Not All Endings Are Created Equal: Dexter, HIMYM, and the Road to the Series Finale

Ending a long-running television show has to be unbelievably hard. Making any television is tough enough on its own, but once a series nears the end, writers and producers face all sorts of challenges, from picking what to focus on to making sure diehard fans are satisfied (or at least pretending that they care what fans think in the press and on social media).

But when we get into the discussion of what makes a great series finale, one of the things often pushed aside is the fact that, like shows, not all conclusions are not equal. There is a big difference between wrapping up a plot-heavy, mystery-laden show and concluding a story that's more character-focused. And oftentimes, choices shows make much earlier in their run end up defining (or hampering) how they come to an end.

While there are a number of long-running series coming to an end this season—The Office, Gossip Girl, Fringe, and 30 Rock most notably—the two that are taking the most interesting approaches to the endgame won’t (or won't necessarily) be done in May. We know that Dexter has another (final) season after the current one and despite various protestations from the cast, there's still a chance that CBS will try to keep How I Met Your Mother around for one more season in 2013-2014, even though the producers are "assuming" this is the end, and writing to the end. Regardless, both series are in the midst of concluding. More so than any other shows near the end, HIMYM and Dexte represent how the fundamental structure of a show—and a creative team’s willingness to tinker with said structure—shapes the conclusion.


How I Met Your Mother’s Misguided Stubbornness

You have probably heard from someone that How I Met Your Mother, now in its eighth season, is pretty much a shell of its former self. The jokes are still there on occasion, but the show’s primary strength—the ability to build to and then hit truly powerful emotional beats—is all but gone. In that way, the later seasons of the show remind me of the later season of Friends (an easy comparison, but an apt one as well): sort of empty. All the pieces are there, but the impact is nullified. But HIMYM’s problems go beyond that, and as you might imagine, date back much further than the current season.

For whatever reason, showrunners Carter Bays and Craig Thomas steadfastly believe that it's crucial that the "Who's the mother?" mystery remains a dominant part of the narrative, and to a lesser extent, they think that screwing with the audience is a fundamental part of the HIMYM viewing experience. Ted still hasn't met the mother and the show’s other still-developing relationship, Barney and Robin's, is trapped in narrative hijinks. While both the identity of the mother and plot tomfoolery have been essential to the show from the beginning, the longer things have gone on, the more strained those elements have become. The search for the mother has lost its luster and trapped Ted in a problematic holding pattern, while Barney and Robin’s relationship has gone from truly compelling to convoluted and ineffectual.

The counter to this frustration is that HIMYM can still be enjoyed as a more conventional “hang-out” sitcom that produces pleasure simply due to our affection for the characters. I used to support this viewpoint. But the show’s unwillingness to move past certain inevitabilities and its desire to keep winking toward “the future” has warped the characters to such a degree that it’s getting hard to care about them or their relationships. It’s not the show's focus on the search for the mother that bugs me, it’s that it has positioned the search as Ted’s biggest—and sometimes only—goal, so when he’s not looking (or even when he is), we know that it doesn’t really mean anything other than a surface connection to “the journey.”

And the biggest problem with all of this is that I sort of see where Bays and Thomas are coming from. The twisty-turny narrative nonsense and keeping the mother secret are defining parts of the show’s formula. Removing those removes a core of the show, in theory. It's a similar sort of argument to the one Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse made during the final season of Lost. Answers aren’t as interesting as questions and all that. But whereas Lost was a show that most fans wanted to be about the mystery and the producers claimed was actually about the characters (whether you believe that or not), How I Met Your Mother has always felt like a great character show that the producers really want to keep dazzling up with gimmicks.

So, for HIMYM and its stewards, removing certain essential parts of the show is not really an option, and unfortunately, I think that's the wrong decision. The show is stuck, and will be stuck until it stops pretending that most viewers care about the identity of the mother above all else. And while the Barney-Robin story is less problematic, that pairing has been damaged since the show aborted it the first time around. Despite all the good intentions, HIMYM feels like it is simply padding time until the end when all the “important” revelations can come out. The show is winding down instead of wrapping up, almost solely because it is held hostage by a framework that it actually has the power to run away from.


