'Dexter' Review: "Monkey in a Box"

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Dexter’ season 8 slices up the 11th and penultimate episode of its final year with “Monkey in a Box,” as Dexter races against the clock to find Daniel Vogel (Darri Ingolfsson) while Deb tries to keep authorities off Hannah's trail, before the two can make their getaway together.

Last week’s ‘Dexter’ episode, “Goodbye Miami,” saw Dexter continue his pursuit of Daniel Vogel while making the round of goodbyes with Miami Metro, and Deb considered her future with Quinn after making a decision to return to the force. So how does “Monkey in a Box” set us up for the last hour of the 8th and final season?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Dexter’ season 8, episode 11, “Monkey in a Box”!

Dexter washes the blood off his hands, removing all traces of himself from Vogel’s records, before calling in the murder and telling Batista he was the one to find Vogel dead. The next morning, Dexter tells Deb and Hannah of the news, assuring Hannah he still has to take care of Saxon before they can take their Buenos Aires trip the following day.

In the meantime, Dexter tasks Sylvia Prado with selling his apartment, while he makes an effort to sell the Slice of Life. Looking into Saxon, Dexter finds that he keeps the same job from city to city, and might have holed up in an abandoned hospital, before Dexter is stunned to learn that Saxon came into the station to clear his name over Cassie. Dexter takes a routine DNA swab and reluctantly lets Saxon go, though not before reminding Deb they can at least prove him to be Vogel’s son.

Dexter checks out Saxon’s hospital, finding only a laptop with video recordings of the man’s kills, as Ghost Harry points out that Dexter’s rationale for killing Saxon doesn’t seem like his usual self. Elsewhere, Marshal Clayton drops by Deb’s desk at Miami Metro to ask about Hannah’s bringing Harrison into the hospital, though Deb insists that she was the one to bring the boy in, and the nurse botched the description.

Following Vogel’s memorial the next day, the Miami Metro group assembles at Batista’s restaurant to say goodbye to Dexter, while Dexter gives Quinn his blessing to take care of Deb in his absence. Sylvia calls Dexter back to his apartment to check out a last minute buyer, who turns out to be none other than Saxon! In a moment alone, the killer offers Dexter a truce, pointing out how much he has to lose between his family members, and Dexter falsely accepts.

Clayton visits Elway to enlist his help in flushing out Hannah from Deb’s house, while Deb returns home to find Hannah cooking. Elway arrives under the pretense of dropping off some personal materials, barging in to apologize for his behavior, even as Deb ushers him out of the home to protect Hannah in the next room. Dexter arrives after Elway departs, insisting despite Deb and Hannah’s protests that he take care of Saxon before they leave the country, even as a hurricane threatens to ground the flights.

Deb drives Hannah to a hotel to wait for their flight the next day, reluctantly offering her blessing for Hannah to take care of her brother. Meanwhile, Dexter ruminates on how personal killing Saxon would feel, realizing that Hannah supplants his dark passenger's needs as he emails clips of Saxon’s killings to a local news station. At the same time, Nikki returns Saxon’s DNA results to reveal to Quinn that Evelyn Vogel was his mother.

Deb drops by Dexter’s apartment, disrupting his plans to wait for Saxon as she insists on having one final dinner with her brother. Dexter reluctantly accepts, while back at Deb’s house, the marshals turn everything over looking for clues, and Elway finds history of South American travel websites on the computer. Deb laments that Dexter won’t be there for her after he leaves, though Dexter insists she has the stronger moral compass he’d always wanted, and Deb returns that he might have more humanity than he realizes after all.

Just then, news of Saxon’s deeds reaches the news, as Saxon himself sees the report at a gas station. That night, Dexter lies in bed as Saxon stalks by the window, stealthily entering the apartment and preparing for the kill. Before he can strike however, Dexter springs awake and Deb emerges from the shadows to hold him while Dexter subdues.

Dexter holds Saxon captive in the chair at his hospital , as the two chat about their need to kill and Dexter’s apparent freedom with Hannah. Dexter realizes through his love for Hannah that he no longer has any urge to kill Saxon, and calls Deb to have her make the arrest instead. Deb arrives, unaware Clayton has followed her, before Dexter shows his sister that she’ll be the hero of Miami Metro in bringing Saxon to justice.

Outside, Dexter and Deb share their tender goodbyes before Dexter leaves to catch his plane, realizing in the process that he no longer needs his vision of Harry as a moral compass. Upstairs however, Clayton bursts in to find Saxon restrained to the chair, freeing him before Saxon stabs him with one of Dexter’s leftover knives.

Deb enters too late, as Saxon shoots her in the stomach and flees, sustaining a shot to the arm in the process. Deeply wounded, Deb radios for assistance and awaits the cavalry.

Well, once again, 'Dexter' has the misfortune of airing one of its final episodes opposite the vastly superior end of 'Breaking Bad,' making it all the more transparent when 'Dexter' sacrifices logic in favor of drama. Neither the audience nor Dexter could ever truly trust Saxon to his word, but when both Hannah and Deb repeatedly point out that Dexter's obsessive need to kill the man puts all of them in danger, we're inclined to agree and wonder what 'Dexter' has to say about its title character beyond pure selfish stupidity.

Even if we were to take Dexter's crippling ego for a given, there would be no sense in Dexter and Deb leaving Saxon to his own devices in saying their goodbyes, all-too-conveniently allowing Marshal Clayton to enter the scene and muck things up so poorly. It flies in the face of all reason that 'Dexter' would ask us to accept such criminally absurd behavior from otherwise intelligent characters, even for the sake of a dramatic conclusion.

Perhaps saddest of all, what "Monkey in a Box" actually gets right, the various goodbyes and blessings of its leads as they prepare to move into new phases of their lives are continually undercut with scenes entirely irrelevant to the plot, be it Masuka's relationship with his daughter or Quinn's potential to propose to Deb. We might even appreciate the effort to bring back a prior character to send things off, were it someone of more consequence than Sylvia Prado. Stumbling through a final season toward the finale, do we really need reminders of the unanimously weaker seasons?

It can be frustrating to see 'Dexter' come to such a ham-fisted close, especially as it seems so much of its climax will depend on Deb's life hanging in the balance, while an increasingly flat villain looms over the final hour. We'll keep our hopes up for the series finale, though "Monkey in a Box" doesn't leave us with much confidence.

What say you? Did you get your fill of darkly dangerous ‘Dexter’ drama? What did you think about the latest episode of the final season? Stay tuned for the latest from ‘Dexter’ season 8, and join us next week for the series finale episode recap of “Remember the Monsters” on Showtime!

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