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Dexter Recap: Stepkids, Booty Calls, and Brotherly Love

Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan and Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan (Season 7, episode 8)

In keeping with the spirit of this holiday week, a few things I’m thankful for after watching last night’s excellent episode (with mouth agape for much of the last fifteen minutes):

Arika Lisanna Mittman
Let’s take a moment to give the writer some props. In terms of plotting and dialogue, this was the best episode of the season. The theme of outsiders looking for a safe place and somewhere to belong resurfaces in smart ways, from Hannah and her calendar to Astor’s teen angst to Isaak’s life as a closeted gay heroin kingpin. Deb’s confession and Dexter’s paralyzed response is pitch perfect, as is Isaak’s sermon at the bar. When he points out that his love for Viktor wasn’t any less real just because the guy was a killer, there’s a clear parallel between both Dexter and Hannah and Deb and Dexter. The final montage works on a few levels — tugging on the ol’ heartstrings, getting a laugh as Aunt Deb tokes up with Astor, and suggesting that Dexter is in serious trouble with his feelings for Hannah and Isaak’s vendetta against him. Even the cheesiest line of the night works, when Deb warns Hannah, “You haven’t even begun to be sorry.”

Isaak Sirco
Last season’s Big Bads debuted with great promise but eventually turned into boring one-trick ponies. Isaak is the opposite — wasn’t quite sure what to make of him early on, but he’s quickly becoming one of Dexter’s most entertaining adversaries. Whereas Travis was just a nutjob with extraordinary set-design talents, Isaak seems capable of taking Dexter down at any moment (save for his doughnut shop assassination attempt — not his finest effort). He’s also Dexter’s best-dressed adversary, and one of his baddest — only Bond villains pay for your drink before they try to kill you again. For more evidence, note his icy delight at the crime scene as he’s surrounded by cops and playing conversational chess with Dexter — the man he’d just tried to shoot to death. There’s even a heart beating somewhere beneath that khaki suit and lime-green shirt, as Isaak replays Viktor’s last voice mail over and over. Here’s hoping the Koshka “realignment” doesn’t mean Isaak’s going away anytime soon.

The Confession
Even more reviled than the Doomsday Killers in season six was the revelation that Deb had romantic feelings for her brother. Though a lot of fans probably hoped that plotline would fade away as if it never happened, Deb’s realization was too seismic to ignore. But I didn’t see Deb’s confession coming. Dexter’s brain explodes when she admits she loves him, and his stunned response is true to character — how does a guy so emotionally stunted even begin to process that news? (For starters, he really wants to kill someone.) Deb ends her speech with a bit of self-reflection: “You’re a serial killer and I’m more fucked up than you are.” It could have been a creepy train wreck; instead, it was a well-played complication in what’s been a tangled, messy few weeks for the Morgan sibs.

Jennifer Carpenter
Again — give this woman an Emmy nomination! As demonstrated when Deb admits her feelings for Dexter, she’s a master of the hysterical rant that’s part sob, part laughter, part-I’m-so-freaked-out-I-might-puke. Also good to see that Deb called off the hit on Hannah. Not her style.

Astor and Cody’s Return
Really. We may not like them — and Dexter doesn’t, either, considering how often they see each other — but it’s high time (pun intended) these two enfants terribles showed up again. And my, how they’ve grown! For a minute I thought there was a different actress playing Astor. So great to see they’re still the adorable rays of sunshine they always were. Astor enjoys AP biology, smoking pot, looking miserable, and yelling at her brother. Cody likes Angry Birds, belching, and fruitless attempts to bond with his psychopathic stepdad. Dexter and Astor eventually share a quiet moment as she bums out about Rita, and the two find some common ground — they both feel like outsiders. Perhaps because he’s largely responsible for the murder of her mom, Dexter does Astor a solid and promises to keep a lid on her ganja habit. Absentee parent of the year!

Yvonne Strahovski
Best booty-call tutor ever.

The Gay Bar Scene
One of the best this season (and not just because it proved my theory about Viktor being Isaak’s lover — though I admit, that felt good). Dexter mistaking Isaak’s reach for his wallet as a reach for his pistol and lines like, “You really must explain to me your aversion to guns sometime” — fun moments that made Isaak more human, and in a weird way, more likable. As he tells Dexter, “Under different circumstances, I think we could have been great friends,” he’s saying exactly what we were thinking.

Deb’s Best Lines
When she stresses that her romantic feelings for Dexter were past tense: “Was. I don’t even know if I fucking like you.” And her thoughts on child-rearing: “You did not tell me that bedtime was like this two-hour process. And reading those Dr. Seuss books out loud is really fuckin’ hard.”

Dexter’s Best Line
An all-timer, when he cuts the throat of Isaak’s would-be assassin: “Coulda just gone halfsies.”

Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime