First things first – if you haven't watched the last season of Dexter you might want to go away now, cause season 7 relies heavily on the climax of season 6 and you will be ruined if you read this. Also, I'm not writing this spoiler-free, so best to watch the episode before reading. That being said, on with the show.
Last season ended with a great cliffhanger that pretty much guaranteed people would be tuning in for more. Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter) walks in on ol' Dexter (Michael C. Hall) doing his thing, complete with plastic wrap, big shiny knife and all. There's no way to hide the situation, so Dexter is backed into a corner.
I have to first say that I was pretty skeptical going into season 7. Dexter has a long habit of writing itself out of corners in ways that are fairly half-assed and leave one feeling like they just tried to get drunk off of nonalcoholic beer. I thought they might do something similar with this one, having Dexter just explain away the situation and then Deb, after a brief inner conflict, accepting the situation and moving on. If this had been the case, I may have given up on the show forever. But no sir, they did not deus ex machina this one. Instead, they jumped right into the lion's mouth and the quality of this episode is directly reflected in that decision.
Episode 1, "Are you...?" begins in the middle, a silly attempt to make us think that Dexter is making a run from the law. Just ignore the first minute or two and you'll be fine. From there it goes back to the church, with Deb trying to figure out "What the fuck?" is going on. Dexter attempts to lie his way out of the situation, claiming temporary insanity of a sort. After finally getting Deb on his side, they dispose of the body and life moves on. Well, sort of. Something about what happened doesn't sit well with Deb and she just keeps looking into it deeper and deeper. This is a sign that the writers were thinking, not trying to play Deb as a dunce who couldn't eventually figure out the obvious. She notices the inconsistencies and familiarities of the situation and tries to put the pieces together.
In the meanwhile, old characters are reestablished, a character gets killed off (must not have renewed his contract) and Dexter forgets a wee bit of evidence at the crime scene. Louis Greene (Josh Cooke), the jackass hacker from last season, decides he's going to start fucking with Dexter. And Dexter tries to deal with the Deb situation while also indulging his need to make bad guys into corpses. A typical day-in-the-life of the show, really.
The actors all did a fine job, with special props to Jennifer Carpenter who had to perform what is probably the most complex character twist in the history of the show. She managed it amazingly, never letting her anxiety drop for even a second. Whether she was in the middle of a shot or just a piece of the background, she was always in character.
Things are ramping up and we can see what's being prepared for our enjoyment of the seventh (and second-to-last) season of the show. Greene hates Dexter and has mad hacking skills. LaGuerta has a piece of evidence that could be trouble for Dexter. And it looks like the Russian mob will be poking about pretty soon as well. Not to mention the whole fucked-up relationship between Deb and Dex. There's been nothing said about the "Deb loves Dex" story arc yet, but I imagine it's not too far behind.
In the end, I have to say I was pretty impressed – a very strong start to what will hopefully be a great season. The last few seasons have left me hollow. Even though the cast has done a great job, the writing has been mediocre. I am hoping this one will make up for the others and if the first episode is any indication of things to come, this could be the best season yet.
Check back next week for a review of the next episode of Dexter, "Sunshine and Frosty Swirl", once again brought to you by yours truly and a generous helping of Nerdbastard power!