When we invest 96 Sundays into a series that should have ended four stale seasons ago, we don’t want a fairytale ending — we want shit to go down.
Dexter could have left with dignity. It could have spun full circle with poetic justice, blindsiding viewers by what we claimed to want but suddenly regret. The credits could have read like an obituary in the aftermath, paired with Dexter’s devastating “Blood Theme” with that aching violin. The series finale could have been a successful close — it could have been the finale of season four instead of eight.
It’s a tough blow to watch sloppy storytelling replace Dexter’s eerie suspense while melodramatic mediocrity replaces his once-witty narrative. Since season five, he’s regressed from a “neat monster” who happens to have a son, to a boring father who happens to kill people— in ways implausible to any other television show. Sure as a blood spatter analysis he can sneak clues from the Miami police department, but getting away with murder in an airport or being allowed first entry at crime scenes is something else. After seeing his mother dismembered in a shipping container as a child, Dexter (Michael C. Hall) has an intrinsic need to kill. But has anyone asked series writer James Manos if Dexter grew a need to be Amelia Bedelia? Dexter forums estimate that Dexter has killed at least a hundred people under his moral code to be certain each victim is a murderer too — buying into this and seeing his rushed ‘the world is my kill room’ behavior, we’ve been a little confused. Then again, of course he’s always unscathed — each character is oblivious to the point of stupidity in a show that’s become a parody of itself.
Season eight’s over-the-top plotline sees Dexter working with a British psychiatrist on the hunt for a new killer in Miami nicknamed “the Brain Surgeon,” who sends her jars filled with pieces of brains floating in formaldehyde. Apparently every third person in Miami is a serial killer… I wonder if it’s my aunt, my grandma, or my grandpa that I should fear.
Like most of Dexter, there’s little surprise when the finale, “Remember the Monsters?,” finds Dexter in a face-off with the season’s killer. Similar to all seven of the other season finales of Dexter with the exact same scenario, the overarching question for a good chunk of the episode is “will Dexter get the killer?” The sentiment feels like an episode of Scooby Doo watched as background noise— is seven times not enough to make a trend? While there is another major plot line driving the finale, the sentiment is the same filtered into a different genre. While Dexter is heading towards his face-off, he’s also trying to reach a happy ending with his girlfriend, who returned halfway through the season from his past love life. To remind us that Dexter is a dad and to make us feel warm and fuzzy (wait, isn’t this a show about a serial killer?) Dexter’s son —either the most convincing doll ever created or the most terrible child actor of all time— tells him that he also loves Dexter’s girlfriend, in the most sitcom-esque way possible. The fairytale ending is near, but with cringe-worthy cliché hints of “a storm coming,” the biggest question in the finale is the same question we’d have in a romcom — “will Dexter end up with the girlfriend and the happy family?”
A massive amount of what happens in the finale of Dexter seems obvious and expected, but there is one major plot point that would have seemed monumental in a previous season of Dexter. If it hadn’t been rotting of plot holes, cheesy reactions, and Dexter’s constant hidden ability to freeze time while he does stupid things that he’d definitely get caught for otherwise, we would have been surprised. But when anything goes and no questions are asked, it’s too hard to care — then again, maybe I missed something as I was rolling my eyes.
We didn’t want a happy ending — and Dexter didn’t give it to us. The finale didn’t mend or break our hearts, and it definitely didn’t swing full circle as a series — perhaps the writers gave up and left that job to Breaking Bad. Instead, the Dexter finale didn’t do anything. It gave us a let-down on all fronts, as we watched eight whole seasons just to get the last Dexter quote to define the series: “I would change everything if I could.” I would too, Dexter — starting with my time spent watching the past four seasons. Dexter is off the air, and as it turns out, my black screen is equally as satisfying.
Amy Anderson is a Magazine Journalism major at University of Georgia. She enjoys reviewing music and film of all kinds, and hopes to add more to the experience of listening or watching by adding critical perspective and showing various sides to works that audiences love (or hate, or feel indifferent towards). As well, when writing features, she strives to offer a glimpse into the artist’s creative process or ideology through engaging stories or thoughts. Her goal is to offer audiences unseen insight on creative works while opening eyes to worthwhile music and art. Amy's current five favorite musicians— though it’s always in rotation— are Andrew Bird, Beirut, Björk, John Maus, and Milosh. Her "guilty" pleasure is Robyn— if you don’t like her, you’re probably just pretending.