Episode Title: "Surprise, Motherf***er"
Writers: Scott Buck & Tim Schlattmann
Director: Steve Shill
On the whole, “Dexter” season 7 was a much needed improvement over the sixth season’s creative missteps. But there were some definite stumbles along the way. The Isaak Sirko storyline sputtered to the finish line, which meant that Dexter’s primary antagonist this year was Captain María LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez).
It’s puzzling why LaGuerta was given a heroic arc this season when she’s one of the most unlikable characters on television. Technically, LaGuerta is doing her duty by pursuing a case against Dexter and for once, she’s actually right on the money. But that doesn’t mean that the audience is on her side.
Full spoilers lie ahead for the seventh season finale of “Dexter.” If you haven’t seen the season finale yet, don’t read this review or Hannah McKay will bite your lips.
As repeatedly pointed out by Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and the hallucination of his dead adopted father, Harry Morgan (James Remar), Dexter lives by a code which dictates that he can only kill people who deserve death or people who have otherwise eluded the justice system. So when he became aware that LaGuerta was investigating his activities as the Bay Harbor Butcher, he simply planted evidence to once again implicate the late Sgt. James Doakes (Erik King)... and Dexter even framed LaGuerta for framing him!
The promos for this week’s episode were somewhat deceptive as we saw LaGuerta give Dexter the perp walk in front of Miami Metro’s Angel Batista (David Zayas), Vince Masuka (C. S. Lee) and even Dexter’s sister, Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter). But Dexter’s planted evidence soon turned the tide against LaGuerta and threatened her career. And only Batista seemed to care if LaGuerta would be able to save her job.
LaGuerta even seemed ready to retreat and do damage control until she discovered evidence placing Debra near the church where Travis Marshall was murdered. At that point, Dexter slowly came to the realization that the only way to stop LaGuerta was to kill her.
Because season eight would never shift focus and become “LaGuerta,” there was little doubt as to how this would play out. Dexter recaptured his mother’s killer, Hector Estrada (Nestor Serrano) and used him as bait to draw LaGuerta into a trap and make it look like Estrada and LaGuerta had killed each other.
But before Dexter could go through with it, Debra showed up with her gun drawn and LaGuerta woke up and urged Debra to shoot Dexter. Perhaps picking up on a trick from his now ex-girlfriend, Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski), Dexter simply told Debra to do what she needed to do. So, Debra shot LaGuerta dead before mourning over her body.
The problem is that LaGuerta never had the sympathy of the audience. Imagine how differently that scene would have played if someone we cared about (like Batista) was killed by Debra. In addition to LaGuerta’s many past sins, she was opposed to the main character of “Dexter” and that automatically means that most viewers sided with Dexter over her.
Dexter may not have killed LaGuerta directly, but he still broke his code. The scene with Estrada on the table was interesting because Dexter actually had a back-and-forth with the soon-to-be dead man where he admitted that he is now just another killer. Showtime has frequently marketed “Dexter” as a heroic serial killer who only takes out the bad guys. But when cornered, Dexter is still very much a monster. It doesn’t matter if he’s a more human monster now than he was at the beginning of the series.
The flashbacks with Doakes were fun, if only to see Erik King back on the series one last time. The appearances of Debra and other squad members as their younger selves was diverting, but the most intriguing aspect was how bad Dexter was at pretending to be human. Dexter’s creepier side showed itself while he was working with Doakes, planting the seeds of Doakes’ suspicions.
Hannah shows up briefly in this episode to have a final meeting with Dexter where she confronts him about betraying her and she even bites him on the lip as a goodbye present. Hannah also manages to escape from prison and leaves some kind of plant (Lily of the Valley! Or... whatever) near Dexter’s door before departing. For those of you keeping score at home, that means there are now two women out there in the world who know everything about Dexter. Luman Pierce (Julia Stiles) could also eventually swing back into Dexter’s life, just as Hannah seems poised to.
But the main woman in Dexter’s life is his sister, Debra. And now she’s killed for him. That’s pretty far beyond covering up Dexter’s murder spree. Debra is now just as guilty as her brother, although I doubt that she’ll go to be his apprentice. The closing seconds suggest that Debra and Dexter returned to Batista’s retirement party to help give them an alibi. But I still want to know why LaGuerta’s blood didn’t seem to be on Debra’s dress after she hugged LaGuerta’s dead body.
There’s some talk that “Dexter” could potentially get a ninth season thanks to the ratings records it set for Showtime this year. While Showtime would probably like the series to last as long as possible, it feels like the endgame is already in play. “Dexter” should end next season and give fans a satisfying conclusion on a high note. A good ending is hard to come by on television. But for now, “Dexter’ appears to be back on track.