It took incredible effort on my part, but I made it to the end of Dexter. Normally I won’t binge a show this hard during the baseball season, and in truth I didn’t intend to crush it as fast as I did. But some extra time on planes and the All-Star break opened the door and, boy, did I run through it. Seasons four through eight in barely one month.
I can’t honestly credit the show’s quality for the rush. The first season after Rita died was good, then things got wobbly. Unlike a lot of fans, I did enjoy the way the show took Debra apart in season six. She needed to evolve after Lundy and making her realize her true feelings toward Dexter helped sell seasons seven and eight.
The real reason I raced through this show was to get to the end. I wanted to see what people so thoroughly hated. That sentiment stayed in my head throughout the last episode and to the very last scene when I thought…that’s what people thought was so awful? I thought the show ended fine. Not great, but fine.
Why didn’t it piss me off? I can identify four reasons.
Reason one: Will he or won’t he?
Season eight put this question to bed in the first episode. After Deb shot Captain LaGuerta to protect Dexter and the end of season seven, the show could have come back for a final run that saw Miami Metro turn on both Morgans.* Skipping ahead six months and bringing on new characters proved that wasn’t going to happen. Fans who wanted the finale to answer this question weren’t paying attention to the show telling them to forget about it.
Reason two: Season 8 lacked epicness
A great final season feels like it’s barreling towards the finish. Every episode makes you more excited to see how this will all come together. The second-to-last episode dismisses with the secondary storylines so the finale can end the series. This season of Dexter never had that feeling because we were just chasing another run-of-the-mill bad guy.
The introduction of Dr. Vogel really drives this point home. Revealing that Harry had help coaching Dexter into a serial killer would have been—should have been—really cool. In an alternate reality where the world knows the truth about Dexter Morgan, she could come forward to Miami Metro as the only person who can help catch him.
Instead she played Dr. Phil to Dexter and Deb, and it did not make for compelling TV. Putting her in danger fell flat, too. Why should we care about the fate of a character we just met? Her son being a somewhat lackluster bad guy didn’t help. Season eight had a low ceiling with that as the main storyline. There’s nothing there that could build up to an incredible finish, so about two-thirds through the season I stopped expecting it to.
Reason three: I’m okay with Deb’s death
Some people were upset we didn’t get to see Deb suffer her stroke. I’m not. It might have had punch to see it happen while talking to Quinn about their future. It would also have been cliche.
Her death sits well with me because, in the end, I think she got the death she would have wanted in that situation. Debra Morgan would not have chosen to be a vegetable. Dexter making that decision for her was bittersweet and the first time he’s killed for mercy rather than vengeance. A nice bit of character evolution in the show’s closing moments.
Reason four: I’m also okay with Dexter’s outcome
This is what got people really fired up. Throwing Debra into the ocean, faking his death and running off to the woods is not the ending fans wanted. But it’s an ending true to the show and to Dexter’s belief that he’s a danger to everyone around him. Bingeing the show helped drive this point home because it all happened for me in rapid succession. Rita died because he didn’t kill Arthur Mitchell in time. Zach Hamilton and Dr. Vogel died because he didn’t get to Oliver Saxon. So did Deb. Would Hannah be next? Would Harrison?
Dexter couldn’t take that chance. Standing on his balcony lamenting what it felt like to finally have human emotions showed him he couldn’t risk being in the lives of the people he loved. So he ran. What did you want him to do in the context of the previous four seasons?
What I really loved about this was it is not a happy ending. That’s okay! Lesser shows would have given Deb and Quinn a life together or showed Angle making Captain. Dexter went a different direction. In a way it’s the ending I wish Revenge would have had.
I can’t put Dexter in my Pantheon of prestige television. It’s probably Showtime’s greatest show ever, but that’s grading on a curve because, well, Showtime is kinda lame. It lands firmly in that second level of shows I enjoyed watching, but can’t quite obsess over. We’ll see if that changes when I get to New Blood.
*This may have helped bring some epicness to the final season, but I think the show would have really struggled. Bautista, Quinn and Matthews were effective supporting characters for Dexter and Deb. They weren’t great supporting characters; they couldn’t have carried the season without help. A stronger Dr. Vogel could have been that.