With just three episodes left in the penultimate Dexter season, you’d think we could see the finish line from here. But last week offered more confusion than clarity: Isaak’s dead, LaGuerta is (very) slowly unraveling the Bay Harbor Butcher case, Deb’s dealing surprisingly well with her brother’s homicidal urges, and out of nowhere, there’s a new serial killer on the loose. How will this all possibly add up to something satisfying in the final three hours? Last night gave us some clues into where we’re headed — including one stunning realization that could alter the course of the series from here.
The show is basically down to three storylines, now that much of the tension between Dexter and Deb has faded. With Isaak gone and Deb’s live-and-let-kill attitude (at least while she’s self-medicating), LaGuerta has emerged as Dexter’s biggest threat. I’m enjoying the uneasy alliance between her and Matthews and the zingers they fire at each other, like when Matthews describes the ambience of their Deep Throat hideaway:
Matthews: It’s the kind of place you take hookers and ugly broads so nobody sees you.
LaGuerta: You should know.
With that, they’ve leapfrogged Dexter and Hannah to become the show’s best odd couple. Matthews also drops a few mind-blowers on his favorite Cuban foil, including the fact that Dexter’s mother was butchered in front of him, and his brother was the Ice Truck Killer. The only plausible argument for why none of these dots had been connected earlier was that the evidence against Doakes made it seem like an open-and-shut case. Still, it’s another moment this season when the writers appear to be saying to us, “Look, we know the logic train left long time ago. Thanks for sticking it out and please bear with us. We’re trying to make things right before this wraps up.” Matthews can’t resist one last dig — he’ll confront Dexter since he’s “less likely to fuck it up,” but their confrontation will have to wait until next week. As for George — who seemed destined for a Saran Wrap suit, considering how Dexter bonded with Isaak — Quinn shoots him and Batista agrees to cover his undocumented-stripper-girlfriend’s bethonged ass. At this point, I’m hoping Quinn and Nadia both take the next flight to the Ukraine.
That leaves us with two other significant storylines that end up intersecting: Dexter’s blooming romance with his hot murderous horticulturalist and this bizarre Phantom Arsonist, who showed up awfully late in the season. We learn early on that Bosso is indeed a red herring (and a Civil War reenactor, which seems about right; I would have pegged him as a LARPer, but tomato, tom-ah-to). The early scene on the bus threw me for a loop: Guy walks on with flame-retardant pants and a suspicious look, which we can clearly see on his unfamiliar face. That can’t be the Phantom, right? Well, yes, that’s him. As it turns out, the Phantom and his cryptic “Bobby” notes were little more than a plot device. There are hints along the way as to where this is going, particularly when Harry tells Dexter he only gave him the Code, not that cockamamie “Dark Passenger” business (again, one of those convos you’d think Harry would have had years ago). It’s a great moment with a telling ending, as Harry suggests Dexter’s co-pilot is no more real than Harry himself. Dexter looks his way in disbelief and poof — daddy’s gone.
Hannah also has some fun with the Dark Passenger concept, and again, she’s almost speaking for the audience, who long ago tired of the DP talk. Enter Clint McKay, the redneck papa who threw her in a lake as a kid and is clearly not in town just for a family reunion. As Clint reveals he’s still a “real genuine asshole of a father,” Dexter shows remarkable poise — until Clint rams his truck into Hannah’s greenhouse. One thing Hannah’s got going for her is the way she doesn’t make excuses for her mean streak — she doesn’t blame her evil deeds on her dad, or even on Randall. She also has a soft side, as we see her sobbing and trying to piece her broken plants back together, while being comforted by the least-emotionally-available boyfriend ever.
All of Hannah’s hole-poking in the logic of the Dark Passenger comes to a head when Dexter confronts the Phantom (so good to see him kicking it old-school with the kill room and plastic wrap — please, enough with the take-downs in broad daylight). As he lectures about taking responsibility for his actions, Dexter finally — after nearly seven seasons — realizes that he should heed the same advice. Just one problem with sparing the Phantom’s life, though — what happens when the guy tells the cops that some dude almost stabbed him to death?
The big twist, of course, is that instead of killing the killer, Dexter takes Clint on a one-way Slice of Life cruise. Goodbye, Harry’s Code. So long, Dark Passenger. As Dexter plunges his knife into Papa McKay, he fully embraces the evil within for the first time. It’s not the devil inside, he says with wicked grin — it’s just who he is. It also might lead to the mother of all awkward relationship chats: “Honey, I murdered your father with a knife and dumped him in the ocean.” Now we’re left to wonder if this is a brief detour and more proof that Hannah is a bad influence, or if this sinister turn is the first step toward Dexter losing his humanity. Hannah seems destined for a bad ending, especially now that Dexter thinks he’s in love — might her incarceration, or death, push him over the edge? Will she learn he killed her dad and snap? My gut says that Dexter will be back on the Code soon. It’s a little sick to root for a guy who’s cut Miami’s population in half, but Harry’s rulebook is what keeps us tethered to Dexter as the antihero protagonist. In a sense, Clint’s death could be a hint about the show’s endgame. Now that Dexter’s killed his first innocent victim, maybe it will be easier to accept what could be a very ugly end to the series next year.