TV Review: After Dexter

November 8, 2013
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In A Look Back At Dexter Before It Ends, E.B. Hill cast a retrospective eye over the series as a whole as it prepared for its finale. Now that the fat lady has been wrapped in cellophane and stabbed through the chest, Hill pronounces his final verdict.

Warning: major spoilers!

And there you have it folks, Dexter Morgan is a lumberjack. After eight seasons of waiting and being all kinds of stressed, Dexter ends with everyone’s favorite serial killer cutting down trees and living in a depressing log cabin. I guess that’s the price he pays for, you know, killing everyone and Debra. In an interview, Charlotte Rampling said that fans of the show would be real sad, but the sadness comes more from feeling cheated than the actual story. You’d think there would be much more of a payoff at the end of such a long series. I was wrong about that, to say the least.

Let’s recap a little. We begin in an airport. Hannah tells Dexter that Elway (and his 90s haircut) is there, so Dexter pulls the whole bomb threat routine. Then everyone leaves the airport and a hurricane (named after Dexter’s mother it seems) is paid by the writers to make the plot work. Hannah and Harrison leave on a bus, but Elway’s on the bus (he’s magic and a ninja apparently). Dan Vogel is somehow not spotted with a gun in his hand and bleeding from everywhere, then cuts out a vet’s tongue. Batista stops Vogel where he’s intent on killing Deb in the hospital, and then we find out Deb is brain dead and that miracles don’t happen.

This series will make a killing

In the one awesome scene of the episode, Dexter kills Vogel with a pen and gets away with it, then dons his murderin’ outfit to take Deb off life support. So it’s like that time Snape killed Dumbledore, except that Dexter isn’t magic and he throws Deb into the Gulf Stream. But, oh way, he is magic because he survives being in a hurricane and starts a hollow life as a lumberjack?

It’s a weird episode. There’s very little voiceover, no phantom dad telling Dexter he’s messing stuff up, and most of the other characters are just not there. Overly dramatic at times, it’s real different from the rest of the series, with none of the macabre, dark humor of its renaissance. It’s simply depressing, and really not fun to watch. The entire time you’re expecting a major twist, but it’s no surprise that Dexter survives, and it’s not really much of a shock when Dexter kills his sister. Or, maybe it would be, if the writers had infused some of the classic Dexter sinister charm into it. Like, have Dexter take Deb’s body to a kill room. Or maybe have Deb be revived and kill Dexter. Or, even, do something, anything, that doesn’t leave a completely hopeless void in the pit of our stomachs after hoping and hoping for some kind of interesting conclusion.

True, it’s logical that Dexter would decide to leave everything behind and return to being a monster, voiceovers and humor completely banished in the process. But the show’s always had some little bit of fantasy to it, at least in the first four seasons, so why now disappoint fans with straight up darkness?

Overall, the end of the Dexter epic leaves me feeling dry and sad. Which is not how a show should make you feel if up until its last moments it had bred excitement, nervous confusion, and tingling fright. I don’t often say this, but a ridiculous cliffhanger would have been preferable (or if it had all been a dream). Fans of Dexter may rejoice that it’s finally over, but it’s hard to watch that first darkly enchanting first season and imagine it spiraling out of control into some of the least convincing, flat writing ever. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to preach this: it should have stopped after one season. We tried to empathize with a monster, make him a real person, and look what happened. A big sludgy slap in the face to an audience that really, really wanted something more.

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