The finale episode of Dexter on Sunday highlighted every problem that has turned this drama about a serial killer 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 that borders on cruelty.
It wasn't always so. 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. 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 that worships them.
But, as the show matured, it morphed into a program about three things: Dexter's family troubles, his romantic troubles and the villain of the season. And 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 serial murderer 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 in Sunday's finale, as McKay, played by blond Australian beauty Yvonne Strahovski, never changes her hair color or hairstyle, despite being the most wanted woman in Miami.
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. And in Sunday's finale, when 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.
Dexter 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 that his sister had died of a blood clot while recovering from a gunshot wound delivered by the killer.
That's right. Producers killed off his 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 spare those he loved any more pain.
But he's essentially dumping his son with a woman he hasn't known long and who Harrison barely knows. The kid already lost his mom years ago (killed by John Lithgow's spellbinding Trinity Killer), and now dad also vanishes without a trace? I bet another Morgan becomes a closet serial killer in a few years.
Still, Hall and his compatriots have always made the most of even the most ludicrous plot turns, as Dexter always remained one step ahead of a police force that 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.