written by Manny Coto & Wendy West / directed by John Dahl
The penultimate episode of this comeback seventh season was just kind of buzzing along fairly innocuously, not doing a whole lot of interest, before tying Dexter (Michael C. Hall) into some of the tightest knots we've seen him in. "Do You See What I See?" left my gasping for next week's finale, and completely dumbfounded by how the writers hope to continue the show next season. Or will they play an even riskier game than letting Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) in on her brother's secret, by completely altering the established format and formulas Dexter's relied on this far?
It's Christmas in Miami, which itself was a cute echo of the very first season. Dexter's contemplating a safe and happy future; getting old with the woman he loves, unbound from the burden of his dark secret in the eyes of lover Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) and his sister. But that's clearly never going to happen. It's just a question of how long someone like Dexter can escape the inescapable. As we've predicted from the start, this was the episode where Dexter had to choose between the two women in his life. Both are trusted with his secret, but Deb has some pretty hypocritical issues with Hannah's modus operandi as a poisoner (who offed her potential boyfriend); while Hannah is trying her best to build bridges with her potential sister-in-law, but knows that Deb's trying to get her arrested by pressuring a childhood friend into betraying her. Something has to give, and sadly Hannah's plan to poison Debra wasn't perfect enough for a suspicious man like Dexter—who soon realized his sister's car accident wasn't the result of an accidental prescription overdose. Amusingly, Hannah's plot to secretly dispose of a meddlesome person who's beloved to her boyfriend isn't too far removed from Dexter's successful plot last week to kill Hannah's dad.
As I mentioned, this chunk of the episode wasn't hugely appealing to me because we've always assumed Hannah will be removed from the picture in some way. I had my money on Deb taking matters into her own hands, Dexter-style, but perhaps that was too lurid and implausible. But by having Dexter decide to give his sister the evidence she needs to throw Hannah in jail (the poisoned pen Saul chewed on), he's playing a very dangerous game. What's to stop Hannah telling the cops about her boyfriend's activities? Does Dexter really think she wouldn't be believed? That won't wash now that LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) is positive Dexter's the Bay Harbor Butcher! I hope the writers don't just drop the Hannah issue next week, because I just don't see why she'd keep his secret now he's betrayed her like this.
The more involving storyline belonged to LaGuerta, as her dogged determination to exonerate Doakes and pin the Bay Harbor Butcher's crimes on Dexter really heated up. It was interesting to have her accomplice Matthews (Geoff Pierson) reveal that he's unconvinced by her theory, particularly because his friendly chat with Dexter is what ultimately allowed Dexter a chance to clear his name once again. Dex's quick-thinking gave LaGuerta and Matthews a scrapped boat containing implements with Doakes' fingerprints all over them, with a little help from Debra, so I was about to give a sigh of relief until the very clever third act twist came into play...
Unspooling alongside this episode's storylines was the release of Hector Estrada (Nestor Serrano), the ringleader of the men who slaughtered Dexter's mother when he was a child, and the last remaining link to the event that shaped him psychologically. In retrospect, I'm amazed it wasn't more obvious to me that Estrada's release wasn't a separate issue, but credits to writers Manny Coto and Wendy West for managing to trick me. The moment Dexter tricked Estrada into a shipping container for some poetic justice, only to realize he's part of an elaborate trap set by LaGuerta, was absolutely brilliant. It was a riveting sequence for the season, as Dexter had to make a hurried escape (leaving a kill room and a buzzing chainsaw), losing Estrada in the process. This all provokes so many huge questions that I just can't see the next episode or season 8 being business as usual for the show and its lead character. There's surely no way Dexter can talk his way out of this. LaGuerta has clear evidence that the Bay Harbor Butcher is still active (the kill room, the chainsaw), she has very good reason to believe the culprit is Dexter (who else would target the killer of Dexter's birth mother, who owned the cabin Doakes died in?), and if the police ever find the escaped Estrada his testimony will put Dexter Morgan on Death Row with no chance of parole.
When you weight all that up, what's Dexter's play here? I was thinking he could collude with Deb to give him an alibi, but then I remember she was in hospital when he was dealing with Estrada. There's also the issue that Hannah also has very little reason to keep quiet about everything she knows about Dexter (unless they'll pull the "love buys her silence" card on us), so it looks certain Dexter will be arrested unless he becomes a fugitive. As some people have speculated, is that what lies ahead for the show's eighth (and likely final) season? Dexter on the run, with his friends chasing him as Debra tries to hinder the search? It still seems unlikely because their jurisdiction would end outside of the city's perimeter, right? And how can a show like Dexter, which like all shows has an ingrained style and structure, suddenly become a manhunt thriller? I'm just not convinced it would work, but what's the alternative here? Even if Dexter took the desperate action of killing LaGuerta to protect himself, that would leave Matthews in her place. Will they both have to die then? Is it possible Debra will have to kill her boss to keep her brother's secret, as Dexter frames someone else as the Butcher to keep Matthews happy? Who is there to frame? And what about Estrad and Hannah?
In a good way, I'm almost frothing at the mouth to see what the writers decide to do next week. It's sure to be a major talking point, but I hope it's credible enough for us to swallow. There's a very real possibility the finale will simply ignore various things because it's easier to, then come up with a deeply unconvincing way for Dexter to convince LaGuerta he isn't the Bay Harbor Butcher.