So far, this season is all about the ladies in Dexter’s life: the mysterious Dr. Vogel and the delirious Debra. As his sister drifts further into her own despair, Dexter finds himself without the one person who understands him (and isn’t talking to him from beyond the grave). Right on cue, Dr. Vogel appears, eager to fill that void and going so far as to call herself his “spiritual mother.” Dexter could use a shoulder to not cry on. But there’s something about the doctor that feels less Phil and more Frankenstein, as Dexter observes.
The episode begins with some old videos of Harry confiding in Dr. Vogel about his death-obsessed 10-year-old son. Most dads remember taking their kids to their first baseball game; Harry describes his boy’s first homicide scene, which for Dexter was like a trip to MoMA (“He stood there staring … like he was admiring a painting”). There’s also Dexter’s first trophy — a bloody piece of glass he stole from the crime scene that looks an awful lot like a blood slide. So cute! (The blood slides are also the subject of the night’s funniest moment, when Dexter, searching Sussman’s house for clues, sees the air conditioner: “Nah.”)
Dr. Vogel doesn’t show her home videos for nostalgia, of course. She needs Dexter’s help to catch the Brain Surgeon, who’s been leaving scoops of anterior insular cortex at her doorstep. She suspects the perp is one of her former patients, and we eventually learn that Sussman was just a victim himself. That means the killer is still on the loose and Dr. Vogel fears there’s a brain jar with her name on it.
She also seems more than a little manipulative as she repeatedly showers Dexter with compliments: She cares for him, she’s proud of him, she has faith in him, and psychos are an “indispensible demographic.” Knowing that Vogel used “unorthodox methods” on other patients, and that she’s the author of Dexter’s Code, there’s reason to wonder why she’s so determined to get on Dexter’s good side. Dexter also pressed her about why Harry opened up to her. Vogel pointed out Harry had no one else to turn to. Did they have an affair?
Dexter slowly lets Dr. Vogel in on his ruined relationship with Deb, who continues to spin out of control. Note how her look as changed with her attitude: good-bye, striped shirts; hello, ripped jeans and ratty tees. She has a snappy, snarky rapport with her boss, which means they might sleep together, and she’s still making bad decisions, like looking for Billy Walsh’s jewels alone. Was there ever any doubt that Deb shot El Sappo? The only mystery is where she got the gun, since the hit man took hers during their UFC throwdown in the storage shed.
Aside from Deb and Dr. Vogel, there’s not much going on. A love triangle of sorts is developing between Deb, Jamie, and Quinn, who’s been oddly concerned with his ex’s whereabouts (and not oddly, a dick to Jamie). The only endgame that makes sense there is that Quinn somehow catches on to what’s really going on with Deb, but that seems a long way off.
In the end, it all comes back to Deb and the doc. Dexter saves his sister from Quinn’s soft interrogation, then takes her into the alley where he used to confess his sins. This time, it’s Deb who’s the killer, asking Dexter to cover her tracks. (Why is it so easy to tamper with evidence in that storage locker? No cameras up in that piece?) Dexter comes to the conclusion we’re beginning to see — the old Deb is dead. Hard to imagine how she could recover from killing two people in cold blood. The question is, as Dexter wonders, what has she become? Since El Sappo was a killer, perhaps Dexter’s hobby will become a family business of sorts. (And when Hannah returns, she’d better stay away from Deb. She ain’t playin’ this season.)
In the final scene at Dr. Vogel’s pad, Dexter has an identity crisis. He made the wrong call on Sussman; he destroyed his sister; and without his ability to successfully vet, stalk, and kill, what is he? “You’re perfect,” says the Psychopath Whisperer, and as she wraps her arms around him, you can practically see the thought bubble over Dexter’s head: “Mommy!” I doubt Dr. Vogel is the Brain Surgeon herself — that’s too obvious, especially this early in the season. But she could be working with him, setting all of this up to manipulate Dexter for some sick reason. Even if she’s really in danger, it seems unlikely that she truly has Dexter’s best interests in mind (no pun intended).