Book: Darkly Dreaming Dexter
TV Show: “Dexter“
Genre: Fiction, horror, murder, serial-killers, one of the worst series finales of all time or would a dream have been worse?
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars (tv show), 4.5 out of 5 stars (book)
Summary: The once great serial-killer Dexter Morgan is now a shell of his former self, choosing to give up murdering those who don’t deserve to continue living by running off to Argentina to start his life over with the woman who tried to murder his sister and the son who is unable to work a treadmill properly. The only problem is the murderous psychopath the Brain Surgeon is on the loose and Hannah is wanted by the American government. Can they escape and live happily ever after or will “Dexter” get the laziest series finale on television? Spoilers: it’s the latter.
It’s not often that a series I have invested a significant portion of my life in (seven years to be precise) ends in such an unsatisfactory way that I have uneasy dreams. This however is precisely what happened last night after subjecting myself to the tragedy that was the season finale of “Dexter” in which apparently my brain thought it was more preferable that Dexter had a secret daughter who worked in a convenience store and absolutely no epilogue.
This conclusion was especially depressing because Season One, which followed the events in the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Season Two which deals with the ramifications of Dexter’s dirty little secret being discovered and Season Four which featured the Trinity Killer, starring the amazing John Lithgow were all impressive moments in television history. Unfortunately from Season Five on the series floundered, only to die a horrible death with the very last episode. This is what happens when you decide to rush an early finale.
WARNING: Spoilers obviously abound from here on out.
Season Eight has a very thin plot which revolves around the sudden arrival of Dr. Evelyn Vogel, who helped Dexter’s adoptive father Harry create the code that keeps Dexter from murdering innocents. In the season, she needs Dexter’s help stopping a dastardly serial-killing psychopath who keeps threatening her with pieces of people’s brains dubbed the Brain Surgeon.
Deb meanwhile is trying to deal with the ramifications that she killed her boss to keep her brother’s murderous tendencies a secret and it takes almost half the season for her to return to Miami Metro, deal with her own life and get back together with her almost fiance Quinn.
Finally there’s Hannah McKay, who despite poisoning Deb last season is back and needs help getting out of her abusive marriage and a way to escape the country. She is ultimately helped along by Dexter who realizes he is still in love with her and Deb who I guess is over the whole poisoning thing.
In the penultimate episode the show hits its biggest snag yet as Dexter, a serial-killer who only kills the denizens of the world realizes he can now stop killing because he’s in love. Ugh. Just saran wrap me to a table and kill me. Dexter comes to this conclusion while about to kill the Brain Surgeon and instead of ending his life he asks Deb to take him into custody the legal way. You know, even though he knows Dexter is a serial-killer. Deb arrives and in a twisted turn of events the Brain Surgeon escapes and shoots her.
Not realizing that his sister has been wounded, Dexter leaves to get ready for his new life, to be a co-dependent, non-murderous snore-fest.
Ever since the return of fellow serial-killer and love interest Hannah McKay (who everyone seemed to forgive for poisoning them), Dexter Morgan has seemed poised to skip off into the sunset to live happily ever after with her and his son Harrison, because ruining his son’s life is totally worth it if he and another serial-killer discover to end their murderous urges they just have to love.
However to end with a sunshine, lollipops and rainbows ending would be a disservice to the fans so I’m glad they didn’t go that route. Unfortunately, the path they took may have been even worse.
So here’s what happened in a show that quite possibly had a worse ending than “Weeds.” Which is saying a lot considering “Weeds” focused on being set so far in the future yet decided to resolve nothing (especially Andy and Nancy) except that the makeup crew thinks that putting terrible facial hair on their cast would make them look older.
The episode follows Hannah and Harrison as they try to escape the US for Argentina to avoid imprisonment while Dexter rushes to the hospital to be with the injured Deb, who despite all assurances that she’ll live ends up slipping into a brain damaged coma by the end of the episode.
An upset Dexter tries to kill the Brain Surgeon for revenge but the Surgeon is captured by police. Reminding himself that he can’t change his nature, Dexter shows up at Miami Metro and stabs the Brain Surgeon to death with a pen (which I must admit was pretty bad ass) and the worst cops ever go along and pretend that it was self defense since the Brain Surgeon kinda stabbed him first. Sort of.
With a storm approaching Miami, Dexter realizes that his life choices only hurts those he loves and he goes to the hospital where the staff is so distracted that he’s able to take his sister off life support. He is then magically able to wheel Deb’s dead body out of the hospital without being noticed and onto his boat which he happened to be able to dock right outside without any trouble. Or being seen. Because he’s invisible?
