'Dexter' EP Scott Buck: 'It's the Beginning of the End for Dexter'
The executive producer talks with THR about the final episode of season seven and reveals that he's approaching next year as a series finale.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's season seven finale of Dexter.]
Dexter and Debra now have a bond deeper than the affection they share as (foster) brother and sister after the stunning seventh-season finale.
With LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) closing in on Dexter (Michael C. Hall) -- and Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) as his accomplice -- the Miami Metro lieutenant stepped up in the most shocking way possible to save Dexter, putting a bullet in her captain and freeing both of them from her investigation linking him to the Bay Harbor Butcher case.
Meanwhile, Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski) found a way to spring herself from jail -- where was being held without bail as she faced murder charges -- and left a flower on Dexter's doorstep before disappearing.
So how does Debra killing LaGuerta change things? Will Strahovski be back? Where will season eight pick up? Will next season be the last for the Showtime drama? The Hollywood Reporter turned to executive producer Scott Buck to answer the lingering questions ahead.
The Hollywood Reporter: Will season eight be the final year, or might Dexter continue to beyond that?
Scott Buck: I don't have an answer to that because that's a Showtime decision. As far as I know, no actual decision has been made yet. I wish I knew so I could plan my life accordingly, but I don't really know (laughs).
THR: Are you approaching next season as a series finale?
Buck: We are absolutely writing it with an end in sight, but if we get told otherwise somewhere along the way, we'll take it in a different direction. But we are definitely working toward the finale of the series. We are indeed, yes.
THR: Showtime entertainment president David Nevins has been big on consequences this year: Nurse Jackie faced sobriety, Deb finding out last season, etc. How did Dexter change under Nevins? Did you start writing these two seasons with an end in sight and have to change course?
Buck: Not really. David did affect the series in some ways, but it was mostly telling us not to pull back: Do the stories that we wanted to do and not be careful about giving anything away because we can always generate new story and come up with new ideas rather than holding on to cherished ideas that maybe someday we'll want to do that are just too good to do right now. He literally told us to burn through story, and that gave us the creative freedom to do exactly that.
THR: Where will season eight pick up? Will there be a time jump?
Buck: We're still working on that, so we don't know exactly where that will come up.
THR: We've heard rumblings that the series could return earlier than its typical September launch because you're back in production shortly after the New Year.
Buck: We're working, but that's another Showtime decision that I've yet to be informed of.
THR: Will Yvonne Strahovski return next season?
Buck: I certainly hope so. We're in the process of making deals now.
THR: What about Lauren Velez or David Zayas' Angel Batista?
Buck: We've seen the last of Lauren, yes. But Batista absolutely is still with us.
THR: During the final voice-over in the season finale, Dexter has some key words that double for the series: Are you looking at this as a new beginning or the beginning of the end?
Buck: I think it's the beginning of the end for Dexter, but that might just be playing with words. But from the very beginning we've seen Dexter gradually moving in this direction as he slowly becomes more human in a way that makes him scarier. If you're just a monster doing monster things, it's easy to accept and understand that. But if you're a human being doing the things that Dexter does, then it's more difficult.
THR: How will we see Deb struggle with being a killer and not just his accomplice?
Buck: Knowing who Deb is, this is going to be a very difficult thing for her to deal with. She's not at all like Dexter; she's not a killer like Dexter is -- she's just the opposite. She's someone who believes in good, so I think this is obviously going to be something very difficult for her to try and process and deal with.
THR: Earlier this season, Deb relished in Dexter finding justice for the guilty who slipped through the system's cracks. Will she have a different attitude about what Dexter does now having played such a major role in protecting his identity?
Buck: This will cause her to re-examine everything about Dexter that she has accepted or overlooked or seen in one way or another. Having been brought down this path by Dexter changes everything for her.
THR: How will LaGuerta's absence be handled? Could we see Deb promoted to her role, further complicating her guilt in her captain's death?
Buck: It's possible. We're still working out those storylines.
THR: Will there be an investigation into LaGuerta's death? Will that bring Angel back into the fold?
Buck: There will certainly be an investigation into what happened, yes, and that might help bring Angel back in (laughs).
