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'Dexter' recap: the ultimate sacrifice

December 18, 2011 | 10:00 pm

DebDexterfinale
This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

Has there ever been a character more unlucky in love than Deb Morgan? I believe I say this every season of “Dexter,” but the misfortune of Deb’s personal attachments reached a new low tonight. This low happened to coincide with what is possibly the most shocking finale the series has ever featured (depending on how you rank Rita’s death). Big picture, it’s almost funny how the show’s writers pick Deb Morgan up each season just to drag her through the mud. There was a point in tonight’s episode where I was worried that Deb would commit suicide, and after the finale, I wonder if her character wished she had. 

The finale was all Deb and everything else just details that may or may not be addressed in the next season. The Travis Marshall story line ended on a rather predictable note, as the cat-and-mouse game between Dexter and his prey was practically spelled out in the episode’s previews.  Dexter realizes that his love for Harrison is his religion, and uses that to keep himself alive while stranded at sea. Travis later kidnaps Harrison to use as a sacrifice to bring about the end of the world, but agrees to let Dexter switch with his son. Dexter pretends to be drugged only to knock Travis out and eventually get him on his table. I wonder why, however, while Dexter, mocking Travis’ religion, says “I am a father, a son, a serial killer” yet we saw none of Harry tonight. 

Back at Miami Metro, Batista informs Quinn that he’s put in for his partner’s transfer, which Quinn glibly refuses, claiming that he’s an alcoholic, which prevents him from transfer. “You’re not an alcoholic, just a [screw]up,” Batista says, which is how a lot of people feel about a certain governor I know.  Quinn isn’t the only Metro employee who would prefer to hang around: Intern Louis and his cardigan also put in a request to stay around longer, which is met with a noncommittal response from Masuka. Meanwhile, Louis’ Ice Truck Killer hand reaches Dexter’s house but Travis opens it before Dexter sees it.  This just  might spell some trouble for Dexter in the next season.

But Deb Morgan has had the worst day out of everyone, and that’s including her brother.  Deb is almost pitifully overcome when Dexter returns the “I love you” she gives him after he returns from his shipwreck. Then, at the crime scene where Travis murdered a couple in order to use their place as a hideout, Deb’s visibly anxious around Dexter and is so for the duration of the episode. Jennifer Carpenter/Deb have come such a long way since this show began that once again I want to give her props for owning this finale. After last week’s episode, I thought that maybe Deb's feelings for Dexter were just a funny idea she briefly entertained, but tonight she admits to her therapist that she does indeed love Dexter in a way that most sisters don't love their brothers.

I disliked this story line  because it didn’t seem terribly natural. Deb and Dex have always had a brother/sister relationship that seemed somewhat stilted and goofball. When Deb explains that all the other men she’s been with in her life are somehow the opposite of Dexter, I didn’t see this at all, unless “opposite” just means “not a serial killer” (and obviously this observation is exceptionally mendacious when it comes to one Brian Moser). Moreover, it’s rather astounding that Deb could be in love with someone who barely seems to register her existence. All season long, the second Deb’s left Dexter’s sight she’s been out of his mind. I’m not sure if once, all season, Deb was the subject of one of Dexter’s monologues. If they weren’t brother and sister, Dexter would barely know Deb was alive.

In addition to having very confusing romantic feelings, Deb feels more under pressure at work than ever now that she knows Laguerta’s in charge of everything. After realizing that Travis has escaped from her dragnet (actually, he hasn’t escaped so much as he’s been taken away by Dexter), Deb has a meltdown on the skyscraper rooftop where Travis was supposed to make his sacrifice. She breaks down further when she sees Laguerta approaching. It was at this point that I was worried that Dexter Morgan’s sister was going to sacrifice herself by jumping off the top of a building, but this show had a much crueler fate in store for her.  Laguerta is unexpectedly kind to Deb and advises her to make her job the focus of her life and to just take control of her emotions.

Dexter takes Travis back to the old church and wraps him in plastic. This is not the first time Dexter’s mocked a person of faith on his table but this time he takes particular pleasure in talking religion with Travis. “How can you believe in that?” Dexter spits after Travis says that God sacrificed his son. “God has nothing to do with this.” In this scene I wondered whether the writers of the show were trying to make a statement about the bad things religion makes people do. Regardless, I felt fatigued by the whole light/dark story in general. It seems like the show has devoted a lot of attention to who or what Dexter is and whether he’s good or bad. I want him to get on with just being, and finding a new problem, existential or otherwise. Well, I may have gotten what I wished for.

Right as he’s about to kill Travis, Dexter expresses pleasure at reverting to the equilibrium with which the season started: “Maybe there is a place for me in this world, just as I am. Maybe everything is exactly as it should be.”

But everything is not exactly as it should be, because Dexter and Travis are not alone in the church. Deb enters, just as Dexter’s delivering his self-satisfied monologue. She turns the corner and she sees her brother, her newly beloved, stab Travis Marshall through the heart with a knife. So much for taking control of her life.

“Oh God,” Dexter says when he realizes that Deb witnessed him murder the man she's been trying to catch. And that’s all we’ve got until next season.

I loved the shocking twist and can’t wait to see what happens next between Dexter and Deb. This season flagged in the last few weeks and the finale certainly poured some life back into it. “Deb learns the truth about Dexter” is a card the writers have been holding onto for a long time and I’m glad they finally threw it down. I hope the Morgans are forced to address this seriously in the next season and that something silly doesn’t happen like Deb faints and thinks it was all a dream. And I hope Deb will now reconsider her love for Dexter, and maybe sign up for a few more sessions of therapy.

Did you like the finale? And did you think the very last scene had anything to do with Dexter’s quest for theological meaning, or it was just a good old-fashioned shock?

[For the Record, 12:20 p.m. Dec. 19; an earlier version of this post said Dexter killed his victim with a sword instead of a knife.]

RELATED:

'Dexter' recap: Sign of the Beast
'Dexter' recap: The false prophet
'Dexter' recap: Gellar’s been got
 

--Claire Zulkey
twitter.com/Zulkey

Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan. Photo: Randy Tepper / Showtime.

 

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