Season 8, Episode 1: "A Beautiful Day" Review by Emily Sofia

Check out my in-depth written synopsis of the season eight premiere, "A Beautiful Day," right after the jump! Let's get to it!!

“We both chose murder. Maybe we are both a little crazy.”

“What did you do?”
“…you didn’t belong with him.”
“F**k. F**k! F**k! Will you f***ing go? Will you go!? PLEASE go!”
“I came here to save you!”
“Deb, look at yourself. You’re lost.”
“I am not lost. I know exactly where I am. I am in some sh*tty f***ing hell, which is exactly what I deserve! YOU are lost.”

“Aren’t you the one that’s always saying ‘bad people deserve to die’?”

“Debra was right. I was wrong. It’s me who’s lost.”

We stumble off a train of nostalgia—the ride culminating in a devastating reminder of Debra’s overwhelming choice—and find our unready ears greeted by a smooth rendition of “What a Wonderful World.” All is as… it should be? How could it? Yet it seems so, as we’re given a surface skim of where things are at for Dexter in the six-month aftermath of LaGuerta’s death. Dexter and Harrison—now a walking, talking little firecracker—are flying kites and taking father-son outings. A certain wicked somebody is plastic-strapped to the table. Let the power tools roar to life, sounding imminent death. A sultry-eyed stripper is disrobing before Dex, who casually, if not with a sort of wounded expression, regards the falling of Hannah’s orchid head. And the “Bowl ‘Till You Bleed” team is back together? Apparently it’s time to try on some of the old masks for size. Enjoy life as it appears. However, there is one thing missing from the otherwise halcyon picture. There is one stitch left undone. It isn’t long before Dexter’s foot gets caught in the gap and the whole complacent half-life he’s living is ripped open.

 Quickly we see that the cool, confident and collected Dexter is a thin veil draped over the true man underneath who is absolutely wracked with perhaps the greatest loss he has ever sustained. Where in the World is Debra Morgan? As gone as she can freaking get right now. Since walking away from her lieutenant position with little to no ceremony and embarking for new thrills in a similar but seedier market, it’s generally known at Miami Metro that Deb is elsewhere—but only Dexter knows just what kind of ‘elsewhere’ that is. And it’s a place where the sun’s forbidden to shine. It’s as close to hell as Debra can get without her actually meeting her maker, and it’s as far away as she can be from all the things she once was. This is her penance. This is her paying her dues. In her mind and heart, the man who brought her to this place of enormous debt, regret, and grief will have nothing to do with the process of appeasing the demons.  

What made this episode for me was its absolute relentlessness in fleshing out exactly where both Dexter and Debra are in their separation from one another. They are two halves of an incredible whole—but when those halves are not united, there is deprivation. There is desperation and confusion and the loss of identity and self. Without Debra, Dexter’s ready to take his road rage to unprecedented heights. He is scrambling to make sense of the day-to-day, snapping at his son over very resolvable accidents and rip-roaring around with the kind of tunnel vision that sees her, and only her. It is made tragically clear just how strongly Dexter’s sense of his own humanness and worth is invested in Debra. On his own, he is as volatile as they come. His experience of the world is suddenly inflamed with a nearly primal energy as he tears away everything between him and that ONE constant. His rock. His anchor. The burning sun to his subtle moon. Without the borrowed yet brilliant luminescence of Debra’s spirit and confidence in him, he is forced to find a new source of light. The only place where he knows any kind of light is that of an inner rage—the kind of rage that propels him to swiftly kill Debra’s pseudo boyfriend. She is quicker to mourn the loss of someone who made her feel “okay” but obviously enabled her self-destructive behavior, than she is to recognize the agonizing love that turned Dexter on him in such a sick-swift reflex of hurt. There was no way he could stand there and pretend to be the “loser” she painted him out to be at the supermarket again. There was no way he could watch her erase their enduring bond all over again and walk back into that cheap motel, hand-in-hand with the symbol of her desire to escape and compromise in every area she’d once left untouched. The more Debra abuses her true self, the more Dexter loses grip on his fleeting sense of self that is now starving without Debra’s loving admiration and faith. Why be human when the one person who connects you to the rest of the world is rejecting their humanity… because of you?

