'Dexter' Showrunner on the Finale, the 'Ew' Moment and What's Ahead (Q&A)
Scott Buck tells THR how Showtime topper David Nevis influenced the trajectory of the season, why the romantic element was added and how Desmond Harrington's Quinn will play a role next season.
After six seasons, Showtime's Dexter finally answered the series' big question: When will Debra Morgan find out about Dexter's Dark Passenger.
In Sunday's shocking season finale, Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) learned the truth about him when she walked in to find Travis, the Doomsday Killer that Miami Metro had been tracking all season, on the table with Dexter (Michael C. Hall) plunging a sword into his chest when she showed up to profess her romantic feelings for her adopted brother.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Dexter showrunner Scott Buck to discuss how the show will change now that Deb knows, why it was important to see Deb develop romantic feelings for Dexter as well as the fate of Desmond Harrington's Detective Joey Quinn.
The Hollywood Reporter: Was it always the plan to have Deb find out this season?
Scott Buck: Yes, from the beginning of the season, it's not like years previous we were planning on revealing it at the end of Season 6. We knew going into this season that that it was time to finally pay that off. That that would be our big final moment.
THR: How much did the backlash this season have to do with Deb finding out?
Buck: Not at all, we're all done significantly writing and everything is plotted out by the time we begin airing. By that time, we can only sit back and listen to it but there's nothing we can really address at the time. Even if we could, I'm not sure we would write specifically toward what the viewers are saying or thinking or blogging about.
THR: Was it always the plan to have Deb find out through a religion-themed story?
Buck: Not necessarily, we just knew it would be happening at this time and it was the story that was currently going on. To that extent, yes.
THR: How will Deb finding out change the way in which you tell stories? What impact did Showtime topper David Nevins have on the trajectory of this season?
Buck: David's impact on the season was saying, 'Let's just not sit back and do what we've always done before; let's take the show in a different direction." There's always a risk of becoming repetitive and that's exactly what we did not want to do. It's always been hanging out that Debra did not know who her own brother truly was so it was time to finally answer that question. Yes, it will absolutely change where we move forward from here, we can't keep doing the same kind of stories as we have been doing. It's an issue that has to be addressed. This is primarily a show all about character: What is Dexter now going to do about the fact that his sister seems to have at least some sort of idea of what he's doing. But exactly what direction, watch next season and you'll find out.
THR: Michael C. Hall's contract battle became a public one earlier this fall, how worried were you? Was there a point at which you didn't believe he'd be back? How much did the backlash this season have to do with Deb finding out?
Buck: I don't think we were worried. It was unfortunate that it became public because there wasn't really that big of a battle. There were obviously some differences, like there are in any sort of negotiation process like this but I don't think it ever became particularly contentious. I don't think any of us were ever overly concerned that Michael would not come back to us. It's always been very clear that the show means a lot to him and that he would not let it end in an unsatisfying way.
THR: Could you have had Deb find out without being in love with Dexter? Why is that element important? Was it merely a tool to get her to the church? Was that always in the plan?
Buck: Absolutely. We could have done that but it just seemed a more interesting story that at the same time she realizes she has these deeper feelings for her character suddenly coming face to face that this is not exactly who she even thought it was that she's in love with; who she thinks her brother is but that's not who her brother is at all.
THR: Why was that element important to add? A lot of viewers saw that scene and their immediate reactions was, "Ew," since we've always seen them as brother and sister?
Buck: It's funny to me that people can accept the fact that Dexter is a serial killer without question but the minute his sister falls in love with him, it's love that makes people go, "Ew," and not the killing. Could we have done without it? Certainly, but we chose to do it because it seems inherent in this character that she has these feelings for her brother that have been there all along that she has not fully dealt with. It seemed to make the story that much more interesting and dynamic if you can intertwine them that way.
THR: When they exchange "I love yous," is Dexter aware of what kind of love Deb is professing?
Buck: No, Dexter had no idea what she was talking about. He knows that he loves his sister. He says, if you can remember back to the pilot, "If I could love anyone, it would be Deb." So yes, he has strong feelings for Deb but like a brother loves a sister.
THR: Dexter also sacrifices himself to save Harrison when he's on the roof with Travis. He's expanding the people that he loves. Are we beginning to see a sea change for Dexter?
Buck: I think over the course of the last five seasons, we've gradually seen Dexter begin to realize that he is capable of more than he ever thought he was. Dexter certainly loves his son; if he has any pure, genuine love it's definitely for Harrison.
