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Dexter Recap: It’s So Hard to Say Good-bye

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan (Season 7, episode 4).

This episode’s title refers to the note that Speltzer left for Dexter, like a starting gun at the beginning of a homicidal 100-meter dash. You could also call it “The Night of a Thousand Good-byes.” Some are probably temporary, like Harrison and Jamie shipping off to Orlando, or the loss of Debra’s sanity (which basically comes and goes minute to minute, like the signal on an old antennae TV). Others are more permanent: Speltzer, the poor Fox Hole bartender, the stripper’s funeral, Dexter’s slide collection, and Isaak’s tender sayonara that reveals why he’s taking the death of a henchman so personally.

Say what you will about Speltzer and his crazy bull-bondage mask, but despite just a two-episode arc, he goes down as one of Dexter’s more memorable foes. Creepy backstory? Check, as Deb’s surgical interrogation reveals his very unhealthy feelings for his mommy. Tough to take down? Double check, and it’s refreshing to see Dexter struggle to snare his prey this time; it’s often a little too easy for Dexter to overpower his victims or slip them a needle. The “Run” and “Stay” notes they trade are a nice touch, as is the slasher-movie homage of a backlit Speltzer walking slowly toward Dexter, dragging the blade of his ax along the wall for sinister effect. Dexter’s response to reading the note reflected his own megalomania — “I don’t run. I make people run.” (Shades of “I am the one who knocks.”) Cue the murderous gorilla juicehead and Dexter comically changes his tune: “However, I do run if there’s a bull coming after me with an ax.” Speltzer’s mazes work much better as metaphors for the walls closing in around Dexter than they do in any real sense (as with all of those Saw flicks, who could set up a torture trail, complete with a creepy mannequin rave room, without anyone noticing?). But it’s satisfying to see one of Dexter’s marks mean more to him — and to Deb, and us — than the ridiculously implausible airport kill, which was really just a plot device to introduce Isaak.

Speaking of Deb, she once again comes out with guns blazing and hits her brother with the kind of questions we’d expect from a professional interrogator. In the cramped alley that’s become the Official Morgan Family Confessional, she works him over. Why did Trinity kill Rita even though she didn’t fit his M.O.? What happened to him? Why didn’t Dexter help the cops? Did he really love Rita? When Dexter says he tried to protect his family while hunting Trinity, Deb rightly calls bullshit. We see she’s paying a price for delving so deep into Dexter’s lies and his head during the tub scene, and I’m not sure what’s more disturbing — her literal bloodbath, or Dexter saying “Deb … will you be mine?” The suit he’s wearing implies a (gross) romantic proposal, but the machete he’s holding says “Be my next victim” more than “Marry me.”

Deb drops a big bomb when she mentions his long-forgotten step kids, Astor and Cody, who are apparently not wards of the state or working in an iPhone factory in China. When Dexter starts talking about fatherhood, his sister quite accurately delivers a reality check: If Harrison needs to be protected from anyone, it’s him. “You’re like a fucking magnet,” she says. “Bad shit is going to find you.” That leads to this testy exchange:

Dex: I should have killed Trinity the first time I saw him. That’s the mistake I made.
Deb: That’s the mistake that you made?
Dex:
Yes! And I will never, from this moment on, do you hear me? I will never ever make that mistake again.
Deb:
It’s not in your control.
Dex: Everything is in my control. I am not giving up my son.

As Dexter delivers that last line, you see his eyes widen and the switch in his brain flipping from rational to cuckoo-for–Cocoa Puffs. It’s fun to see Michael C. Hall get to bring more of Dexter’s kill-room psychopathy out in the open, and to watch Deb react to it for the first time. 

Like last week, the surrounding story lines continue to deepen. Isaak, we learn, is a stickler for word usage (“It’s spatter! Blood spatter”) and a big ol’ softie when it comes to the henchman Dexter killed who appears to have been his lover — thus explaining his boredom at the strip club, his rage over losing a flunky, and his sharp wardrobe. (Was I the only one waiting to hear the tender strains of Bryan Adams when Isaak said “Everything I do is for you”? Probably.) He’s also as cold a sonofabitch as anyone Dexter’s encountered, as is proven when Isaak doesn’t so much as blink while watching the bartender blow his brains out. We also see a little more from Hannah, who evokes both skepticism and fascination from Dexter. He seems to wonder if Hannah can make him feel like Randall did with her and help him find that “anything is possible” feeling he’s never known. Hannah looks like Dexter’s escape from his current state of entrapment, though you can bet she’s more complicated than she seems so far.

The closing moments appear to close two doors and open a rather large new one. After Dexter has some fun mocking his meathead victim (“FUUUUUUUUUUCK! It feels good! FUUUUUUUUUCK!”), he sends his blood slides off to the incinerator with Speltzer’s body, like his twisted version of a Viking hero’s funeral. No more collectibles, he says. Too risky. There’s also this odd exchange between Dexter and Deb that recalls the bathtub scene and suggests one last nail in the coffin of her romantic feelings for him.

Deb: I don’t know if I can feel the same way about us.
Dex: I do.
Deb: I do. And I don’t do.

Um, okay, Deb, thanks for clearing that up. More significant is the scene as she watches Speltzer’s ashes float up into the night sky and feels content. Deb looks repulsed by herself, while Dexter looks hopeful; maybe she is beginning to see things his way. Based on her awakening this season so far, that might lead to some conflicted feelings next week, but it likely won’t last. It seems she’s starting to lose her mind a bit, but both Deb and the show are too smart this season to run down that path.

Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime 2012