Speaking of shows whose last season I’m reviewing, the eighth and final season of Dexter started last night. As your Single-Malt Movies writer, I thought it might only be fitting to incorporate some alcohol into the review. For the next 11 weeks, I’ll be reviewing red wines along with each episode of Dexter. I’d review different Bloody Mary mixes because, you know, blood, but I thought red wine was more suiting. Classy and whatnot. You also get to watch me learn how to talk about wine!
This week, I’m sharing with you the 2011 Bodega Tamari Reserva Malbec. Malbecs are my favorite of the red wines, characterized by the use of Malbec grapes commonly grown in the Bordeaux region of France and in Argentina. Malbec wines lend themselves to being more dry, acidic, and alcoholic on the scale of red wines. Malbecs often end up having more interesting flavors layered throughout. This Malbec is a very deep, inky, garnet color and has a lot of the complex flavors I love. These included chocolate, oak, hazelnut, and toffee. In contrast, the wine also has lighter notes of violet, jasmine, cherry, and plum. It’s a very aromatic wine, and for the price ($9-$15, depending on location), a delicious and interesting wine.
In the Previously on Dexter segment of the episode, we’re reminded that Debra witnessed Dexter stabbing Doomsday Killer Travis Marshall in the Season 6 finale. A blood slide left at the crime scene piqued LaGuerta’s interest in re-opening the Bay Harbor Butcher case, and tensions built as Deb started to cave under the pressure of LaGuerta’s scrutiny and Dexter’s dark passenger. Meanwhile, Hannah still exists. Dexter made sure she landed in jail for the murder of Sal Price after he learned that she’d poisoned Deb for trying to keep them apart. The Previously ends with Deb making things worse once again by walking in on Dexter’s plan to kill both LaGuerta and Hector Estrada and pin the murders on each other. LaGuerta wakes up and sees Deb trying to stop Dexter, encouraging her to shoot him. Instead, Deb breaks down, shooting and killing LaGuerta.
Titled “A Beautiful Day,” the episode starts out with Louis Armstrong’s “A Wonderful World” playing in the background and Dexter being as happy as he’s ever been. He and Harrison (who’s now played by Jadon Wells, after various babies and a set of twins beforehand) are flying a kite and enjoying the day. Dexter seems truly at peace. “There’s nothing like a crisis to help define who you are,” he says while bludgeoning a fake head in the spatter lab. LaGuerta’s death solved all his problems and allowed him to be a better father to Harrison and a better bowler for homicide. “I’m a survivor.” Yes you are, Dexter. Yes you are.
Deb, on the other hand, is taking LaGuerta’s death very poorly. She doesn’t show up to the memorial service, and we learn that she’s in fact no longer working for Miami Homicide, and that no one has seen or heard from her for a month or two. The service goes well otherwise, as a memorial bench is installed in the park for Captain Maria LaGuerta. While others wish she could be memorialized by more than a bench, Dexter has to continue to feign concern.
Dexter is, however, very concerned for Deb, leaving voice mails until her inbox is full. As a result from her depression and guilt over killing LaGuerta, Deb has turned to a darker life. We see her in a man’s room (whom we quickly learn is a drug dealer) doing a line of cocaine. There’s a continuous five seconds where Deb uses coke, smokes a cigarette, and drinks some beer all before 11:47 a.m. and we realize how hard Deb’s been impacted by this situation.
After so many weeks without communication, Dexter is desperate to find Deb. He keys into her apartment to find it full of unopened mail and heavy prescription drugs (and some recreational), all signed by different doctors. Dexter attempts to track her down through Elway, a private investigation company that Deb now works for. Dexter finds out she’s bounty hunting a drug dealer and wonders if she may have gotten in too deep.
Before running out to hunt down Deb, however, Dexter is called to a startling crime scene. At first glance, we see a man killed by a single gun shot wound to the chest that’s been recently dumped by the bay. The startling bit comes when Dexter lifts up the victim’s head to find that the back of his head had been sliced off and then put back beneath the head before dumping the body. Dexter notes that a piece of the brain looks like it’s been scooped out with a melon baller, which is odd. Could this be the season’s central serial killer?
Dexter tries to track Debra down using his somehow untraceable technology skills. Maybe if he logs into her bank account he can see where’s she’s been spending money and on what. But what about her password? Dexter tries PASSWORD and it doesn’t work. His next attempt, F***INGPASSWORD does. In less dumb technology news, Miami has decided to upgrade its cellphones to more realistic, modern iPhone-looking things. Anyway, Dexter finally tracks down Deb much to her disapproval and finds her with the man she’s supposed to be bounty hunting.
