Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan and Michael C. Hall as...

Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan and Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan in Showtime's "Dexter." Credit: Showtime

THE SHOW "Dexter"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday night at 9 on Showtime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT One bench. One lousy concrete bench. That's all that's left to commemorate the life and career of Capt. María LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez), killed by the murderer of Dexter Morgan's (Michael C. Hall) mother in a shootout. Or at least that's the official story that some people believe, with the exception of Dex and his sister, Deb Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), who actually put the bullet in LaGuerta. Hey, it was either shoot Dex or LaGuerta, who knew Dex's true identity. Deb has since left the Miami-Dade Metro Police Department, but there is a newcomer to the department. She is Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), a world-leading expert in serial killers -- "the psychopathic whisperer" -- a consultant to the department who has an especially keen interest in Dexter.

MY SAY As the eighth and final season begins Sunday, it has officially become a fool's game to rattle the chains of logic that have linked "Dexter's" story lines over the years. After seven seasons, a few of them pretty good, "Dexter" is now a teetering, tottering totality of the implausible. Why even bother puzzling over the wild improbability that a forensic blood spatter specialist can dispatch dozens of other serial killers, often between a coffee break and doughnut run, without raising a single red flag? (LaGuerta got close to the truth -- look where it got her.) Maybe we should just concede to Dex on this matter when he says that "Miami has more corpses than sunburns -- and I'm grateful."

Fans are certainly grateful, too, but the point of the final season is -- or should be -- resolution, and that's the starting point Sunday night. In Dexter, Hall has created TV's most startling protagonist -- a genuine monster with a conscience -- but there's not a lot left to bring to this role, so it's left to Carpenter to add some new dimensions to her character.

She does, and as a result, this final lap belongs to Deb as much as Dex. She's not only aware of her brother's past, but now complicit in his crimes, and when she looks into his pale, soulless baby blues, she sees something of herself reflected back. She is wracked by guilt and self-loathing, not just for what she's done -- the murder of LaGuerta -- but for what she is. Carpenter nails every scene she's in, and in the process gives Deb real pathos and fragility.

Meanwhile, Rampling joins a long line of distinguished actors who come through "Dex" to exercise some chops they didn't even know they had. She's perfect here, as the "whisperer" with the ice-cold exterior and interior to match, who may well be on board this season to answer some of those questions that have long gone unanswered. Most notably: Who is Dexter Morgan anyway?

BOTTOM LINE Sit back, don't think, and expect some good performances -- especially by Jennifer Carpenter.


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