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Monday, December 17, 2012

Dexter Season 7, Episode 12: “SURPRISE, MOTHERFUCKER!” Finale Recap & Review!



CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD. MORE SCREENSHOTS COMING! 

It is finished. And yet, we’ve only just begun. There’s a pretty ridiculously good reason why last night’s explosive, emotionally-arousing finale, “Surprise, Motherfucker!” ranks as the highest-rated episode ever for any SHOWTIME original series. Behind the sky-shattering numbers and rave reviews from sea to shining sea is a bombastic story of love gained, lost, declared and re-written; it is a story tinged with a new and surprising darkness, as well as an incredibly poignant nostalgia drawn from the pilot season, in all its sacred charms and guilty pleasures that won us over in the first. This year, we’ve arrived at yet another cliff and we’ll be hanging therefrom until next September relieves us—but it’s a different kind of precipice of questions and hopes, this time around. “This is the Way the World Ends,” the knifelike stab of a conclusion that left us blue from held breath—we were suspended in that moment; that unholy, broken utterance, “Oh, God.” And now we’re left hanging from another “Oh, God,” but we caught a brief, surreal glimpse into its aftermath before the camera panned from the shell-shocked pair—in their new tragic intimacy, both born in blood—and up into a sky resplendent with fireworks to usher in the new year. How perfectly timed considering that Dexter and Debra are now on the cusp of an entirely new phase of life. Together, they’ve much more to confront and overcome than they’d ever dreamed possible. The question, now, is not whether or not Debra will accept Dexter; it’s whether or not she will accept herself for what she has done, and if she does… what that will mean for her own journey. Dexter’s not the valiant superhero draped in black, and Deb’s not the star-studded, do-gooder cop suited in navy blue. Both are colored with black and blue: the bruises and growing pains of change with all its uncertain consequences. Let’s break down the madness, shall we? Welcome to the grandest of surprises, mother**ker. Skip the jump for more.



 THE BREAKDOWN: As Dexter attempts to reconcile with Hannah after turning her into the police for her atrocity against Debra, Hannah offers him one last chance to set her free—to set them both free, that they may chase the Argentina she’s so hungered for. A decisively violent final kiss is shared between them as Dexter realizes he can’t fulfill this hopeless reverie at Debra’s expense. But just because Hannah is marking her independence from Dexter doesn’t mean that she’s contenting herself to life in orange prison pajamas—far from it. Willing to risk her own life to change her fate, Hannah utilizes her one exterior resource, Arlene, to cheat her way past the cuffs, not without smearing some dirt on Debra’s questionable moral code first. And it appears that she’s far from interested in forgiving and forgetting; she’s got something to say with flowers to Dex, who is quickly snagged by LaGuerta as the Bay Harbor Butcher. When the old timers of Miami Metro react violently against his arrest, Dexter takes advantage of this collective revulsion against LaGuerta’s investigation and finds himself walking free—for a time. Unfortunately it’s far from over. So far, in fact, that LaGuerta is more than willing to drag Debra’s involvement with the Travis Marshall murder into the dicey game. Reflecting on his growth as a real human being in the midst of things, Dexter remembers his memorable run-ins with James Doakes, and how they proved his falseness when he had sought to assimilate into society. Now he has assimilated; the masks have taken root, and it’s too late for him to be able to run and still feel that he’s fully alive. Desperate to not only closet the book on the source of all his darkness by killing Estrada but also to protect Debra as he would his own self, Dexter devises an elaborate scheme to take out both of his aggressors and stage their deaths such that it appears they died trying to take out one another—a Code-breaking maneuver if there ever was one. Yet, in a sickeningly-swift turn of events, Dexter is not the only one responsible for the death of an innocent. As the clock strikes twelve and all the world ushers in the dawn of the New Year, Dexter and Debra usher in a dawn of their own: knit together by Debra’s tragic decision to choose love over justice, the two dazedly stand as two souls reborn… and alike in ways that neither of them can fully comprehend. This ending merely marks a fierce beginning.

As we dive into the thick of things, let me first say that I am absolutely overwhelmed with the painfully beautiful measures taken by this episode to explore who Dexter was, and has become—and who Debra is emerging as alongside him. Dexter progresses from a strict adherence to a Code to a loose relationship typified by improvisation, whereas Debra seems to be building her own Code with every choice she makes on Dexter’s behalf. Tortured though she may be with every move she makes to honor that star-crossed love, she has chosen her way and is beginning to establish herself in a world where blacks and whites are simply no more. Still, it’s a journey marked by immense pain (which Jennifer Carpenter conveys with such complex sensitivity and vulnerability that I will be blown away if she doesn’t get her marvelous self an Emmy nom)—rage, sorrow, self-loathing and tender confusion. While Debra acknowledges Dexter’s near-tearful assertion of “do what you’ve gotta do” in the shipping container where LaGuerta also urges her to define herself apart from Dexter, and she makes her decision… she rushes to hold LaGuerta’s body with an immediacy so forceful that it feels like the reaction of a little child to accidentally killing a bird with a pellet gun. The tragedy becomes that much more impactful to the audience.

