Dexter s8 ep 12

Spoilers, if anyone cares.

323_8_3375838_01_444x250Hmm. OK then. We start ‘Remember The Monsters?’ with Deb bleeding out, Hannah at the airport with Harrison, being watched by Elway, Dexter trying to balance his killing life and personal life, and the storm approaching. To start with it looks as if Deb will recover, but she’s also acting as Saxon-bait; for reasons never adequately explored, he still wants to kill her. Quinn’s penultimate contribution of any note to the show is to be the passive recipient of a declaration of sickbed love from Deb. And not “I fucking love you, you motherfucker”, so it counts as quite affecting by Deb standards.

Saxon turns up, of course, and is captured, but even had he got into Deb’s room she wouldn’t have been there; something went wrong, as if sometimes does in TV hospitals, and she died. Whatever else can be said about the decline in Dexter, the relationship between Dexter and Deb has always been right at its heart – enhanced, if we’re being honest, by our knowledge of the offscreen goings-on of the actors – so seeing that connection finally and irrevocably broken was touching, if not as wrenching as it would have been three seasons ago. The same could be said for Dexter’s summary of where he was, where he is now, and what’s changed:  “As much as I may have pretended otherwise, for so long all I’ve wanted was to be like other people, to feel what they felt. Now that I do, I just want it to stop.”

Then, for old times’ sake, or like a bouquet tossed to an adoring audience after an encore, Dexter gets to perform one last consequence-free killing. This one’s in Miami Metro, and is recorded on video, for all the difference that makes. Dex claims, spuriously, that it was in self-defence; Quinn and Batista watch the tape with him and are all, yeah, whatever, Dex; show’s nearly done, and we established a while ago that you can do what you want, so carry on.

And now officially free of any sort of fear of detection and punishment, Dex heads to the hospital, turns off Deb’s life support, and takes her out of the hospital and onto his boat. All without anyone stopping him, or even asking awkward questions. You know, the more I think about this the more it starts to look like a Dexter dream sequence, in which he gets to make all the rules, and turn all the traffic lights to green.

Anyway. The main problem with the episode, and it’s been a problem for a while, is that the whole episode had an unmistakeable air of will-this-do? What looked like an intriguing premise at the start of the season – the creation myth of Dexter – was jettisoned in favour of the usual dance of death between Dexter and the season’s Big Bad, even if he was neither big nor bad. Plot threads with the supporting cast – Quinn’s promotion; Masuka’s daughter – went nowhere.

And the same applies to the endings, of which there were three. The first was the best: Dexter realising that he destroys the people he loves and sailing into the storm; fair enough. Not great, and not the sort of ending which survives much analysis – have you ever tried not killing people, Dexter, and seeing whether that makes a difference to the death and destruction which surrounds you? And is the best future for Harrison really life in a foreign country with a stranger who happens also to be a serial killer? – but fair enough. And I suppose the first coda, with Hannah in Argentina, would have fitted with that.

images-1But the big twist finale – he’s alive! He has a beard! He’s a lumberjack and he’s OK! – was just stupid. It just looks as if the writers and Michael C. Hall – who’s an exec producer himself and can’t escape responsibility –  were indeed too much in love with Dexter to kill him off completely, never mind answering pertinent questions like how in the name of arse he managed to escape from the storm in the first place. The final glower to camera hinted, to me, that the Dark Passenger still resided within, although in a small community Dexter will presumably have to find other outlets for his urges, like… sorry, I’m out of knowledge of what the leisure opportunities might be in logging towns. He’d have been better off killing himself.

Or, hell, heading to Argentina with Hannah and Harrison. As I’ve said before, I was pretty relaxed with the idea of Dexter getting away with it, even if the twisted but nonetheless consistent morality of the first few seasons was replaced by Dexter essentially killing anyone he needed to kill to cover his tracks. But we didn’t even get that, or the capture which looked like the inevitable endgame during the first couple of seasons.

Which is a great shame, because to start with Dexter was startlingly and refreshingly unlike anything else on TV: gleefully amoral, mordantly witty, and as cool as the other side of the pillow. By the end, though, I was left with the feeling that the show will stand as one of the examples of what happens when the money’s too good to turn down, and a show is prolonged well past the point – the end of season 5, for my money, but your mileage will vary – at which the creative inspiration has run out.

Dexter s8 ep 11

We start with the aftermath to Vogel’s death, and as Dexter cleans house, removing any reference to himself from Vogel’s computer, I was left wondering, not for the first time, about the product placement in this show. Apple – the choice of the unrepentant serial killer and psychopath-loving shrinks? Anyway, there are twin deadlines bearing down on Dex – his flight to Argentina with Hannah, and a convenient tropical storm – but Vogel’s son Saxon still has to be dealt with.

The two of them spar for a while: Saxon offers Dex a truce, but does so while mentioning everyone Dexter cares about, thus reminding him why he needs to get rid of Saxon in the first place. Thereafter Dex’s strategy is to provoke Saxon into action. Meantime the net is closing on Hannah, and while everyone in Miami is looking for a woman with long blonde hair who looks like Hannah she does absolutely nothing to alter her appearance.

