I've spent a lot of time in this space praising Dexter for spotlighting Deb and Jennifer Carpenter this season. The show is succeeding, perhaps like never before, because it is taking Deb’s emotions and thought process very seriously. But after two episodes in a row with her blurting out powerful, but troubling statements, I’m curious about where the show wants to take the character over the final 16 episodes of its existence.
I know that many of you have been waiting for this moment. Deb finally told Dexter that she is in love with him, or at least was. Or maybe still is. She isn’t sure. But she does know that she showed up at the church that night to tell him and just happened to find him killing Travis Marshall. Now she knows all of this stuff about her brother and that knowledge has complicated her feelings toward him—but they are still there, and they have definitely had an impact on Deb’s choice to keep protecting and/or helping Dexter on the reg this season.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me why Deb would bring up her feelings for Dexter now. Sure, Deb isn’t the most logical of individuals, and maybe you could argue that in the moment after she discoverd that Dexter might be in love with Hannah, she was confused, hurt, and jealous, but it still seems like a weird time to say something that dramatic and complicated. It’s not that I think the show shouldn’t have returned to this thread, because it should have. But it does seem like the writers wanted another big moment to cap off this episode and decided to shoehorn in Deb’s admission because that was the biggest move they had in their pocket. The moment was powerful and certainly well performed by Carpenter and Michael C. Hall, but it also felt very constructed and inorganic (as much as these things can, at least).
The onus is now on Dexter to determine how he feels about Deb—spoiler alert: not the same—but I’m very interested in how the show will move forward with Deb from here. It’s one thing for her to have confusing, lusty thoughts about Dexter; it’s an entirely different thing for her to let those feelings out and let them further complicate her relationship with her brother. Does this make Deb expendable? Some might say yes, but I really hope not. She has become the best part of the show, and I want to watch her deal with the aftermath of this choice. Still, while I admire Dexter’s ballsy nature this season, and I while I want the show’s most important relationship to be a complex as possible, the way this went down didn’t quite work for me. In short: I mostly like the result, but I didn’t enjoy the execution.
All told, I will say that I enjoyed “Argentina” quite a bit and I especially enjoyed the final conversation between Dexter and Deb that again reinforced this season’s emphasis on honest conversation. For a few episodes, Dexter the show and Dexter the character slipped into their older, familiar rhythms of deception and murder, wherein Dex wasn’t too interested in sharing anything important with Deb again.
But this episode blew that up, thankfully. Dexter attempted to concoct ways to avoid his family and to keep them from Hannah. There was a dumb amount of maneuvering early on with Dexter bringing the kids, including the returning Cody and Astor, to Deb’s, but then spending a whole lot of time with them anyway (begrudgingly, but still). The scenes were accompanied by some typically dull voice over discussion about what family does or does not mean. However, once Dexter finally decided to be honest with both Hannah and Deb, “Argentina” began to feel more like this season’s stronger episodes instead of like the more problematic ones we’ve seen recently.
It helps that Hannah is one of the more complex characters that the show has created. Hannah is clearly as dangerous as Deb thinks she is, but the show is doing a great job of displaying her depth and humanity as well. Sure, she is a killer and doesn’t seem to have the same kind of code that Dexter has (or at least thinks he has), but she is also scarred by her actions and seems to be haunted a little by how her murderous ways have impacted her desire to have a normal life. In the past, Dexter has explored the reasons why the lead character’s opponents/victims have killed, but rarely has the show truly dedicated time to any guest baddie’s desires outside of killing. Hannah feels like a human being, demented nature and substantive flaws and all, rather than just an obstacle that Dexter has to overcome. Maybe I’m being too sympathetic to the character because of who's playing her, but I like Hannah’s complexities and I especially like how her presence has pushed Dexter to think about who he is and what he wants.
And I guess that’s the big question, right? This show has spent years allowing Dexter to skate away from consequences, the truth and real desires outside of killing. In a lot of ways, Dexter is just a blunt killer and his ecstasy over being able to share that truth with Hannah is both engrossing and disturbing. Thankfully, the show is now using Deb as the half-assed moral compass who can call Dexter out on his demented bullshit—yet I have to imagine that it wants to push toward a more textured conclusion for its lead character than simply, “Welp, he’s a killer.”
Now more than ever, Dexter has lots of masters to serve. He has his own personal urges with the Dark Passenger and that nonsense. He has to keep Deb close, but he also has to determine what he means to her and vice versa. He has to figure out what this relationship with Hannah means, and how it could change him (i.e., is being more open about himself going to lead to the destruction of the code?). He has kid(s) to worry about. And oh yeah, he still has to deal with Isaak*, who respects him but can’t give up, and he'll eventually have to put LaGuerta down as well.
Dexter’s route to freedom or self-actualization or whatever you want to call it isn’t as simple as it once was, which is a great thing for the show right now, but one that I hope the writers can make work without relying on simplistic processes. I don’t want Dexter to go off the deep end into complete and total evil, nor do I want him to be as protected and cuddly as recent seasons have let him become. He's currently in a dark middle ground, and the show is going to have to work to keep him there.
* Like Hannah, Isaak has quickly grown into one of the show’s best non-Morgan characters ever. Ray Stevenson brings so much to the role. I would love it if Isaak stuck around past this season, but that might not be a sustainable move based on how the story is progressing. But maybe, just maybe, Dexter and Isaak can team up against George and the rest of the Ukrainians who want to take Isaak out?
Ultimately, “Argentina” was a fine middle-of-the-season episode, thanks mostly to continued great work of the show's lead actors. And while I started this review with some big questions about where Deb is headed and finished it with similar thoughts for Dexter, the fact that the show is forcing me to think about how the most integral pieces of the story fit together means that it's probably doing a darn good job.
– Astor got old. She also got bangs and a strong desire to smoke pot. Cool. More seriously, however, I’ve always enjoyed her relationship with Dexter, and so even though it was contrived to bring her back now, their conversation on the beach almost made it worthwhile.
– Batista took over the restaurant and changed... absolutely nothing. Why was the former owner selling? Wouldn’t that suggest there were problems? Or wouldn’t Batista want to change something to put his personal stamp on the operation? Wait, don’t answer ANY OF THAT.
– Aimee Garcia looked very nice in her bathing suit.
– LaGuerta found Dexter’s boat! At this rate, she'll find a real piece of evidence by Season 3 of the Dexter spin-off, Masuka.