Watching all of season 7 of Dexter, and then trying to summarize my reaction, has left me feeling as confused and conflicted as any of the main series characters as portrayed by Michael C. Hall and company. On the positive side - and there are plenty of positives this season - the plot arc is chockablock with all sorts of entanglements in terms of romance and relationships ranging from excellent (Dexter and the female serial killer Hannah) to interesting (the continuing semi-incestuous fascination of Deb for Dexter as well as the romantic obsession of the gay Ukrainian mobster played by the always-excellent Ray Stevenson) to clunky and generally awful (Quinn's involvement with the Ukrainian stripper.) In a voiceover that's insightful and almost sweet, if you're open to a "Serial Killers in Love" kind of vibe, Dexter analyzes his dark side and his past relationships with women in earlier seasons along the lines of `Lila was drawn to my darkness. Rita was blind to it. Lumen needed it. But Hannah is able to see both sides of me and to like both sides." Of course, ultimately, none of the relationships that are so central to Season 7 survive anywhere near to being intact. In a whole variety of ways, Dexter Season 7 mirrors what the late movie critic Roger Ebert concluded about the Michelle Williams/Jason Segal film Take This Waltz: "The wounding power of love, its essential asymmetry and unfairness, permeates (this film). The one thing you know for sure is that someone - maybe everyone - is going to get hurt."
Coupled with all of the generally appealing exploration of interpersonal stuff there are some relatively interesting villains (which in and of itself puts this season far out in front of the disappointing season six) as well as some tricky plot twists which are generally successful in helping further the whole `will he or won't he finally be caught' thread that underlies the whole series. A particularly clever ploy by Captain LaGuerta at the end of the penultimate episode worked well for me despite the fact that the whole premise was - on reflection - fairly implausible. (Spoiler alert: La Guerta - suspicious of Dexter - arranges for the aged mobster who had Dexter's mother killed to be released from prison in order to monitor his movements on the outside and try to trap Dexter in a murder attempt.) Likewise, there is a totally ambiguous cliffhanger element in one episode - `would Deb go so far as to drug herself and crash her car to throw suspicion onto Dexter's girlfriend and get her out of the way so Deb can have Dexter all to herself'- that is a lot of fun to contemplate until it gets resolved in the next episode.
All of those positive things aside, the season simultaneously manages to be hugely frustrating in the sense that the writers seem to have been so concerned with all of character analysis and exploration that they phoned in a lot of the writing in terms of the "Dexter and his dark passenger" narrative. The net result was a plethora of WTF moments where logic and forensic reality (as well as what we know about the characters in the past) just seem to have been cast aside due to an excess of laziness. (Second spoiler alert: Toward the end of the series a key plot point involves a car crash in which Deb has been injured after presumably drinking water that has been spiked with Xanax. The writers just glossed over the fact that Xanax in tablet form is virtually insoluble in water and that the tablets Deb had a prescription for as well as the less-likely Xanax drops BOTH would have had a disgustingly noticeable flavor - apparently niggling little details clearly deemed too inconsequential relative to the demands of the plot. Likewise, Dexter makes a point of giving Deb a pen that has been tipped with the drug aconite supposedly as a way to establish the guilt of his serial killer paramour Hannah in the death of a true-crime writer, even though the viewer is totally aware that the tox screen done on the victim specifically focused on plant poisons such as aconite and none was found. Duh.)
Bottom line: This season is far superior to season six and I'll certainly plan on sticking around for the next - and final - season that's upcoming. My hope, however, is that having plumbed the depths of the main characters' emotions and motivations the writers will avoid going too much more overboard with that sort of thing (cf avoid the mistake that has made Bones such an unrewarding televisional experience lately) and will get back to focusing on the primary premise of Dexter and the thing that made it such a breath of fresh air when it first appeared.