And so we get to what might be the climactic confrontation between Saxon and Dexter, the former strapped down, the latter with his extensive knife collection at hand… but it doesn’t quite happen, because after eight seasons Dexter chooses this scene to have his moment of personal growth. He doesn’t need to kill Saxon; he doesn’t need his dead father any more; he’s moved on. Like any Bond film, though, the one thing you mustn’t do is leave your captive unattended, and what happens thereafter is predictable in general, if not necessarily in its details, meaning that there is probably another climactic confrontation to come in next week’s series finale.

There’s been a lot of hatred out there for this season of Dexter, certainly the second half of it. I don’t think it’s been that bad. The problem is that it hasn’t been any good either. It’s just there. You want 12 episodes, Showtime, you’ll get 12 episodes, and never mind if the material has been stretched so thin that we’ll be resorting to inconsequential conversations between Masuda and his daughter just to fill in time. As a pithy and unpleasant four or six episode coda to the Dexter story, this season might just have worked. As it is, the show’s legacy has been irredeemably tainted.

Dexter s8 ep 10

Dexter and Hannah are, indeed, planning to go to Argentina. “You know how stupid that sounds?” Deb scoffs. Yes. Yes we do. It’s always problematic when a show tries to have its cake and eat it – sometimes it can be endearingly meta, but sometimes it just comes across as the writers hedging their bets: look, this is silly, but we know it’s silly, so we’re going to do it anyway. With only three episodes to go, though, in a show which was once thrilling, sexy, and bracingly amoral, I’m not buying it.

Anyway, Argentina. First, though, for reasons which are never really fleshed out, Dexter has to kill Vogel’s son Oliver. One assumes, then, that the need to kill still burns within him, and that his Dark Passenger will be accompanying him to South America. It’s not that easy, though, because Oliver knows that Dexter is after him, and Vogel is trying to protect her son. She is, after all, a psychopath expert. Meantime Hannah is lying low, but it all goes wrong when she has to look after Harrison for like five minutes, during which time he injures himself so badly that she has to take him to hospital, where she’s recognised.

Not for the first time, there’s a feeling that the writers have pretty much given up on most of the other people on the show. I’m now in a minority of one, I think, in believing that Quinn is potentially – potentially – an interesting character, but by the start of this episode he’s been reduced to mooching around listlessly after Deb, while passive-aggressively doing his best to get dumped by Jamie. She is, however, too dumb to take the gigantic hints, so he actually has to do something about it, or whatever. Look: was there not a point, a few seasons ago, when Quinn was getting suspicious of Dexter? Did I imagine it?

By the end of the episode, though, the stakes have been raised a little: I’ll concede that I wasn’t expecting the ending, even if I’m not sure where it leaves us. Presumably Dexter will now be even more determined to kill Oliver during an ever-decreasing window, as that bounty-hunter dude closes in on Hannah, giving them the final two episodes to TCB before leaving for Argentina, no matter how stupid it sounds.

Dexter s8 ep 9

In season after season of Dexter we’ve seen a familiar pattern: Dex gets himself into what looks like inescapable trouble, then with one bound – either in the cliffhanging season finale or the next season’s opener – he frees himself. With this being the final season, you’d think that the stakes would be higher this time round; there are no further seasons, so there’s no guarantee – in theory anyway – that Dexter will walk away this time, alive and at liberty.

Not for the first time this year, though, this episode felt remarkably inert, as if sight of the finishing line has induced creative exhaustion rather than a sprint finish. Our friend Snoskred suggested last week that Michael C. Hall had lost patience with the show. I’m not so sure – Hall remains an exec producer, and to me he still looks engaged. Jennifer Carpenter, on the other hand, is managing a very convincing performance as someone who no longer gives a shit – the scene this week, for example, in which Deb was obliged to sit down and share a meal prepared by Hannah, the serial killer who’s already poisoned her more than once, and who she wants to keep as far away from her brother as possible. Last week – bringing her in. This week – gal pals. Carpenter’s demeanour over the past few episodes, as her character changes from week to week and, indeed, scene to scene, is that the end can’t come soon enough.

And the writers are giving in to the temptation to self-parody as well. (I’m not even getting into the increasingly dumb Dexter voiceovers, in which he’s now doing little more than providing audio description of what’s on screen, presumably for the benefit of those with sight impairments.) This week, DNA left at the scene of the murder of Zach has a familial link to Vogel, and Dexter wonders whether one of Vogel’s sons, thought to have died in a fire as a teenager, is alive. He obtains a photo of Vogel, Jr., puts it through some “ageing software”, adds a bit of facial hair for no good reason… and suddenly it looks a bit like Cassie’s boyfriend Oliver, which is confirmed with 97% certainty by ”facial comparison software”. Presumably no-one said “Hang on a minute, but is this not completely stupid?”