THR: Will there be a time jump in Season 7?
Buck: I don't believe so. I think we have to answer the questions we've just set up.
THR: Dexter has really only chosen to reveal himself to one person before -- Lumen. How much of his Dark Passenger and upbringing will he reveal to Deb? Will he offer more than what she's seen with Travis?
Buck: That's going to be drama of next season: What will Dexter reveal? What will he not reveal? How much of himself can he show to her? Dexter, over the last few seasons, has finally begin to accept himself for who he is but is there a possibility that he could think someone else could accept him? I don't know that he's ready to deal with that just yet. That will obviously be the drama of the upcoming season.
THR: Considering Deb's history with Lumen last season -- she let her go because, "She doesn't know if there are people who deserve to die." How much will that play into what Deb's path is going forward?
Buck: Completely. We know everything that Deb has said over the years and those are all part of the character as she's gradually evolved from someone who sees things very black and white who is now aware of the gray areas in the world. So yes, she is certainly at least open to other possibilities of thinking about things other than simply the way she herself thinks. It is something that will be explored.
THR: Will Deb's romantic feelings for Dexter change after watching Dexter kill Travis?
Buck: Deb has just come to the realization that she loves her brother. But when you go through therapy you can go through all kinds of a rollercoaster ride of emotions and discoveries that don't always necessarily mean what you think they mean. Yes, what she's just seen is certainly going to affect how she fells about her brother. We're committed to going forward with everything next season, but they won't necessarily go forward in a straight line.
THR: How will Deb handle the news professionally? She's determined as lieutenant at Miami Metro -- especially with LaGuerta to answer to -- to catching the DDK.
Buck: That's part of the drama of next season. Her career means a lot to her, her profession of being a good detective and solving crimes and serving justice is extremely important to her. Now she's seen her brother, who she potentially feels like she's in love with, kill the big killer of the season. How she is going to handle that is all fodder for next season. It's not something I can answer in a sentence because it's what we'll be dealing with next season.
THR: Deb's dead-set on taking control of her life emotionally. Will that include a look into Dexter's past?
Buck: I think she's always been aware that there's more to Dexter that she really thought but I don't think she ever had the slightest idea that Dexter might be a killer in any any sort of way. I think it'd be only natural for her to begin to look at Dexter a little bit differently, and whether that means looking into his past or keeping closer eye on him right now will all be stuff we'll be looking into.
THR: You've set up next season with Louis sending Rudy the Ice Truck Killer's hand to Dexter. Considering Deb slept with Rudy, who is Dexter's biological brother, is that something we can expect to see next season?
Buck: That's all stuff from the past. I don't know that there's that much more to explore in future but it's out there; it's part of who Deb is and what she's done. It's not something we'll ignore by any means.
THR: Angel has requested a transfer for Quinn, who is fighting it by claiming he's an alcoholic. Will Desmond Harrington be back?
Buck: We will absolutely see Desmond next season. Quinn will be back with us.
THR: Will Deb look to Quinn, now that she has seen Dexter's Dark Passenger?
Buck: Quinn has always been a little bit suspicious of Dexter but it's something he's put aside largely because of feelings for Deb. But all of that has changed now and Deb is certainly aware that Quinn had these suspicions. Again, that's going to be something for her that's at least going to cross her mind that she might want to look in to.
THR: As a showrunner in the industry today, what's the biggest challenge for you? What keeps you up at night?
Buck: What keeps me up at night is honestly trying to tell a good story. No matter what other responsibilities I have as a showrunner, I feel like my primary responsibility is to the character of Dexter and trying to keep this show true and honest to what's been set up in previous seasons and to what Michael Hall can deliver. To tell the best story we possibly can and remain true to Dexter Morgan.
THR: With the two-season renewal, are these the final two years of the show? Is there a potential for the series to continue beyond that?
Buck: There's always a possibility for something. The creative team is working under the assumption that these will be our final two seasons unless we're told differently somewhere along the line.
THR: Do you have an end game for the series? Do you know what a series finale will look like?
Buck: Beginning now we will be, yes. There's a number of ways the series can end. But now that we know that most likely the series will be ending in two years we can start to work toward that specifically. There's a number of different writers and producers on the show and over the years we've all sort of imagined how the show will end and now it will eventually be time to start comparing notes and seeing what the best direction is to take this show before we decide on what our final episode will be.
What did you think of the Dexter finale? How would you like to see the series end?