I need to say one thing right up front: I hate what Dexter has done to Deb.
More on that in a minute.
First, let’s talk about Season 6. Spoilers ahead for the whole season, including the finale.
The “big bad” concept this season seemed promising: a serial killer constructs elaborate, horrific tableaus based on the Book of Revelation in an attempt to bring about the end of the world. The main crazy, Travis Marshall (Colin Hanks) is very much like a version of Dexter Morgan, complete with a younger sister and his own “dark passenger” in the form of Professor Gellar (Edward James Olmos) advising him as he punishes evildoers.
But Dexter failed to capitalize on the potential of the storyline, not to mention the talent of its guest stars.
I’m not sure what happened to the kind of storytelling that made the TV viewing world fall in love with a killer, but it was missing for most of the season. Random stories, from Harrison needing emergency surgery to the ghost of Dexter’s Ice Truck Killer brother Brian returning for a field trip, to weird intern Louis stalking Dex, made us feel like the writers were just making stuff up as they went along. Even the big “twist” — that the professor was dead — was sloppy. Dexter from past season would’ve known that long before he found the body in the freezer. Lord knows the rest of us did.
Even the over-the-top, violent tableaus, which should’ve been a source of the kind of sick Dexter humor that makes viewers feel guilty about laughing, seemed dull. Well, except for the belly full of live snakes. That was brilliantly nightmarish.
Of course, the criticism has to be put in perspective: I’m comparing Dexter with itself, not with other shows. Dexter at its most incoherent is still severed heads and shoulders above most things on TV. The weaknesses of Season 6 have not, for the most part, been enough for me to even consider giving up on the show.
But one thing needs to be fixed — and fast. Bringing me back to what Dexter has done to Deb.
My love for Deb Morgan is no secret. And I continue to be mystified that Jennifer Carpenter hasn’t received Emmy recognition for the role. She’s always been one of the best reasons to watch Dexter — and not just because she pings our gaydar with every move and wardrobe choice.
Season 5 saw Deb go from insecure to confident, personally and professionally. In Season 6, she was promoted to Lieutenant of Miami Metro Homicide by now-Captain Laguerta, who thought she could control Deb. That didn’t last long, and we have continued to see Deb evolve professionally, finding a way to lead that still allowed the effin’ Deb-ness that we love so much.
Her personal life is another story, with one failed relationship after another. Deciding to get therapy is admirable, but boy did she choose the wrong therapist. I’m not sure where Dr. Ross got her degree, but she apparently skipped the class on incest. Hate to tell you, doc, but sibling bonds aren’t based on biology. And a patient’s sex dream about her brother certainly can’t be considered a confirmation that sexual attraction exists.
And after seeing some of the most graphic murder scenes in Dexter history, the most nauseating moment came when Deb goes to admit her feelings to her brother. He is shirtless and, judging by the looks of his abs, gets a great workout from killing bad folks.
I try not to read reviews of a show until after I write about it, but a headline from Vulture caught my eye today and I couldn’t resist: “Dexter Showrunner: ‘The Idea of Love Makes People Uncomfortable.’” Scott Buck, the showrunner, told EW that the idea of an incestuous relationship between Dexter and Deb has been brewing since Season 2. Now, he said, it felt like the time was right to tackle the issue — and he can’t believe the negative reaction. “We did some research on that among adopted siblings: It does exist and it does happen, and it does create a very awkward situation,” he says. “I find it kind of interesting that people are uneasy about Deb’s love toward her brother. That on a show about serial killers, it’s the idea of love that makes people more uncomfortable.”
As Vulture succinctly responds “No, no, no, Scott. It’s the idea of incest and totally selling out your characters that makes people uncomfortable.”
Selling out is right. This Debra Morgan is not the Deb we know. This is a desperate, codependent Deb — a woman who took back her power from Laguerta but is willing to give it to her brother. And nothing, nothing at all, gave rise to this sudden change of character.
Thankfully, the end of the episode gives the writers — and us — a way out of this icky mess. As Dexter, having set the scene for killing Travis in the church where he held his victims, raises the knife for the plunge into his heart, Deb walks in.
We have no idea where the story goes from here, of course. (Read Lesley Goldberg‘s interview with Buck for some clues.) But I hope this marks a change of direction for Deb. However she deals with learning that Dexter is a killer, let’s hope the realization kills her sexual attraction.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this season of Dexter in general and the Deb storyline in particular. Does the Dexter/Deb story ring true? What would you like to see next season?