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Debra Morgan has hit her rock bottom.
During Sunday’s fourth episode of Dexter‘s eighth and final season, Jennifer Carpenter‘s beleaguered Deb, struggling with killing LaGuerta and El Guapo, attempted to take her own life — and that of the man behind her problems: her foster brother, Dexter (Michael C. Hall).
Still reeling from her role in two slayings, Deb learns the truth about Harry (James Remar): that her father killed himself after learning just how much his young foster son enjoyed killing people under the code he and Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) created. With Dexter along as her passenger, Deb — having seemingly just said her last goodbye to Quinn (Desmond Harrington) — drives their car into the water in a bold attempt to bring an end to Dexter’s secret hobby and her conflicted role in his life.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Carpenter to see where Deb — and Dexter — go from here.
The Hollywood Reporter: What does Deb learn after trying to kill both herself and Dexter?
Jennifer Carpenter:In the first four episodes of this season, Deb is searching for her bottom, and I think she’s surprised to see just how low it actually is. She hits it when the car hits the water. When she looks back, she is able to see Dexter as this living, breathing person and it makes him real in that instant. It makes all of the other stuff secondary to that. As long as he is alive there is hope for if not a real brother-sister relationship, but at least an understanding, and there’s hope for her having a real ally in her life. In that turn back to him in the car, she realizes that there aren’t so many differences between their ugliness; that he’s a little more developed and she’s guilty of the things she hates him for, whether he led her down that path or not, she has a bloody hand in it.
THR: How is this experience going to change her? Is this the first step toward forgiving Dex?
Carpenter: It’s like reading the last paragraph in a chapter of a book — it gives her a start to a new one. I’m not sure that Deb actually has the foresight to or even the tools to plan for what that might look like. Dexter numbs her ability to make plans because he’s forever changing the landscape of every situation. At the end of episode four, that repair certainly looks possible, not only with Dexter, but within herself. I think Deb is able to see him anew, not fresh and clean, and the slate certainly hasn’t been wiped clean, but it’s a possibility to change the picture drawn on it.
THR: So almost like she accepts him for who and what he is?
Carpenter: I’m not sure the car dropping in the water was like a baptism as much as it was like dunking his head in a toilet (laughs). It makes him be real with her and she’d be real with him; it’s like they’re actually just going to show up in the room together with all of their guts exposed and get real. What can they really do now about what’s true? Where can they really move now that the truth is all out there? It’s a way to squelch her emotions about him — put the fires out and start doing damage recovery in order to rebuild.
THR: How will Dr. Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) play into that?
Carpenter: Vogel has the advantage — at least from Deb’s point of view — because I imagine she looks like Deb’s mother if she were alive. Little does Vogel know that that’s a lottery ticket that she wins again and again with Deb. She’s incredibly intelligent and manipulative in a way and has a way of sort of hypnotizing Deb into doing what she wants, which is in a strange way an invitation to stop it and take a different approach and slow her reaction time so that she can make better choices. I think that works to everyone’s advantage, especially Debra’s.
THR: Is Deb’s path toward redemption going to bring her closer to Dexter? Could we see her work with his Dark Passenger?
Carpenter: I don’t think that you’ll ever see Debra be with Dexter the way she did early in the series. She will never support or champion his Dark Passenger, but she will find a way to co-exist. She has such a capacity for love that even on a bad day, she loves him more than anyone else could.
THR: Vogel questions why Dexter allowed Deb to live after she learned of his true nature, breaking the first rule of the code. Should Deb trust her?
Carpenter: Trust is too strong a word for what she feels for Vogel. It’s like the building of any relationship: just because you’ve both got the cord in hand and you’re considering plugging in, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re allotted automatic trust or protection or love from the other. This is someone that was introduced to Debra through Dexter. She automatically has some reservations about investing in this woman; she’s been dealing with post-traumatic stress, and like a lot of people in recovery, you latch on to what feels good at the moment and what feels like it’s going to get you through your next day. Vogel seems to be fitting that bill and it’s keeping her straight and feeling closer to something that used to feel like herself. She’s feeling in control again.
THR: Deb has now killed twice on the series, El Guapo and LaGuerta. Could we see her develop her own version of a Dark Passenger?
Carpenter: No. If you hold Dexter and Deb up to one another and see if they could possibly be stencils to the other, they’re like cardboard cutouts of the other’s danger. That’s the beauty of this show: They live on opposite ends of the spectrum and it’s jarring when you find pieces of each other’s puzzle that look like they might fit. But that’s all they are, pieces of a puzzle of a much larger map.
THR: Deb doesn’t seem to care if she lives or dies. Does this make Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski) more of a threat to her?
Carpenter: The thing that remains after the accident is what you saw in the first episode and what you got a glimpse of before Deb pulls the car in the water: She doesn’t care. I think “I don’t care” might be her mantra. If she cared a little less maybe she’d survive with a little more ease. She’s accepting the idea that she will never have all the information about Dexter. So when Hannah comes back into the picture, it will be about correcting information and then deciding which route has a little less pain and the least amount of destruction. As we filmed the final episode, I was still deciding what Hannah represented to Debra. This is when I got scared about the series ending; thinking about scenes that Hannah and Deb have played together — I wanted to go back and either fight for another angle, another course of action or play something differently, like that bitch is going to haunt me for a long time.
THR: Knowing how Deb’s story ends, are you happy with her ultimate fate?
Carpenter: When I got the final script I e-mailed [showrunner] Scott Buck and said that it was luminous. I was grateful that he put so much in my hands. I’m happy with how every storyline ends. The season got off to an incredible start, so hopefully everybody will stick around for this incredible ending that we’re giving in twelve.
THR: Looking back over the eight seasons, how many F-bombs do you think Deb has dropped during Dexter‘s eight-season run?
Carpenter: I don’t know; I hope some really awesome fan figures it out, but I mean, thousands and thousands. Oh God, I need to go start saying Hail Mary’s or something.
Dexter‘s final season continues Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime. How do you think Deb will move forward? Hit the comments with your thoughts.
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