Although I hadn't yet seen Dexter's Season 8 premiere when I wrote my wishlist for the show's final run, I assumed that some of my hopes for these last dozen episodes were just that—hopes. Because no matter what, Dexter is always going to be a show that simultaneously features complex, damaged people like Dexter and Deb and a cavalcade of annoying, mostly useless supporting characters. It's like the series is at always at war with itself, trying to make sure it sneaks in a scene about Quinn's latest mishap between all the great stuff between the Morgans. So I guess it's actually really fitting that "A Beautiful Day," the last season premiere in the series' history, put this tension out front almost immediately.
"A Beautiful Day" was never going to match the emotional stakes and initial catharsis that we saw in the Season 7 premiere; Deb learning Dexter's secret was still more powerful than her choice to shoot LaGuerta in last season's finale. Consequently, the show probably needed to take a different approach to this year's story for the siblings. Last year was all about Dexter and Deb having one conversation after another, with Deb methodically learning the truth and eventually getting pulled too deep into Dex's problems. Now that she's taken an innocent life to protect him and ruined all that she stood for, it makes sense that Deb doesn't want to talk; she's spoken with her brother enough, and look where that got her.
Instead, six months after LaGuerta's death—which has apparently been completely waved away; Dexter and Deb must've orchestrated a stellar cover-up—Deb is no longer a member of Miami Metro PD. Instead, she's working for a private detective outfit and getting really deep undercover, mostly because she hates herself (and hates her brother more). Meanwhile, Dexter is doing what he does: moving on with his life, mostly celebrating the fact that he doesn't have to constantly cover his tracks. He's still killing (presumably with the Code back in place) but he's also coaching Harrison's soccer team and flying kites. As we expected, the two of them could not have reacted any differently to LaGuerta's shooting.
But what does this all mean with regard to the premiere, and the early part of the season? I think it means that Dexter is going to need some time to really get going. Although Dexter is still absolutely the lead character here, Deb's responses to new information drove much of the action last season. She went out of her way to avoid Dexter in this first episode, only for him to immediately ruin her undercover work (sort of) and kill her mark. If that's not a sign of the impact Dexter is having on her life, I don't know what is. Yet, it feels like Deb is going to continue to elude her brother—and likely self-destructing along the way—so the urgency and rawness that we felt at this point last season seemed like much more of a slow-burn in this episode. There are both positives and negatives to that.
On the positive side, "A Beautiful Day" planted the idea that Dexter, not Deb, is the one who's been forever reliant on his sibling. I don't know if I totally buy that, considering their relationship has been clearly screwed up on all levels, right from the jump, but this current fissure could force both Dexter and Deb to reconsider where they've been and where they're going, which is a classic final-season TV trope. This, when paired with the introduction of Charlotte Rampling's Dr. Vogel, suggests that the show is really interested in examining Dexter's mind and getting to the core of why he does what he does. It was fascinating to see SCIENCE paired with THE DARK PASSENGER and whatever hokum the series typically spews out, but that thread could make for great stories, especially since Vogel clearly has a history with Harry and the Code.
On the negative side, pulling Dexter and Deb apart means that there's more time for the immortal trio of Batista, Quinn, and Masuka to weasel onto our screen. In fact, we saw those three knuckleheads before Deb, and the "good" news is that nothing has changed. Batista gave up his restaurant because LaGuerta died, even though he had just quit because Mike Anderson's death rattled him too much. Okay, Angel. (He's gotta be under water on that restaurant though, right?) But much worse than that is Dexter's presumption that we WANT to see Quinn and Jamie together, trying to have lots of sex. I appreciate that Aimee Garcia has been upped to series regular status and sure, Jamie needed more to do than walk into a scene and say "Okay, time to go to the pool!" But overly horny sexcapades with Detective Douchenozzle? Please, no. Absolutely not.
Knowing that this is the final season of Dexter, I'm willing to be a little more patient. It's not as if there's a whole lot unresolved narrative mysteries or dangling plot threads that the show must get to. The series is going to do what it always does—introduce some seasonal supporting characters who will most certainly get killed, focus too much on random procedural elements—and it looks as though the Dexter and Deb tension will be more simmering than explosive, at least at the outset. Nevertheless, I find that to be a smart choice, and a nice little departure from the structure of Season 7. We know that Dexter and Deb stories are going to arrive eventually, and that they're going to be great. I don't want to sit through too many more Quinn and Jamie sex scenes or morose Angel speeches about what it means to be a cop to get to those powerful, tremendously acted moments*, but this wouldn't totally be Dexter if we didn't have to.
* You guys know that I couldn't praise Jennifer Carpenter enough last season, but I felt like she was a little off in this episode, especially at the beginning. She's exceptional when acting against Michael C. Hall and it felt like she was overselling the drugged-out experience in the first scenes with Rhys Coiro... who while fine, is not Michael C. Hall.
– No Hannah, but Dexter did look longingly at the plant she'd given him while having sex with a random blonde. I sure do love it when pay-cable series feel the need to give the viewers what they paid for, if you know what I mean.
– I'm still trying to figure out whether the young boy playing Harrison is decent or pretty awful. I'm leaning toward decent, but the writing didn't help him out whatsoever. I'll be interested to see how much Dexter uses him this year.
– This season's weirdo serial killers are cutting out portions of people's brains. I can't really do it with the graphic mass murders on TV in 2013 anymore.
– The African-American female detective who was suddenly part of the crew as if she'd always been there: She hasn't always been there, right? Did she appear last season?
What'd you think of the Dexter's final eason premiere? And what are your predictions for the season?
AIRED ON 9/22/2013
Season 8 : Episode 12