Dexter’s Smart Simplicity

Conversely, Dexter has gone from turning in one of the worst seasons of television last year to building up one of the best this year. Few shows have creatively revitalized themselves this late in the game, and Dexter’s improvements are especially impressive considering it didn’t really have a commercial onus to change a thing, what with last season’s strong ratings. Dexter’s success in Season 7 is the byproduct of its fundamental structure, but also its willingness to do what How I Met Your Mother is not: stop screwing around.

Unlike HIMYM, Dexter has never really been about mystery. The show’s dedication to framing the narrative through the lead character’s eyes has sometimes resulted in nice surprises (most notably when Trinity dispatched of Rita at the end of Season 4), but for the most part, Dexter is a straightforward, procedural show with two (and sometimes more, depending on the big villain of a season) compelling performances at the center.

The show’s formulaic nature has been a detriment from the very beginning. Even the “good” seasons were hampered by some fairly dreadful stories (typically involving LaGuerta), and the same can be said for this current one. Still, the reason those “good” seasons were good is that they featured compelling characters and great performances that were pushed to the forefront—or at least they pushed the silly stuff far enough to the side.

So whereas HIMYM’s essential qualities helped make it an innovator at the beginning and a disappointing slog at the end, Dexter’s inherently basic narrative structure has allowed this season’s transition from mediocrity to excellence to be pretty simple. HIMYM’s plot gets in the way, whereas Dexter’s plot can simply move aside for the important stuff. Which, in this case, is the tremendous, compelling relationship between Dexter and Deb.

Much like Ted finding the mother, Deb learning about Dexter's extracurricular activities has been the show's primary untold story. The big difference between the two series is that Dexter’s team recognized (or they at least felt empowered by Dexter's set end-date, something HIMYM still doesn’t have) that if the show owes the fans one story before it concludes, it’s Deb learning the truth about Dexter. More importantly, they understand that it’s not Deb just finding out that matters; it’s her reaction and the way her newfound knowledge re-shapes her relationship with her brother.

Somewhat surprisingly, Dexter has, at least through the first five episodes of Season 7, lived up to the expectations of the “Deb finds out” thread. Every week, the show has examined tangible and logical parts of the story in great detail, and there's been an intuitive progression to Deb’s thoughts on Dexter’s lifestyle that I would have never anticipated from a show that can be quite stupid. And perhaps most importantly, the show is treating Deb’s newfound knowledge as it deserves to be treated: like the biggest thing to ever happen. There are no cute misdirects or problematic evasive maneuvers. This is an honest exploration of the show’s most important relationship—and the show is all the more powerful for it (although the amazing performances certainly don't hurt). Dexter feels like it’s legitimately wrapping up, in a good way.

There’s no question that How I Met Your Mother and Dexter are very different shows and some of those prominent differences are playing sizable roles in their divergent journeys to the end. HIMYM’s fundamental reliance on the mother mystery and its structural playfulness—not the mention the fact that it's a sitcom—are arguably harder to manage in a final chapter than Dexter’s more simplistic character-based procedural framework. So maybe, in some ways, HIMYM is at a disadvantage.

But what I see as the key distinction the way both shows have chosen to engage (or not engage) with their respective series arcs. One keeps holding on to its essential nature as a way to avoid truly exploring the big story in a satisfying fashion, while the other has pretty seamlessly integrated the big story into its essential form. And that’s why How I Met Your Mother will likely limp to the finish line and why Dexter will probably have its best season in year seven.


QUESTIONS:

– How do you think Dexter and HIMYM are doing, respectively, as they near the ends?

– What are the most important things for each show to do in order to give fans a satisfying season finale?

