Finale for Showtime's Dexter Sunday only highlighted every reason why show needed to end now
This is what happens to TV shows which stay too long at the party.
Sunday’s finale for Dexter highlighted every problem that has turned this drama about a serial killers of killers from Showtime’s crown jewel to a series well past its sell-by date.
Senseless tragedies for main characters. A bland, uninspiring villain. Increasingly silly explanations for why police don’t figure out Dexter’s true nature. And a blithe disdain for the moment-to-moment welfare of his son which borders on cruelty.
It all began so promisingly. Eight seasons ago, Michael C. Hall’s embodiment of serial killer Dexter Morgan -- a seemingly soulless psychopath who directed his murderous urges at other killers and just happened to work for the Miami police as a forensic technician – felt fresh and daring.
His relationship with a mousy girlfriend and her two kids was explained as a cover to allay suspicions. And his complex code, developed by his policeman father to keep his homicidal activities secret, was a brilliant way to keep a character often depicted as the villain on the side of the heroes. A perfect anti-hero for a TV age which worships them.
But as the show matured and Dexter was forced to face the fact that he does have emotions, the show morphed into a program about three things: his family troubles, his romantic troubles and the villain of the season. And as the show aged, each of those pillars got shakier.
Which led viewers to Sunday’s episode, featuring the culmination of Dexter’s efforts to leave the country with fellow killer Hannah McKay and his young son Harrison. But ruthless killer Oliver Saxon, a preppy-looking nobody who somehow managed to shoot Dexter’s policewoman sister Deb while she was trying to arrest him, is still on the loose.
The plausibility of this situation was stretched to a laughable breaking point. McKay, played by blonde Australian beauty Yvonne Strahovski, never changes her hair color or hairstyle, despite being the most wanted woman in Miami – a fugitive on the run from police whose status as a marked woman requires the escape to Argentina.
In earlier episodes, even though a private detective and a U.S. Marshal suspect Deb is hiding McKay at her home, neither of them actually stakes out the house to make sure. In Sunday’s finale episode, though the private eye tracks down McKay and sits next to her on a bus to Daytona, he doesn’t use a cell phone to call ahead and alert police that they’re coming, giving her a chance to inject him with a sedative – suddenly she develops a conscience and doesn’t kill him – and make a hasty escape.
All of that pales in comparison to the finale scenes for Dexter, who visits Saxon after he’s in custody and manages to kill him with a ballpoint pen, with hardly any reaction from his pals on the police force – despite the fact that his sister, Deb, had died of a blood clot while recovering from a gunshot wound delivered by the killer.
That’s right. Producers killed off Dexter’s foulmouthed-yet-self-righteous sister after years of allowing her to skirt the edge of personal and professional oblivion. The death freed up Dexter to fake his own death and supposedly remove himself from the lives of those he loved to spare them any more pain.
But he’s essentially dumping his son with a woman he hasn’t really been involved with all that long – and who his son barely knows. The kid already lost his mom in a horrible way years ago – she was killed by the show’s most memorable villain, John Lithgow’s Trinity Killer, in season four – and now his dad also vanishes without a trace? I wouldn’t be surprised if another Morgan became a closet serial killer in a few years.
It’s a tribute to the compelling nature of the show’s characters that viewers would even attempt to wade through this mess of a finale to learn Dexter’s ultimate fate. Hall and his compatriots always made the most of even the most ludicrous plot turns, as Dexter always remained one step ahead of a police force which increasingly seemed like the dumbest law enforcement agency on television.
Television’s most anti antihero deserved better. But at least he’s out of our misery now.