To say this season has been a little disjointed is a rather large understatement. When we talk about past chapters of the show, they’re mostly easy to identify: Ice Truck Killer; Bay Harbor Butcher; the time Dexter killed Jimmy Smits and fell for Rita; Trinity; Lumen; and the Doomsday Killer. Looking back, we’ll probably call this the Year of Hannah McKay rather than the Untimely Death of Isaak or the Return of the Two Most Boring Kids This Side of Homeland. But despite some of the ho-hum storylines, the killers that came and went, and an episode or two that slumped, season seven is rallying as the finish line approaches. In the wake of last night, the elements are in place for a whopper of a cliffhanger finale.
Throughout the episode, Dexter and the gang spend a lot of time contemplating the past and the future — which is fitting, considering the finality that both the series and Dexter himself seem to be headed toward. The opening montage of a grey-haired Dexter in his perfect life works well: He imagines a world where he can be a loving husband to his homicidal sweetheart, doting dad to a hoops-playing Harrison, and a killer. Most importantly, he’s still alive. Unlike in his relationship with Rita, in which he always seemed to be playing the role of a man in love, his affection for Hannah is instinctive, inspiring tender forehead kisses and talk of Christmas traditions yet to come. If it wasn’t such a sick relationship, these two would be awfully cute.
Of course, we know that won’t last. When Hannah chats in the car with Arlene, her chain-smoking ex-roomie, about having each other’s back, we get the sense that Deb is in trouble. Deb’s badass reality check when Hannah tries to make peace doesn’t help, either.
Deb: “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to protect him from you. I’m not going to give up until your murdering ass is behind bars for good. That’s how were going to work out our issues. But hey. Thanks for stopping by."
Cold! There’s little doubt about the test results on the water bottle Dexter finds in Deb’s car. What I didn’t expect was for Dexter to simply turn Hannah in. The final scene, when Dexter gives her one last kiss under the (probably poisoned) mistletoe, is a fine one. When Hannah whispers, “You should have killed me,” it’s shudder-worthy, the first time she seems like a true threat, an unhinged psychopath. It’s also potentially the most dangerous relationship deal-breaker since Adrianna told Christopher she was a rat on The Sopranos: It seems rather unwise to send your diabolical ex-girlfriend to jail when she knows you like to kill people (sometimes even on a first date).
As Dexter deals with his girlfriend, he’s also busy trying to throw LaGuerta off his scent. Deb’s offer to help him plant evidence was a little too automatic — it seemed like just yesterday that she’d drawn a definitive line between his double life and her duty as a cop. Considering Dexter could have handled that B&E at LaGuerta’s himself, Deb’s role in the cover-up will probably become a complication down the road.
Just when it seemed LaGuerta had no more moves left to make, we realize she’d already set her boldest into motion. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I did not see her clever setup coming until LaGuerta showed up at the docks. The shrewd sting felt out of character at first; as Matthews said to her earlier, “You’re not an investigator, Maria. Your talent’s in playing the game. And you play a great one.” But it wasn’t her skill as a sleuth that almost catches Dexter red-handed, it’s her ability to play a long chess match through to its conclusion. By pushing behind the scenes for Hector Estrada’s release, she was setting the bait, knowing that if Dexter was a killer, he couldn’t resist completing his revenge trifecta. With the cops closing in, Dexter doesn’t have time to cover his tracks. Instead, he leaves a message for LaGuerta in the form of that buzzing chainsaw: You’ve won this round, but the game isn’t over.
Now there are two dangerous people with first-hand knowledge of Dexter’s dirty deeds: Estrada, who’s on the loose, and Hannah, who’d seem eager to cut a deal in exchange for info leading to the arrest of her ex. Somehow, someway, Hannah seems destined to die before she gives him up. The same goes for Estrada. But what role will Deb play? She’s broken the law to protect her brother; how much further will she go? What’s LaGuerta’s next move? Will Matthews see the light? What impact will Batista’s retirement plans — and the dirty money he inadvertently used for the restaurant — have on any of this? Will Quinn do them (and us) a favor and fly to Vegas for good? Will Masuka throw his Secret Santa party after all?
Many questions and just one episode to go. With Hannah in cuffs and Deb still unaware of LaGuerta’s shipping-container discovery, Dexter closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He knows, as we do, that the future looks bleak.