Want to bestow an Emmy on a series regular who had to upend virtually everything she’d known about her character for six years?
Look no further than Jennifer Carpenter, alias Miami police detective (at that point, anyway) Debra Morgan of Showtime’s “Dexter.”
The actress has fully occupied the role from her first moment, and brutal cases, challenging personal relationships and clashes with superiors have put the frequently but naturally profane Debra through a vast range of tests. And then, there was last year’s Season 7, something else for her — and for Carpenter — altogether.
It was that way from the very first moment, technically the last moment of Season 6 replayed, as Debra finally caught her serial-killer half-brother Dexter (Michael C. Hall) in the act. The struggles of wrong vs. right and justice vs. enabling kicked in immediately for her, and they would remain powerful battles for the entire season as Debra questioned her instincts toward her relative and the law.
The result? Very heavy lifting for Carpenter�emotionally, and you couldn’t take your eyes off her any time she appeared. Debra’s indecisiveness over what to do at many key moments demanded a performance that was unpredictable and then some, and Carpenter delivered with breathtaking consistency.
That went straight up to, and carried through, the season’s climactic scene. Debra had to decide whether to shoot Dexter or their police boss LaGuerta (Lauren Velez), who had discovered Dexter’s secret life and surely would have turned him in. Agonizingly countering everything she believed in, Debra pulled the trigger. And if you need to know who was spared … well, the show isn’t called “LaGuerta.”
Carpenter is continuing her brilliance in Season 8 of “Dexter,” its last one, but it took Season 7 to get her and Debra there. An Emmy nomination, not to mention the statue itself, would be a justified reward for a talent who’s kept digging deep while taking us along on a revealing and thrilling journey.