He drives into the middle of the ocean and disposes of Deb’s body much like he does with his prior victims, making her death both pointless and meaningless.
Meanwhile, Hannah, who has refused to cut or dye her hair this entire episode, you know, after walking around Miami as a known and escaped murderer is able to leave the country with Harrison. They even receive one farewell call from Dexter who has driven into the storm after disposing of Deb’s body. Cell phone service is just fabulous in the middle of a wind tossed ocean.
Realizing the only way to not destroy those he loves is by removing himself from their lives, we then see Dexter committing suicide via hurricane by driving into it. Pieces of his boat are found the next day and Batista gets a call that they didn’t find a body (but for some reason he doesn’t receive a call that Deb’s body was lost/stolen). Hannah sees a news piece about Dexter’s probable death and walks into the sunset with Harrison and somewhere in Alaska or wherever a still alive and bearded Dexter is punishing himself for his sins by sadly working in a lumber yard. Also by being able to drive into a deadly storm and somehow survive.
Yes, Dexter fakes his own death (even though the audience saw him drive headfirst into a storm) a la The Dark Knight Rises which is somehow even less satisfying than him killing himself via horrible CGI tropical storm. Also, he leaves his biological son to live in hiding with a wanted murderer for the rest of his life.
That’s it. No discovery, no comeuppance for the death of innocent people, just a sad self-imposed future as a lumberjack. A possibly immortal lumberjack who may still murder people. It’s sort of ambiguous.
Ultimately, while watching a show like “Dexter,” specifically one about an anti-hero serial-killer, it was never a question of if he would get caught but a question of when he would get caught. An idea they played around with to great effect in Season Two and much less successfully in Season Seven, but hey, points for trying.
And sadly we the loyal viewers never got what we were waiting for. The closest we get in the finale is Batista and Quinn acknowledging that Dexter killed the Brain Surgeon out of revenge for his sister being turned into a vegetable. Not even close.
This is why the final season of “Breaking Bad” is so great, we’ve been building up to Walter White (who I still believe can be redeemed by the way) getting revealed as Heisenberg for four and a half seasons and it’s finally here with eight glorious episodes about the aftermath. The fact that Dexter was never discovered to be the Bay Harbor Butcher, regardless of if he got caught was a huge disservice to the fan base.
Better Ways “Dexter” Could Have Ended:
-It turns out Dexter was dead the whole time
-Dexter was dead and simultaneously Dan Humphrey the whole time
-Surprise, the series actually took place on Mars
-Everyone knew Dexter was a serial-killer but went along with it in a Truman Show type plot
-Enormous asteroid destroys Earth
All Joking Aside, Actually Better Ways “Dexter” Could Have Ended:
-Harrison, disturbed by what his father was and the death of his own mother in front of him is born of blood and becomes his own breed of serial-killer
-Batista looks through LaGuerta’s evidence and realizes Dexter was the Bay Harbor Butcher all along, but by this point Dexter has reached sanctuary in Argentina (end with Dexter walking out of Argentinian apartment with wicked glint in his eye a la the opening sequence)
-Pretty much any other way but by becoming a lumberjack
And if you didn’t like any of my ideas, here’s what former “Dexter” producer Clyde Phillips had planned, assuming he had stayed on past Season Four when the show remained intensely watchable.
“In the very last scene of the series Dexter wakes up. And everybody is going to think, ‘Oh, it was a dream.’ And then the camera pulls back and back and back and then we realize, ‘No, it’s not a dream.’ Dexter’s opening his eyes and he’s on the execution table at the Florida Penitentiary. They’re just starting to administer the drugs and he looks out through the window to the observation gallery.
“And in the gallery are all the people that Dexter killed—including the Trinity Killer and the Ice Truck Killer (his brother Rudy), LaGuerta who he was responsible killing, Doakes who he’s arguably responsible for, Rita, who he’s arguably responsible for, Lila. All the big deaths, and also whoever the weekly episodic kills were. They are all there.
“That’s what I envisioned for the ending of Dexter. That everything we’ve seen over the past eight seasons has happened in the several seconds from the time they start Dexter’s execution to the time they finish the execution and he dies. Literally, his life flashed before his eyes as he was about to die. I think it would have been a great, epic, very satisfying conclusion.”
Yeah, I would have taken that. I would have taken anything.
If you need me, I’ll just pretend that everything that happened post Season Four was a delusional nightmare of what could be if Dexter continued killing brought on by the traumatic death of Rita thanks to Dexter’s horrible life choices/serial-killing ways.
God Dexter, look at your life, look at your choices.