DEXTER 7.01 ‘Are You…?’

In the wake of catching Dexter killing a man, Debra is forced to question everything she knows about her brother.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Are You…?"

Writer: Scott Buck

Director: John Dahl

Previously on "Dexter":

Episode 6.12: "This is the Way the World Ends"

 

After a sluggish and uneven sixth season, “Dexter” felt like it was quickly running out of steam. However, "Are You…?" gave a much needed jolt to the show with a new dynamic between Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and his sister, Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter).

The ending of “Dexter” season 5 teased viewers when Debra caught Dexter and his then lover, Lumen (Julia Stiles) killing a man and yet miraculously Debra didn’t actually see their faces before she let them get away with it. This time, Debra initially seemed less willing to get Dexter out of trouble despite knowing his identity.

There was a great fakeout in the opening sequence when a seemingly desperate Dexter is seen racing for the Miami airport with a bag that makes it look like he’s never coming back. But first, we revisit the closing moments of last season, as Debra witnesses Dexter killing the Doomsday Killer, Travis Marshall (Colin Hanks).

At this point, Dexter is such a practiced liar that he almost manages to make Debra buy into the idea that he just snapped and killed Travis in self defense. But the one thing that Dexter is never able to fake well is human emotions. So even though Debra helps him cover up his crime, Dexter never acts like he has a problem with what he did.

Whereas Debra is deeply shaken by what she saw, which will hopefully bury the romantic feelings she had started to develop for her adoptive brother. There is a hilarious moment when Dexter and Debra work as a team to create a distraction to remove a key piece of evidence from Travis’ body. But that alliance doesn’t appear to last long as Debra keeps digging and recalls that she was held captive by Dexter’s brother, Brian (aka Rudy the Ice Truck Killer) in the same plastic covering used on Travis. And nothing Dexter says convinces her to let it go.

Every season on “Dexter” tends to give the title character a new “big bad” to go after. To get the ball rolling for this season, Miami Metro Detective Mike Anderson (Billy Brown) pulls over to help a man named Victor (Enver Gjokaj) fix a flat tire before he discovers a dead stripper in the trunk of Victor’s car. Moments later, Mike is dead as well… and the only conclusion that can be drawn from it is that Mike was a meaningless and expendable character on this show. When Billy Brown initially signed on to “Dexter,” I doubt that he was eagerly awaiting the day he’d get killed off by the dude from “Dollhouse.”

It’s almost insulting that Sgt. Angel Batista (David Zayas) and Detective Joey Quinn (Desmond Harrington) act like they were both close to Mike and they appear to take his death hard. Where was this camaraderie when Mike was actually alive? Because frankly, most of Miami Metro seemed to think that Mike was a jerk. The differences between Batista and Quinn also seem to be resolved way too easily and it’s hard to care about either of them.

Dexter being Dexter, he finds Victor’s fingerprint on the stripper’s car and he decides to burn off a little stress by tracking Victor down before he can flee the country. In perhaps Dexter’s first airport kill, he dispatches Victor and smuggles him out in a luggage container. But Dexter also unwittingly draws the attention of Ukrainian mobster, Isaac Sirko (Ray Stevenson), who will undoubtedly want to know why Victor never made it out of Miami alive.

There’s little movement with Dexter’s stalker/super fan, Louis Greene (Josh Cooke); who seems even creepier this season. The “Dexter” writers may be overestimating the amount of attention that this plotline deserves. The crazier Louis gets, the less interesting he becomes. Clearly, Louis at least suspects that Dexter is living a double life, but this story isn’t strong enough to linger throughout the entire season.

Likewise, the writers make the curious decision of giving a heroic quest arc to one of the least enjoyable characters on the series: Captain Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Velez). She finds Dexter’s blood slide at the scene of Travis’ death and she becomes convinced that it may lead her to the real Bay Harbor Butcher. We get a reminder that LaGuerta may have really loved Sgt. Doakes — who was framed for Dexter’s crimes — but LaGuerta has been such a snake the past few seasons that I’d much rather she just fade away rather than rise to prominence again.

The supporting police characters have never been the strength of “Dexter” and the Ukrainian crime syndicate story is going to need some time before we can see whether it’s working or not. Fortunately, the Dexter and Debra storyline was riveting as she pieced together the clues of the last few years and the mystery of Dexter’s hidden life finally made sense to her. The closing moments of Debra at Dexter’s apartment were so jarring that I expected him to wake up from a daydream or a nightmare.

Instead, Dexter’s secrets are laid bare and he doesn’t even bother to deny them. That may have been the most honesty that Dexter has ever shown his sister… and also the worst thing he could have ever done. Debra might have been able to deal with covering up the murder of Travis, but this will change everything. It has to, because otherwise the series has been wasting our time for the last six seasons.

As a cliffhanger, this had one of the strongest moments in “Dexter’s” history and the writers wisely avoided showing us Debra’s reaction. It feels like we’ve reached the beginning of the end of “Dexter.” And for the first time in too long, I can’t wait to see what’s next.