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Dexter Recap: Growing Pains

During Saxon’s tense visit to Dexter’s apartment, he explains that moving is among life’s most stressful events — right up there with divorce and death. The lesson: Change comes with a price. It’s a fact that Dexter is learning the hard way, as his killer instincts dissolve and a deeper humanity rises to the surface. But as Dexter goes soft and cuddly, bad things happen. Vogel, his surrogate mother, was murdered when Dexter put his girlfriend ahead of hunting Saxon. And now, as Dexter tries to walk away from his final kill — and his old life — his sister ends up shot, the Marshal is stabbed, and Saxon is on the loose.

Something else you can add to the list of life’s stresses: the penultimate episode of a long-running series. There’s been a lot of online chatter regarding how far Dexter has slipped in recent seasons, much of which is justified. Does the impending convergence of Dex, Saxon, the cops, Elway, and Tropical Storm Laura (very subtle … "a storm is coming”) feel like an ending eight seasons in the making? Not really. My guess is that most fans would agree the series should have closed with season five, as Dexter copes with Rita’s death and realizes that serial killers can’t live happily ever after. It seems the latter point will be made next week, as the chances of Dexter making it to Argentina with Hannah and Harrison are about as slim as Deb’s skinny jeans.

Speaking of Deb, it’s hard to see much evidence of this season’s first few episodes in her anymore. Gone, completely, is the broken-down cop who murdered her boss to save the psychopathic brother she’s secretly in love with. The old Deb is back — great hair, horizontal-striped shirts, well-placed F-bombs and drop-ins at Dexter’s for dinner. As they share a last supper and Dexter remarks about how she should trust her inner compass, it’s an odd moment; in Dexter time, Deb was a raging drunk and a guilt-ridden killer not too long ago. Worse is when she helps Dexter set a trap for Saxon (and a lame trap at that — is he so dumb to think Dexter would sleep after sending Saxon’s snuff film to the local news?). As Deb leaves, she knows her brother is about to introduce Saxon to his knife collection, thus making her an accessory to yet another murder. But she smiles on her way out the door, as if she’ll miss everything about Dexter when he’s gone — even his penchant for stabbing folks and dumping their remains in the ocean.

A few symbols of closure surface as well. Miguel Prado’s wife helps Dexter sell his pad, and as they chat, there’s time for one last look at the ol’ air-conditioning unit. Remember Dexter’s slide collection? Those were the days. Even Astor and Cody are mentioned, and it sounds like (not surprisingly) his stepkids are cool with the Argentina plan as long as they get his SUV.

As we prepare for closure ourselves, a few questions and observations from last night:

  • When you sorta give back your ex-fiancée’s engagement ring, but you do it at the office where you’re working together again, what does it mean? Can a diamond be a promise ring? To Quinn’s credit, he’s taking things rather slow with Deb this time — which is decidedly un-Quinn-like.
  • Is there a point to Masuka’s daughter, aside from giving his character some semblance of a real life outside the lab?
  • There must be a serial killer code of conduct that’s preventing Saxon from simply telling the cops, “Look, okay, I cut my mother’s throat. But what if, in exchange for life in prison, I tell you everything I know from reading her psych files about the most prolific killer in history, who also happens to be your blood-spatter analyst?” Logical, yes. But also boring.
  • As many of you have pointed out, cut and dye your hair already, Hannah. No one’s saying you have to touch your golden locks, Miss Yvonne. A wig will do just fine.
  • Most transparent bullshit story: Deb telling the Marshal that she took Harrison to the hospital.
  • This marks the first time that I recall Dexter using the phrase “Dark Passenger” this season.
  • The two best moments: Saxon and Dexter enjoying a chuckle over Miami Metro’s 20 percent homicide clearance rate, like two retirees at a bar swapping tales, and Dexter’s perfectly awkward good-bye speech (“I’m miss you guys, too”).

As for what’s ahead, if a prediction must be made, mine is that Deb survives, Hannah goes to jail, and Dexter dies. Now that his inner light has been turned on, it must be snuffed out. Like Dexter himself, the show has had its share of changes, with one constant: Even on the sunniest days, there’s always darkness just around the corner.

Photo: Showtime