Its a difficult thing, saying goodbye to a character. Sometimes a character reflects our own dark impulses and allows us to see into the shadowy recesses of ourselves. Watching their tribulations and triumphs can be cathartic.
Dexter Morgan represented a primal force, an urge to set free our baser instincts and let loose our bloodlust. He was our very own dark passenger and each week we lived vicariously through him as he enacted our worst darkest, most devious of plans to rid humanity of its most unsavory. He fulfilled our darkest desires and we repaid him with a devotion to watch these acts, at their most brutal from the other side of the celluloid mirror. We did this for 8 seasons; 8 seasons of violent red which ended last night with the last episode of Dexter ever on Showtime.
In a lot of ways I am still digesting the series finale. By the final episode it definitely seemed as though the series’ writers were running on fumes, using devices that, although they may have been believable in the past, were just too convenient to reuse considering the history of the series. The “get out of jail free cards” just didn’t work this season and Dexter’s proximity to every on-screen murder seems to belittle the ingenuity of his peers at Miami Metro. If any season warranted a man-hunt for Dexter, it was definitely this one and by the time we’re done we’re left as bewildered as Batista in the interrogation sequence, “help me to understand this, Dexter.”
Midway through the season I started to attribute the “Superman Effect” to Dexter. At some point, because of his invulnerabilities, Superman as a character loses his ability to relate to his audience. No matter what super powered foe he faced, we reached a point where we just didn’t feel the character was ever truly in harm’s way. Although Dexter, for all his sociopathic tendencies risked that with his very nature, we always felt him to be just a darker reflection of ourselves and allowed him his trespasses. We occupied just the very edge of our seats as we wondered how he could possibly, against all odds, outwit his pursuers. It was this threat that kept us coming back every episode, nerves shredded and anticipation high. Outwitting, however, seemed to be barely the case as he skirted suspicion on all accounts through season 8 with barely a wave of his hand or a raise of his eyebrow. Quite frankly, even with the pile-up of bodies surrounding him, Dexter was practically allowed to phone in his statements and the crack Metro homicide team would immediately dismiss his involvement. One of the great things about the series has always been Dexter’s games of cat-and mouse with those that could see through his veneer of a thinly veiled humanity. When Superman shrugs his shoulders at a block of kryptonite though, not just dodging that glowing green bullet, we start disassociating with the character. This though, I still forgave as we know that Dexter’s real kryptonite has been his emerging emotions for his loved ones. That being said, there is still nothing really unforgivable about the last episode, despite its flaws. In fact, it was easily one of the better episodes of the season even in lieu of the Superman Effect rearing its head time and time again.
So what was it about the finale that has me shaking my head? Deb’s death? In all reality, with as many brushes as Deb has had with the great beyond, its no surprise that her nine lives were used up a long time ago. That’s no disservice to the character ether. Regardless of the “family therapy” the duo received this season, Deb’s conscience would never let her live her days out in peace if the writers stayed true to the essence of the character. Maybe it is the idea of “character” that seems to be striking a disodent chord with me. Dexter has given us a cast of fantastic peripheral characters that at times seemed anything but secondary. Moments of Dexter have felt as though it was these characters that were shaping the show, allowing the titular character to become who he was destined to be. Unfortunately we just don’t get enough of a proper sendoff for them to feel any sense of satisfaction. In all honestly, they just didn’t have much to do and felt more expendable than they ever have throughout the duration of the show. With so many wonderful characters we could have really paid homage to a fantastic cast by just giving them a little more screen time. Which is why the finale felt a little more of a “what if” alternative universe scenario than an actual ending. I half expected to learn that multiple endings were shot and different ones were shown to different target areas, maybe the midwest getting the “lone drifter” ending, where California got the “shot down in a blaze of glory” ending.
That is not saying that the finale was not without its great moments. Elway getting pwned on the bus and left drugged and defeated was a fitting punishment. The look on Quinn‘s face in the interrogation room showed us his understanding of Dexter and how he’s recognized the killer of killer’s value. Finally, in what might actually be the season highlight: Dexter recognizing that the proverbial storm coming for him is right on the horizon, black, deadly and unforgiving, as he steers toward it, perhaps making the most selfless and human decision he’s ever made.
I might even disagree with some of the detractors as we see a forlorn, solitary Dexter stare into the camera. A stare devoid of narrative voiceover, devoid of Harry‘s wisdom and advice. A stare that some might see as a defeated shell of the character we loved. I might even disagree and say that there is a tiny bit of redemption in that stare. A stare of self inflicted justice that despite its rewards, carves like a knife into the heart of the enforcer. I might.
I might not even be saying that the series finale was bad at all. Indeed, I’m not. I’m just saying that after 8 seasons, I’m still looking for the ending the other guys got that everyone is still talking about.