SPOILER ALERT: The recap for the "Monkey in a Box" episode of "Dexter" contains storyline and character spoilers.
The point of this final season of "Dexter" (and of the entire series, it seems) is this: Dexter might not have been destined to be a serial killer after all. He may have been "born in blood," left sitting in a pool of his dead mother's blood after witnessing her murder when he was a toddler, but various relationships and actions throughout his adulthood have shown again and again that, unlike true psychopaths, Dexter has empathy for others.
So now, in the penultimate episode of the series, Dexter makes a choice. He's been told by Dr. Vogel — the late Dr. Vogel — and his dead ghost dad Harry that he's trying to straddle two worlds: that of being a serial killer and giving in to his killer instinct, and that of having a "normal" life with girlfriend Hannah and son Harrison.
[Related: Check Out Our Recap of Last Week's 'Dexter']
Dexter chooses to pursue that life with Hannah and his son, to flee to Argentina and leave his serial killer past behind. Problem is, he makes that choice at the worst possible time.
The Doctor Is Out
Picking up with last week's murder of Vogel by Saxon, Dexter frantically sweeps through Vogel's house, removing all paper files, computer files, and videos that tie him to The Psychopath Whisperer.
"The last time I was in a pool of my mother's blood, I was too young to do anything about it," Voiceover Dex says. "But I'm no longer a child." He calls in the murder. Angel and Quinn arrive and take a statement from him — still in his henley, which is covered with Vogel's blood — as he explains Vogel was a friend of his father's and had connected with him and Deb. He's relieved when Angel tells him to go home, because he's free to go plot his revenge against Saxon.
Early the next morning, Dex arrives at Deb's house and tells her and Hannah what happened to Vogel. Deb's upset, too; Dexter points out they might never have found their way back to each other, post-LaGuerta, without Vogel. He tells her and Hannah he has to square things away with Saxon before he can move to Argentina.
Dexter also has to get rid of some possessions before his move: namely, his boat and his condo. His realtor: Sylvia Prado. Remember her? Widow of Dexter's old pal-turned-nemesis, Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits), from Season 3? Widow of Miguel, who Dexter killed? When she asks him why he's leaving Miami, he says "too many memories," while staring at the AC unit that used to hide his blood-slide collection.
Dexter heads to the office for one of his final days at Miami Metro, and gets a surprise in the interrogation room: Saxon! He voluntarily came in, Quinn tells Dexter, so he could completely clear himself in the murder of Cassie. Dexter knows why he's really there — to taunt him about Vogel — but he takes advantage of the opportunity to take a cheek swab from Saxon.
"He's got balls, I'll give him that," says Deb, newly returned to the police force, when Deb tells her of Saxon's surprise visit. Dex has a surprise of his own, though: He's going to run tests on that DNA sample, which will reveal Saxon isn't Saxon, but the psychopath, presumed-dead son of Vogel, leading the police to connect him to her death.
After Vogel's funeral, Dexter, Deb, Quinn, Angel, and Chief Matthews head off to Angel's bar for a drink, and what turns into Dexter's goodbye party. The festivities are interrupted — mercifully, for a visibly uncomfortable Dexter — when he gets a phone call from Sylvia, telling him someone wants to buy his condo and is willing to pay cash.
Yes, of course the potential buyer is Saxon.
When Dex meets up with him at his apartment, Saxon proposes a deal: They both forget everything that's happened in the past, and simply walk away from each other. Bygones, etc.
"I'm giving you the choice… go on with your life, or come after me," Saxon offers, pointing out, and naming them each specifically, that with Deb, Harrison, Hannah, and stepkids Cody and Astor in his life, Dexter has far more to lose than he does.
Dexter pretends to go along with the truce offering, but says in voiceover, "He wants me to walk away without realizing he just reminded me why I can't."
Meanwhile, a little Dexter digging has led him to Saxon's kill room in the abandoned psych hospital, where Dexter also finds a computer full of videos of Saxon murdering his victims. Dexter anonymously emails the vids to the police, and Saxon suddenly is all over the TV news as a wanted man.
With his problems seemingly headed to a resolution, Harry tells Dexter he has to accept that he can't escape who he is. Dexter responds that since Hannah came into his life, his need to kill has lessened. But what happens when Dex is all settled in Argentina, Harry asks?
"I don't know," Dexter says. "But I can't wait to find out."
