Hey, everyone! Welcome to my extremely-delayed written review of the sensational third installment in Dexter’s final season. (I’m surprised that I didn’t end up on Dexter’s table for this crime of killin’ innocent time. Or for that awful joke I just let slip.) We are not only on the cusp of San Diego’s Comic-Con 2013—at which the Dexter crew is throwing a bittersweet final hoedown—but also dangling precariously over the cliff that is next Sunday’s “Scar Tissue,” which has been heralded by some truly electrifying sneak peeks. So what IS eating Dexter Morgan, exactly? If you’ve scraped up what’s left of you and are ready to wade back through the violent waters of “What’s Eating Dexter Morgan?,” then skip the jump and let’s cut to the mad chase!
A powerful, provocative step forward in the exposition of Dexter’s true self, “What’s Eating Dexter Morgan?” didn’t present us with a cannibal just to stir things up a bit in the department of monstrousness. Emotive and rich with devastating performances—especially on the part of Jennifer Carpenter, whose Emmy nomination I am waiting for with bated breath!—this episode saw Debra seeking to shake her sense of self-loathing once and for all by coming clean (by the time she embraced the mess of a few emptied brown bottles) and Dexter conceding to his newfound sense of self-loathing over his dismantlement of Debra, an innocent whose love he could not have betrayed more brutally. Dexter is the consumer; Debra, the consumed. “I consume everyone I love,” Dexter bitterly concludes as he regards the saucer-eyed cannibal strapped to his kill table—which is, according to Dr. Vogel, the canvas of Dexter’s perfection as a psychopath. Yet, like the tummy-troubled Harrison who put away an entire box of popsicles out of his love of frozen treats, Dexter is sick from the way in which his love inflicted abuse on the beloved. In turn, he's far from inclined to live with himself in this state. Instead of leaving a trail of sticky juice, he’s left a body count which now includes the person his beloved sister once was. Where is the perfection here? Does his perfection lie in discarding his overwhelming remorse, or in letting that remorse shape the way he moves forward?
Dexter’s comical disgust at the reveal of the finger-fouled stew (a reaction that could not be more opposite from his elated regard of the Ice Truck Killer’s design in the series pilot) works hand-in-hand with the way he seeks to restore Debra to the knowledge of her own goodness. Dexter is disgusted with himself for putting Debra in a place where she lost the ability to see what she offers to the world—something that has kept him grounded since before he even knew the word ‘love’ (‘fond’ was the closest he could get to that sense of loyalty and need, once upon a time). While Vogel tries to deconstruct Dexter’s love for Debra by insisting that its foundation is self-interested survivalism (a sort of Hannah McKay/Darwinian model), Dexter subverts her every attempt to quantify and make math of his faithfulness to Debra by going a shockingly altruistic mile to prove to Debra that she has enacted good that endures and cannot be ignored. Debra is convinced that Dexter’s dinner date scheme is just another hellhole into which her broken self has been dragged… until Dexter gives her hard evidence of her admirable character. Voila—just across the restaurant from their little table sits the man whose life Debra rescued in the sixth season, along with the family whom she spared from having to face life without a father and irreplaceable loved one. It seems as if Dexter did learn a thing or two from the too-soon-departed Isaak Sirko, who lithely pried at Dexter’s rigid adherence to a scientific regard for love and human connection. Beautifully enough, Dexter uses his logical faculties to “prove” to Debra how good she is as a means of loving and seeking the best for her. “You’re a good person,” Dexter tells her, reaching out to take her hand in the first physically intimate act the two of them have shared in a long time—arguably since that haunting last scene of the seventh season finale, in which a dazed Deb is clinging onto Dexter’s arm as the two of them weave through the exuberant throngs of people at the New Year’s party. This is the first time since that tragedy that Debra has softened to the source of her pain. She cannot help but look into the mirror Dexter is holding up for her, one which reveals that there is still intense love and vulnerability behind her crown of thorns.
In a sense, Debra’s toxic spell is broken by this striving on Dexter’s part to redeem her. Sitting in the Miami Metro parking lot while throwing back beers and watching and re-watching the video of her heroic act, Debra’s conviction takes an extremely volatile turn. This taste of redemption catalyzes a swift reaction in her unfiltered mind. In a heartbeat, she concludes that the only way to fully reach this place of salvation is to spew out the truth that’s been rolling around inside of her—an indigestible, inescapable weight. Here is where we see Quinn’s role of increasing importance in the season reach a new climax: he, of course, is the one to whom Debra is ready to make this explosive confession. (And how refreshing is it that Quinn is finally a part of the central bedlam of it all! No more sidelined, rabbit-trail crises that leave us all shaking our heads, aside from a few less-than-fun and more-than-clichéd encounters with the jealous girlfriend.) For once, alcohol seems to do Debra a favor in that its sway over her is glaringly obvious to Quinn; granted, if he’s to turn a blind eye for ANYONE, it’s Debra (I mean, really—he dropped his entire freaking private investigation into Dexter for her sake in the fifth season). It’s like Elway says earlier in the episode during his Debra-partnered investigation into an obvious affair that the wife abruptly renounces: people get used to living in denial. Quinn’s as in denial about Debra’s confession as Debra was in denial about Dexter’s truth. Maybe it's just that the "truth is overrated." This, of course, seems to suggest that Quinn just might be the one to see the cat let out of the weather-worn bag when all is said and done. Regardless, Quinn continues to keep Dexter in the know about Debra’s unstable condition and calls him up in the thick of her breakdown—much to the dismay of Vogel, who continues to be baffled by the unexpected errands that keep popping up in her cherished playtime with her surrogate son. I was truly floored by her conversation with Dexter on their hurried way to the station; in fact, it is likely that she feels compelled to speak out about what she believes Dexter’s “true motivations” are in zipping down the highway to save his sinking sister. Surely Dexter is only worried that Debra’s descent will mark his own, but Dexter stubbornly insists that he just can’t give up on her. Not on HIS life—but hers. It’s about his fear of what prison would do to HER, not of what her incarceration could spell out for his place in life. I’m reminded of the lyrics of “Love’s Not A Competition (But I’m Winning)” by Kaiser Chiefs: “I’m not sure what’s truly altruistic anymore, when every good thing that I do is listed and you’re keeping score.” All these “good things” that Dexter is doing for his sister are ripe for Vogel’s reinterpretation, in her eyes. What a grand challenge, to contend with a subject who is so incredibly certain he is capable of the impossible! A devil trying out angel wings from a costume shop and endeavoring to take flight.
To say that Dexter and Vogel’s arrival at the scene of Debra’s confession does not mark one of the most jaw-dropping moments of the show, is to fail to give this wild scene the credit it is due. Dexter’s razor-sharp reflexes and Vogel’s chillingly calculating reaction thereto—“That was interesting!”—leave us breathless as so many planets collide in the deactivation of a smoke-spewing ‘bomb.’ We’re left to wonder just what exactly Vogel will do when Dexter places one of the two most precious people in his life in her hands. Even though it’s hard to argue that she’s the Brain Surgeon now (since we saw her receive home threats without Dexter there to perform for), Vogel’s intentions are no clearer than they were when we first encountered those icepick eyes of hers. Will she endeavor to stay in Dexter’s good graces and try to genuinely affirm Debra, or push Debra to the breaking point that she may remove the most viable threat to Dexter’s ‘perfect’ psychopathy and continue on in her exploration without this confounding variable? Leave your thoughts below as we ready ourselves to come face to face with “Scar Tissue”! Thank you so much for reading!