A Look Back at Dexter Before It Ends

November 8, 2013
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It’s a sad day indeed; the adventures of Dexter Morgan, serial killer, widower, blood spatter nerd, and, oh yeah, serial killer, has ended. But, like all good things, it had to reach a finale, and seriously, it’s an end we’ve wanted for quite some time. Ever since Michael C. Hall hauntingly uttered the words, “Tonight’s the night,” we’ve been captivated by his performance, but truthfully, it’s a relief it’s over. After eight seasons, the show feels stretched, the life drawn out of some of the characters, and much of the charm worn out. This is not to say the show has become terrible; rather, that it is ready, unlike many of Dexter’s victims, to die.

Before I go into why Dexter should end here and never come back, let’s take a look into what really made the show. First, Dexter’s opening episode was unlike anything television had seen. We met Dexter’s dual lives as well as a little of the twisted family dynamic and a macabre, colorful cast of backup players. Then, all of a sudden, Ice Truck Killer! The show hooked us instantly into the mystery of a bloodless corpse. And then, right at the end, that little invitation for Dexter to come out and play. That first season was spot on, truly twisted, and made us think back as to all the clues about the Ice Truck Killer’s true relationship to Dexter.

The monster's back

But then the show continued. The first season could have stood alone and reveled in being a perfect, revolutionary television experience. However, the folks at Showtime like bathing in money, so seven more seasons there were. Of course, there were some incredible characters and stories from the latter seasons, albeit nothing as tightly written and surprising as Brian Moser’s meticulous plot to win over his dear brother.

Miguel Prado, for one, didn’t seem like much, but he turned out to be sweet villain. And he was properly frightening, but nothing compared to John Lithgow’s Trinity Killer. Trinity’s arc was the closest thing to true Dexter; we were constantly on edge up until Trinity’s final act. Actually, Trinity’s final kill could have been a great stopping point for the show as well, as Rita’s involvement in Dexter’s life was a constant challenge to his shadow self, as well as the tragic heart of the overall story. She was ultimately the price he paid for trying for happiness; finding his son in a pool of blood was the end of a complete thematic arc and could have left a pit in viewers forever.

But, as said before, Showtime likes money in vats… so four more seasons followed that.

The true magic of Dexter came from excellently macabre moments between Dexter and other characters, serial killers, cops, and wives alike. It was the intensity of regular interactions juxtaposed against violence that made the writing, acting, and overall appeal of the show. What happened, I believe, is that somewhere along the way, Dexter’s real identity got too hard to cover up, and the writers had to compensate for that. Julia Stiles victim-turned-killer was an aggressive ploy to forget Rita, and the whole religious murderers were a bit over the top and silly. Deb finding out Dexter’s identity should have just ended the show (three times too late), but instead they had to compromise everything about one of the strongest and most troubled characters just to keep Dexter a secret. Deb falling for Dexter, a plot point that soon vanished anyway, gave Dexter another free pass that, at that point, he didn’t deserve.

Dexter is definitely going down as damn good television, and highly addictive to boot. But really, after Doakes got axed by a villain that wasn’t more than a crazy lady (Dexter is notorious for not knowing how to write a female villain), it became clear that a lot of great characters and storylines would be used for Dexter’s freedom, and not for a satisfying, actually dangerous conclusion. And after watching the concluding episode, I’m sad to say that my predictions were correct, and the writers lost their steam. Here’s looking forward to a better venue for Michael C. Hall and the rest of the cast in the future.

E.B. Hill will critique the final episode of Dexter in his upcoming review, After Dexter.

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