Showtime’s re-energized seventh season of Dexter delivered a finale twist that’s arguably the most disturbing moment of the series: Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) murdered Miami Metro police captain María LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) to protect her serial killer brother (Michael C. Hall). How will her decision impact next season? Will Yvonne Strahovski return? And will the show really end next year?
Below, showrunner Scott Buck takes our burning questions.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Dexter is a serial killer and even he was struggling with the idea of killing LaGuerta. How did Debra, whose value system is so different than Dexter’s, make that jump?
Scott Buck: I think she was under extreme duress at that moment. Dexter is the master manipulator, and it’s left up the to viewers how they want to interpret things, but Dexter was very much in control of the situation.
By saying that, are you hinting he expected her to show up?
Buck: No, I don’t think he was expecting his sister to show up at all. But when it finally came down to it, I think he handled it in the smartest possible way.
Was Debra always going to kill LaGuerta, or did you consider another outcome? And what was Jennifer’s reaction?
Buck: From the beginning of the season this was always how it would end. She knew very early on this was where it was going, she was excited and terrified to take Debra down this road.
Does killing LaGuerta really make that warrant [for Dex and Deb’s incriminating cell phone records] disappear? Isn’t that sort of hanging out there for investigators to find?
Buck: The warrants are still sitting on LaGuerta’s desk so they have not been filed. So there is no record of a warrant at this point.
And another question fans were wondering: Are you going to address the fact that Debra uses her own gun to kill LaGuerta?
Buck: That will be addressed. We’re also dealing with Dexter here who’s not only the person planting the evidence but will also be the forensic expert collecting the evidence on the other end.
You also brought back Sgt. Doakes in flashbacks. Can you talk about the decision to have him return?
Buck: I was a huge fan of Erik King. I always thought he brought so much fun and energy to the show. We always talked about a way to bring him back, but we didn’t want to do it arbitrarily. Since we were telling the end to LaGuerta’s story it felt very organic to bring Doakes back.
Will he appear in more flashbacks next season?
Buck: We haven’t discussed that yet.
You’ve said next season will explore “where Dexter started,” can you elaborate on that?
Buck: I think we’re all aware of Dexter’s origins, born in blood in that trailer. But I don’t think we’ve full explored the whole story and next season we’ll learn there was more to it than we’ve discovered. There’s more things that Dexter has not yet discovered about how he came to be who he is.
Angel Batista (David Zayas) is retiring, but I’m assuming he’ll have a role?
Buck: He announced his retirement. The finale took place just before he filed his papers. The situation has suddenly changed a great deal.
Hannah (Strahovski) wasn’t killed off, which surprised me since guest stars tend to only last one season on the show. Will she be back next year?
Hannah (Strahovski) wasn’t killed off, which surprised me since usually guest stars tend to only last one season on the show. Will she be back next season?
Buck: I certainly hope so, yes. I can’t elaborate because we’re just at the beginning of figuring out next season and deals have not been made yet. But I’m very interested in having Hannah back.
At this point, Dexter is really less a vigilante killer and more of a murderer covering his tracks. Are you deliberately taking his character that direction?
Buck: I think LaGuerta was a very different kill than any Dexter has done before. Obviously it wasn’t him who killed LaGuerta but I think he’s as responsible as anyone. Yes, it was done very deliberately. I know a lot of viewers see Dexter as almost a superhero. We wanted make sure everyone was aware that at his core he’s a serial killer with a code. He’s evolved a great deal over the years from someone who was a lizard brain psychopath the first season who was very good at playing the game. But as he’s become more human the risks have become much greater. That’s something we’re trying to explore this year and into the next season.
Is there a concern that viewers will no longer sympathize with him and Debra? Or are we supposed to be turning on him in the home stretch?
Buck: I don’t think we’re supposed to be turning on him, necessarily, but I think we want people to understand him a bit better. The more human he becomes the more responsible he becomes for what he’s done and that’s something we’re not trying to shy away from. It makes the character more interesting and complex and even more culpable.
In terms of Deb’s romantic feelings for Dexter, you dealt with those feelings head-on part-way through the season. What are Debra’s feelings for Dexter now that she’s killed LaGuerta?
Buck: She’s so overwhelmed by everything I don’t think she can even process what she’s thinking. But she’s going to be in a very different place than we’ve ever seen her before next season. I think she’ll always love Dexter in her own way but I don’t know she’ll continue to harbor romantic feelings for him.
Will LaGuerta’s death bring them closer together or drive them further apart?
Buck: A little of both. It bonds them in a unique way, but it’s a very tragic way. They will always have that connection but it’s not necessarily the most positive way of being bond to someone.
Will there be a Big Bad villain next season? Do you even need one given all the drama you’ve set up among the main characters?
Buck: It will be a different incarnation of that sort of character. We’re not thinking of it in terms of a Big Bad. But there will be people for Dexter to go up against.
But it won’t be another serial criminal that police are tracking at the same time?
Buck: It won’t be the traditional Big Bad, no.
Next season has been called a likely final season. Is that still the case? What conversations have you had with the network about that?
Buck: That’s a Showtime decision and I’m not aware a final decision has been made. But we’re approaching the season as if it’s a final season. If we’re told otherwise, we’ll redirect.
So terms of the story, you’re taking it toward a satisfying series conclusion next year and not a cliffhanger?
Do you have a clear ending scene in mind?
Buck: Yes, absolutely. We’ve always had various was to end the show and they were always quite similar. It was more a matter of landing on exactly how we want to end this and that’s the direction we’re moving right now.
Is there a chance of this show having a happy ending?
Buck: A serial killer story can only end so many ways and none of them are particularly happy.