One of the most heart-wrenching moments in the entire episode, for me, was when Debra vehemently proclaimed herself worthy of this living death—that she is the kind of “bad person” Dexter has always said “deserves to die.” I could try to count how many ways this BREAKS Dexter on my fingers and toes, but I’d need a few thousand more to cover the rest of the areas in which Dexter registers pain from this!! He is on the verge a volcanic meltdown, the likes of which haven’t even remotely been witnessed since the deaths of Brian and Rita. The meltdown comes to full fruition when Debra pulls away from Dexter as he tries to take her by the arm and deliver her from this, once and for all. If she is convinced that she is a sh*tbag of a human being and uses the physical and relational position she’s in to authenticate this belief, Dexter will destroy the manifestation of her self-loathing. And he does exactly that, in a stunningly brief yet visceral confrontation that ends with a knife in that embodiment of Debra’s willful destruction. “You didn’t belong with him,” he tells her emphatically, with an almost childlike bewilderment at her inability to see the truth—the truth he has clung to and seen in her time and time again. But, now, is it that the truth is outdated? Has the love that “endures” run its course? The cinematography in the episode’s final moments richly plays into Dexter’s sense of loss as he realizes that, just as Debra said, he is lost. He is the only one who hasn’t yet paid for full price… and, oh, he’s starting to. The blood on Harrison’s stuffed animal speaks to the destruction of his ability to compartmentalize—that peculiar quality about him that enabled him to have a smile on his face after the fiery scrap with his ex-lover, Lila, in season two. He doesn’t get to define his life and who or what fits into which square; not anymore. His truth is known and it can’t be erased for the life of him. As it diffuses into all the sacred places, he comes face to face with just how perplexing his way of life fundamentally is. He can’t make Debra be okay with what she’s done any more than he can make her be okay with the things that have defined him. Now, they have redefined her.  

Intriguingly, this is where the razor-sharp Dr. Evelyn Vogel steps in: to get Dexter to claim his identity. She does this, of course, in a very dramatic and roundabout fashion. Making good on an old connection with Matthews to wriggle her way into a new Miami Metro case, she sees to it that her and Dexter’s paths intersect and ultimately reveals that she knows the Code of Harry by which Dexter has abode for years upon bloody years. That psychopaths are no mystery to her, nor are they even monstrosities. She lithely brings up the irony of her and Dexter’s connection to the world of murder in their respective career paths, cozies up to him about the Bay Harbor Butcher… all the while refuting Dexter’s attempts at describing him in such a way as to suggest she is revealing her version of Dexter. Knowing that he is the Butcher; a masquerader and a mover of heaven and earth, in his own shadowy way. Suddenly Dexter is known inside, outside, upside down and backwards—but by whom? Someone to be trusted, or someone looking to tamper with a man too shattered to know and own who he is?

As a whole, this episode rocked me on innumerable levels. We got much less of Dexter’s typical inner-monologuing, with a necessarily heavier emphasis placed on his immediate and emotional experience of the world. That gave this premiere a very atypical climate and feel at times, and yet it is so incredibly fitting for where Dexter is at that we hear less of him theorizing and see more of him in action. He is finally confronting the things that make him feel helpless, uncovering new vulnerable places in the process. We see Batista’s struggle to move past LaGuerta’s death and his disconcerting reaction to Dexter’s outburst as Batista attempts to give him a piece of her pottery to memorialize her by. By disconcerting, I mean that this scene gives me the sense that Batista isn’t going to be able to let this go. He just might be one of the characters to piece it all together by the time we reach the end. Masuka is donning the most flamboyant shirt of his bodacious collection and keeping things lively. Quinn and Jaime are goin’ at it like dogs, and something tells me that Debra’s instigation of communication with him might add a dimension of awkwardness later on. Matthews, too, is back in the game; everyone has their little niche in the midst of the enormous plot rolling into motion. “A Beautiful Day” kicked it up a fearsome notch and I am ready as ever for the rest of what’s sure to be one of the most phenomenal seasons yet!! Leave all of your thoughts and reactions below as we brace ourselves for what’s to come…

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