Are the wounds that your heart suffered from last night’s episode starting to scab over and scar up? If you’re looking to work your way back through the insanities and the heartbreaks that besieged us with the fourth chapter of this wild season, “Scar Tissue” (eight episodes left in the eighth and final leg of the race!), skip the jump and let’s cut to the mad chase!
"You shot an innocent woman for simply doing her job."
"Because of Dexter..."
"And THAT'S what terrifies you the most. You so desperately want to believe that if you had just shot Dexter, then you wouldn't have to face the hard truth that if you had to do it all over again, you'd still choose him. Because in your heart, you know you'll always choose Dexter."
"The body forms scar tissue to close a wound. Has my sister begun to do the same? Eventually scars fade; who knows. With enough time you might not even remember how you got them."
“I think I know how he felt, why he killed himself. But he only got it half right.”
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If any of you have seen Sam Raimi’s Toby Maguire-fronted Spider-Man trilogy, you may recall a conversation shared between Peter Parker and Mary Jane in Spider-Man 2 in which Peter struggles to show MJ that he is changed. He has sacrificed the powers that once shaped the violent landscape of his life and kept him from investing in MJ the way he longed to—of course, she’s got no idea that he’s been slinging his way from skyscraper to skyscraper and saving lives as he goes. And that’s the way he’s wanted to keep things. The last thing he would ever want would be to implicate the woman he loves in his perilous struggles. Finally making it to MJ’s play and endeavoring to put the past behind them both, he insists to her, “You don't understand! I'm not an empty seat anymore. I'm different! Punch me, I bleed.” Dexter, too, has begun to bleed. The cool and neatly-compartmentalized ‘monster’ that Dexter once was—an unfeeling yet unerring creature of the night who managed to mask his scales in the daylight—is slain, leaving in its wake an emotive, conscientious human being with a pervasive desire to both give and receive love. Yet, no matter how many times Dexter endeavors to send his newfound feelings safely to shore, Debra—marooned in her state of denial and self-deprecation—refuses to so much as touch the waves in which Dexter swims deep. He’s not an empty seat or voicemail greeting. He’s got his heart on his sleeve and it’s speaking in tongues… without ears to hear.
The central drama of this pivotal episode is concerned with the electrifying triad of Dexter, Debra, and Dr. Vogel. We last saw Dexter conceding to the power of Vogel to heal Debra—a task in which he has striven without relent and yet is far from qualified for. Thwarted from her desperate attempt to liberate herself once and for all by confessing her guilt and thus reconciling the hidden truth with her external condition, Debra has to start from the ground up, this time with a figure who not only provides her with critical insight into who she is and why she does what she does but also holds the bloodstained key to her brother’s past through the eyes of Harry. What is Vogel’s approach to the matter of restoring this volatile, wounded heart—and is it, in fact, her desire to actually restore her and not simply quarantine her off from Dexter’s care and focus, both of which Debra’s state have completely inundated? Those confounding variables can certainly get in the way of a good study. Ahem! At any rate, we see that Vogel has chosen to keep Debra directly under her roof and care, taking her daily to the shipping container in which both she and Dexter were brutally reborn. Vogel and Debra’s first visit to the shipping yard is preluded by a disturbing vision of Debra’s in which she reimagines the scene in which she had to choose between duty and love… and violently chooses the former, shooting Dexter several times through the chest. Debra explains this destructive fantasy to Vogel, revealing in a confused stampede of words that she doesn’t know if this vision made her feel better or worse. Yet, what if she had chosen against Dexter? What if there was a way out of this? She even makes the surprising suggestion that they “could have run”—something Dexter himself nearly considered when LaGuerta’s gun was breathing down his neck. Vogel, however, has set out to prove to Debra that there was absolutely no way Debra could have chosen any differently—nor will she ever choose any differently. In their second “session” in the shipping container, Vogel brings to fruition her goal of bringing Debra to “rock bottom.” She closes them in the container in the same way that Dexter had been closed in that place, trapped in inches of his mother’s congealed blood. She ultimately delivers one of the most powerful lines yet spoken, telling Debra that she will always choose Dexter and that she cannot continue to entertain a reality in which she will not. Might I just add that the performances at play here were stunning beyond belief and that Charlotte and Jennifer are an absolute dream-team in terms of their one-on-one chemistry! One roars forth while the other receives the blow, only for the dynamic to completely reverse moments later. It’s a collision and violent dance of two opposite energies that, in their fusion, leave us trembling and demanding more.