– Series finales are contentious by their very nature; what elements do you think of as "series finale essentials"? Closure for all the major characters? Answers to any and all outstanding questions?

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this is a really great article, and i think it highlights what is so great and also so problematic about television (particularly 24-episodes worth of a season, as is the case with himym).



can i tell a story that perhaps nobody will read? (sure i can - and i'm going to do so)



i was introduced to both of these shows by the same person. my first himym episode was in season 3, "ten sessions." in hindsight, it was the perfect episode to be introduced to the series - in particular because it showcased so many of the wonderful aspects of the show, none more important than ted's fantastical, heightened romanticism in the form of his two minute date with stella. ted is such a compelling character in that episode because he is whimsical yet proactive in his engagement with stella as an equal; he's romantic yet light and realistic. ted's short date with stella is the grown-up equivalent of the blue french horn. it took the best of the sappiness in robin's gift and coupled it with three season's worth of maturity and growth.



that ted is mostly gone now. everyone knows this. it's depressing, and i could write more about how/why. but we've got it. i miss that ted, you guys.



with dexter, my first episode was "the british invasion," which was also the perfect episode by which to be introduced to everyone's favorite serial killer. lila was bat-shit crazy. she was the best villain outside trinity, in my opinion, because she touched dexter. i don't mean in the biblical sense, although i know she did (frequently). she was a villain who actually moved inside dexter's orbit in a way that felt organic and terrifying. we SHOULD be terrified by the villains in dexter more so than we are terrified of our actual hero. but i have only ever been terrified of lila and trinity in a way that rivaled my fear of dexter himself.

and like ted in "ten sessions," in "the british invasion" dexter was the best of what an anti-hero should be - at least, he was the best of what this show can depict of an anti-hero. he saved cody and astrid (eyeroll, right?) and his eventual killing of lila was so well-earned. it felt like we were able to sigh with great relief when he closed her eyes for her and slipped away. he was smart. he was cold. he was frightening there, but it was all balanced. it was nuanced. he cared for lila, even as he murdered her. and he cared for doakes, even though he caused doakes' murder.



it was the best, you know? and then, i don't know, trinity comes, makes everything amazing, and then destroys dexter forever. deb + dexter = <34eva or something? ugh.



nobody is reading this...
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I did read it. OK not the Dexter parts because I don't watch Dexter. But you're exactly right about Ted. He's just not that guy anymore, and that's why I don't care about him.
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Thanks for the article, to answer your questions:

Point 1: I also completely agree on HIMYM. Who cares who the mother is, like 3-4 seasons ago the last people who still cared stopped caring. I still watch it, but I feel so sorry for the actors (who are very talented). It will be good when it finishes and the actors move on to other shows/movies. I'm really dissapointed in the writers. Dexter is doing great, period.



Point 2: HIMYM should give its characters the fun back again and tell some great stories and jokes. Like getting completely wasted on alcohol and get in trouble and do silly stuff. Dexter will have a great season finally as always. I hope Dex and Hanna go on a massive killing spree. He is a serial killer, so finally give in to it and go "Natural Born Killers"...Otherwise the living happily ever after fairytale...but knowing the series they will probably end the series with letting Dex loose in the wild. Go all undercover and Hannibal the rest of his life. Still they have been very succesfull in letting Dex continue his usual life and code through 7!!!! series.



Point 3: Series Finales should probably give some closure for sub characters, but leave a lot of room for the main character(s) to develop into a feature film.



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i think that letting them get "completely wasted on alcohol and get in trouble and do silly stuff" might further exacerbate the issue of "the show's unwillingness to move past certain inevitabilities..."

lily and marshall are parents now. the writers don't seem to have too many ideas as to how to let lily and marshall be lily and marshall and also be parents. they can be both. they do not need to be one or the other, and so while i agree that they have become stereotypical sitcom parents, they also can't just swing to the other side of the pendulum and drink to excess. i mean, parents do that. don't get me wrong. but lily and marshall are never going to be those kind of parents, and you can't convince me otherwise.
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I agree about HIMYM. Going into Ted's last two relationships (Zoey and Victoria), the voiceover has told us they aren't the mother. This made watching those relationships a total waste of time. Why would I invest in them if I am constantly reminded that it isn't going to work out? It's like when the professor tells you "this won't be on the exam." You stop taking notes.