THR: How will this fundamentally change Deb and Dexter's relationship? How much will he be accountable to her now?
Buck: This flips their relationship on end. They're both going to have to take a big step back and re-examine who they are and what they mean to each other and how they're going to go on from here.
THR: Does this change Deb's romantic feelings for him?
Buck: I think those might probably be gone by now. She's always going to love Dexter very deeply on some level -- this is the closest person to her -- but I don't think she could ever possibly imagine a romantic relationship with this person.
THR: Do you regret taking the story there?
Buck: I don't regret doing it at all. It added a real interesting dynamic to the characters. It was very believable under the circumstances that those were Deb's true feelings for her brother, and it explains a lot about the character. I'm very glad we did it.
THR: LaGuerta had Matthews in her corner in this. Why wouldn't she call him on her way to the container after getting the call from Estrada, especially since her career is on the line and her credibility is in question?
Buck: That's exactly why she didn't call anyone. I don't think she believed in that moment that anyone believed her or anyone would support her. Her career was in so much risk, so much jeopardy that the only way she could have turned it around is by arresting Dexter red-handed.
THR: Is the Bay Harbor Butcher case closed for good now?
Buck: It's closed for good.
THR: There's a big paper trail with LaGuerta's search warrants, the judge who signed them, the bullet from Deb's gun and her fingerprints on LaGuerta's body, the blood that's likely on her clothing -- and then they go to Angel's New Year's party. How will we see them "fix" this?
Buck: Dexter's pretty smart about those kinds of things. Unfortunately even though we've seen the warrants, the fact that they were still on LaGuerta's desk means they were never actually filed. So there is no paper trail there. Everything is set up accordingly, but we'll see how it all unfolds.
THR: What do the flowers that Hannah left on Dexter's door represent? Were those a specific type of flower?
Buck: It was a very dark shot, but it was a black orchid, which is meant to be a very ominous sign from Hannah that Dexter would understand what it meant.
THR: Is Debra safe from Hannah? Are her romantic feelings for Dexter over after she bites his lip in the prison? Is he now at the top of her hit list over Deb?
Buck: She's got very complicated feelings for Dexter; she loves and hates him at the same time. I think Dexter would be a bigger focus for her at this point.
THR: You said in a clip last night that season eight will explore Dexter's origins and new parts of him that viewers were not aware existed. How?
Buck: We'll learn more about Dexter's origins through Harry. Stories that we haven't done that are new to Dexter as well. We'll discover things he didn't know about himself. We might see something in the manner of flashbacks.
THR: How do you envision the series ending? Does he have to get caught?
Buck: When you examine any serial killer, there are only so many endings you can have -- and serial killers don't generally end on a happy note.
THR: Are you considering a trial after he gets caught? The electric chair? A final consequence?
Buck: Those are all possibilities.
THR: Will the big bad format -- this year with Ray Stevenson -- return next season? Or will Yvonne hopefully returning be it?
Buck: Hopefully Yvonne will return, but we're also talking about a couple other big characters who will have a huge effect on Dexter next year. If the plan that we're starting to incorporate now goes through, it will be a very different type of big bad than we've ever seen before. It'll be someone unlike anything we've seen in Dexter's life before.
THR: The series has really become about Deb's response to her foster brother's true self. Was that always the plan?
Buck: I don't think you could ever eclipse Dexter, but Debra is learning in leaps and bounds. From the beginning of this season we knew it would be Debra who would kill LaGuerta rather than Dexter. Debra has grown as a character over the years, but the series focuses primarily on Dexter. What's most interesting about Debra taking this very dark turn is how does it affect Dexter.
THR: Deb tried this season to get Dexter to change who he was and silence his Dark Passenger. Is that something she could try again, using her role in LaGuerta's death over him?
Buck: We'll certainly see her try again. This is not a part of her life that she embraces. We'll see a very different Deb in season eight.
THR: Hannah joins Lumen as the only two besides Deb who know about Dexter. Will Lumen be back?
Buck: We have not discussed Lumen coming back. It comes up every year in the writers room. We love her as well, but I'm not sure that story will come back.
What did you think of the Dexter season finale? How would you like to see the series end? Does Dexter deserve to pay for what he's done? Hit the comments with your thoughts.