“Best episode in 3 years!”
“They’re bringing Dex’y back!”
These are all things you’ll possibly overhear at the water cooler today, because the Dexter writing staff decided to rebound from that rock bottom of a sixth season and give us one game-changing and explosive Season 7 premiere. Sure, one episode isn’t typically much to hang your hat on, but “Are You…?” was as much of a ‘slam dunk’ of an opener as this show has seen in a long time.
Even better, it brought back what’s been missing for a long time: suspense.
With an eighth season end game in place, the writers can spare us the meandering, tangential arcs like the Doomsday Killer, Lumen and Jordan Chase and get right down to business like they did last night: ripping the band-aid clean off (hair and all) and having Deb discover Dexter’s secret.
And when the subplots include a Russian gangster played by Ray Stevenson and Deputy Chief Laguerta rethinking the Bay Harbor Butcher case, we have, at least at first glance, what appears to be a great reinvention of the series.
What should have us all stoked is the writer’s willingness to just take us right to the heart of it. There was no skip in time from the Season 6 finale, no red herrings, no convenient bouts with amnesia; Deb, looking at Dexter kill Travis, has seemingly discovered that her brother is a monster, giving us the moment of the series we’ve all been waiting for.
But alas, it wasn’t exactly that moment yet (it comes later), because Dexter, being the wordsmith that he is, talks her into not only covering up the murder but also convincing her it was a spur of the moment, self-defense kill. Is it enough? Shall we drag this will-she-won’t-she thread out for the entire season? No. Deb’s too close now and her detective-IQ is too great to not connect the dots.
Before we get into the night’s juiciest moment, let’s all have a moment of silence for Detective Mike Anderson, who none of us can say we had the pleasure of knowing. Initially, we thought he was being groomed as Doakes 2.0, but his Dexter-hate proved to be subpar. His last thankless job on this Earth was giving us Dexter’s first kill target of the season, hotheaded Viktor Baskov. His simple act of kindly servitude ultimately led to his demise, but we’ll always remember him for his no-nonsense detective ways. As for my fellow Billy Brown fans out there, you have nothing to fret: he’s now in a better role over on Sons of Anarchy.
On to Baskov, how reckless was Dexter’s Miami Airport kill? I can see skimping on the details of the normal hunt since we’ve seen him kill so many times before, but carting around an unconscious man and killing him in an unsecured baggage room? Yup, Harry’s Code be damned, Dexter is practically begging to get caught these days. And, correct me if I’m wrong, did he even tell Baskov why he was being put out of his misery?
However, I’m willing to forgive Dexter’s lack of due diligence here because Viktor’s death (and connection to the Ukrainian strip club) sets us up with this season’s biggest villain: crime syndicate head Isaac Sirko (Stevenson), who will not be too thrilled that Viktor has been murdered. It’s going to get crazy as Sirko comes to Miami and gets all Punisher on everyone until he gets his vengeance (or so I’m hoping).
Meanwhile, Laguerta has seemingly been chosen to be this season’s Miami Metro cop suspicious of Dexter. It was a bit far-fetched for her to find the blood slide at Travis’ kill site, but the end result is that this key discovery may posthumously exonerate her beloved colleague, Sergeant Doakes. I’m just glad she has something useful to do other than playing politics and talking condescendingly towards Deb. Note to writers: let’s see this through and have her on Dexter’s table by episode 9. Please and thank you.
Back to Dexter and Deb, that final reveal was nothing short of brilliant. The tension leading up to it was the type of suspense that has made this show great in the past. Deb has never been one to just give up on the hunt (*cough* except for the Season 5 finale *cough*) and she doesn’t let sleeping dogs lie here. After mentally reliving her time on Rudy’s table, she finally pieces it all together; it was Dexter that killed the Ice Truck Killer. That wasn’t it though – something was missing. She finds his blood slides, Rudy’s decorative prosthetic hand and kill tools at the apartment. It was all out in the open.
“Are you … a serial killer?”
Dexter then breathes out a sigh that suggests the burden of the weight he’s been carrying. It didn’t matter what would happen next – for Dexter, it’s just a relief to be able to tell his sister.
Scott Buck (lead writer and showrunner) nailed this moment as did episode director John Dahl, perhaps because no one thought we’d go there this early on. Regardless, this was as much of a jawdropper as discovering Rita in that bathtub in Season 4 or Lila blowing up Doakes in Season 2.
We’re now in uncharted territory and there’s no telling how crazy things will get. Previously unthinkable questions are now all on the table for discussion. Will Dexter have to kill Debra? Will Deb embrace his Dark Passenger and develop one of her own? If so, will Deb get blamed for his kills? What would Dexter do without Deb in his life?
Like I said before, one episode isn’t always the most accurate indicator of what’s to come, but I stand optimistic for the first time in a while. Like that moment back in Season 1 where I realized this show was completely different than the rest of the pack, I look towards the rest of this seventh season in anticipation of what’s coming down the pipe.
- Deb’s romantic feelings for Dexter have been dropped by the writers, and rightfully so. Or, in story form, she’s so freaked out by her serial killer of a brother that getting all freaky with him comes in a distant second to figuring out why he’s a serial killer in the first place.
- Quinn and Laguerta have completed their role reversal. Quinn is now the one having relationship issues with Batista while Laguerta is investigating Dexter
- Louis – can’t figure out his angle just yet. He cancels Dexter’s credit cards, but why is he so obsessed? Does he know that he’s a killer yet?
- In general, trouble is coming from every angle like Dexter has never seen before. The writing team will be hard-pressed to find themselves penning a filler episode this season.
- One final tableau, folks.
- No creepy Masuka laugh this episode. Writers, you owe us two in this Sunday’s installment