Showtime’s Dexter panel at Comic-Con International kicked off with a video recapping the sixth season, followed by a spoiler-filled sneak peek at what viewers can expect when the drama returns Sept. 30.
The preview (see below) picks up where the previous season left off, with Deb pulling her gun on her brother Dexter after witnessing him kill Travis Marshall, the Doomsday Killer, in an abandoned church.
Moderator Ralph Garman then introduced the packed room to executive producers Scott Buck and Wendy West, stars Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter, and the drama’s newest addition, Chuck alum Yvonne Strahovski.
Garman wondered whether the produced felt as if they had painted themselves into a corner with the season finale. "No not at all,” Buck replied. “We very much knew where we were going at the time, and we felt like it was time to finally start telling that story. It's just the opposite of painting us into the corner. It opens up so many new stories for us to explore."
Questioned about her role in the seventh season, Strahovski revealed she plays Hannah McKay, a character who “meets Dexter and helps him with an investigation in an old murder mystery.” She said joining an established cast has been an “interesting” experience, saying, “I've never been a guest on an existing television show before. … It's such a great show, with wonderful actors, and wonderful fans. Everyone has been very lovely and welcoming."
Asked if she thinks her character Deb knows what she witnessed in the Season 6 finale, Carpenter replied, “Um, no? She's taking one step at a time, and taking one step forward and 10 back."
Recalling his favorite moment from the series, West singled out an episode from the fourth season. "During the Thanksgiving dinner between Michael and [John] Lithgow … every time they yelled ‘Cut,’ we just broke into laughter,” she said. “It was just the craziest, funniest, strangest Thanksgiving dinner ever."
One fan wondered how Hall would feel about a musical episode, and then asked if she could have his name card. "Sure, you can have my name card. See? All you have to do is ask,” he replied, giving her the card. “As for a musical episode, I always thought in the final season it would be fun to do 12 finales, like 12 different versions of how it ends, and one of those could be a musical episode. But I don't know that's ever likely to happen."
Addressing the evolution of his character, Hall said, "We see that Dexter has learned to be human, not just in shiny, happy ways … but maybe the darker side of what it is to be human, limited, paranoid, self-serving …"
But when asked in what ways he and Dexter are alike, Hall was stumped. "Um, we look a lot alike,” he offered. “Um, oh, boy. I think he's definitely a lot more fastidious than I am. I don't really pick up after myself as well as he does, but that wasn't the question. It's a tricky thing to play a character this long, and I think eventually the writers start to write not just for the characters but for the actors who are playing them. So I try not to spend too much time trying to assess the parallels between Dexter and myself, otherwise I'd go even crazier."
Carpenter had an easier time comparing herself to Deb. "Earlier on I think she and I were a lot alike,” she admitted. “We were both green and figuring it all out. I'd like to think hopefully we’re sort of going different ways now, but I still learn a lot from it. I don't think you can ever fully pull it apart."
Promoted to lieutenant last season, Deb enters the seventh season more comfortable with her authority, but also grappling with her feelings for her adoptive brother. "It's not that she's shying away from her new power that she has, her authority, but she actually needs it. It's the one card that she has to play, and it's also the one card that will protect and save her. At any second, if I live after what we saw [in the preview], I would tell someone to put cuffs on him," Carpenter said, pointing at Hall. "And I think he knows that.”
Asked whether Dexter has an overarching them, Buck replied, “It's one of the simplest themes of all, and it's what are the consequences of love, which we've seen in a million shows and a million movies but from the perspective of Dexter becomes something completely different."
Hall admitted it feels “amazing” to play such a beloved character, saying, “As far as publicity, this is the one that feels the most gratifying. You guys are here because you like the show, not because somebody made you come as part of your job. I almost am disinclined to even go there … to consider how many different people project their own ideas of the world onto this character. I'm thrilled that the character is one that allows people to project their fears, hopes, dreams, fascinations onto it. It's a once in a lifetime thing. It's like a spark, that's for sure."
Addressing how the characters will evolve in the new season, Carpenter confessed, "This is the first year where -- I don't know if I should say ‘I’ or ‘Deb’ or ‘we’ -- I've felt lost. There is no compass. I've never moved with such uncertainty with every line, with every fucking bad word. So in a weird way it feels like the tables are turned, like Dexter's the one that moves with certainty, and I feel like I'm the one that's fucking trapped in my head, so I don't know."
Asked about Dexter’s son Harrison growing older, Hall acknowledged, "As he gets older, becomes more receptive, it becomes a dicier proposition every day … and as one of his guardians, now that Deb has a sense of what she's dealing with, with her brother, that changes things as well. He has someone encouraging him to face what he's trying to pull off. But Harrison is still in the picture, and very cute."
On the subject of his most satisfying kill on the series, Hall pointed to Lithgow’s Season 4 antagonist Arthur Mitchell, AKA the Trinity Killer. "The biggest prize would have to be Trinity, just because he was at that point the most prolific killer that Dexter had ever killed,” he said. “But they're like my children really, you can't love just one."
Lithgow was mentioned again as one of Hall’s favorite guest stars, along with Yasiin Bey, who played Brother Sam in the sixth season. “I was a big fan of the artist formerly known as Mos Def,” Hall said. “I was a big fan of his.”
Questioned about writing for Vince Masuka, the sex-obsessed forensics investigator played by C.S. Lee, West replied, "He's so Masuka. He's such a pleasure to write for, you sort of look forward to scenes to give him, what else he can make dirty. … We’re learning more about his personal life, such as it is."
West also confessed, "It’s very fun to write a kill scene. It’s always fun to watch what Jen can do with her cursing. … It's really all fun."
Turning to Hanna the new character played by Strahovski, Buck said, "There's a slightly mysterious quality about her. She may seem very likeable, she may seem like the sweetest girl, but ..."
Asked what the most embarrassing thing to happen on set, Hall admitted, "One time I rammed the Slice of Life [Dexter’s fishing boat] into a pier -- $8,000 worth of damage, and I didn't have to pay for it!"