When is Deb going to die?
That’s the thought that kept going through my head while watching the first two episodes of the final season of Dexter. I don’t care how it happens, whether it’s in the crossfire of a Dexter-police showdown or on the almighty Dexter slab of justice, but the ups and downs of Debra Morgan have to end in twelve weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I also believe that Dexter (star Michael C. Hall) either needs to die on another serial killer’s slab or by lethal injection in prison when the show reaches its conclusion, but that’s a side note to what Debra’s curtain call must be.
Long before Miss Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) professed her almost incestuous love for our favorite serial killer, I grew weary of the manic depressive roller coaster ride that she takes us on every season. As season after season ticked away, it became clear that either the character is erratically written or Carpenter is not really pushing the material she is given. Regardless, despite the epic and shocking ending to Season 4, a more impactful death would have been Deb’s.
Even Carpenter wants Deb to end up six feet under. “I’ve said it before and I will repeat it: I want the character to die,” the actress told Entertainment Weekly. “Every actor has to shed their character, shake the ghost off. It’s a real process. I really do love this character. [But] for my own well being, I need this story to have an ending.”
With no sign of Deb expiring in last week’s Season 8 premiere, my hope was that, at the very least, some consistency would be established with the character. But once again we saw a wild mood swing that had Deb partnering with a thief as she disappeared into a world of booze and cocaine as an undercover P.I. Even though Dexter dispatched the thief by episode’s end, it was foreshadowed that Deb’s mania would proceed much longer.
Ten minutes into the second episode of this season, which aired last Sunday, I felt a slight bit more hopeful. The focus was less on Deb and more on Dexter’s relationship with serial killer psychologist Dr. Evelyn Vogel (a mesmerizing Charlotte Rampling). Early in the episode, we were presented with a strong, well-acted scene between Vogel and Dexter. Actually, the scene’s biggest star was ghost dad James Remar with a portrayal of a younger Harry Morgan. In a videotaped session with Vogel, Harry reinforced the fact that Dexter has been a killer since he was a young boy. We also learned more about the origins of Dexter’s code. It was revealed that Vogel was the brains behind the code, and we also found out that Dexter isn’t the only serial killer running around with a code, because Vogel has essentially developed other codes and illegal treatments for other psychopaths and serial killers. One of these former patients is apparently murdering people and sending Vogel brain parts, and she needs Dex to find and kill him before the police find him and discover her secret experiments.
The blueprints for the final season were laid out quite well in this scene, giving a hint of a season that may have Dexter run into multiple serial killers to protect Vogel’s life and career. Vogel’s line delivery feels as if she’s summoning her inner John Lithgow, and she may yet turn out to be the main antagonist this season. Dexter is spot on labeling her as a Frankenstein, particularly since it sounds like she has dozens of monsters roaming around the countryside. So far, judging by their scenes together in this second episode, the Dexter-Vogel arc is the more compelling part of the season.
Then the episode got to Deb playing her latest persona: bad girl spiraling out of control. This should not be confused with Deb’s many other personas we’ve seen throughout the series: infatuated sister, scorned girlfriend, lover to serial killers, bad cop, etc. Carpenter just doesn’t pull off “bad girl” very well. Her decent into “seedy” comes off as overdone, like an eight year old running away with a stick and a handkerchief full of toys.
Throughout the second episode, we saw a convoluted series of events that had Deb discover a storage container with her dead boyfriend’s stolen jewels, get attacked by an assassin with a heart of gold for witnesses, escape said storage container after being locked inside, track down said assassin and murder him. Deb did all this while her boss, Jacob Elway (Sean Patrick Flanery), made no effort to contact her, the woman who is supposed to bring him a huge cash cow in reward money. (I swear, sometimes, I could close my eyes during the Deb plots and see the lions chasing her like Kim Bauer on 24.) By episode’s end, Deb hinted that she had shot more than one person since becoming a private investigator (and we know she’s killed as a police officer before). Also, there was no mention of the jewels, meaning, of course, that this subplot will bleed throughout the season and crisscross with Dexter’s path quite a bit, making us realize how hurt he is over losing his sister.
Thankfully Deb’s journey is just a subplot for now. The season’s main plot — Dexter chasing down Vogel’s rogue serial killer — is a fun, methodological jaunt. Sunday’s episode was much slower paced than last week without a Dex kill. Without the need to catch up the viewer after the time jump, the larger plots about the jewelry and brain stealing serial killer took strong leaps forward. I only wish they could do it without so much erratic behavior from Deb.