Deb tells Dexter that she hates him and regrets not shooting him instead of LaGuerta. All of a sudden, Dexter is filled with mind-numbing doubt and rage. On his way back from Deb’s work in Ft. Lauderdale, he gets cut off by a driver on the highway whom he pulls over and assaults, all while the man’s son is in the back seat of the truck.
The scene cuts to Jamie Batista and Quinn doing adult things at the Batista residence when they hear Angel come home. When we last saw Quinn in Season 7, he was drunkenly hitting on Jamie after he’d been dumped by his previous girlfriend. Guess we all saw this coming, then.
With LaGuerta dead and Deb working for a private investigator now, Homicide can take all the help they can get. As Masuka puts it, “a riddle wrapped in Dolce & Gabanna” makes her entrance. Meet Dr. Evelyn Vogel, played by Charlotte Rampling. She’s a very intelligent psychopath expert with a degree in neuropsychology. She points out that in the homicide from earlier in the episode, the part of the brain scooped out was that that processes empathy. Dexter becomes paranoid as she says exactly what Dexter is thinking at many moments. Holed up in his office after the briefing, Dexter gets tense. when presented with a vase that belonged to LaGuerta, he lashes out at Angel saying, “Tragically died? She died because she wouldn’t leave things alone!” Hopefully Angel won’t follow LaGuerta’s footsteps.
Back to Deb and her drug dealer Andrew Briggs: he’s about to make a deal with a man and asks Deb to stay inside. She uses those brief moments to call Quinn and ask if he knows someone named El Sapo, who’s the fence for Briggs’ deal. The department has no idea who El Sapo is, leaving Deb in the dark, for now.
Tensions rise when Dexter is called into Vogel’s office while she’s prodding at the empathy-lacking brain. She asks him very specific questions that could seemingly be asked to anyone in the Homicide lab. Talking about the case, she informs Dexter that “serial killers don’t have enemies; everyone is a potential victim.” She makes it very clear that she specifically wants Dexter’s opinion. Is she on to him? She must be, as she continues the conversation wondering what the Bay Harbor Butcher was like. The angry Doakes doesn’t fit the profile of a disassociative psychopath following guidelines, or, say, a code. Dexter goes to Captain Tom Matthews to ask what Vogel’s intentions are with the department. Dexter gets even more on edge when Jamie drops Harrison off at the office and he breaks LaGuerta’s vase. It’s actually really sad seeing Dexter yell at a kid after being such a good father to Astor and Cody.
Briggs prepares to make the deal go down with his fence El Sapo while Dexter tries to put a name to him after talking to Quinn. Turns out he’s not a fence, he’s a hit man. Worried for Deb’s life, he tracks her down to a room at the Pink Motel and tries to pull her out of there before El Sapo shows up. Unfortunately, Deb is under the impression that she’s a bad person and deserves to die; she doesn’t care if a hit man is about to gun down her drug dealer/boyfriend/bounty-huntee. Briggs shows up at the wrong time and gets stabbed by Dexter. Deb tells Dexter to leave before calling in the suspected homicide. With Briggs dead, Deb reveals herself as having tie-ins with the police and El Sapo happens to have witnessed the whole thing from his car. Uh-oh. On top of that, Dexter has to find Harrison after he’s wandered out of the car after a nap.
“Debra was right. I was wrong. It’s me who’s lost. A better person would let her go, but I don’t know how. Without her, I don’t know who I am anymore.”
What started out as such a beautiful day has gone horribly, horribly wrong. With only two minutes left in the episode, things get worse and more exciting than they’ve been the entire episode. Vogel approaches Dexter sitting on the Laguerta memorial bench with an envelope filled with violent children’s drawings. After flipping through a few of them, he realizes they were all his own drawings from 30-odd years ago.
“What is it you want?”
“You can’t kill me.”
“Because I don’t fit Harry’s code.”
In definitely the most interesting moment of the episode, we’re left wondering who Vogel could possibly be, given that she has Dexter’s drawings. Also, why is she coming to Miami just now? Was she cleaning up loose ends from LaGuerta’s research, or is this a different line of attack altogether? Things I’ve heard and/or theorized: a psychiatrist from Dexter’s childhood, an old friend of Harry’s, a colleague of LaGuerta’s…whatever it is, I really want to know.
Recap: Dexter has his hands full with tracking down Debra who’s gone MIA on a private investigator case. On top of that, a Lundy-esque psychopath-/serial killer-hunter shows up in Miama with a very keen interest in Dexter. Not the most interesting way to open the season, but Dr. Vogel has definitely piqued my interest!