Debra spirals into self-destructive debauchery while Dexter struggles to contain his anger as the Showtime hit returns for its final season.
Credit: Randy Tepper/Showtime
S8 E1
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We stopped. There were reasons. was recapping so many shows on Sunday nights in the fall, something had to go. Dexter drew the short straw. Given season 6, could you blame us? So we quit recapping. But then: Deb found out. And last year’s season seven was urgent and gripping (though I still haven’t entirely forgiven Dexter setting up kill room at the Miami airport). So now here we are. The final 12, with recaps resumed just in time for Dex’s deadly descent.

My credentials: I read Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter back in 2005. I’ve seen every episode. I spent a few days on the set of season 8 a couple months ago (actually a pretty fascinating time, I’ll drop little bits from the set visits during the recaps). Season 2, when Miami Metro chased the Bay Harbor Butcher, is my favorite (I know, most love season 4 — Trinity — but for me the show is always best when Dexter is scrambling to keep from getting caught). Basically, I’m a longtime Dexter fan, but not an entirely uncritical fan, so this recap won’t be 100 percent gushing.

So let’s go to Miami and meet up with our anti-hero. The episode is titled “A Beautiful Day” and we hear an acoustic version of “What a Wonderful World” as Dex explains that LaGuerta’s death six months ago solved all his problems. Harrison is doing well in soccer — no surprise since he’s apparently taking steroids. Dex got the bowling team back together and he’s having recreational sex, which is interesting. Dex typically has sex as part of a relationship-driven package deal. But Dex becoming more human is a big component of this season and this is the first of several signs of that evolution. I really like the shot of the last petal from Hannah McKay’s orchid falling as Dex’s date sheds her dress. Very nice — the petal shot, I mean, not her boobs… well, those are nice too, but they’re really not the point of this — forget it!

Dex shows up late to the Miami Metro team dedicating a bench in LaGuerta’s honor and with Harrison in tow. Debra is notably absent. We learn she quit the force in a rather awesome way — she went out to lunch and never came back. Batista, who abandoned his plan to retire and focus on his tourist-trap restaurant after LaGuerta’s death, notes his dining room is filled with boxes of her stuff. A little red flag goes up in our heads — Do LaGuerta’s boxes include that incriminating video of Deb at the gas station?

Dex chats about his sister’s absence, clearly knowing less about her whereabouts than they do. This is something Michael C. Hall is always good at — acting a certain way for Dexter’s coworkers while sending an entirely different set of information to the viewer. Dex tries calling Deb’s cell phone but her voicemail is full.

Ah, here’s Deb. We see she’s coked out of her gourd in a skeezy motel room. She hoovers up a line and is panting over an equally skeezy low-life criminal named Briggs. She’s smoking, drinking, snorting and screwing. She’s desperately trying to forget her actions last season as well as punish herself. But it’s amazing how much a setting impacts things. Consider this: If you merely upgraded the hotel room to a suite at the Mandalay Bay, suddenly the whole context of this scene could shift from “Deb in hell” to “Deb’s wild Vegas weekend.”

When sober, Deb only wants one thing — to catch bad guys. But this Deb wants to rent a speedboat and buzz cruise ships. I’m ashamed to admit I’m rather enjoying the GGW version of Deb. It’s like she’s only a couple days away from shooting a Reality Kings video.

NEXT: Cereal aisle face-off; Dex flips out

“It’s funny how something so simple as you walking through the door at the exact right moment can change everything,” Briggs says — a rather forced bit of irony. She ignores him and wants to make out.

Back at Deb’s house, Dex sneaks in to search for clues to her whereabouts. Dex tells us he hasn’t seen his sister in two months. He checks out her meds — she’s using Xanax, Paxil, Adderall and pot. He’s alarmed. My god, it’s like she’s a University of Florida student!

Set-visit factoids: Despite looking like a real beachside house, Deb’s place is actually inside a studio hanger. Her bookshelves are lined with lots of appropriate-sounding self-help titles, such as: Art of Happiness, Getting Your Way and Attitude is Everything.

Back in the scene, Dex tries her cell. The voicemail is still full. Uh, send her a text message, maybe?

Dex heads over to Deb’s new employer, Elway Investigations. Her boss Sonny Crockett reveals she’s going after a jewelry thief but hasn’t checked in for two weeks. “She seems to like the down and dirty stuff,” he manages to say without sounding pervy. Dex’s phone buzzes. He checks it. I like that Hall casually tosses the phone around so he can pretend to read it properly (the iPhone screen doesn’t 180-degree reverse for messages).

Crime scene: A dead body dumped by a lake. The back of the body’s skull has been removed and a piece of the victim’s brain was “scooped out with a melon baller.” What purpose might this serve? I totally love Dexter’s simple explanation and his delivery. It’s equally ironic as the earlier line, but not forced: “People are crazy.”

Dex tries to call Deb again — her voicemail is still full. Damn! If only there was some magic way of sending a message to a cell phone…

Dex returns to his office and goes to hack Deb’s bank records. That her password is “f–king password” got a big laugh at Showtime’s recent season 8 premiere screening.

He traces her to a market where she’s wearing shorty shorts and snagging warm beer from the displays. He confronts her in the aisle next to the Fruity Pebbles. She explains she’s waiting for Briggs to lead her to his stolen jewelry stash. Dex almost sounds like a jealous boyfriend, demanding to know if she’s having sex with him.

Deb: “You made me compromise everything about myself that I care about … and I haaaaate you for it. I shot the wrong person in that trailer.” Ouch.

Jennifer Carpenter appreciation: She hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy, but she deserves to be. The more messed up Deb gets, the more interesting Carpenter is to watch.

