It’s hard to fully process one’s feelings about the end of a television series that’s lasted as long as Dexter has. This season started off strong, then took a turn for the worse. Still, I was optimistic that this final hour would be a redemption of sorts, a fitting end to the story of Dexter Morgan and his sister. As the closing scene faded from my television screen, my reaction wasn’t shock or sadness. It was anger.
This is not a violent anger. It’s more fueled by outrage than actual rage. It’s the kind of anger you feel after investing so much time into a show that you once loved, only to watch it fizzle out in the most unsatisfying of ways. Two examples come to mind for me personally: Alias, a fresh, exciting show that became so ludicrous that I bailed on it (cue the Rambaldi device/floating kickball/zombie-maker) and Lost, a fresh, exciting show that I should have bailed on long before its ludicrous ending (one of the worst finales in television history in my opinion, though let’s not make the comments about Lost, okay?). Dexter’s final episode wasn’t that bad, but it came close.
The writers managed to tie up everything and nothing all at once. Some story lines, like Masuka’s relationship with his daughter and Quinn being passed up for promotion, were complete dead ends. Only five characters mattered in the end — the Morgans, Harrison, Saxon, and Hannah. That makes sense, to some degree. But as much as we grew to like Batista and the rest of the Miami Metro crew, to wrap things up with no resolution or hint of their future feels incomplete.
For the moment, let’s overlook all of the implausible moments (we’ll get some of those later) and focus on the big stuff. Finally, Dexter decides it’s wise to send Hannah away ahead of him —a realization that seems about two episodes overdue, considering all the heat that’s on her. The moment he agrees to let Harrison go along, you know trouble’s ahead. When Harrison said he loved Hannah, it was over; now we, the audience, have been informed that the little guy will be just fine with his new mommy — and without his dad.
Then there’s Deb, who takes a sudden horrible turn after surgery for what seemed to be a relatively minor wound. After all she’s been through, a bullet to the gut should be a minor setback. Cue the “complication in surgery” — suddenly Deb’s prognosis goes from looking good to life in a vegetative state, owing to a stroke. If only Dexter had killed Saxon when he should have. Or if the marshal had any clue that Saxon was the focus of a state-wide manhunt when he stumbled across him tied to a chair.
Dexter’s spent the last few episodes talking about his future, but with Deb’s turn for the worse, he’s fixed on the past — specifically, a series of flashbacks to Harrison’s birth, right in the same hospital Deb’s laid up in. There’s some mushy stuff that she’d told him a million times already, like how he’s always made her feel safe. Now Dexter realizes what we’ve wondered since the Argentina plan was concocted — how can he separate his bloody, tragic past from this bright-and-sunny future he sees?
As it turns out, he can’t. So Dexter’s plan changes. First, he kills Saxon with a ball-point pen to the jugular, in full view of surveillance cameras (minus the audio, of course). Batista, ever a bro, not only buys his story, but encourages Dexter to take off immediately (because really, who’s going to miss the former Miami Metro employee who just murdered a serial-killing suspect in police custody?).
Next on the checklist: Cruise up to the hospital in his boat for one last visit with Deb. Should have known what was coming when Dexter appeared wearing his old uniform. This was the moment that worked best — Dexter’s last kill, the cruelest and perhaps most gruesome of them all. Deb’s fate didn’t feel inevitable until the news of her stroke; I’d always thought Dexter was the Morgan destined to die. Deb’s death was a mercy killing on two levels, both physical and emotional. Quinn’s “busload of nuns” speech wouldn’t have wiped away Deb’s guilt over what she’d done and what she’d seen her brother do. Even if she seemed pretty fine with all of that recently.
We see what’s coming as Dexter speeds off with Deb’s body, wrapped in a white hospital sheet. As he talks to Hannah one last time, he’s acting again, like he always used to do when trying to convey normal human emotions. His message to Harrison seals it: “I just wanted to tell you one last time that I love you. I want you to remember that every single day until I see you again. Daddy loves you.” Dexter quite accurately observes (once again) that he’s a danger to anyone he loves. Deb’s lifeless body sinks into the same waters where he’s dumped untold corpses. The storm is coming. Dexter’s going to die. Right?
Wrong. We see the broken pieces of the Slice of Life floating in the water. No chance of survival, we’re told. And as Dexter said earlier, “I’ve never seen a miracle.” There’s Hannah, at a café in Buenos Aires, reading her iPad and learning Dexter is presumed dead. Her dreams destroyed, her future in jeopardy, she does what any serial-killing babe who’s now in custody of her dead serial-killer boyfriend’s son would do: suck back the tears and take the kid out for ice cream. Fade to black.
And then that final scene, the one that ruined it all. Who’s this hairy, flannel-wearing guy in a logging town, so very far from the pastels and sunshine of Miami? Why, it’s Dexter, who survived a hurricane and made it to the Pacific Northwest or beyond, undetected, to start a new life. But why? He’s abandoned the (second) love of his life and his son. He’s carrying the guilt of knowing his sister (and Vogel, remember her?) died thanks to his inaction. Why go on? Dexter gets away with all of his crimes, throws away any chance of a “normal” existence, and exiles himself. Going down with the ship — literally — seemed like a noble and satisfying finish. The last body he’d bury with the Slice of Life would be his own.
The exile ending plays it too safe. Dexter should have been exposed somehow, or killed, or sacrificed. One could argue that he’s chosen a self-imposed sentence of sorts — and judging by that haunted look on his face in his sparse new digs, he’ll spend the rest of his life in a tortured state. But Dexter is the most prolific serial killer in history. He deserved a fate of epic proportions. Growing a Wolverine beard and living in solitude isn’t it.
What’s most frustrating is that his story doesn’t really end. Instead, it begs more questions. What happens now? Does Hannah raise a bilingual child on her own? How was she able to shed her killer instincts so easily? Any chance Harrison grows up to be a well-adjusted member of society (which would really be a miracle)? Does Dexter live out the rest of his days alone? Are we to believe that his Dark Passenger sank in those waters with Deb’s body?
While my head’s still spinning, a few final thoughts:
- As Saxon’s looking to stitch himself up, notice the folks prepping for the coming storm. Their bags of ice are from Miami Chills Ice Delivery — a reference to the Ice Truck Killer, and one of many reminders of past events sprinkled throughout this season.
- How did Saxon manage to cut out the tongue of the weasel-like guy from The Killing? And do so without covered both of them in blood?
- Most anticlimactic scene: Dexter and Saxon face off at the hospital. Batista shows up and cuffs Saxon. Game over.
- Hannah’s needle to Elway’s leg was one of the episode’s best moments. Took a page from her boyfriend’s playbook.
- Does an impending hurricane cause so much chaos at a hospital that one can terminate a loved one, wheel her dead body outside, and carry it onto a waiting boat without anyone noticing?
- Why wouldn’t Harry come back to offer guidance, now that Dexter’s life has taken such a dramatic turn? Dexter sent Harry away because he didn’t need him anymore. Looked like he could have used some ghost-dad counseling more than ever.
- How many of you usually fast-forward through the opening credits, but had to watch Dexter make breakfast and floss one last time?
As Dexter stands on the deck of his old condo, looking out to the water with the storm on its way, he realizes that his newfound emotions come with a price. “I just want it to stop,” he says. That’s how I suspect many viewers feel about the show itself. My anger as the episode ended has turned to something else already — relief in seeing a once-great series finally laid to rest before it could get any worse. Dexter — and Deb, and all of us — deserved better.