A Storm is Brewing
Saxon is not the only threat to the Morgan family. U.S. Marshal Clayton visits Deb at the police station and wants to know why a nurse reported a woman who looks like Hannah, but using Deb's name, took Harrison to the ER. Deb covers, i.e. lies, but Clayton doesn't believe her. He goes to Elway and asks Deb's former boss to visit her and find out what she's hiding. Deb blows him off, but his visit sets everyone in a panic, and Hannah packs up to hide out at an airport hotel until she and Dexter and Harrison can jet out of Miami.
Oh, there's also a little matter of Tropical Storm Laura, which is about to bear down on the city, and potentially ground all air travel.
Deb goes to Dexter's apartment for a final dinner with her bro, where Deb tells Dex that, even without The Code, there's a decent person living inside him. Then they plot how they're going to kill Saxon, who they know will be coming to get revenge on Dexter for releasing those kill videos.
And while Deb's away from her house, Clayton and Elway are ransacking it, looking for any evidence that Hannah was there or that Deb is in touch with her. While searching Deb's computer, they find a recent search for info on travel to South America.
And sure enough, as Dexter is in bed, Saxon breaks into his apartment, sneaks into Dex's bedroom, and is about to stab him… when Deb jumps out and puts a gun to his head. Dex says he can take it from there, and in the next scene, Saxon is strapped to the table in his very own kill room.
"I guess this means you've decided against the truce?" he calmly asks Dexter.
"I Don't Need to Kill You"
Saxon and Dexter chat, and Saxon manages to get inside Dexter's head. Dexter is convinced he no longer has to live life with his Dark Passenger. "I don't even wanna be here," he tells Saxon, who's still strapped to the kill table. "I'm feeling a much stronger pull. I don't need to kill you."
"Then don't. Walk away," Saxon urges.
And Dexter does! Even in the face of what he knows needs to be done, he convinces himself Saxon doesn't have to die, or that he's not the one who has to do it, at least, and he calls Deb to come pick up her killer.
Deb arrives — followed, unbeknownst to her, by Clayton — and after Dex fills her in, they say goodbye, before he heads off to meet Hannah.
"This is just for right now; it's not forever," Dexter tells his sister.
"I know that, f--kface," Deb says.
Dexter also says goodbye to ghost Harry. "Are you sure about this, Dexter?" Harry asks. "I never thought this day would come. You don't need me anymore."
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As Dexter drives off to his new life, Deb calls for police backup and heads back inside the psych hospital. Clayton, though, has gone in first, and finds Saxon, who says he's being held there, and needs to be freed. Clayton buys it — apparently he, the U.S. Marshal, hasn't seen the news reports that Saxon is a very wanted man — and frees Saxon, who, of course, promptly stabs him.
That's when Deb walks in, and Saxon shoots her. He runs out, as she crumples to the floor, bleeding profusely.
Dexter and Harrison have packed up the last of their belongings and are headed to the airport, where Hannah is waiting for them.
And where Elway has just entered.
"Dexter" Short Cuts:
* Dexter's trying to sell his boat before leaving for Argentina, and after running down a list of fancy customizations, gadgetry, and the boat's motor power for a potential buyer, all the guy says is, "I was hoping she'd have a bigger beer cooler." Replies Dexter, "Maybe she's not the boat for you."
* The episode title comes from something young, adorable Harrison says, upon finding out his dad packed away one of his favorite toys. "You put monkey in a box!" he accuses Dexter, referring to his sock monkey.
* No screen time for them, but it was nice that Dexter's stepkids, once a big part of his life, were at least acknowledged before the finale. Dexter's giving teen Astor his SUV, he tells Deb. Yeah, that should make up for getting her mom killed.
Questions still to be answered in the September 22 series finale:
* Will Deb live? Deb isn't just wounded by Saxon's gun; it looks like a life-threatening injury. Rumors have persisted about a "Dexter" spinoff, but it doesn't necessarily have to revolve around Deb…
* U.S. Marshal Clayton is a goner, but Elway's still on Hannah's trail, and was last seen at the airport. Will he meet up with her there before Dexter can?
* Will Dexter find out about Deb before he leaves town? If so, there's no way he's letting Saxon get away again, right?
* So ol' Joey Quinn has had Deb's engagement ring in his desk ever since she dumped him, throughout his entire relationship with Jamie Batista. No reason they would have shown that if he didn't plan on offering it again, no?
"Dexter" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.