The fun of Dexter was so pronounced in the first few seasons – it blended horror and humour perfectly, making it a thrill to watch. Now, however, in its seventh season the genuine comedy has diminished and the routine of Dexter’s kills and escapist-tricks has become monotonous. What’s more, Dexter’s moonlight lifestyle has become too unbelievable for the show to appear credible. That said, Season 6’s finale and the final minute of Season 7’s first episode aims to introduce a game-changing scenario.
Major spoilers follow
Ending on Dexter’s utterance of “Oh my God” as Debra walks in on him – in full kill-room kit – murdering one of Season 6’s villains, Travis Marshall, brought back a lot of excitement and tension to Showtime’s most popular show. Opening with Dexter seemingly on the run, racing down a highway on his way to an airport added even more drama to the refreshing narrative. Nevertheless, the writer of episode one attempts to set up all-too-many plot-threads and there has never been an episode of Dexter that felt as rushed as this. Perhaps it is the time the show’s creators know to have (as they have stated Dexter will end in its final eighth season) that have led to the rather superfluous stories being shown in this season’s first episode. But whatever the decision behind it, it does not match with the tone and style of what has come before it. Dexter is a methodical and meticulous character and regularly the pace of the show reflects that; lead us to believe Dexter is on the run and have the pace match is fine, but having that angle shown in various parts of episode 1 it does not warrant a change of rate for the entire 50 minutes.
After seeing the prospect of Dexter as a fugitive we flashback to what may have produced the eponymous anti-hero to bolt. It is of course Debra’s discovery of her brother thrusting a heavy knife into the chest of Colin Hank’s Travis Marshall. Scott Buck, this episode’s writer concocts a story that would fit Dexter’s instinctual ability to walk and talk his way out of getting caught. Dexter gives Debra a story about how Travis attacked him when he came back for extra forensic work, and how he managed to fight him off and subsequently kill him out of self-defence. Debra momentarily buys the story and helps Dexter escape by making the death look like a ritualistic suicide, part of the church aflame in the doomsday-tableau procedure. Once Angel, Quinn and Vince come to investigate the ashen remains yet they uncharacteristically do a rapid wrap-up of what the scene appears to be. LaGuerta stays behind only to discover one of Dexter’s blood slides fallen and buried beneath a vent. Having lost some dynamism from the other’s investigation, LaGuerta’s finding of one of Dexter’s memorabilia fortunately gives the audience something to worry about and think about.
Other plot lines including Louis Greene (Dexter’s babysitter’sboyfriend) feeling slightly irritated by his hero’s disregard of him, who then hacks into his back account and cancels each of them (explaining Dexter’s issues with his credit/debit cards in the “fugitive” segment), detective Mike Anderson getting shot down by a stripper-killer on the side of the road and the investigation in the aftermath (mostly by Angel and Quinn investigating the dead stripper’s workplace). The crime scene leads to Dexter tracking down the killer (getting his hands on evidence to locate him far too easily) and also adding to Debra’s shot nerves when it comes to murders and her brother’s ability to understand crime so well. As Debra ponders and frets over Dexter’s mysterious personality, the mystery man is off to the airport (what we believed to be the “fugitive” part) tracking and killing Mike’s murderer. This is where credibility once more becomes questionable as Dexter finds everything he needs (a wheelchair to sit the anesthetized executioner down in, a “Cleaning in Progress” sign to stop airport travellers from entering the bathroom – though not accounting for ones who may be inside – and an “Unclaimed Baggage” Room perfectly easy to unlock and safe enough to house a time-consuming kill-room set-up, plus one that no airport will obviously walk into). Dexter states, “The smart traveller must be prepared to make last-minute adjustments” but this is by far the most lacklustre and lazy presentation of one of Dexter’s kills. It also doesn’t have the paradoxically entertaining and gruesome murder that the show is famed for. A different kill method is barely seen – Dexter wrapping the victim/criminal’s head in a plastic bag and smashing it with a fire extinguisher. Not that violence should be celebrated but part of the fun of Dexter is the exacting way the titular character goes about ridding the world of criminals and how the special effects and make-up crew of the show expertly bring that to life. We do not see anything but the fire extinguisher swing down before a cut is made to the next scene.
Few moments of episode 1 really engage you and it’s only the prospect of Dexter being caught that adds interest. For one, LaGuerta is now pontificating over the blood slide (which was thought to be Sergeant Doake’s Bay Harbour Butcher prop) and Debra is thinking back over her escape from Dexter’s brother, Rudy/Brian/The Ice Truck Killer, and the notion of blood-related character traits. The regular flashback’s to Dexter and Debra’s past adds to the dramatic relationship now unfolding by showing Harry take away a dog Debra found and adopted when young in fear of Dexter killing it. The young Dexter had thought of explaining to Debra why the dog had to be taken away and Harry insisted that it would result in huge problems; “you mustn’t ever tell Debra the truth about yourself...she loves who she thinks you are, if she ever saw the real you she’d never get over it.” The final minute of Debra asking whether Dexter is the serial killer and him replying, “Yes” injects a boost of much-needed adrenaline into the audience. From a relatively dull previous season, a disastrously rushed first episode, the final conversation between Deb and Dex appears to be the step in the right direction – a plot-point that will send a shock wave through the show.
By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on Flickering Myth.