Dexter season 8 episode 11: Monkey in a Box

Billy gets ready to say goodbye to Dexter as we reach the penultimate episode

This review contains spoilers.

8.11 Monkey in a Box

With any hope that Dexter would deliver something truly special before bowing out now disappeared over the horizon and sipping mojitos in the Titty Twister now, it’s time to embrace the imminent end. Or is that the coming storm, metaphorically preparing to wreak destruction on Miami and the characters in this show? Yes, one and the same.

When I watched Monkey in a Box I kept being drawn to something that I was taught at film school about narrative. The journey that all characters must travel must change them in some way, or they’re purely part of the scenery. That change was the focus of the opening scenes where Dexter is cleaning the Vogel death scene of any evidence relating to him. This wasn’t very well thought through, because not only did Dexter not wear gloves at any point, but he didn’t consider the possibility that Vogel didn’t mention him in Zach’s notes.

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You’d also think that Dexter’s ability to turn up at Vogel’s death scene would concern someone, but Batista has never been the smartest cop has he?

While flawed, this did lead into the pivotal meeting between Dexter and Debs, where she realises that her brother is affected by the doctor’s death. This completes their reunification that started with Vogel and brings them to a new stable place. Some really good acting went on here, especially from Jennifer Carpenter who owned this scene.

And then, something totally unexpected! The final season has almost been entirely devoid of links to story lines the distant past. But I almost cheered when Valerie Cruz walked through the door as the Mrs Sylvia Prado, the widow of Miguel Prado from season three. They could have made anyone the character brought in to sell Dexter’s apartment, but having someone recognisable made more sense. Selling a boat with such a small beer cooler at short notice isn’t easy, so we can safely conclude that the Slice of Life still has a part to play in the final story. 

After business is not concluded, we get down to the meat of this story, the dance of death between Daniel and Dexter, who seems determined to get in our heroes face.

As Dexter’s final nemesis I’ve been very critical of the Daniel/Oliver character, because compared with almost every other murderer that Dexter’s faced, he’s by far the least threatening. He also doesn’t have a real handle on the hornet’s nest he seems intent on sticking his head into. Daniel seems to think that threatening people close to Dexter will make him walk away, but that doesn’t really make sense – if Daniel assumes that Dexter shares his psychopathic mindset, he wouldn’t care about the threats, but if he does care (and we know he does) then, well, Daniel doesn’t really understand his thinking, and can’t predict how Dexter will react.

Daniel’s also gloriously unaware that, with the possible exception of Harrison, every family member in immediate range is also a murderer.

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But every Dexter episode comes with a WTF moment, and the one that slapped me hard in this one came next when the whole homicide department turned out for a Vogel wake. That’s showing great respect, but the very next day after she was murdered seems extraordinary. Really, they would do that?

The drinks after the service did however throw up a few interesting things, not least that Dexter seemed mildly confused that he might miss some of his co-workers. But the bit that really grabbed me was the conversation with Tom Matthews, the retired-then-not Deputy Chief. He was a friend of Harry’s, and his line about ‘family’ was revealing. I think Harry told him about Dexter, and he’s known all along, but kept it secret for old allegiances.

Sylvia rings to draw Dexter away and back to Daniel who wants to crack a deal with Dexter, because he’s obviously not up to actually killing him. Meanwhile, the fly in the ointment is Hannah, whose entire purpose is to give Dexter and Debs something else to worry about. As if they hadn’t already got enough.

The arrival of Elway, who is about as subtle as a swinging piece of 2-by-4, signals the end for her beach holiday, and also the final exchange between her and Debs. With peace made with both Dexter and Hannah, the exit light is on and flashing for Debs. But before that, Elway and Cooper turn up at Debs’ apartment and ransack it without a warrant. Good luck when that one goes to court, guys.

How easily Daniel is trapped underlines how he’s hardly a danger to Dexter, and it’s only with a completely blundering U.S. Marshall Cooper that he ever becomes one again. But for that to actually be a factor, Dexter must move into the light, and decline to kill him, even though he knows he should. The idea that Dexter’s dark passenger could be dropped off at the nearest Greyhound station once love entered his heart is a nice thematic idea, but I could hear hordes of therapists shouting “BS!” in unison across the world.

In so many ways this was the reworking of the season 4 ending that the writers so desperately wanted to repeat from the outset, where the real danger is that Dexter doesn’t kill, and has to face the consequences of his lack of action. Why Daniel didn’t dispatch the mortally wounded Debs I’ve no idea, as his injury was just a flesh wound. She’s obviously not going to make it, and given that Joey is now back on the scene, that doesn’t bode well for the final episode.

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Despite my personal frustration with the direction this all took ultimately, I couldn’t help but be touched by the final bow for James Remar as Harry. He’s been a great foil for Dexter over the seasons, and his early exit reinforces the idea that there isn’t any going back for Dex now.

So what does that leave us with for the final episode of Dexter? Having bought his transformation at such cost, including Rita and now probably Debs, I can’t see that Dexter can sling his killing hat back on. That begs the questions; who will actually stop Daniel, and will anyone actually get to see Argentina?

I’m not even going to guess. But just a week from now we’ll all know, and Dexter will be utterly done.

Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, Goodbye Miami, here.

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