicted as she was, she still distracted the rest of the team while Dexter grabbed a piece of leftover plastic from Marshall's charred corpse, and then went before news cameras to publicly declare that Marshall likely committed suicide because he was feeling Miami Metro's investigation closing in.
Later, back at Dexter's apartment, Deb's wheels were still turning, and she had questions she needed answered. She asked Dexter how he was so prepared for the kill, and why he said he knew what he was doing as they were covering up the crime scene. She just couldn't bring herself to accept his story that this was a one-off incident, an act of rage or self-defense.
And as much as she tried to push those questions aside and accept Dexter's answers, her subconscious wouldn't allow it. She started having panic attacks, and looked back at the files from the Ice Truck Killer case, and started having flashbacks to memories she's long suppressed of being strapped to Rudy's table and nearly killed as Brian was copycatting Dexter's method. "You were somehow able to perfectly duplicate exactly what he did," she says.
But by the end of the episode, Deb finally learned the truth about who Dexter really is. After she called Harrison's babysitter to check in on Dexter only to be told he was working late when she knew he wasn't, Deb searched his apartment and found his knives and blood-slide trophies. Confronted with this horrible reality, she finally saw her brother's secret. "Did you kill all these people? Are you a serial killer?" she asked. Dexter finally gave her an honest answer and muttered, "Yes."
Kill of the week:
Sergeant Mike Anderson was shot dead on the side of the road after offering to help a Russian mobster (who had the body of a dead stripper in his trunk) change a flat tire. Anderson's death was particularly resonant because he had just told Deb he was unconvinced that Travis Marshall had committed suicide and wanted to investigate the case further, raising questions like, "Where was his car?" She encouraged him to check it out, and it's hard to imagine her conscience won't be haunted by their final conversation.
Reminding viewers that we are rooting for a character who is compelled to murder people to deal with his stress levels, Dexter tracked down Anderson's killer at the airport as he was preparing to flee to Kiev and bashed his head in with a fire extinguisher in a baggage claim room ... because that's a responsible way to lie low when the walls are closing in.
Theory of the week:
This isn't so much a theory as it is the beginning of a storyline that could ultimately take Dexter down, but it's only Week 1. Dexter hastily dropped Travis Marshall's blood slide at the scene, which LaGuerta found and pocketed without informing the rest of the team. She was instantly reminded of the Bay Harbor Butcher case, and her own unanswered questions from that investigation. Remember that LaGuerta never fully believed that Sergeant Doakes was the Bay Harbor Butcher. It seems possible LaGuerta's inkling and Deb's newfound knowledge could collide sometime down the line.