Just a heads up—Spoiler Alert!!!
After what will be eight seasons and 96 episodes, the series finale of Dexter is upon us this Sunday evening. Showtime’s longest running hit will finally end its very successful run, but looking back: how successful was it really? Granted, from a business perspective it was a huge success—ratings, merchandise, and awards galore can’t be ignored. It solidified Showtime as a real contender in the TV world. ‘Weeds’ started the ascent to the top and ‘Homeland’ has locked them into position. We now think HBO, AMC, and SHOWTIME when it comes to exceptional programming—or at least the Emmy’s do.
What happens if we look the show from a fluctuating creative standpoint? Sure, it has always been fun to watch, but was it always that good?
Let’s begin with a mini recap:
Season 1 – Ice Truck Killer
Season 2 – Lyla & Doakes
Season 3 – Miguel Prado
Season 4 – The Trinity Killer
Season 5 – Lumen and Jordan Chase
Season 6 – Doomsday Killer
Season 7 – Deb knows and Hannah Mckay
Season 8– Dr. Vogel and the Brain Surgeon
The show hit the airwaves and started ‘killing it’ immediately. While some people couldn’t handle how slow and boring it seemed, season one had a large following overall. In the recent trend of main characters as the anti-good guy (Tony Soprano, Walter White, and even Dr. House), Dexter fit right in. Along with the unique character came the mythology, the thriller, and the gore.
Season two, while a little weaker, continued on with the mythology and allowed the audience feel like the show was building toward something. Characters were growing and plots were layered. The tension filled back and forth between Doakes and Dexter, paralleled with his lies to Rita and the crazy Lyla, all worked pretty well. Season three slowed down a bit, but still felt fresh with Dexter exploring the idea of sharing his secrets and becoming a father. Jimmy Smits was a welcome addition to the cast. Then we got to experience season four. Up until that point, viewers had figured out the basic structure and formula of each season and, needless to say, it got a little old. Dexter has a foe, he learns something about himself from this foe, his sister and somebody else gets closer to his secret, everything works in Dexter’s favor, and the season ends with no real consequences for our favorite blood spatter expert. Also, Deb makes poor boyfriend decisions. However, season four shook everything up.
Arthur Mitchell, aka The Trinity Killer, is still the best foil for Dexter Morgan. This season had so much energy and forward momentum, ending with the best moment in the show’s history: Rita’s demise. Woah! They actually did it. They broke the mold! There were consequences for Dexter this time around. What will happen next? I have to wait a whole year for this the start up again? That moment was all the rage on social media. Dexter fans couldn’t wait for season five—something we would regret dearly.
Seasons five and six were horribly disappointing. Rita’s death was the creative point of no return for this show. After shattering the mold, they went right back to formula and expected audiences to be gripped by, in comparison to season’s past, boring and mundane plots. Jordan Chase didn’t cut it. Deb almost catching her brother with Lumen was run og the mill plotting at that point in time. The Doomsday Killer twist was trite and insulted our intelligence as an audience. Then Deb finally caught Dexter and learned the truth and somehow the writers messed that up too.
Debra Morgan is a good detective, even if Dexter has been helping her behind the scenes. As one of the strongest female characters on TV in years, Deb was done a disservice in the way she figured out her brother’s secret. She’s in love with him? Really? She couldn’t have caught him because she’s an excellent, relentless cop? She had to be made into the damsel in distress and feel the need to share her feelings at the ‘wrong’ time to catch him? That’s the way you introduce the storyline we’ve been waiting for years? Shame on you, Dexter writing room. Then we had to wait for season seven, which, in turn, actually became the first enjoyable season in years.
The changed dynamic, and great acting from Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter, is what salvaged this show from continuing into the bowls of the over overrated TV pit. As an audience member, we were rewarded with conversations that we’ve run through our heads over and over again. Hannah Mckay’s appearance and actual chemistry with Dexter was just another added bonus of the season. The stakes were higher for everybody, the layers of trouble in the Morgan siblings’ relationship doubled, and we were seeing something a little bit out of the mold again. While not in the same league of Trinity, anything was better than seasons 5 and 6. Even the season 7 finale had a little more ‘pop’ than usual when Debra killed LaGuerta to save her brother.
Dexter is a show in which only one aspect actually works: the relationship between Deb and Dexter. It is the sole reason the show is engaging. LaGuerta represents one of the larger issues this program has had over the years. Every other plot line is obsolete, as the secondary characters are bland and tragically boring. Their stories never truly line up with the major plot lines and their character arcs over the years have brought no extra enjoyment to viewers. The writers clearly had no idea what to do with these characters, as they kept shuffling everything around, trying to keep audiences interested as opposed to entertained. In other words, other than Masuka’s one-liners, these characters don’t add anything to the show, especially since Doakes’ demise. I guess they keep the running time at an 58 minutes. So, thankfully LaGuerta was killed, as the writers really had no idea what to do with her for a few seasons.
Now we are in season 8. The final season. Dr. Vogel’s role in Dexter’s story altered the Dexter mythology a little bit, making Harry seem weaker that we knew, but it has added a bit more bite to the season. It’s still engaging, but feels a little more “moldy” than usual, as the writers start to explore really intriguing questions (training a protégé) and then cutting it off abruptly (the Brain Surgeon death of Zach Hamilton). This has happened many times before, most recently involving Brother Sam and Louis Green, sadly, fitting the mold of seasons past.
This Sunday is the series finale and it seems as though we are headed for something very much in-the-box and realm of what Dexter has done before—a clean (yet bloody) safe ending. Steering away from a major reveal of his secret, jail time, or something more epic and grand for a smaller race against a hurricane to get to Argentina may be the downfall of this ending when looking back. After eight years of watching this one character, I’m not happy with the idea that a newly introduced bounty hunter and private eye are going to attempt to bring Dexter down. That isn’t a fulfilling instigator for a final episode and I am uninterested in a wounded Deb. It’s just cliche finale plotting. Other shows do this kind of thing in season finales. (Although I do like that he will risk everybody’s safety for the women he loves, Hannah.) Granted, I could be wrong, but as shocking and mold breaking as Rita’s death was, I don’t trust the writers to pull an insane punch again. Hopefully I’m wrong, as I’d like to see some real consequences for the characters in this final hour.
Through all of the show runner changes and turnover in the writing room, this show has had its highs and lows. The ups were fantastic and the downs almost had me stop watching completely, but overall it has been engaging and I’m glad I stuck with it. And if I’ve learned anything from Dexter, it’s: Don’t move to Miami cause there are sooooooo many serial killers there.