Ted's character has also devolved to be totally one dimensional, and the why of that is simple: the real Ted would be absolutely miserable at this point. 8 years ago he decided he was ready to settle down and while we've seen Barney do a complete character reversal, it's not like Ted at some point reconsidered and said "actually, I think I just want to keep playin' the field" and embraced his single status. I have friends like Ted. They are in therapy.

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I completely agree with you on HIMYM. The fact that they brought back Victoria and has done absolutely nothing with her shows that the creators are running out of stories to tell. By the greater occurrences of filler episodes, I'm starting to get the feeling that they too are antsy to wrap the show up. Maybe there is a god and he will let one of the formerly best comedies of the past couple years finally end.
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I loved season 7 of HIMYM and I'm currently so-so about Season 8. I hope it can pick it up if this is the final season, but I'd watch no matter what.



I'm LOVING Season 7 of Dexter. It's the best season ever in my opinion. Dex and Deb's relationship this season has elevated the entire show to a different level than ever before. (and Yvonne Strahovski being on my screen only amps the show up more)



I'd watch either show no matter what, but HIMYM isn't doing so great right NOW, where as Dexter has never been better.



I hope Season 8 of Dexter continues the current greatness, and doesn't follow up it's great 7th season like HIMYM did with it's 7th season.
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Completely disagree on HIMYM, Tim. As of now the show is at its creative height due to its willingness to keep the audience in the dark and gradually reveal things over time. Without this element the show loses much of its plot and becomes about nothing. Not to mention its more popular now than it has ever been (that's why CBS wants to keep it around).
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I'm sure Tim appreciates the constructive feedback, but he didn't write this.
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also, shows about nothing are never successful (stupid seinfeld)
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Dexter -- I am loving this current season. However, I don't think I'll be able to say I'll like it better than the first two seasons of the show, and probably season three and four as well. Back then, Dexter was easily my favorite show on television. It was probably the first show that made me appreciate serial dramas on television -- up until then, I had watched almost exclusively sitcoms, cartoons, and procedurals like CSI and/or Law and Order. It was also the first show that made me really appreciate acting, directing, and cinematography. I've re-watched the first few seasons of Dexter five or so times since then, and it's not just nostalgia... those first few seasons were so SO SOOOO good. Season five fell off a bit, but I didn't hate it as much as some others. But season six was horrible. It had its moments and there were a few things I could appreciate... but the season as a whole was pretty crap. This season, I think for everybody, has been a whole lot better. As for the way the show ends, I have no expectations or even any hopes for it, except that I hope it's great, hehe. Although, I do hope that Quinn and LaGuerta are killed off by then.
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HIMYM -- I stopped watching three episodes in to this current season. I didn't like season 6 much and I didn't like season 7 much, but I decided to not give it up. Unfortunately, this season started off so poorly for me that I couldn't stand watching any more of it. My quitting had nothing to do with the show's mystery about the mother: I haven't cared about who the mother is since season 1, and even then I didn't care much. I just couldn't bring myself to care about what amounts to as an "imaginary" character. I quit, however, because the jokes weren't funny anymore and I stopped caring about the five leads. The jokes have become either too recycled (jokes they've been doing every season) or too unoriginal (jokes almost every sitcom about relationships make). As for the characters, I started finding Ted and Robin almost excruciatingly annoying; Marshall and Lily became completely boring; and Barney was always interesting to me as the funniest character the show... so when the writers' jokes faltered and Barney started having as many relationship problems as Ted, I lost all interest in him, as well.

