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Dexter - Season 7 - (P)review

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A new season of the serial killer series that's severed heads and serrated shoulders above anything else on prime time.

I came to the Dexter series late in the game. Despite a lifetime love of all things macabre, I had somehow avoided the notorious darkly comic TV drama about a murderous forensics expert living in suburban Miami.

By the time I got around to checking it out, there were billboards on metro motorways featuring the ever-lovable human exterminator with a bouncing baby boy and a sippy cup in his hands. A forensics expert and milquetoast suburbanite serial killer who's also a family man? Obviously this was the show for me, one that illustrated and even found amusement in the nondescript Norman Rockwell nature of the normal nutjob, the one that blends in.

After being bombarded by these promotional pictures I broke down and borrowed the first season from my local library, and fell instantly in love with Mr. Dexter Morgan, the dryly humorous nutjob in question whose droll narrations, voice-over observations about the evil of banality, distinct from the banality of evil, were like X-rays of my inner-monologue. At last, a screen madman whose madness is a reaction to the madness and absurdity of other people and their wacko world.

From that point on I was a devout devourer of all subsequent seasons, sometimes taking an entire season out on loan on a Monday and watching every episode in its entirety by Tuesday, returning it with eyes for the next season. And if my local DVD repository had already loaned out the next season, that's when my own Dark Passenger let itself be known—I had the itch and it was all thanks to Dexter's strikingly human qualities, the condition that made the monster more than a monster.

What's most striking about Season 7 so far is the absence of Dexter himself. While he is in practically every scene and the show does, once again, revolve around him and his deadly compulsion, there is an absence of that inner-monologue that made the show what it is; even when it's there, it seems only to be serving as an expository device, wherein previous seasons it was the heart and soul of the program and of Dexter the man.

However, if this lack of flesh on Dexter's narrative bone is the worst thing one can say about Season 7, then it's still severed heads and serrated shoulders above most anything else on primetime television.

For fans of Dexter, the continuation of last season's finale cliffhanger is the fat question mark for this year's installments, and one of the greatest things that can be said of the new stories is that creators have done more with Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), Dexter's loving sister, than one would've anticipated.

While one airport sequence—initially set up as a deliberate plot misdirect and later called back for death chamber reasons—is more far-fetched than virtually anything that's transpired in six-plus-years of the series, the fundamental mainstays (character, morals and evolution) are still intact.

Harry (Dexter's adoptive father, textbook enabler and ubiquitous specter)'s so-called "code" is gone for the most part, but it stills hovers over Dexter's thought process, even as he subverts it. This fact gives the latest episodes a nice continuity after the disastrous mini-arc with Brian Moser (Dexter's deceased bastard brother and fellow slasher) early last season.

Season 7's first episode is a revelatory immersion-maker that ties the threads from all prior seasons into one great knot of anticipatory and expository suspense, weaving a checkered web that illustrates the domino effect Dexter's killer instinct was destined to have on the show's myriad characters. And character is what really makes Dexter, every last one of them treated with equal importance by show-runner Scott Buck and auteur regulars like John Dahl, who flesh out figures like the oft-eccentric Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee) and the oft-degenerate Joey Quinn (Desmond Harrington) that might otherwise be background props in any other two-camera drama.

Dexter comes full circle in this one, calling back sub-plots and personalities from as far back as the preliminary series. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won't name names, but a race-specific character key to the on-going plot is snuffed out early on after only serving a marginal role in last season's happenings. First Dokes and now this person? If I didn't know better I'd say show creators have a touch of the hate criminal or bullying bigot in them, especially since this character was openly despised by certain leads last year for no apparent rhyme or reason. But then I remember what David Lynch said about Dorothy Vallens' affection for being beaten and dominated in Blue Velvet—"She was always supposed to be only one woman, she was never meant to represent all women."

Episode two harks back to Deb's sparing of Lumen and company in Season 5 and, thankfully, builds on that self-same motivation. Where religion was at the vanguard of last season, number 7's steeped in a central theme of abstinence, dealing as it does with Dexter's wondering whether or not he can finally, once and for all, suppress his Dark Passenger and keep it at bay for the long haul, instead of taking it to the bag-Miami's bay-for his dumping of bloody appendages.

The conclusion of episode 702 leaves the audience pondering just how far that self-restraint can stretch, only our ponderosity is one of viewer desire rather than desire to reform-we want to indulge vicariously our cultural blood lust and Dexter's rehabilitation would surely mean the bankruptcy of our voyeuristic satisfaction, the serial killer equivalent of tuning into The Sopranos and finding Tony and Carm going to country club luncheons under witness protection, sans the piano wire strangulations and Sisyphean nightmare dream sequences.

But our collective concerns are fortunately quelled in episode 3 when...some crazy shit goes down that's better left for mid-September, when the show is ramping up to full bore horrorshow raucousness and all those interested can squeal, "Showtime!" and delve into the latest demented development in the life of Miami Metro's mystery vigilante.

Deb's last words in episode 703 are, "Everything's changed." By happy chance, that doesn't hold true, at least not for the initial triplet of entries. Time will tell with the rest of the season and here's hoping the "lizard brain" and the "seeing black" remain. If so the Coliseum crowd will cheer!

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