There are eight episodes left of Dexter and the series has a lot to wrap up: Who is Dr. Vogel, really? Is Dexter not a psychopath after all? And will Deb ever forgive her brother — and herself — for their sins, or is she resigned to a life of driving Dexter into lakes only to rescue him moments later? We spoke to Michael C. Hall about the show's march to the finish line, whether he thinks it can have as satisfying an ending as Six Feet Under, and if there's sexual tension between Dex and Vogel — or if that's just him and Charlotte Rampling being their naturally sexy selves. Also, he admits to having an inner Claire Fisher.
Have you ever gotten so invested in a show that a finale felt like an event for you?
The only finale that I watched in real time that I was invested in was The Sopranos.
That was a particularly divisive finale. What was your take on it?
I liked it. I like that it left the viewer with some blanks to fill in for themselves.
Would you like that sort of ending for Dexter? Or do you think your show needs a more conclusive finale?
I think we will do something that is in some way bold and, at least on some fronts, definitive. I don’t think it’s realistic to think that all potential questions will be answered. I think there will be loose ends of some kind, and that’s a part of the appeal: If there are blanks you’re left to fill in, or speculation, that’s part of the fun of it.
On the contrary, Six Feet Under left us completely satisfied because everything was tied up; we saw how the entire Fisher family died.
Yeah, well, I think that particular show was uniquely positioned to have a definitive finale. It was simultaneously surprising and obvious for the show to end the way it did. But not all shows are teed up for something quite that tidy. [Laughs.]
Do you ever get emotional when you hear “Breathe Me”?
I do. I basically just see Claire blubbering in her Prius every time. And my inner Claire blubbers along with her.
You have an inner Claire?
I think so, yeah.
She’s your light passenger?
[Laughs.] Yeah, she’s my light passenger. And I have an inner Ruth.
Let’s get into season eight: One theory that’s emerging is that Dexter was never a psychopath, that Dr. Vogel made him this way. Because she keeps saying things to Dexter about how he’s not supposed to feel empathy or love — but he does feel those things. Do you think Dexter is a psychopath?
I think there’s a gray area from the beginning; we’re meant to be skeptical from the outset regarding Dexter’s claim that he’s a monster, pure and simple. He seems to have an appetite for human connection that’s genuine, and I think over the course of the show has been exploited by people who have come into his orbit. Vogel’s dedicated her life to studying psychopaths and has a rigid, more academic appreciation for and understanding of psychopaths, and Dexter is not fitting the mold.
Why has Dexter been so quick to trust her? And why isn’t he mad at Harry for not telling him about her? In the past when Dexter found out Harry lied to him — about his brother and his biological father, for example — he was furious.
I think on some level he is. But I think the many answers that Vogel provides are too attractive to pass up and they trump any misgivings he would otherwise have. Dexter is someone who, at least up to a point, prided himself on smelling rats. But he also has his blind spots. And his blind spots and his appetite for connection coincide, and Dr. Vogel is really dancing around those blind spots and exploiting that appetite.
Some people think Dexter and Dr. Vogel have sexual tension and that they’ll eventually have sex. Are we supposed to be picking up on that? Are you guys playing it that way?
I mean, I suppose a viewer can sexualize whatever the two of them bring to the table and whatever alchemy that creates. I don’t think the attraction between the two is sexual; I think it’s more transcendent than that or spiritual than that. Vogel is obviously coming to the table with some agendas and appetites that we don’t really know the full story about, but I don’t think she has romantic designs on Dexter, nor he on her. But I think there is an intimacy that goes beyond a sexual intimacy; to have secrets that deep and that formidable — it’s a unique kind of connection. If people look at them and think it’s sexual … also, Charlotte [Rampling] has an inherent sexuality or sensuality about her as a person and as a performer. So that’s probably part of it, too.
So do you. You do realize that Dexter has a lot of women fans?
Well, you know, he’s the only guy in the room who’s not trying to get in your pants. Which is probably part of why he’s attractive to women.
I was watching an E! News video from the season-eight premiere and I noticed Lila in the background. No offense to the actress who plays her, but I hated Lila. Where does she rank for you among Dexter’s women? And who do you think has been the most right for him?
Every woman in Dexter’s life besides Hannah either was completely blind to who he really was or needed him in some way or fetishized his darkness. Rita was blind to it; Lila fetishized it; Lumen sort of needed Dexter’s darkness. I would say that Hannah’s the most suitable mate in as much as she, in her own way, has a legacy of murder behind her and is able to accept Dexter’s compulsion in a way that no one else has been able to.
That suggests to me that you don’t think Dexter can ever give up killing, that he can never change.
Dexter has periodically over the course of the show entertained the notion of rehabilitation, but has one way or another failed or had circumstances dissuade him from the belief that that was really a possibility.
Is the idea of Deb and Dexter as a romantic couple off the table for good? Or is there a chance for them?
Romantically, no, they are beyond that. Them having a romantic component is off the table at this point.
But her attempt at a murder-suicide was so romantic! That couldn’t have been a fun scene to shoot.
I’ve definitely had more uncomfortable scenes involving water: water that was a lot colder, water that I had to spend a lot more time in than that one. But, yeah, it was pretty murky. But it’s the kind of thing where, if you’re getting wet, you can only do things once; so I guess that makes it a little easier.
I always like watching scenes where Dexter physically struggles to kill someone, like Little Chino back in season two.
He’s actually one of my favorite Dexter victims, just because he was so big. I felt so superhuman to be able to take down someone who, in reality, could crush me with one hand. There’s actually all this footage that was never used — I think because it was too comic — of me just literally trying to lift his dead weight off the ground, trying to figure out how to get him on the table. I nearly injured myself every time I tried to pick up just a limb.
I also love the wig you wear in your flashbacks. It’s a pretty funny wig.
Yeah, it is a funny wig [laughs]. It’s sort of like a surfer-slash–Prince Valiant. I just went with it. That’s Dexter’s memory of himself: He remembers himself wearing a cheesy wig.
Have you noticed all the serial killers on TV now? And does that make you sad or relieved to be going off the air?
I think Dexter remains pretty singular among serial killers. There are more serial killers populating the television landscape than when he or the show came on the scene. But, I don’t know, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery [laughs], I suppose we’re all somewhat flattered.
Do you have a favorite season of Dexter?
Depending on my mood, I would say either the first, the fourth, or the seventh. The first season because it was the first — we didn’t know exactly what we were making, but we felt we were onto something. The fourth season because as far as Big Bads go, I think Trinity is undeniably the most formidable adversary that Dexter’s ever had. And the seventh because that was the season where what I think we always fantasized might happen, happened. Dexter had to manage his sister having this new information. We were really mining the true DNA of the show and drawing on things that had been planted way back in the beginning, and that was really gratifying.