Season seven has been a season of extremes on Dexter
, with the negatives far outweighing the positives through the first four episodes. After a fabulous season premiere in which Dexter was fully exposed to Deb, setting up what should have been some fascinating character dynamics to drive the rest of the season, the writers instead went into full retreat. Instead of taking advantage of the new reality, Dexter
backed off, retreating into tired tropes and catch phrases that were already cliche entire seasons ago while the story completely lost focus, spinning its wheels with pointless side plots and characters that were never going to go anywhere. We had Deb trying to put Dexter through some sort of home spun twelve step, two episodes wasted on the horribly performed and executed minotaur man, a principal villain who spent multiple episodes just sort of hanging around not knowing who is real target should be while said target (Dexter) was completely unaware of his existence, and just generally a lot of moping around. If not in total free fall Dexter
was, at least, drifting badly.
But no more. With the pointless side characters killed off, Deb now fully complicit in Dexter's world, Dexter now out of his "Why won't she just love me for who I am?" whiny bitchness, and Isaak on target veteran Dexter
director Ernest Dickerson locks things firmly on target for what is by far the most focused, kinetic and satisfying episode of the season.
Here's how it plays out.
We begin with Dexter on his boat doing nothing more than simply cleaning up before Harrison returns home from his grandparents when he discovers traces of blood. Someone has been killed on the boat by someone other than Dexter and suddenly his hackles are raised. And when he returns home and notices that his curtains have been opened the game is well and truly on. Whoever was on the boat is in his apartment and Dexter is engaged in a game of cat and mouse, except in this case there are two cats and no mouse. It's hunter versus hunter with Dexter and Isaak both looking to gain the upper hand.
Meanwhile, back in the station, word has trickled back to Masuka that Captain Laguerta has sent evidence to an outside lab for testing. Masuka immediately concludes that he's fallen out of favor and his job is on the line but Deb recognizes immediately that something else is afoot. Learning that Laguerta discovered Dexter's blood slide and is conducting a private investigation into the possible (as far as she's concerned, definite as we know) possibility that the Bay Harbor Butcher (i.e. Dexter) is still at work. Deb talks her way into the investigation so that she can protect both herself and her brother. So much for twelve step.
And then there's the third major plotline sure to occupy a lot of time over the rest of the season: Hannah McKay. Hannah has agreed to help the police find the remaining bodies from Randall's killing spree and it takes Dexter no time at all to realize that Hannah's story doesn't line up with the evidence, that she was not a victim in the killing spree but a participant. And given that Hannah has full immunity granted to her by the DA she now completely fits the profile for a swift bit of Dexter-dispensed justice. But, is that a bit of a spark there? Is Dexter's interest in Hannah in a different direction? Are we headed for a bizarre love triangle, with Dexter between unrepentant killer Hannah on one side and love struck, adoptive sister / increasingly active accomplice Deb on the other?
After a trio of episodes that had me ready to pack it in on Dexter
entirely, Swim Deep
gets things thoroughly right on every level. Well stages, well written, well performed, it gets into the meat of the characters and their interior conflicts with ruthless efficiency and it does it by setting up external conflicts that require active resolution rather than having them mope around having the same conversations they've been having for years. Dexter's relationship with Deb has now changed so irrevocably that it has forced a sort of development in him that we haven't seen for quite a while, and the changes for Deb are even more extreme. Even the side characters - notably Joey Quinn - are being pushed in interesting directions. While the road to getting here was sloppy and inefficient in the extreme - the plot points required to get here could, and should, have been covered in a single episode rather than three - the point that Dexter
has finally arrived at is a good one, filled with potential and possibilities for the rest of the season.
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