Even though I've quit, I still plan on watching the series finale whether it's this season or next. It's odd in a way because while I didn't and don't necessarily care who the mother actually is, it's almost as if not finding the jokes funny anymore and losing interest in the main characters has left me only with who the mother is. So while that revelation isn't nearly enough to keep me watching, it is enough to make me want to watch the series finale of a show I quit on.

As for the way the show ends, I expect the mother to be revealed with about 5 minutes left in the season finale. After the revelation, I think the show will go with a montage over a slightly extended version of the main theme song showing clips or "photos" of some of the things that happen between Ted meeting his kids' mother and Ted telling his kids to sit down and listen to a story. It's a bit lame and sort of an obvious way to end the show, but I won't be opposed to it either.
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HIMYM has, for a long time, stopped being about the initial premise and become a "show about nothing" as George Costanza would say. Essentially, the show has mostly become a clone of "Seinfeld" where we witness the journey of the likable characters. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. The show had great moments. A satisfying finale would require that the mother is revealed earlier and that we see the process of "dating along the way to the wedding" and end on that. If they reveal the mother only in the last episode it will leave a sour aftertaste of cheapness.

More I think about Dexter's seasons more it becomes clear that, even tho Dexter is the main character, the whole story is about Debra's journey. It's the story of the daughter of a policeman who has joined the force and who's adopted brother is a serial killer (while a blood splatter expert in the same precinct). She is the only character who has truly evolved throughout the seasons. Everyone else, even Dexter, are exactly the same. Dexter had a great opportunity to boot a change with the events of last season but the writers/producers have missed the boat (intentionally or not) and have produced a major waste of time and talent (E.J. Olmost). I don't see how it could happen this season... So, tho it might not be seen as a "satisfying season finale" by everyone, the only logical solution here is that Dexter has to die at the end; or it will leave a sour aftertaste of a cheap unfinished story. But, with another "finale season" added, anything can happen.

Series finale essentials? Answers the major outstanding questions or mysteries.
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I actually agree about the show being about Deb more than Dexter. That's what happens when the lead character rarely ever changes.
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Excellent analysis of why HIMYM is in real trouble. I still believe they have over-written the perfection of the mother and now cannot find someone to cast that'll fit the impossible role. They overplayed their hand and now the show is impossible to watch without that stuff looming over it and dragging these characters down. And thinking about it as a piece of the Ted + Mother story really makes it sad, Ted is telling his kids more and more about totally pointless antics and nonsense.
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In watching the show I've had to explain why the show is called "How I Met Your Mother". In that sense, the show title really makes no sense, and that's been pointed out several times in several places by people either directly saying it or having to ask why the show is called that. Again, I don't know that very many people really ever cared about who Moseby ends up with, but cares more about the journey there and whether he "wins" out of it or not (and all of his long-term whatevers have been with wonderful women, except for Victoria 2.0, or is it 3.0?)
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I think the worst thing you can do is to and a show with a "to be continued" unless it is used to make a joke, like it is in a danish TV-series. If you wanna end a show do it right and make that additional rapping up episode, instead of making an awful movie that is just like kicking hardcore fans in the nuts (I won't mention any names... "ALF"). Weather it satisfy the fans or not that is the question, but as long as it is concluded then the show has done it's job.
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How do you think Dexter and HIMYM are doing, respectively, as they near the ends?



Honestly I haven't seen Dexter so can't answer that but HIMYM is doing bad.





What are the most important things for each show to do in order to give fans a satisfying season finale?



Don't keep the show up for too long. And when a season is supposed to be the final season then don't make another season...







