Six months have passed since the events of the Dexter season 7 finale, revealing that, in spite of what previously occurred, Dexter has been able find solace in the peace that Debra’s forced bloodshed has provided him. No longer seen as the prime suspect for the Bay Harbor Butcher, or the focus of desire for a femme fatale, Dexter has taken these months to put his life in order, to once again be happy. For Dexter, it’s as if things couldn’t be any better; Deb, on the other hand, isn’t holding up so well.
As Dexter has been enjoying his life, Deb, instead, made the decision to quit the force and join a private investigation firm; a step up from her previous position, no doubt, but one that she uses to punish herself for what she’s done. Instead of taking on the type of high-profile cases a former Lieutenant in the private sector should, it’s the “down and dirty” ones that she feels most comfortable immersing herself in. For Deb, it’s simply about mentally surviving what she has done and, right now, numbing the pain is the best that she can do.
Deb and Dexter’s relationship, too, has reached its breaking point, forcing Deb to realize that Dexter’s unapologetic thirst for the blood reaches far beyond what she could ever imagine, to include the loss of any innocents who may get in the way. And even though Deb is aware that James Doakes fell at the hand Dexter, to keep his secret safe, it was she who had the choice, who decided to choose Dexter’s life over LaGuerta’s. The loss of a criminal’s life is one thing, while the loss of an innocent one is completely different – but to Dexter, they’re one in the same; just another mess to clean up, so to speak.
But Dexter’s life isn’t as perfect as he believes, and it’s Debra who has been able to touch the heart of the monster, forcing him to step outside his sociopathic lifestyle in an attempt to feel for, to understand, to “fix” the sister he inadvertently and unintentionally betrayed. As a serial killer mastermind, Dexter is self-sufficient and almost perfect, and it’s likely that he could very well thrive and survive if left alone. But Dexter isn’t alone – not anymore.
Dexter’s interest in human relationships has been a part of the series from the beginning, but now, with his secret out there, with Harrison growing up, with Deb taking on an emotional weight she was never prepared for, he wants to – and must – integrate himself in aspects of humanity that, up until this point, he simply observed. Like with most things, however, this must be learned, not forced, and Dexter still stumbles when he attempts to be “normal," even if his heart is in the right place.
Dexter’s weakness has been and always will be the human relationship, and as Dexter attempts to force Deb to understand that murdering LaGuerta is “all right," to provide her with the same logic that he uses to sleep at night, he continues to reveal more and more of his broken personality, showing her what truly lies deep within his tainted soul. What’s more, each and every attempt that Dexter makes at mimicking normality opens himself up to being caught, as Dexter was built for one thing and one thing only: to kill. Anything outside of that is, as Harry continuously warns him, a mistake. So which path will Dexter choose?
Perhaps the addition of Evelyn Vogel, who is revealed to have played a part in Dexter’s origins, will allow him to explore all that went in to creating the murderous machine that he finds comfort in. But still, even with knowledge of the past, Dexter is going to have to make a decision for himself and his future: Will he continue on his path of taking lives, fulfilling the destiny that his father, Harry, laid out for him? Or will he shed his bloody apron and continue to reach for those emotional bonds he yearns for, filling his world with life instead of death? At this point, is it even possible to change? Does anyone - including Harry - want him to change?
For many years, Dexter has excelled at the job he was given, to kill, but throughout, he has continuously reached beyond the murderous binds that tie him, obtaining things he could have never imagined possible. And though it's Dexter’s past that most certainly defines him, it’s the decisions that he makes now, for his future, for his family, that will reveal the true strength of the man behind mask.
Dexter returns next Sunday with “Every Silver Lining” @9pm on Showtime.