On top of it being the death of a major characters whose choices have shaped the series in enormous ways for over half a decade, it’s the way that Debra cradles her to her chest, quietly murmuring “I hate you” to Dexter, and express how fraught she is over what she knew she had to do in that wild, wide-eyed moment. Even though LaGuerta has frustrated and disgusted us at times with her selfish manipulations and truly emerged as a potent antagonist in this particular season, Deb’s tragic handling of her in the final five minutes of the episode made her loss one that is extremely tangible and felt. Debra made the ultimate sacrifice—the sacrifice of her former self, all her wants and personal convictions and notions of what’s right and wrong—and I couldn’t help but hear Isaak Sirko’s words as she and Dexter left the scene and trailed through the throngs of people at the New Year’s bash: “Love can be inconvenient, perhaps inappropriate. It can be dangerous. Make us do things we wouldn’t dream of doing. But wrong? That just depends on where we end up, doesn’t it?” Debra’s love for Dexter is inconvenient in that she had to put down an innocent human life in order to spare his and give him the chance of a future. And murder is considered inappropriate in most circles. Yet, this very love is resetting all of Debra’s former beliefs and is changing her, accounting for the ways in which she’s disobeyed the law and “made things up as she’s gone” (as Hannah so acidly pointed out before her court hearing). Further, the ending scene uniquely parallels the end of season one in which Dexter fantasizes about walking through a parade in which he is celebrated by the public for all that he has done, Deb holding his arm and gleefully guiding him through the crowd as the victory washes over—here, however, there is a celebration all around them, but they cannot partake in it. It is not their celebration. They’re just striving to make their way through; not even to make sense of what’s happened, yet. Just to keep moving. Theirs is the love that endures  beyond all belief, but it’s the love that hurts the most.

For love is not a victory march: it’s a cold, and it’s a broken hallelujah.

And what a broken hallelujah is Dexter’s mad, mad life! It’s extremely important to look at the ways in which Dexter has emerged throughout the entire series: from neat monster to messy, messy human being. The Doakes flashbacks not only serve the purpose of explaining LaGuerta’s origins and her motivation in clearing the man’s name once and for all—they also help us to see just how enormously Dexter has changed in his approach to what humanity is! Not to mention, these flashbacks really give this finale such a fun diversity; we’re met with the dense, provocative dark of the seventh season in all its revelations as well as the lightheartedness of seasons past, before Dexter could even remember what catalyzed his lethal desires. He was just the perky yet emotionally-vacant bringer of the doughnuts (like a mild American Psycho)—a façade through Doakes saw piercingly through. And Dexter realizes that his attempts at flaunting his human disguises around Doakes only immovably situated him as suspect in the man’s eyes. Dex had absolutely no clue what it really meant to be human, figuring that the best way to present himself as such was through plastic smiles and winning the hearts of the masses with his altruistic sweets deliveries in the office. Now, this fake life has become altogether real to him—it is a life that is felt and that he can’t dream of leaving, even if it means breaking the Code that he was once bound to. It was easy to follow the Code when other emotions didn’t penetrate his consciousness, but now he grapples with them in constant, rendering him a very culpable kind of killer that we can actually relate with on more levels than we could previously. (In other news, I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve missed Doakes’ existence in every way imaginable. He was such a flawless foil for the Dexter of earlier seasons—freaking love his complete and utter indignation to anything and everything Dexter. Perfect beyond belief. And who knows; perhaps they’ll bring him back for more new-old scenes in the crazy season to come!)


 Lastly, let’s take a glance at Hannah and her bitter departure from Dexter’s love and trust. Dexter certainly gave her a betrayal kiss in her lovely garden at the close of “Do You See What I See?” and she only returned the favor with her venomous, blood-drawing nibble. We’re reminded of Dexter’s very first encounter with her during which he got a nasty little cut on one of the plants in Hannah’s vivid nursery; their relationship began and ended in blood, but that’s not to say that it’s over and she’s skipping town for good. Does Hannah believe that she can make it to Argentina on her own—or is she still seeking a partner for the ride? Just as Lewis sent Dexter the Ice Truck Killer hand in season six, she’s saying something to Dexter with flowers, leaving him a disconcerting surprise at his doorstep. Perhaps she’ll be back to haunt Dexter and Deb for all the misery they’ve inflicted on her; perhaps she really is going to call it quits and pave her own way. And she’s certainly rubbed off on Dexter’s newer, fast-and-loose approach to life itself: doing what he has to do, whatever the cost.  The fact that she really insisted they “could have it all,” however, leads me to believe that she could be a formidable force in all that’s to come.

(Again: Jennifer. I’m perfectly astounded by you and the way you took that final scene into your own, letting the brakes fly off and injecting the entirety of your being into that incredible portrayal. I’m still speechless.)

And speaking of which, what is to come? How will the nature of Dexter and Debra’s relationship be changed? Is Debra herself in the process of changing just as Dexter has radically altered his approach to his life’s purpose? In changing, will they come closer together? Leave ALL of your reactions to this episodes’ innumerable surprises, and let’s hash out the long wait for season eight together! Thank you for reading!

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