(Reader beware: There are spoilers in this article.)
When we last left Dexter, the titular serial killer/blood spatter analyst/hoarder of olive green, long sleeve henleys had just offed Travis Marshall (Colin Hanks) – another in the show’s seemingly endless line of Miami based sociopaths – as his police lieutenant kid sister Debra looked on. It was a shocking moment, it was a game changing moment, it was a moment that was so satisfyingly big and sensational that it compensated for an uneven season. (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the general shoddiness of the earlier episodes was purposeful and meant to misdirect viewers and lower expectations for the crazy conclusion.)
This new season picks up mere seconds after last year’s finale with a rattled Deb struggling to process what she’s just witnessed and quick-thinking Dexter – who’s standing beside a body swaddled in plastic wrap – Jedi mind tricking his sister into believing that he just “snapped.” From here, the season seven opener moves swiftly and assuredly as Deb agonizes over her decision to help Dexter cover up the murder and a new threat – a Russian crime syndicate – is thrown into the mix. The episode is packed with the sort of tense, unnerving scenes that made the Showtime series a hit and proves that any reports of Dexter jumping the shark were premature.
The season six development that took the show into questionable territory: Deb’s sudden realization that she like-liked her adoptive brother. But her bizarre epiphany was the least of last year’s troubles – the revelation was simply the icing on a cake with far too many layers. The plot was unfocused and although many of the threads were compelling (Dexter contemplating Christian morality while reevaluating Harry’s code; morbid intern Louis swiping a prosthetic hand from the Ice Truck Killer case and then mailing it to Dexter), far too many storylines were being juggled. The season was mired by its own ambition.
It’s obvious – this show is most gratifying when Dexter is either on the verge of being found out or he is found out and there’s some question as to how the witness will proceed. This simple construct is the foundation of this series, and while it was implemented last year, it took a backseat to a theme-heavy plot about religion and father-son relationships. Season seven, however, succeeds in delivering that terrific sense of dread.
Of all the people who’ve discovered Dexter’s secret, Deb is the biggest question mark. She clings to this tenuous bond that she has with her brother but she’s also a good cop. So, will she turn Dexter in or keep his secret? Her next move is even harder to predict when you consider that season eight is reportedly going to be the show’s last. With the end in sight, we can probably expect some major upheaval. Dexter killing Deb, perhaps.
Though the Deb question may be the prime concern, this first episode is crammed with suspenseful turns that are dramatized with superb subtlety. There are two characters on Dexter’s trail – computer whiz Louis, who seems to know quite a bit about Dexter, and LaGuerta, who discovers one of Dexter’s blood slides at the Travis Marshall crime scene.
The premiere is a triumph chiefly because it immediately thrusts the viewer into all of this mystery and suggests that the show will be returning to the good ol’ nail-biting days of Dexter’s past while simultaneously making it clear through a weighty conclusion – that finds Deb confronting her brother after uncovering all of his serial killer paraphernalia – that everything that worked so well in earlier seasons will be heightened this year.