Dexter Series Finale Review: “Remember the Monsters?”

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It’s official, I’m calling it. Dexter, from beginning to end, has suffered the largest drop in quality of any show I’ve ever seen. More than Prison Break, more than Lost, more than the goddamn OC. Like, it’s not even close. It’s like watching a Da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa then slowly see his mental state degrade until he’s flinging his own feces at a canvas.

Is it really that bad? Yes. Yes to this finale, but more pressingly, yes to this season as a whole, which managed to be the worst of three awful seasons that came before it.

The main problem with this final season is that the show completely abandoned its two core principles that made past seasons great. 1) The central conflict of Dexter’s secret about to be discovered and made public. 2) The presence of a strong villain that almost brings this about, threatening Dexter’s loved ones and possessing the ability to expose him.

Rather, this final season was aimless, first dealing with Deb going off the rails after killing La Guerta to help Dexter. That plotline peaked a few episodes in when Deb tries to kill Dexter, but then suddenly its water under the bridge and their relationship is as strong as it’s ever been.

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Dexter then starts learning more about his past with Vogel, and learns that she came up with the code. She tries to get him to train a new killer to be like him, but Zack is killed literally the second he starts to become interesting.

Then Hannah comes back, and Dexter suddenly realizes he’s head over heels for her and she’s the light of his life and solution to all his problems. Who knew he could stop killing if he just loved the right super hot girl? He then spends the next half of the season trying to shield her from authorities, and the central conflict becomes not “will Dexter be discovered as a serial killer,” but “will Dexter be discovered harboring a fugitive,” which is far less interesting.

Woven all throughout the season is the brain surgeon killer, who eventually turns out to be Vogel’s crazy son who exists for no other reason than to be crazy and drive the plot forward in ham-handed ways. He and Dexter play the world’s stupidest game of cat and mouse, which involve each of them falling into each other’s dumb traps with Dexter eventually coming out on top. Unfortunately, Dexter and Deb leave Saxon unattended¬† and he manages to escape and shoot Deb, which is where we pick up this week.

This finale, and ultimately this series, is more about Deb than it is Dexter, and how horribly she’s been mistreated for years now, and what an ungracious end the show gave her. She survives her bullet wound, but still has Saxon coming after her in hospital full of cops for reasons that make sense to no one but Saxon. But as soon as he’s captured, it’s revealed that whoops, Dr. Hotness was wrong and there was some complications and Deb is brain dead.

What?

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After everything Deb has gone through on the show, it was incredibly unfair to have a blood clot be the cause of her demise, and every scene in the hospital felt like a bad episode of Grey’s Anatomy. It was a terribly scripted way for her to die, and only existed so that A) she could personally absolve Dexter of his sins before she went brain dead and B) Dexter would get to end things on “his terms.” ¬†While I appreciated the symbolism of him dropping her in the ocean with all his other “victims,” the way her death was handled was just so sloppy.

Only half as sloppy as Saxon’s death, however. Saxon could have exposed Dexter at any time during his capture, which is exactly what Dexter did to him, but doesn’t because he…would rather just smile smugly all the time instead? And then Dexter once again gets Saxon to do exactly the stupid thing he wants him to do, in this case make the first move to stab him in the shoulder with a pen. Like, a solid 14 inches away from any vital organ. Come on, you call yourself a serial killer? Dexter naturally finds his mark in Saxon’s neck, and Quinn and Batista are both like “Yup, self-defense, let’s go with that.” They know Dexter killed him on purpose, but they’re fine with it in the context of Deb’s death and it’s not like they realized he was the Bay Harbor Butcher because of it.

I would have much rather seen Dexter walk in there with a machete hidden in his shirt and literally hack the guy to pieces, escape custody THEN fake his own death. At least that way they could have done some digging and his Butcher secret could have surfaced at last.

But it didn’t, and it never will.

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Dexter ends up faking his own death (using magic, apparently, to be able to escape that hurricane) to all of his remaining family and friends, including both Hannah and Harrison, because he thinks he ends up hurting everyone he loves. This may be true, but ending the entire series with a minute long shot of him being a lumberjack isn’t exactly the grand send-off many hoped for. No blood slide box? No “tonight’s the night?” Just him looking…empty?

I never expected Dexter to have a happy ending, but this is the worst of both worlds. It’s not sad, it’s just depressing. There could have been a dark ending revolving around him being discovered or killed, but Deb going brain dead and him simply abandoning everyone isn’t the epic blaze of glory most were hoping for.

Granted, we all expected nothing less from this season, the entirety of which seems more pointless than ever now. Elway was left to snooze on a bus, barely ever posing a real threat to Hannah or Dexter. Marshall Dudebro dies and nobody bats an eyelash at the circumstances. Masuka’s daughter doesn’t even show up in the finale, despite having practically an entire episode of screen time to herself this season. Matthews ends up not knowing anything at all, proving fan theories wrong. Batista’s big moment is putting a gun to Saxon’s head. Quinn actually had the best performance of his entire career in the finale, yet managed never to be relevant to the central plot in the least.

And that’s it, we’re done.

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I could have written a better season of this show. You could have. Pretty much anyone who calls (or called) themselves a fan could have. Even worse is the fact that many of us have been watching the final season of Breaking Bad in parallel to Dexter, and that show has demonstrated the correct way to end a series that’s been about a man keeping a dark secret from everyone. Dexter, meanwhile, has never really risked his secret being exposed this season, and any danger his loved ones have been in has been the direct result of his own stupidity. Walter White ended up hiding out in the northern wilderness like Dexter, but you can bet he sure as shit isn’t going to stay there for the finale.

I’m just sad. Dexter had the potential to be one of television’s greatest shows, but it lasted way too long and it slowly decayed to the point of disintegration, just in time for the horrific final season and this finale that’s memorable for all the wrong reasons.

In my mind, I’ll just pretend that my fantasy final season actually existed. One where Dexter is exposed, caught, put on trial and convicted, but then escapes to South America (with Lumen, not Hannah) where he can kill drug lords and cartel hitmen in between sipping margaritas on the beach.

Rest in pieces, Dexter. You deserved better.

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