My Final Love Letter to Dexter
By Mother Brain
While Breaking Bad’s series finale was recently able to live up to the hype that manifested every social media outlet, another iconic show ended with a far more polarizing reaction. The speculation of how Dexter would end was rampant for years. Would everybody’s favorite blood splatter analyst serial killer pay the price for his crimes or run off to the sunset? The end result felt like a compromise between the two scenarios and the more I think about it, the more I begin to appreciate it.
My own personal history with Dexter started as the third season was approaching. Many of my friends raved about how great it was; although I was still heavily invested in Fox’s Prison Break which was starting to wind down. I eventually gave Dexter a chance because of the high recommendations for it and I was not disappointed at all. Never before on television have I seen such a complex character on the right side of the law with a villain’s edge. A man preying on Miami’s most vicious killers felt like something straight out of a comic book even though the source material is in novella form by Jeff Lindsey. Once season three ended, I caught up with the first two during the summer through Showtime On Demand before season four hit the airwaves.
I knew very little about Michael C. Hall before Dexter. Although I was familiar with his work on Six Feet Under, I never realized his full potential range as an actor until I saw him in this role. There’s a great deal of difficulty in a narrative when a character speaks his thoughts in voice over. Somehow, Hall makes it so effective and entertaining at the same time. We as an audience feel his need to kill while also feeling his growing desire to feel as human as those he comes across.
Over the course of the run, Dexter had his share of females (Rita, Lumen, Hannah) as well as his share of villains (Brian Moser, Prado, Trinity Killer, etc) who fit the kinds of dilemmas he faced every season. But the core of the show outside of Dexter himself was always his sister Debra. This was a role that I felt took Jennifer Carpenter out of the comedic parts she played in movies previously and helped her to grow as a performer. Every season, Deb faced a new challenge in her profession as a detective as well as her troubled personal life. Once she found out her brother’s dark secret, Deb became even more significant to the direction of the show.
Then there were the additional supporting roles. David Zayas from Oz making a more of a nice guy turn as Det. Batista and Lauren Velez from NY Undercover as the ambitious Lnt. LaGuerta. This was an aspect of the show that I liked where actors who were typecast in parts previously were now tacking unique roles that evolved. What made the cast even better was that no one was considered “safe.” The death of Sgt. Doakes in season two was only the beginning. But when Dexter’s first love, Rita, was found murdered in the bathtub at the hands of Trinity Killer in season four, I can’t lie when I say I wanted to tear up. It was a true lesson as a viewer to be aware that sometimes our favorite characters are never always promised another season.
Dexter was also responsible for resurrecting the careers of actors we didn’t see much of in the 2000s. Jimmy Smits, Peter Weller, Johnny Lee Miller, Edward James Olmos, and Charlotte Rampling are just a few of those great actors of the past whose careers found a renewed spark as a result of guest starring on Dexter; however, it was John Lithgow’s Emmy winning performance as Arthur “Trinity Killer” Mitchell that most fans remember. Lithgow embraced killing the image of his 3rd Rock From the Sun character and returning to the cinematic bad guy roots of such films as Blow Out, Ricochet, Cliffhanger, and Raising Cain. His character out of any villain shared the most parallels with Dexter and arguably the best storyline from start to finish. No other villain (or season) has ever come close to matching that.
While the show remaining gripping for me after the powerful fourth season, many fans felt the writing began to suffer after Trinity Killer’s end. New characters such as Lumen and Hannah were hard to like, plots became predictable (i.e. Doomsday Killers twist), and subplots became meaningless (i.e. Masuka’s daughter). There were also setups each season with great promise but no amazing payoff, specifically this past season with Dr. Vogel and the backstory of teaching Dexter’s father about the code. So maybe the writing suffered in contrast to that other amazing show that ended recently. Dexter still remained one of television’s finest and its ratings were proof of that.
Then came the big finale. Dexter makes his final kill which ends up being his wounded sister Deb who falls into a comatose state after a near-fatal gunshot. The Teri Schiavo comparisons ran through my head upon reaching this point of the episode. All the while, I was convinced that Dexter would drown himself in the hurricane because the majority of the promos revolved around a body of water. My only hope was that the ending would not be as cheesy as Dexter’s son, Harrison, having a dark passenger. We got better than that: Dexter surviving and working in the woodlands where he’s isolated from human connection. Looking back at the scene again, notice the lack of the voice over and the trademark music. The worst punishment than death is living alone in a pseudo solitary confinement.
Maybe the story will continue in movie form. Maybe it’s over all together. Either way, Dexter had a great eight year run. As a writer and a filmmaker, the show inspired me to make my characters in scripts more three dimensional as well as texturizing the subtext of my narratives. While I’ll be able to move on to other new shows presently on the airwaves like HBO’s The Newsroom and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I know I’ll be missing Dexter dearly every fall season as I had been accustomed to since 2008. Hats off to the Dark Passenger and the crew at Miami Metro.