Dexter is angrily driving home, arguing with his mental projection of his father Harry. “You’ve done this to her,” Harry berates him. “Don’t make it worse, leave her alone!”

A driver cuts off Dexter and he has a surge of road rage. Dex gets out of his car and throttles to man in front of his kid — another indication of Dex becoming more emotional and human.

There are moments like this, when Dex is skipping work, obsessively stalking his boss-murdering sister, attacking an innocent man out of road rage and bitterly arguing with his invisible dad-memory… that you realize how bats–t crazy Dexter Morgan really is. It just goes to show that some handsome charisma and droll voiceover can go a long way toward making somebody likable.

NEXT: Clueless Batista; Meet Dr. Vogel

Sex: Batista’s sister Jamie is riding Quinn. She’s ordering him “don’t stop, don’t stop!” Perhaps Jamie is unclear how this works. He’s lying there. You’re the one on top. If you don’t want to stop, then you don’t stop!

Suddenly, they hear Batista arrive home. Quinn asks her to distract him (“throw some pork rinds at him”) while he sneaks out. So Batista still doesn’t know they’re dating. Jamie goes out to talk to Batista. “You’re all sweaty,” he says, which is a kinda-odd-sounding thing to say to your kid sister. Besides, it’s Florida, everybody is sweaty.

Batista references his boxes of LaGuerta’s stuff, including that warrant for Deb and Dex’s phone records. So close, yet so far…

Now… I like Batista. But one of his co-workers is secretly the state’s biggest serial killer, another secretly killed his boss/ex-wife and yet another has been secretly dating his sister for a year under his own roof. Are we really supposed to think Batista is a good detective?

Back at Miami Metro, the gang is introduced to Dr. Evelyn Vogel, a neuroscientist who studies serial killers. She’s there to help them investigate the case of the missing-brain-part guy. Seems his killer stole the part of the brain associated with empathy which she suspects is meaningful since psychopaths don’t have empathy. She’s also eyeballing Dex big time. An enamored Masuka says the FBI calls her “the psychopath whisperer.”

She later asks to see Dexter in the morgue. She’s picking at a brain on a table and that’s pretty much what she starts doing to Dexter, poking and prodding at his mind. She soon brings up the Bay Harbor Butcher and that gets his full attention. He’s doing his usual schlubby I’m-just-the-blood-guy act, but it’s not working with her. He explains Sgt. Doaks had a short fuse and that was the wrong thing to say because it doesn’t fit with her behavioral profile of a psychopath.

Vogel notes that the Bay Harbor Butcher seemed to operate using some sort of moral … guidelines, which is poking very close to the most sensitive part of Dexter’s brain indeed. “I look forward to working with you, Dexter Morgan,” she says. This scene was a terrific introduction to her character and Charlotte Rampling is pretty mesmerizing.

Next, Quinn tells Dex that Deb was looking into a fence named El Sapo (The Toad). Dex realizes his sister is in trouble and tracks her down at The Pink Motel. If you’re going to shack up at a cheap motel, at least this one has some awesomely stylish signage.

Dex very conveniently both finds his sister through a parted window curtain and gets her outside without alerting Briggs. She takes the news that her life is in danger casually and refuses to leave. “Aren’t you the one who’s always saying bad people deserve to die?” she says. “It kills me I can’t take any of it back.”

Briggs interrupts. How is Dex going to handle this? What’s the best way to deal with his emotionally devastated and estranged sister’s lowlife boyfriend interrupting their conversation?

NEXT: That’s right! Plus: Questions for you… Dex shoves him into the room and stabs him to death. Deb is horrified — “I felt okay around him!” Great job Dex, your sister is going to be gibbering in an asylum by the time you’re done with her.

“I came here to save you!” he says.

“I’m in some sh–ty hell, which is exactly what I deserve,” she says. “YOU are lost.”

Once again, Carpenter rocking this. Dex wants to dump the body. Deb is having none of his usual tactics. She calls the police. “I’d like to report a suspected homicide,” she says into the phone, then urges Dexter: “Go!”

Hey, aren’t the police going to wonder who she was telling to leave the scene of a murder — “Go!” — on that 911 call? Or is this question too nitpickey? Airport kill room, right…

Later, the police are pretty non-suspicious of her “I just found him dead” story. She snags Briggs’ keys and El Sapo watches her leave. Uh oh.

Dex admits Deb is right, he’s the one who’s lost without her. “A better person would let her go.”

Feeling sorry for himself while sitting on LaGuerta’s memorial bench. Vogel gives him an envelope of some psycho kid’s drawings. It’s not the kind of stuff a parent proudly puts on the refrigerator. Hey, those are Dex’s! He goes after her.

Vogel says: “You can’t kill me …”

Because she’s already dead?! I knew it!

“…because I don’t fit Harry’s code.”

Oh. So no zombie invasion for the final season. Still: A great final season opener. It leaves us all set up for next week, with Dex getting one-upped left and right. Vogel has him figured out. Deb is infuriating him with her rebellious behavior, yet he has no right to stop her.

Questions: Will Deb continue her downward spiral, or will El Sapo take her down? How much does Vogel know and what does she want? Why is some guy cutting out people’s brains? Will Batista get a clue? Will Jamie and Quinn ever have uninterrupted sex? Did Dex call back the blonde booby woman for another date or was that just a one-night thing? And will Dex learn how to send a text message?

Sound off below, and also be sure to check out my on-the-set interviews with Hall and Carpenter. There’s a detailed Q&A with Hall about the show and the final season. And there’s a post that just went up today about how Carpenter brings Debra’s intensity to life. Follow me on Twitter.

UPDATE: I see a lot of you wondering about Dr. Vogel below. Here’s my interview with Charlotte Rampling. Mild spoilers (basically, it’s what you learn next week).

Episode Recaps


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