All week leading up to the Dexter series finale, I knew I was going to write an article titled “Disappointing Dexter.” This is because no matter what happened in the finale, I knew the show’s writers had already flubbed the show’s eighth and final season. There was no way to salvage it in one final episode. Bottom line, I was tired of making excuses for a show that lost its luster four years ago (and some would argue more).
With Sunday’s Breaking Bad/Emmys combo, there wasn’t much time for me to drink in the final episode. So I waited until last night to watch it, totally fine with risking a full day of potential spoilers. One or two things ended up getting spoiled for me, but here’s the thing—I didn’t care. I respect TV and writing a lot, so I don’t want to lash out too much, but I really did feel cheated as someone who had devoted 95 hours to a show that really didn’t show up for the second half of the game. I went into the 96th hour knowing full and well it wouldn’t be satisfying conclusion, but I had come this far, right? I had to get some sort of closure.
So here’s what I did: I wrote the above two paragraphs of this piece, and then turned on Dexter to test whether my feelings before the finale would be the same as my feelings after.
Yikes. Not only were my negative expectations met, but they were far and away surpassed. The series finale of Dexter was pure garbage. Plain and simple. It’s almost as if the writing team sat around their table and thought out loud, “Guys, I know we’ve tried our best to circle the drain this last season, but it’s not enough. What can we do to royally piss off everyone that’s dedicated so much time to the show?” Quite honestly, I don’t like writing negative articles—bad vibes beget bad vibes. Bitch about anything on the Internet and someone will be waiting to provide serious backlash. Just look what happened to poor, misguided Peter Shih, who had some less-than-nice things to say about the city of San Francisco last month.
This is different though. Not only do I think all the show’s viewers should be angry about the finale, I’m actually prepared to get extremely personal and offensive toward anyone who enjoyed it. Showrunners and producers seem to have a knack for saying their shows’ finales are polarizing, and with Dexter, this was no different. But “polarizing” suggests that there should be a divided reaction. What we actually have here is a united front against bullshit.
I could go into heavy detail about what elements of the finale, and this season, were terrible, but I think it’s more valuable to tackle the series as a whole. Let’s start with the basics: Dexter Morgan is a serial killer. He has a troubled past. He works as a forensic blood spatter analyst at Miami Metro Homicide alongside his non-biological detective sister. He has to an urge to kill, and satiates it by murdering other killers, rapists, and degenerate bastards of the like. No one thinks it odd that he comes into frequent inexplicable contact with various killers across the duration of the series, and in private, he converses regularly with the ghost of his adoptive father. Cool. We’ve got some shit to work with here.
Moving on, the second most important character is Deb, Dexter’s aforementioned sister. She’s a sharp, no-nonsense, foul-mouthed cop who looks up to her big brother greatly, and overcomes more traumatic experiences in eight years than possibly the entire population of Miami. There’s no dispute that just with these two characters, the writers had plenty to use. Season 1 of the show was a smash hit, benefitting from the source material of Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter. It was dark, it was intense, and it was timely. TV anti-heroes were popping up left and right, from Tony Soprano to Vic Mackey and beyond. Showtime looked like it had one of the best of all. How could you get darker than making a serial killer your protagonist? The answer to this, of course, is Walter White.
Plenty of comparisons have been made between Breaking Bad and Dexter, as their final seasons have run against each other every Sunday night for the past seven weeks. Viewed objectively, you’ve got one show about a dying chemistry teacher who cooks some meth to make money for his family after he’s gone, and a show about a serial killer’s struggle both with his urge to kill and efforts to keep it all from his family (which includes a young son). Which initially sounds more daring? The reason Dexter failed as a show is because it was never willing to take the kind of risks that Breaking Bad did on its high-throttle train ride to hell. When your story centers on a character that ENJOYS murder, works at a police station, and has a cop for a sister, you have to think these pieces will all clash at some point. When they finally do at the end of season 6, absolutely nothing of consequence happens. Time and time again, the writers would take Dexter off the hook, concerning themselves more with making sure the audience liked him than providing any real compelling drama.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we’ve just witnessed Walter White suffer the full effect of all the pain he’s inflicted in Breaking Bad’s penultimate episode, “Granite State.” The writers were never afraid to write themselves into a corner and thus have to write their way out. The end product for the show’s characters hasn’t been the slightest bit comfortable for viewers, but the events that led us there were mesmerizing to watch, and for that reason they assure us that the final episode next week will absolutely stick the landing. Dexter‘s entire run had done nothing of the sort to suggest its last hurrah would be anything worth watching. So in embarrassing fashion, the series finale saw America’s favorite serial killer (the fact that he’s marketed like this is all you need to know about the show’s intentions) decide to fake his own death to “save” the people he loved from ever having to suffer from his destructive nature. This left his son fatherless and his lover lover-less. Then we faded to black. Lastly, we faded back in to learn that Dexter was actually alive and well. Living the life of a lumberjack.
I’d like to say you can’t make this shit up, but apparently you can. Never getting those 96 hours back, am I?