Dexter is Over
Warning-spoilers inside. P.S. I am assuming most of those who read this know most, if not all of the story to this point.
So, that is it. After 8 seasons, Dexter ended in dramatic, chaotic, violent and in many ways unsatisfying fashion.
For many reasons, the first season of the show will always be my favorite. I love the grittiness of it. The show was so completely different from anything I had ever watched. I was a fan from the first episode.
Most love season 4, with the performance of John Lithgow as the Trinity Killer marking the high point of the drama, which is hard to argue against. Many of those same fans feel that from this point on, the show becomes aimless, trying to recapture the power of those 12 episodes, and failing, finally culminating in the mess of seasons 7 and 8. I am not one of those fans.
Dexter for me, has been a journey of exploring what it means to be human. Diagnosed as a psychopath, Dexter lives a life of charades and lies, pretending to have emotions, pretending to care about those around him, living by a code that allows him to survive in a world he really never understands. Well, at least at first.
As the seasons progress, each challenge Dexter faces uncovers what he tries to hide-Yes, he is broken by what happened in his youth and yes, he has a near uncontrollable urge to kill others, but underneath it all, he does feel, and he does change.
At the end of every season, some set back causes him to re-evaluate what he learns about himself, most times, brushing aside his revelations as something that will only further complicate his existence. This casting aside is most often an exercise in futility as he cannot unlearn what he knows, or how that knowledge changes the course of his life. he does feel, he does have emotions and he is capable of being more.
All of this is what makes the series finale so frustratingly bad.
Dexter falls in love with Hannah and is willing to run away with her, raise his son and leave his old life behind. And while that might frustrate some fans of the “old” Dexter, it makes perfect sense in the progression we have witnessed. This time, instead of finding some reason to bury his emotions, he revels in them. He feels he is deserving of some happiness and is going to take it.
Then as usual, events spiral out of control and some choices have disastrous consequences. Rather than kill Saxon, his latest serial killer nemesis, he spares him, turning him over to his sister, Deb. Saxon escapes with the unwitting help of a federal marshal who was tracking Deb and Dexter for helping Hannah hide from the police(an absolutely idiotic scene when you take into account that Saxon was wanted for mass murder, his face all over the news and certainly, the marshal’s office as well). As he is fleeing, Saxon shoots Deb, leaving her for dead, but she is able to call an ambulance.
Complications from surgery leave Deb with severe brain damage, unable to breathe on her own. Dexter crafts another plan to kill Saxon while he is in police custody, and though he breaks every rule in the book, his former colleagues at Miami Metro let Dexter leave, calling the incident a case of self defense (again, badly executed scene). Dexter has little time to escape as a tropical storm is descending on Miami, threatening to trap him there while Hannah and Dexter’s son try to make their escape to South America.
With Saxon dispatched, Dexter returns to the hospital and in the best scene of the season, he unplugs Deb from her life support machine. We see here a fully emotionally mature Dexter. He cannot leave his sister behind in such a state and with absolute tenderness, he disconnects her from the tubes and wires, whispering “I love you,” in her ear as she flat lines.
For one final time, Dexter takes his boat out with one more body (Deb) on board. He calls Hannah as she is about to board the plane. He talks to his son, telling him to remember he loves him. Then he tosses his phone into the ocean.
He gently carries Deb’s body to the edge of the boat and like he has with hundreds of corpses, tosses her overboard.
Dexter has determined he causes the death of everyone he loves, and in order to spare Hannah and Harrison (his son), from the same fate, he fakes his own death, driving his boat into the storm where it is found, demolished the next day.
The last two scenes show Hannah finding the article detailing Dexter’s death and a bearded Dexter, living an empty life somewhere in the the northwest, driving a lumber truck, living in a broken down room. The final moment leaves us with Dexter staring out the window, then turning towards the camera for one final look.
And that was that. Open ended, meaningless, incomplete.
What saddens me most is not that it ended in such an incomplete and frustrating way, but that if we are to take the final scene for the ‘end’, then after all is said and done, Dexter has learned absolutely nothing. All the death and sacrifice of those around him end up being pointless.
Rather than see how his not being around would affect his son and Hannah, he selfishly chooses to wallow in his own misery. In Saxon, we are presented with a representation of what Dexter could have become if not for the code, if not for the caring of those around him, but Dexter refuses to see any of this. Instead he focuses on the darkness, falling into the same traps he always does. He blames himself for what happens to Deb, failing to see the choices she made that ultimately lead to her demise. He willingly ignores what she has told him over and over, (and the evidence that exists in his life, Hannah, Deb, Harrison) that he is a good person, a good father, a great brother, and that he deserves happiness.
Throughout the series, Dexter fears that if his family and friends knew his secret, they would recoil from him, condemn him, and in the case of Deb, turn him into the police or kill him on the spot. In almost every case, those who care for Dexter and learn his secret do no such thing. In fact, the opposite is the case. Deb is understandably shocked by what Dexter is, and it takes her a long time to come to terms with all that, but she does. The first night she discovers his secret, Deb helps him cover up the murder. She kills Laguerta, rather than Dexter. She accepts Hannah because of Dexter. She always chooses Dexter, and Dexter’s choice to throw away his happiness out of misplaced guilt and selfishness, makes Deb’s sacrifices meaningless. This final choice makes the entire journey pointless, every lesson, every success and sadness, meaningless.
The writers of the show have said on numerous occasion that the story could never be just Dexter doing the same thing over and over, or it would be over very quickly, and for much of the story, the did not allow that to happen. They gave Dexter a life beyond killing and showed us a great deal about the human experience, about unconditional love and redemption, but then at the critical moment, when it matters most, Dexter fails to take the final step. He remains the same selfish, self absorbed creature he was from the beginning.
I had hoped for more.