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I had this idea once that Ted would meet his future wife in McLarens and his children the ask "So. You met her in a bar?" and he would say "Well, yes". I think stuff like that is funny, but since we know he is meeting her at a wedding it's not going to happen. The problem i see with HIMYM is that we will never be able to care or relate to future Mrs. Mosby like we did for Victoria, or Stella or Zoey. The show let us get to know these women just to get rid of them at some point. So what will it be like when Ted eventually meets his wife? Ok, there is a person i have never seen before and have no connection to. Great. And that's it.?Dexter is going to be fine. No worries here. If next Season is nearly as good as this one is shaping up to be it will be fine.
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I'm confused about Dexter, because I was thinking this season was the last. But I agree they rebounded nicely after last season's disappointment. Bones had a disappointing season and rebounded too. I'm pleased with Dexter having more than just Deb working through accepting her brother's hobby - both nemesis' are hot (not sure yet if Agent Walker will become a nemesis or partner-in-crime, but I still don't see her as scary yet). I wonder if any core team members might end up dead as they figure out Dexter's secret? La Guerta and Batista both sense different things that aren't right, most don't like La Guerta, but Batista seems to be liked.

HIMYM isn't one of my top shows, but I'm still entertained by it, even though it has become repetitive lately. So finding out who the mother is doesn't matter as much to me. In fact, when Ted used to meet a new woman, I'd think oh it won't be her, because it's too soon -- I'm not thinking that anymore since the shows been on so long. I'm hoping they'll have Ted juggle a few possibilities at the same time to keep us guessing which one it'll be.
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One of my favorite series finalies of recent years was Terriers, which had no real conclution whatsoever. I'm not saying that it's satisfying as a fan but it sort of gives the fan the ability to end the show however you want it to end. I would much rather leave a show hanging with possibilities than to put a final period on the end of it which could leave a longtime fan without any other angle to look at the show than the one provided by money blinded tv showrunners.



HIMYM should have ended after 4-6 seasons. The fact that it's gone longer is a tragedy to what was once a future tv hall of famer. The only reason most fans (such as myself) continue to watch this show is to find out who the mother is, which, as of late, has been feeling like work as opposed to fun.
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I gave up on himym. I think they've gone too long with how he meets the mother and it's like who cares anymore. When it does hit the last season and we will finally find out who Ted marries then i will watch.
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I don't think there can be a really satisfying ending to HIMYM anymore as most people simply stopped caring about a) the mother, b) Ted's journey and c) Barney + Robin. They completely lost their focus over the last couple of years. We already know that Ted+Mother (some random woman we might never get to know) will meet and Barney+Robin get together. Neglecting character and plot developments, they wrote themselves into a corner - there's no real possibility anymore to wrap everything up nicely and really make us care.

Hell, the biggest question is what to wrap up to begin with. This show had 2 seasons of beginning & exposition, 5-6 seasons of middle section with countless story archs leading nowhere, which leaves us with screen time of 2 episodes to (max) 1 season focusing on the ending. It's less than ideal.



Dexter on the other hand has a real comeback this season and I hope they'll be able to finish the story the way it deserves. I was about to give up on the show but they really delivered and as there are many possible ways to finish the series it's only a question about the willingness of the writers.
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to answer the second question... No Loose Ends, IM LOOKING AT YOU LOST AND 24( i dont care that there might be a movie)
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I don't have a lot to say about HIMYM since I tried watching first few seasons but I just don't get the obsession about finding the mother, whoever she is. It's like seriously I'm amazed that this ran for 8 seasons. Because, I'm one of the people that if I was one of the kids I'd probably walk out of the room if I have a hundred conversation without knowing the story how dad met mom.



