Say what you will about Season 6 — and the consensus seems to be that this has been the most inconsistent and possibly the worst Dexter chapter of all — the final moments of last night’s finale felt like redemption. Sure, there were still plenty of the obvious plot holes that have plagued the show recently and almost no attention was paid to anyone other than Travis, Debra, and Dexter (this episode could have also been titled “Getting Travis Marshall”). But though it was inevitable that Deb would one day meet Dexter’s dark side, the questions of when and how have been looming large. As Season 4 will be remembered as the John Lithgow season, a.k.a. When Rita Was Killed, Season 6 of Dexter has become When Debra Learned Her Brother Was a Killer, a.k.a. When Debra Also Realized She Wants to Make Sex With Her Brother. As spectacular as some of those tableaus were, DDK now feels like a footnote.
As for the subplots, everything else pales in comparison to that closing scene, and in recognition of this, the show spent as little time with the supporting cast as possible. Everyone who hoped Quinn had half-assedly worked his last day at Miami Metro — including Batista — was disappointed to learn he’s blocking his transfer out of the department by sobering up (though if he’s not a self-destructive jerk anymore, why have him around at all?). LaGuerta picks an odd time to give Deb some support, considering she’s been nothing but a cold Machiavellian jerk all season long. Perhaps there’s still some self-interested scheme behind this truce she seems to have struck with Deb, but her newfound empathy just seemed like an excuse for LaGuerta to tell her to “take control” of her life — which led her back to the shrink and prompted her revelation about Dexter. Then there’s Louis, who’s coming back as a forensics consultant and possibly the Big Bad for next season. The impact of the Ice Truck Killer hand he mailed to Dexter won’t be felt until next season.
The rest of the episode can be summed up thusly: Dexter simultaneously survives being left for dead in the ocean and sticks up for illegal immigrants; Debra tells Dex she loves him and he thinks she just means “loves him” but she really means “loves him loves him” and he’s shirtless while this happens; Travis steals Harrison and comforts him by singing some adorable Armageddon lullabies; Deb tells her shrink about her love love and the shrink does a great job of not pulling a Liz Lemon and saying “Adoy! Of course you do!”; and Dexter doesn’t let being a good dad interfere with the tranquilized serial killer in his trunk that he’s preparing to ritually execute.
It all leads up to the most satisfying kill scene of the season (though the bar is low, considering Dexter’s offensively slight body count as of late). Inside the church, Travis’s kill table is positioned at the foot of the altar, with a Bible propping up his head and a well-placed holy light shining on his midsection so we don’t see his psychojunk. Michael C. Hall is never as fun to watch as he is in these moments — poking Travis in the forehead as if to physically drill his words into DDK’s skull, full of righteous fury, barely able to contain the rage that’s been building through weeks of stalking his prey. Dexter doesn’t come to some grand spiritual conclusion about God; instead, he returns to the old idea that he’s an agent of balance, bringing both light and darkness to this world. Nothing new there. Yet as Dexter casts the killing blow, Travis’s death is, ahem, eclipsed by a most unfortunately timed visit from Deb, who sees her brother murder the nut job she’s been hunting for weeks. Dexter might try to spin this as an isolated event, but when the guy you just stabbed is naked and bound to a table with plastic sheeting, claiming self-defense isn’t an option. Considering last night’s references to how lucky Dexter is — the woman on the Milagro (“Miracle”) and Jamie when he returns from the sea — and all of his increasingly implausible escapes, it’s as if the writers have finally conceded that Dexter’s good fortune has run out.
It’s no coincidence that this was, next to Rita’s murder, Dexter’s best cliffhanger. Although Showtime hasn’t committed to a clear end date for the series, it’s been renewed for two more seasons, which according to network president David Nevins will “likely” be its last. As with Lost, Smallville, and so many other shows that suffered in the middle of their runs thanks a lack of a clear endgame, Dexter has drifted into that territory. Last season ended with Deb nearly catching her brother dispensing with Jordan Chase. She failed, of course, because that moment would be a universe-shaking game-changer that would hurl the series to its conclusion. These past two seasons have felt stretched, as if the writers are treading water, waiting for the green light to send this story where we all know it eventually is going — Deb meets the Dark Passenger, and Dexter answers for his sins. Just as Deb isn’t destined for a house in the suburbs and marital bliss, Dexter isn’t riding off into the sunset with Harrison and a new box of slides. Here’s hoping the show and the network stick to this two-season plan and deliver what could be a tightly plotted, thoroughly satisfying conclusion to a series that deserves to go out on a high note. That’s the way Dexter’s world should end.
A few parting thoughts regarding the finale and what lies ahead in Season 7:
• Why would the cops wait for Dexter to arrive before entering the house where a double-homicide occurred? This is the first time there’s not an army of police mucking up the crime scene when Dexter shows up. No good explanation, other than it's an easy way to allow Dexter remove his image from the lake of fire mural.
• Speaking of flimsy logic, how would Dexter have the energy to swim back to shore after he spent a full night stranded at sea? Massive adrenaline rush after killing that traitorous captain, perhaps? Or the Milagro was stocked with Red Bull?
• And why would that dude walking his dog on the beach let Dexter use his cell phone after Dexter just crawled out of the ocean fully clothed with a posse of illegals?
• And why would Deb be cool with Dexter taking time in the middle of the workday — and with four hours to go before the end of days — to attend Harrison’s play? Hasn’t Dexter missed enough time this season?
• And why wouldn’t Dexter anticipate what Travis would do with his keys and wallet? Sure, Travis thought he was dead, but wouldn’t that make Dexter’s apartment the obvious place he’d hide?
• Oddest moment: Travis eating the shit out of an apple in the car, just before he looks at Dexter’s driver’s license. So weird!
• Oddest moment, runner-up: Masuka’s Yoda impression. Would have been better if he said something filthy.
• The grand finale Travis prepared was a complete creative letdown. Here’s a guy who strapped body parts to horses and set them free in broad daylight. The best he can come up with for Judgment Day is a child sacrifice during an eclipse on a rooftop where no one will see it?
• The Noah’s Ark play, with all the adults wearing those creepy animal heads, was as scary as any of the DDK tableaus.
• The poor kid who plays Harrison really earned his pay this week. At least twice, he looked genuinely scared. When Dexter puts on the lion mask and growls, a little girl screams and Harrison jumps — not like an actor, but like a child who wasn’t expecting to hear a shriek. He was also disturbed during the rooftop face-off when Travis aims the John the Revelator sword at him. Harrison stares at the blade and the thought bubble over his head says, “Um, mom, I think this guy really wants to kill me.”
• My guess for next season is that it will start with a new killer on the loose, or a number of them, but that Louis will slowly become the big game that Dexter hunts. Of course, the fallout from what Deb saw at the church will drive much of the narrative. How does Dexter explain his behavior? Will they cover up Travis’s death or stage the crime scene so Deb can close the case? Will Deb still want to bang him? However this plays out, it seems Deb will finally begin to do some digging into her brother’s mysterious life and connect a lot of dots. By the end of Season 7, it’s a safe bet that she’ll know Travis wasn’t Dexter’s first victim. Whether her sanity remains intact is another issue.
Best quote: “I am a father. A son. A serial killer.” —Dexter sharing some of his personal scripture with Travis
Debra Morgan Vulgar Outburst of the Night: “Fuckin' big-ass, tall-as-shit skyscrapers.”—vividly describing Travis’s next location
Vince Masuka Pervo Line of the Night: “Maybe I'll throw you some consulting work just to keep your dick wet.”—begrudgingly offering Louis some post-internship job opportunities at Miami Metro
Kill Tools: harpoon; knife