So anyway Dex goes after Oliver, but Vogel is conflicted, torn between her two favourite psychopaths. Does she want quasi-son Dexter to strap Oliver to the table, or actual son Oliver to live a full and happy life? Probably the latter. Meantime Elway’s got wind of Hannah’s presence in Miami, and is working with a bounty hunter – confusingly, Tyler Gray from Burn Notice – to capture her; and Quinn, sniffing around the murder of Cassie and the disappearance of Zach, questions Oliver himself, which will presumably bring him once more into Dexter’s orbit. With only three episodes to go, is Quinn going to be the person who, finally, realises that Dexter’s been surrounded by a vortex of death and destruction pretty much since the first episode, and that it isn’t coincidental? Perhaps not; Deb is present for the Oliver interview as well, and Quinn, as ever easily distracted by the babes, kisses her.

After all these years, I really would like to care more how this show is going to end up.

Dexter s8 ep 8

This week Hannah’s presence continues to distract Dexter, who makes plans for her to get out of the country and evade detection. Yvonne Strahovski improved as an actor during the run of Chuck, and she’s better here again. In her scenes with Michael C. Hall she’s letting the action flow without forcing the pace; it’s a beguiling performance, and she has an easy chemistry with Hall. In fact, I called the dysfunctional family unit wrongly last week when I suggested that Vogel and Dexter were co-parenting Zach: as this week’s episode makes clear, particularly at the sort-of dinner party, Dex and Hannah are the parents, with Vogel as a grandparent or great-aunt – I liked Zach’s whiny “Are we there yet?” in the back of Dexter’s car.

The major plot arc this week is the follow-up to the death of Cassie: there’s evidence to suggest that Zach has gone off-code and murdered her, so Dex and Hannah track him to a motel in the Keys. He’s able to provide proof that it wasn’t him, though, which suggests that he was framed. By whom? Well, the shock ending would suggest that it might have been Vogel, but I don’t think that it was. Wonder whether we’re ever going to hear more about her husband? Or whether Cassie’s boyfriend is anything more than a red herring?

It’s a pretty good episode, but I was left wanting more, and the subplots aren’t providing it. With only four episodes to go – ever – after this one, Dexter is running out of time if it wants to go out with a bang. This episode, though, was similar to the last two or three: I enjoyed it, but it didn’t bowl me over, and I’m still hoping to be bowled over.

Dexter s8 ep 7

So Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) is back. This should be a shot of adrenaline for a show which has been jogging along, but in its final season might perhaps be doing a little more. Strangely, though, it actually slows things down a touch, as most of the first half of the episode is devoted to Dexter asking, in voiceover and dialogue, why exactly Hannah has returned to Miami. Despite being an escaped felon she’s hiding in plain sight, admittedly under a new name and with a wealthy and adoring husband in tow, who seems to know – and not care – about her past.

Thing is, Dexter’s still in love with Hannah, and as it turns out she with him, despite Dexter turning her in at the end of season 7. Oh, and her rich, adoring husband is also violent and possessive towards her, and not above hiring a few thugs to give Dexter a going-over. There’s only one place this is leading, and sure enough Mr Hannah’s being dumped overboard before the episode’s out. As it happens I like the Dexter/Hannah dynamic, so on balance I’m glad she’s back, even if Deb isn’t. Deb herself is coping with Elway’s affection for her the only way she knows how – aggressive, ungracious snark – for which she gets called a “fucking bitch” by him. A little misogynist, perhaps, but nonetheless not entirely inaccurate as a summing-up of seven and a half seasons of Deb.

And Dexter and Vogel continue to evolve a kind of uneasy co-parenting arrangement for Zach, Dex’s potential Mini-Me. The boy’s not right, though, and when Dexter’s MILFy neighbour Cassie ends the episode lying in a pool of blood, we’re clearly being invited to conclude that it must have been Zach, which presumably means that it wasn’t. Still jogging along, then.

Dexter s8 ep 6

A somewhat low-key episode; agreeably so, I thought, for the most part, although it could also be said that with only a few episodes to go Dexter should be shifting through the gears by now. Zach Hamilton, teenage killer from last week, is being followed by Dexter and Quinn: Dex because he wants an excuse to kill him, and needs proof that he did indeed murder Norma; and Quinn, because he’s been passed over for promotion and wants to prove himself.

Zach is busy himself, though: in therapy with Vogel, the psychopath specialist; turning up at Miami Metro’s helpfully unguarded homicide scenes to take photos of all that lovely blood; and identifying another potential victim: Sofia, who works at a yachting club owned by his father. Vogel thinks that she and Dex should teach him Harry’s Code, but Dexter would rather strap him to the table. (There’s an odd remark made almost in the passing about Vogel’s husband Richard; I assume we’ll be coming back to him.)

Possibly distracted by the Zach hunt, Dexter completely fails to generate any chemistry with his MILF neighbour; Deb has a little more success in that department, as it’s now becoming clear that her boss Elway likes her; what remains to be seen is how she feels about it. I’m getting platonic vibes from her, but who knows?

It’s a good ending, though, with Dex finally managing to get Zach on the table, and wondering whether to kill him or mentor him. That’s topped by the last scene, though: the producers did entirely the right thing by keeping a certain actor’s name off the opening credits, and although there’s no preamble, as soon as Deb starts feeling unwell you know what’s coming next. Welcome back.