With Dexter, I have to agree that thing the show did rebound from having the last season worst to getting it right this time around. I also like that it's no longer a secret with Deb and the characters evolved though the years.
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I would like to see the mothers side on the nearly meetings in the past like Teds 1st day as a professor before the end .
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Agreed. There have been a couple that were out-right stated or implied. The college thing, the roommate thing, the St Patty's Day party, and various yellow umbrella sightings. I'm hoping we get a serious "How I Met your Father" episode from her point of view.
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I hardly agree on HIMYM analysis, as maybe, I am one of those whom the writers are targeting: I would like to see the mystery kept as long as possible.. as suggested by someone below, seeing the build up of the relationship is not really a crucial point.. the mother, while being the theme of the whole thing, is not whom we care about.. I have been watching the 8 seasons of Ted, Barney, Robin, Marshall and Lily not because of a search for a mother, but because they are sweet and awkward and weird and great, all at the same time, as a group of friends.. their trials, failures and everything is what many are watching them for, and the mother is just an ongoing theme.. so if it is the final season, ok be it, but still I would not want to know who the mother is until the last episode..
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Exactly. I thought on my last comment and thought of a way to sum it up in a simpler way. The strength of the show is the depth, frailty, in other words, realness of the characters. The show is strongest when they can show the group in that booth at MacLaren's and literally show these characters and connections well enough in their failures and successes to make you feel that you're sitting right at that booth with them, know them, and could invest in them if you were really sitting there.
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The real mystery of HIMYM is not the identity of the mother. It's "why does 2030 Ted sound less like Josh Radnor and more like Bob Saget?"
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I feel majority of the HIMYM viewers are still watching the show only for the mother.
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Just the opposite; most don't care (and never really did, much.)
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I do. You could say, "It's not about the destination, but the journey", but there should still be a payoff in the end to justify the taking the trip to begin with.
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I really like it when shows get end dates well in advance so they can end it properly. I for one can't wait to see how Breaking Bad is going to end! It is one of my fav shows and I'm sad to see it go but excited at the same time for the awesome ending I'm sure they have thought up.



Desperate Houswives had a chance to wrap things up and the ending was so stupid, after years of loyal watching that's what they gave us? Seriously?



I gave up on HIMYM last season, same story every week = BORING. And they need to introduce the mother before the last episode so they can at least show her and Ted dating, getting married etc, or will there be no story after they show her?
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One of the great things about HIMYM's past was their ability to hop around chronologically, because of the show's narrative structure as a recollection. The writers would leave lots of interesting things in the shows that they'd go back and expand on later.

One of the problems they have now is that they can't leave open-ended events (like the goat in the bathroom) now, so all the hints of the future are the ones they already have plans to wrap up.

I would hope the cast would have signed up for additional seasons.



To say that the show's "ability to build to and then hit truly powerful emotional beatsis all but gone" is just flat wrong. The episode featuring Robin talking to her future children, Lily's and Marshall's fathers storylines, and yes, even Barney and Robin, still work, and they work because we care about the characters.
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I see HIMYM more like Friends. Friends final season did wrap up and ended things well for the characters in my opinion. However if you remember, Friends' final season was not really their final season, it was an extra season that NBC got out of the cast. If you remember, season 9 of Friends winded down, and felt in many ways like how HIMYM feels now. The truth is, HIMYM has reached a point of no return. I believe that they have to get a season 9 in order to accomplish the actual courting of the mother. This is not Dexter's final season, it's one of two, but I believe that they are building to and end at this point. It is in many ways how Breaking Bad has approached it's final season, by dealing with it in two halves.
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I never heard that HIMYM was ending this season, only that it was continuing. I did hope it would be its last though.

I, for one, would not mind if they ended it with his actual meeting, so long as you actually see who she is and it's not him turning around to face the yellow umbrella girl and we see her only from behind or something. The only worry is having that spoiled with news of who would be cast for that role. I do think there is a valid point to see something of the relationship to discover what makes her special, so I can see wanting some portion of the season devoted to that, so long as it's cleverly and clearly done.

I would really like seeing his kids make some funny comment about it in the end though, such as how long it took or that mom already told them the story. It would give Fonseca (Nikita) and Henrie (Wizards of Waverly Place) lines to finally speak that I think they would deserve.

