How far is too far? That was the question on Deb’s mind throughout “Swim Deep,” an episode that was probably the weakest of Dexter’s still-young seventh season, but one that still had a number of quality elements within it.
All season long, Deb has been faced with choices. Does she turn Dexter in or not? Does she rationally listen to him? Can she trust him? And after the events of last week’s episode, most notably the dispatching of that monster Speltzer: How far is too far for her? Is she willing to actively support Dexter’s habit, and if so, what does that mean for her? He claimed at the end of “Run” that it means she’s human, but I wondered if Deb would ultimately feel the same way.
To its credit, “Swim Deep” took the long way to answering this big question by having Deb behave in a way that would suggest that she is very willing to actively assist Dexter in meaningful ways, but ultimately she came to the conclusion that, based on last week’s poll and comments, many of you assumed she would come to: She just can’t do this, probably at all. Rehab wasn’t the answer. Honesty hasn’t been that helpful. Using Dexter’s skills to catch killers didn’t quite work out. In this episode, Deb found herself fully roped into one of the big parts of Dexter’s process: covering up tracks. Messing up the Travis crime scene was one thing but here, Deb learned how much of a continual struggle it is to be Dexter, how much it really takes to make sure no one (else) finds out about his secret, even if that means lying to friends and colleagues alike.
This all manifested when LaGuerta’s blood-slide crusade rose to the next level. She’d (somehow) done some real police work and come up with a profile of dead or missing folks who fit the profile of the Bay Harbor Butcher (i.e. generally terrible people) and once Deb caught wind of this and realized that three of the people in the profile were Dexter victims, the fairly substantial breakdown we’ve been waiting for commenced. Deb took charge of the investigation, but not before stepping into the elevator shaking and cursing up a storm (I particularly liked “motherf*cking suckbag”). Dexter’s laissez-faire attitude about these to-him cold cases only exacerbated Deb’s frustration, which was then only compounded further once he told her that oh by the way, he actually did kill Viktor and the suicide scene they discovered last week was indeed faked.
It’s safe to say that Deb received a great amount of terrible news in this episode. But unlike in the past, when she would have drank or sexed or both’d her way to numbness, Deb pulled it together to throw LaGuerta off Dexter’s scent while letting him take care of the ever-dangerous Isaac problem. Of course, she held up her end of the deal by finding and hiding a photograph that could implicate Dexter in a past murder, only to discover that Dexter’s plan to trap Isaac in enemy drug dealer territory had gone terribly awry. On top of that, Deb was forced to lie to Batista when he suggested that the suicide didn’t feel right. Woman can’t catch a break.
And thus, by the end of “Swim Deep,” Deb had simply—but calmly—had enough. She’s grown to see some of the value in Dexter’s process thanks to the terrifying hands-on experience with Spetlzer, but she can’t live with the lies and the constant fear of being caught. So this week, denial was the answer. While Deb won’t be able to stop Dexter, she can stop asking about it. It’s simply too much.
I don’t want to beat a dead horse or anything, but this progression makes a good amount of sense to me. In five weeks, Deb has gone through the whole gamut of emotions, yet also been privy to the full “Dexter Morgan Extracurricular Experience.” She seen him kill, she’s covered it up, she’s been paranoid, she’s lied to friends, she’s been in danger, and she’s destroyed evidence. Those are basically the six steps Dexter is always dealing with, in some order. And while denial might have been a more immature response initially, coming to that conclusion now is measured and complex. Deb loves her brother too much to put him away, knows him well enough to see she can’t stop him, but is ultimately cognizant of her own limitations with handling it all.
This is what she needs to sleep on—at least for now. This story is obviously not over. Deb can be in denial as much as she wants, but she cannot un-know what she knows. And eventually, her knowledge is bound to put her in a sticky spot.
I said at the start of this review that "Swim Deep" was probably the weakest episode of the season so far, and that mostly stems from the rest of the episode not directly involving the still-great Deb and Dexter tension. The other stories developed in a very typical Dexter-like fashion, which isn’t overly problematic, but certainly places this episode on a lower rung of quality than the previous four, which were more focused on the Morgans.
The two primary things I’m referring to are Dexter’s simultaneous cat-and-mouse games with Isaac and Hannah. I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised that he and Isaac started directly engaging with one another so quickly. It’s quite nice when the show doesn’t wait until the eighth or ninth episode to get Dexter and the season’s villain facing off, and Isaac continues to be a formidable—if somewhat bland—foe. The crime-scene reconstruction sequence, with Dexter explaining how Isaac got out of the situation he'd planned cross-cut with Isaac doing those things, worked well. And having Isaac get legitimately and honestly arrested for murder this early expedites the show’s usual rhythms in a way that could be compelling in the future. Still though, Dexter being outsmarted by someone he underestimated and those half-cocked “chase” sequences between he and the villain were not new.
Similarly, the revelation that Hannah actually played an active role in the killing spree with Wayne wasn’t much of a revelation at all; the show wouldn’t have hinted at such an intense attraction between Hannah and Dexter if she were an innocent victim. The predictability of that news didn’t mitigate my enjoyment of those scenes, though. With truth out on the table, there’s a charged, creepy openness to Dexter and Hannah’s conversations that's damn compelling. And again, Yvonne Strahovski and Michael C. Hall are good together. Though I’m beginning to realize that Yvonne has chemistry with everyone and everything on the planet.
Plus, much like the Isaac story, the familiar beats in this episode set up what should be more interesting stuff later, especially considering that Dexter outwardly lied to Deb about Hannah’s role in those old crimes. Uh-oh. The threads are starting to weave together, and as long as the writers don’t forget about the great character work that brought the show back from the brink of pure crap, Dexter will be just fine.
– The Koshak crew is trying to pay Quinn off, like they used to. I don’t care. You don’t care.
– Although I think the show is mostly just screwing with us now, Dexter taking his shirt off in the hotel room with Deb made me a little queasy. Didn’t help that Deb followed that up by calling him her hero (past-tense or not).