What is both fascinating and tragic about Debra and Vogel’s tie is that it enables Debra to discover how her father bore the weight of Dexter’s identity. She pours over Vogel’s discs, overwhelmed to see just how much he knew and how his world was rocked when he walked in for the first time on one of Dexter’s kills. As we all quickly recalled, this was one of Dexter’s most gruesome offings, or at least it appears so, as we have actually never really been invited into the entire process of a kill, despite how much we feel like we know as far as Dexter’s dirty secrets go. It is this encounter of Harry’s that brings him face to face with the Code in its unholy glory: it is a theory no more, and now a legacy he can only regard as a “horrible mistake.” Through these DVDs as well as a little conversation with Elway over Debra’s spread of work at the office (a scene very reminiscent of past seasons—you can’t deny that it is refreshing to see Debra in her element as she scatters every possible piece of evidence on the ground like a jigsaw floor puzzle and works her freakin’ magic!), Debra realizes just how alike her and her father are in her revelation about Dexter’s truth and attempt to lie therewith. When she confronts the bitter truth that Harry could not live with the monster he created—though Vogel insists earlier on to Dexter that a monster is inherently not of nature and Dexter himself is not only a part of nature but a vital, sustaining ‘organ’ of the body of society—Debra is compelled to ask herself, How do I live with this? Her journey to redemption, then, takes a turn more dramatic and horrendous than any previous twist. “If Dad’s taught us one thing, it’s the value of human life,” Debra once said. Realizing that her father could not bear to cling onto his any longer, and acknowledging that deep down that Vogel is incredibly right about her fundamental need to choose Dexter and always choose Dexter, Debra resolves to finish what her father couldn’t. And bring herself with.
For those of us who read the Entertainment Weekly Dexter article or heard about the car accident scene in the season eight pregame months, we all immediately registered Debra’s radiant, glowing appearance at Miami Metro and tender words to Quinn as part of her final ‘masterpiece.’ This is her design. Her goodbye. And if she is in control, why not relish these final sun-kissed moments? We remember at the end of season two how Dexter was conspiring to turn himself in and savored each ride on the Slice of Life and time with his loved ones with abnormal pleasure, in the wake of what he thought would be the end of a wild run. Words can’t describe the heartbreak with which I confronted that scene in which Dexter catches a glimpse of Debra through the window. The sunlight plays at her hair and her angelic smile, met by Dexter’s shock of joy, plays out on the surface as a loving reunion—and in the pipelines as a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. “We’ll always be together, right?” An overwhelmingly relieved Dexter breathes as Debra smiles faintly in the passenger seat, counting down the seconds until they go hand-in-hand into the grave. Of course we’ll be, her haunting expression seems to breathe. She has chosen him, alright. And when she realizes that she is still alive… she can no longer choose him in death. In a death-defying plunge, her entire worldview is rewritten. At the same time, she fulfills Vogel’s prophecy. Doubly so.
But will Vogel continue to be involved in Dexter and Debra’s lives as they move forward from this? And will this new tragedy re-bond them or break them apart as Dexter struggles with the way in which Debra’s brokenness nearly took them both under? The terrifying thing about this episode’s ending is that Dexter’s newly discovered feelings for Debra are now suddenly on the threshing floor. Dexter vehemently lashes out against the conclusions Vogel drew about Dexter’s emotional bond to Debra in the patient notes he discovered at Yates’ home base (on a side note, is this guy really the big bad? Am I the only one who felt underwhelmed by that reveal?). The fact that Vogel sees him as “delusional,” like Pinocchio trying to self-transform into a “real boy,” is enough to compel Dexter to venomously dismiss this surrogate mother from his life. “If I have a right to live, exist… then so do my feelings for Deb.” Think back to the pilot, people—“If I could have feelings for anyone, I’d have them for Deb.” He now consciously abides by these feelings and will stop at nothing to validate them, and see Debra’s life enriched by them. It feels as if we’ve suddenly taken ten steps forward and ten thousand steps back. Will this be the toxic tourniquet to Dexter’s bleeding heart? I tremble to consider the possibility of their rich relationship boiling down to an elaborate game of tag, especially with the endgame gaining on us at such a steady pace.
To address the other components of this episode, I am still very much compelled by Debra and Quinn’s dynamic and wonder if Quinn will find out about Debra’s attempted murder-suicide. I continue to be delighted with Masuka’s presence and loved the absurd implausibility of the surprise encounter with his long-lost daughter—can it get much better than their shared “soulful yet haunting” eyes and a genetically-inherited creeper laugh? Quinn and Jamie’s relationship never ceases to strike me as “meh,” a feeling which only intensifies at the gratuitous sex scenes. It almost seems as if the writers are trying to validate their relationship by sexualizing it; the only time the two of them seem to get along is when they’re both in bed. I’m looking forward to seeing how Bethany Joy Lenz’s character challenges Dexter, hopefully in a context that is not a contrived romance (I’m not sure there would be room for that, what with the imminent return of Hannah that seems to be foreshadowed by the large orchid plant on Vogel’s desk!). Leave any and all of your thoughts below, and thank you so much for sticking out this weighty review!!