Dexter Ep 7.11: ‘Do You See What I See?’ an ill-timed and worrying blip of uninspired writing

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Dexter, Season 7, Episode 11: “Do You See What I See?”
Written by Tim Schlattmann & Manny Coto
Directed by Steve Shill
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on Showtime

Christmas time has come, and all dear and dark Dexter wants is the future which is so tantalizingly close to his grasp. By this point, unfortunately, the audience are just as impatient as the protagonist of a show which has picked the worst possible time to start becoming bumpy again, with the Season finale on the horizon and the show’s legacy on the line. While last week’s outing outweighed the bad with the good, last night’s wasn’t quite as full of cheer.

Though it is a jolly time of year, the bubble of despair that is Showtime’s Miami are none the wiser. Thanks to the family connection, Matthews invites Dexter round to discuss LaGuerta’s new theory that everyone’s favorite blood spatter analyst is the BHB, unknowingly tipping off the secretive killer. Seemingly better news comes in the form of Hector Estrada, drug kingpin who ordered the show defining murder of Laura Moser (Dex’s mother to the uninitiated), being granted parole; out of a cell and straight on to Dexter’s table. With Debra agreeing to take care of LaGuerta’s leads and the prospect of a murder to finally bury the past, things may be looking up.

Alas, Debra follows up the tip from Hannah’s late father which puts her firmly on a collision course with the botanical killer, and Dexter’s loyalties are put under scrutiny when Deb is involved in a suspicious accident en route to visit a witness. Finally he has to choose between the two, and even the solace in the mix turns out be the most unlikely of traps. Elsewhere, Quinn discovers that Nadia has disappeared to Las Vegas in search of her new life, with her cop boyfriend firmly in the rear view mirror, while Batista makes the choice to retire come the new year. Not soon enough for the poor Sergeant, as the net comes down on various bad boys and girls.

Just in case it wasn’t clear from the description, there’s a lot of emphasis put on the fact that ‘Do You See What I See?’ takes place over Christmas Eve and Day, an attempt to combine the upcoming seasonal celebrations with family motif and thematic focus on the future. But, having worked strongly in previous episodes, the lack of balance or variety about the episode means the idea falls flat and is either lost on a frustrated audience or only picked up often enough to remind the viewer that an overt attempt at depth is being made. A lot happens here, but not quickly enough to excite and not concisely enough to compel. Whereas the show’s last stab at a holiday setting, ‘Hungry Man’ (Season Four’s Thanksgiving episode), was one of the finest episodes of Dexter’s entire run, this proves to be wholly forgettable when it had to be utterly dynamic.

Ultimately, the problem is that nothing groundbreaking or new really happens. The pursuit of Hector Estrada proves to be a poor replication of Dexter’s revenge strike on Santos Jimenez five years ago, with the same approach – Dex’s female interest promotes the confrontation as being a gift of fate, conversations before the apprehending, use of retributive chainsaw – but with absolutely no emotional weight. This is mostly due to no real interest in the matter, or for anything else other than exposition, within the inner monologue, but also because at around the same time Dex is tearing himself apart over whether to trust Hannah and embrace his future or to follow up his suspicions that she drugged Deb. Too many different things intended to be highly significant to the character are happening at once. Throw in Dexter being told about LaGuerta’s interest and you have too many cooks.

This problem manifests itself in other ways. Deb’s car crash should be a big event, but happens off screen and is handled in a rushed, disorganized manner. Debra herself only has one scene in hospital and is released immediately after, so it doesn’t seem all that important when in fact it should be a pivotal moment in the show’s growingly prominent love triangle. An attempt to address the Quinn-Nadia relationship is covered in the space of about twenty seconds and is neither a continuation nor a resolution, instead just pushing an already sunken story a few inches further for the sake of…well, God only knows. With the Koshka Brotherhood out of the picture and Isaak Sirko a distant memory, there is no longer any kind of interest to be found within what is now a soap opera subplot. It’s impossible to believe that only a few weeks ago this arc looked like a rich source of promise.

It is not an unmitigated disaster, however, not in the same way that most of the previous season’s episodes were without any kind of redeeming feature. Nicole LaLiberte gives excellent support in the role of Hannah’s former roommate, and the lightly scratched surface on the counselor murder from years before bears the hallmarks of intelligent writing. A strong effort is also made to conceal the truth behind the poisoning of Deb, and this is reflected by some excellent dialogue during the inevitable confrontation between Dex and his lover and also by Yvonne Strahovski’s performance, which is suitably pained but ambiguous. This sleight of hand is also well employed in the LaGuerta investigation plotline, and both areas of deception result in satisfying and logical twists that bode well for the last episode.

The unprintable but delightful title of said installment perfectly sums up the level of excitement fans will have leading up to a Dexter-LaGuerta endgame, with plenty of rumors and conjecture stoking up the fire. Hopes should be high, also, that there is finally a strong choice made on the destiny of the Dexter-Debra dynamic, whether this relationship will cease or enter an uninterrupted new cycle. Fortunately, ‘Do You See What I See’ serves well enough as a set up, pressing the story into its concluding moments, despite its big flaws. We’ll have to wait and see whether this was an ill-timed and worryingly blip of uninspired writing or a bad omen for a show that seemed to be getting back on track. Bah Humbug, indeed.

Scott Patterson

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