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Showtime (ended 2013)

Dexter S08E04: "Scar Tissue"

Despite the drugs, the drinking, the guilt and whatever it was that happened in last week's episode, Deb has spent the first three hours of this season in a bit of a holding pattern. After LaGuerta's death, she ditched her job and most people close to her, hoping to escape all the things (okay, just the one thing) that reminded her of that one act in that storage unit. "Scar Tissue" began with Deb still in this weird space, and with her flashing back to the night she killed LaGuerta. Only this time, Deb doesn't let her feelings for her brother cloud her judgment; she still pulled the trigger—she just killed Dexter instead.

As we often see in final seasons, characters must often go backward to move forward and apparently Deb's not any different. Visiting the crime scene and visualizing the moment where she blew up her life wasn't easy—particularly with Vogel there badgering her about what to do—but it was necessary. It helped Deb realize that she can't change the past. But she can sure as hell try to make up for her big mistake. And so, an episode that began with Deb "killing" Dexter in the past ended with her trying to do the exact same thing in the present.

"Scar Tissue" worked not exclusively but primarily because of yet another tremendous performance by Jennifer Carpenter. To go from the zonked-out, hysterical version of Deb we saw the last three episodes to the much calmer, more driven version we saw this week probably shouldn't have worked as well as it did. It was a pretty quick turnaround, even for a character that's defined by her rash decisions and emotional instability. Nevertheless, watching Carpenter pull Deb out of her nadir and find inner peace once she realized that she had to follow in her father's footsteps was really something special. It has to be difficult for actors to act opposite videos (or any inanimate object), but Carpenter did a lovely job of portraying Deb's range of emotions as she watched some of Vogel's archival footage of her sessions with Harry.

Although Deb and Harry's relationship has always taken a backseat to Papa Morgan's tumultuous experience raising his son, that doesn't mean it's been uninteresting this whole time. The scene where Deb listened to Harry describe finding an early Dexter victim sprawled out on the table in that way we all recognize was the turning point in the episode for me, both because of Carpenter's work and because the story clicked into place. By the time Deb had reached the station lot and was being nicer and warmer to Quinn than she literally has ever been—including the whole time they were together—it was clear that Deb wasn't necessarily "better." She had simply discovered (with, uh, "help" from Vogel) that she was stuck in the same position that Harry had once found himself in, a place where affection for Dexter resulted in very bad choices. And while Harry just had to let go, Deb figures the least she can do is take Dexter with her.

That's a really bold choice. You don't just decide to kill your brother and commit suicide, even in this show's universe. Of course, even in a final season, a show can't really kill its lead character before the final episode, so Dexter was never truly in danger. Deb chose to save her brother from drowning, and in theory, we—and Deb—are right back where we started. That's a little frustrating. Nevertheless, it still feels like Deb's turned some kind of corner. The final convo between Deb and Dexter in the car, with him almost shrugging off their father's suicide, was powerful stuff. I don't know if she's proving a point (somewhat interesting) or simply unable to kill her brother, despite all he's done (probably more interesting), but it was probably time for the moping and the snorting lines to end, right?

Moreover, this stuff worked because it still came about because of Vogel and her manipulation. Unsurprisingly, she wasn't all she claimed to be in the first two episodes of the season. Dexter learned that she's still very interested in winding him up just to see what will happen, and it's obvious that her decision to show Deb the Harry clips comes from a place of pure scheming. This is another one of those instances where I'm mostly just happy that the writers didn't wait too long to show their cards with a story that most of us could see coming. Knowing what's going to happen doesn't necessarily ruin my viewing experience at all. But waiting around for an extended period of time does. I think have a good idea of where the Vogel story is headed, but the show is doing a fine enough job of staying one step ahead of me.

I'm hoping that "Scar Tissue" marks something of a mini turning point for the season. The first three episodes were far from bad (or even near this show's worst), but it was nice to see Dexter rebound from last week's loud, wheel-spinning episode with something that was both more interesting as an individual episode and likely more of a launchpad for the next four to six installments. Deb made some big choices in this one. Even she couldn't stand by the biggest one, but she can't take it back, just like she can't take back murdering LaGuerta. Something has to give.


– The procedural stuff with Dexter hunting down Vogel's patients isn't the worst version of this story that the show has told. But after eight years, and in the final season, it's just too plodding to really care about.

– OH MY GOD YOU GUYS Quinn passed the Sergeant's exam, and then immediately got into a bar (wait scratch that, restaurant) fight. It's bad enough that Quinn's the third lead on this show in its final year, but to have to see him and Batista stuck in this dumb bureaucratic nonsense about promotions and exam scores is just painful.

– Speaking of painful: Apparently Jamie's into the rough stuff? I've never been so terrified during a scene from Dexter as I was when she started pushing on his bruised ribs mid-bump n'grind. What a character arc for her!

– This episode was full of dumb subplots that Jennifer Carpenter saved us from. Somehow, the show is now doing a story about Masuka having a long-lost daughter. It's literally like somebody on the writing staff Googled "15 Signs a TV Show Has Grown Too Old/Too Desperate."

– AND: Bethany Jo Lenz of One Tree Hill fame showed up at Dex's apartment to steal some Tide. Jamie let her in because Jamie doesn't care about Dexter's property, or Harrison's safety. Too focused on that rough sex, you guys. I can't wait until Dexter nabs Lenz's character and then Hannah shows up and poisons her with Arabian Green Root or something. I honestly can't believe I liked an episode of this show so much that had all of this garbage in it.

What'd you guys think?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 9/22/2013

Season 8 : Episode 12

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