This season of Dexter started off with a bang. [SPOILERS] Picking up right where season 6 left off, Dexter must finally reveal exactly who and what he is to his sister, Debra. This season dealt in part with the struggle Debra goes through with both her romantic feelings for Dexter and the realization that her brother is the Bay Harbor Butcher. The structure of this season was also different in that there were two “big bads” with very different and separate stories. First we have Issak Sirko, a mob boss and ruthless killer who has targeted Dexter for killing his lover after his lover killed a cop. Second, we have Hannah McKay, who seemed at first to be a victim but soon proved to be a killer who looked out for herself above all others. In typical Dexter fashion, both killers are targeted and set to receive a spot on his table, but neither are dispatched in a way we are used to.
This new structure, combined with Captain Maria LaGuerta’s suspicions of Dexter, has successfully broken the image of Dex as an untouchable being and has made him incredibly vulnerable. His vulnerability is even more apparent when he has Hannah on his table, preparing to end her life as punishment for the lives she has taken. Before he can remove her from this world, Dexter is overcome with emotion and ends up sparing her and eventually falling in love with her. It is similar to what he went through with Lila in season two, but different in that Hannah isn’t unstable as Lila was, and is much more similar to Dexter in her thought processes and in the way she projects her image to the rest of the world. While Dexter lets his guard down with Hannah, opening himself to love and to the future, LaGuerta continues to gather evidence that points away from the late James Doakes as the Bay Harbor Butcher.
LaGuerta’s determination to expose Dexter for the killer he is turns Debra into a silent rival. Deb “assists” her with the reexamination of the Butcher case, but only to pull her way from Dexter and to plant seeds of doubt in her mind. Debra and Hannah are also clear rivals, as Deb is unable to allow Hannah to walk free for the murders she committed when younger (that she cannot be charged for) and for the murders she suspects her of committing in the present day. This adds another element to Deb’s struggle in accepting Dexter’s darker side; how can she allow one to walk free but need to punish the other? The separation and tension between the two most important people in Dexter’s life is as stressful as it sounds, forcing him to choose between the two women. Dex does finally make a choice, but only after Hannah makes it clear that Debra is not safe with her walking the streets a free woman.
When Dexter finally says goodbye to Sirko mid-season, respectfully allowing his lifeless body to drift to the bottom of the sea in the same spot Dex disposed of his lover, his full attention turns to the various women in his life. Season 7’s finale episode kicks off with Captain LaGuerta arresting Dexter for the suspected murder of Hector Estrada, one of the men responsible for killing his mother as a child. Dexter has thankfully anticipated this and plants evidence that makes it seem as though LaGuerta was attempting to frame him by planting evidence of her own. With Hannah in jail and LaGuerta shamed, it seems as though Dexter is in the clear. Nothing is that simple and easy though; Hannah escapes from custody and LaGuerta comes into evidence implicating both Dexter and Debra. The other way out, in Dexter’s mind, is to kill LaGuerta.
As Dexter begins to realize what must be done in order to save himself, his sister, and his son, he thinks back to the first time he allowed his mask to slip and for his true self to shine through. James Doakes, the man he set up as the Bay Harbor Butcher, was the first person to see past Dexter’s phony smile and fake personality. Doakes had Dexter figured out before anyone else and we were finally able to see the little things he picked up on with these flashbacks in the finale. As a huge fan of the series, I was thrilled that the writers decided to bring Doakes back and allow him to once again share the screen with Dexter.
Killing LaGuerta seems to go against the code that was taught to Dexter by his father years before, but not if you take into consideration that part of the code is self-preservation. Don’t get caught. LaGuerta is within arms reach of evidence that will damn himself and his sister, leaving his child to an unknown fate. Even if Dexter takes all of the blame, his son will still be harshly affected. Dexter’s plan, to kill Estrada and LaGuerta in one swoop and stage the murder to make it seem as though they killed each other, seems fool-proof. But keeping with Dex’s string of bad luck, Debra shows up at the scene just as Dexter is preparing to shoot LaGuerta. As LaGuerta pleads with Deb to shoot her brother, Dexter takes a line out of Hannah’s book and tells his sister “Do what you gotta do.” Sobbing, Debra murders LaGuerta, immediately falling into hysterics and clutching the lifeless body, shocked by what she has just done.
I was baffled by where the season would go after season 6 ended with Debra discovering Dexter’s secret. With this finale and Debra’s slow descent, I can’t wrap my mind around the possibilities that are in the future for these siblings. There is only one more season planned for this series; 12 more episodes to complete the story and resolve what can be resolved. I have to believe that the investigation into LaGuerta’s murder will not be simple and quick. The scene will no doubt tell the story Dex wants it to tell, especially with him writing the blood report, but what about evidence left behind from Debra’s hysterics in clutching the dead body? What about the inconsistencies in the blood patterns from Dexter moving Estrada’s body? What if the ballistics don’t match? What if someone takes notice that Debra left the New Year’s party for a while after calling the station to get a location on LaGuerta’s car? What if LaGuerta confided in someone about her suspicions that we’re not aware of?
This was the most complex season they have had in their seven-year run, and it has also been my favorite thus far. I have been one of many fans that was on the “Kill LaGuerta” bandwagon, but to actually see it happen was a major and incredible shock. I never expected Deb to be the one to pull the trigger either, although I also couldn’t imagine her simply walking away from the scene. The genius that was put into this season definitely makes me sad that we only have one more year before Dexter is gone for good. I’m looking forward to seeing how the dynamic between Dexter and Debra has shifted, whether or not Hannah will return, if Angel Batista will reconsider retirement now that LaGuerta is gone, and much more. My hat is off to everyone who had a hand in making this series, and especially this season, a work of art.