WARNING: CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR DEXTER.
Finally. It has finally happened. Dexter, the other show that ended recently, went out with the stale stench of mediocrity that has plagued the show since its fifth season. In these days of superhero obsession and vigilantism on screen, it’s perhaps no surprise that Dexter‘s popularity has continued to grow (Season 8’s opening episode was the watched ever until the show’s finale), it’s just a shame that the quality hasn’t.
Upon hitting small screens back in 2006, it came as a breath of fresh air – a unique and truly original series, full of intrigue, wit and suspense. Yet after a truly ballsy ending to Season 4 (that would’ve made a perfect ending for the show as a whole), that saw Dexter’s innocent and sweet wife Rita left murdered in bath full of blood, the show has meandered along seemingly unsure which direction to take – each new season trying something new, regardless of logic or character arcs.
After various later opportunities (when he’s almost caught by Debra in Season 5, when he is caught by Debra in Season 6 etc.), the show has finally ended after its EIGHTH season – an all-round damp squib, of which the final episode did little to redeem matters.
In the aftermath of Vogel’s murder, a game of cat and mouse ensues between Dexter and Saxon. Eventually, Dexter has Saxon under the knife, before changing his mind and allowing Debra to arrest him instead, as he sets off for a new life in Argentina with Hannah and Harrison. Just as the happy ending is so tangibly close, Saxon breaks free and shoots Debra, causing Dexter to drop his plans and return. Saxon is arrested and Debra subsequently suffers complications causing her to be left with permanent brain damage. Dexter contrives to kill Saxon in a way that makes it look (sort of) like self-defence. Dexter then takes Debra off the life support machine before faking his own death and leaving Harrison and Hannah alone in Argentina.
In spite of convincing us for the entire season that Dexter had developed emotions and actually loved his fellow serial killer Hannah (one of the few interesting story arcs and believable in terms of performance and chemistry) and that he had changed, grown and evolved as a character and a human being, the ending appeared to suggest otherwise. Having switched off the life support machine of the most important person in his life (his brain damaged sister Debra), he gives her a supposedly emotional burial at sea – the same place he dumps the bodies of the despicable people that he secretly murders. He then proceeds to (somehow) fake his own death by driving his boat head on into an oncoming tropical storm.
Thus he ends up truly alone, assumed dead by the only two people left in his life – utterly neglected son, Harrison and Hannah. And why? Perhaps as penance for the guilt he feels over the death of his beloved sister Debra? Or perhaps as some futile attempt to protect his son and girlfriend (who herself is a serial killer and wanted fugitive) from himself? And if this second option is the case, then why now? Why not when he was being investigated by various fellow law enforcement officers? Or the numerous times he compromised his sister’s integrity/ruined her life? Or when any number of people he was close to were brutally murdered as he was hunted by another serial killer? Any of these times would’ve made sense for him to disappear in order to protect others – but now, when he was free from investigation and suspicion, when he had just finished proclaiming that his infamous need to kill was gone and that all he needed was Hannah and when she was the only person in the World (apart from Season 5’s never again mentioned Lumen) who knew his secret, is a little hard to swallow.
In spite of never being a show that relied on great performances (Michael C. Hall aside), such as Breaking Bad or Homeland, the main actors (Michael C. Hall included) have been phoning it in for quite some time now. Prior to this final season, the addition of Charlotte Rampling as some kind of ‘psychopath whisperer’, while utterly preposterous, at least inspired interest. Yet, to say that her performance was soulless and empty would be an understatement. The cast themselves seemed as tired and disillusioned at their characters must be, and a number of fans certainly have been. For quite some time, the show has shown little or no credible character arc – characteristics, motivations and personalities seem to change from scene to scene, making the plot feel convoluted and forced.
At times, it felt like the creators had run out of ideas and were just killing time – the introduction of Zach and the idea of Dexter passing the torch; Masuka’s daughter; the Joey, Jamie and Debra love triangle; Joey taking the sergeants exam – all of these elements had no significance or meaning in the final season. The Wire‘s mantra is ‘all the pieces matter’ (a formula present in the incredible Breaking Bad also),whereas for Dexter, it seemed to be that none of them did.
As a long suffering fan, for me, it would’ve been better if he had been caught and/or arrested and/or killed when turning off Debra’s life support. Or if he had simply killed Saxon in a less contrived and rational way – finally being punished for an understandable crime of passion and rage as opposed to his moral, methodical picking off of serial killers. (When was the last time he did that by the way?) Yet to leave him in some sort of self enforced exile seems rather weak and unsatisfying, particularly with how much Dexter has been to-ing and fro-ing the longer the show has worn on. It also, potentially, leaves events ripe for revisit in the future (PLEASE, NO).
Even his claim that “As much as I may have pretended otherwise, for so long all I’ve wanted was to be like other people, to feel what they felt… Now that I do, I just want it to stop.” felt false. For me, it has appeared that far from wanting to be like other people, he has felt that he needed to be like other in order to fit in and reinforce his cover life. If anything, Dexter has also seemed bored by social normalities – one of the show’s great black comic elements.
So as the sun sets on Dexter’s time in Miami, I can’t help but feel mixed emotions – relief that the show has final found its way to its protagonist’s table, yet disappointment that what started out as a brilliant TV show was allowed to limp on long passed its sell by date.
That said, everyone’s favourite serial killer, or at least the memory of what he once was, will be missed, as even in the disappointing later seasons, there was still nothing quite like Dexter.