As far as the show itself, it does hit and miss, but I never liked Barney and Robin. If that goes on, I'd be disappointed. His chemistry with Becki Newton was a highlight this season, for me anyway, and I felt she was his equal in a way, or could have been better developed to be so.
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(Ex) HIMYM fan here, I'm very proud of the Dexter turnaround from last season to this current one. This season of Dexter has got me excited again, I love it. I stopped watching HIMYM mid season last year and I'm glad to hear that they are still just dicking around so i know I made a good call. Does anyone really care who Ted ends up with? really.
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I know a lot of people say they would like a story arc with the mother, and as a huge fan of How I Met Your Mother, I too would like to see this. But I assume that if there were to be episodes featuring Ted and the soon to be Mrs.Mosby, the story would get mucked up in a convoluted mess most likely complete with relationship problems that the audience knows wouldn't matter in the long run (i.e. the year 2030).



Also, after eight years, if Ted were to be hesitant about the relationship, as he has been so many times before, it would be tiresome and exhausting rather than inducing suspense and many people shouting, "Just get with her ya dumb boob."



We know Ted and Victoria, whom I so badly wanted to be the mother, are soon to break up, which will put Ted in a vulnerable place. Ted's nature will either make him not want to date or fall quickly in love; the latter option is preferred as if he plans on having this child in time for the next trilogy, he needs to get to it. I hope the story ends with a, "And thats how I met your mother," followed by a glorious montage (no matter how cliche and overdone) set to the "ba da da da ba da da bum ba da bum dada dada dada da da" tune from the opening.



Im saddened yet excited to see how it plays out.
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Great read. The thing with HIMYM is what happens with most shows. They get successful and the creators don't realize what makes them successful. I can think of several examples of shows where creators have ruined shows because of this. Like for HIMYM, who the mother is or even Ted Moseby (probably the weakest character on the show) was never an appeal to me. The appeal was always the interplay of the characters themselves, coupled with those "truly powerful emotional beats". They were never perfect and were always failed people in some ways, but you could connect with them and enjoy seeing them win, and even be a little sorry for them when the failed parts of them turned their "win" into a "loss".
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Out of the two, I only watch Dexter. But to use a sports analogy, it has already won "comeback player of the year" after only five episodes.
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Great article!

But I apparently have a higher regard for Dexter's gloried past than you do, Cory. (Also, how you can call Dexter a "straightforward, procedural show" is beyond me.)

I will NEVER forget how those first two seasons made me feel. It was my favourite show 7 years ago (pre-Fringe era, people!), and I truly believe it was one of the best shows on television at the time. The internal monologues, the haunting scores, the sweet thrill of something truly elegant in its stark, vicarious originality. All the while deftly exploring the depths of Dexter's darkness. I still very clearly remember Dexter's reaction to that first bloodless crime scene (arranged by his brother Brian). The way it made him feel clean and whole. Like he was searching for this beautifully bloodless corpse his entire life, but didn't know why. Like he was being given the answer to a question he didn't even realize he was asking. That scene captivated me in a way I'll always remember. I, like Dexter, was entranced and excited by the spectacle of something so new and different, but oddly familiar at the same time. Spine-tinglinging awesomeness is the only way to describe the sensation.

The first season of Dexter was one of the best and most complete seasons of television I've ever seen. And season two was not very far removed from that lofty level of quality. So, to say the best of Dexter was merely "good" (personally) feels like an egregious understatement. It was great, in every sense of the word. Which is why season 6 was so painful to watch.

To see one of my favourite shows reduced to such poorly written and heavy handed absurdity was difficult to stomach. I could hardly believe it was the same show. Everything about it was ... off. Even the editors, cinematographers and sound mixers seemed to be phoning it in. Travis made Miguel seem like the most interesting villain in the world (stay bloodthirsty my friends!). The ONLY silver lining was the continuing evolution of Deb. She rocked that season, and that progression was absolutely necessary for what's to come. So, in retrospect, season 6 is not a complete write-off. We got a more mature and complete Deb, and one hell of a cliffhanger to wonderfully set up the current season. And thus far the 7th season has not disappointed.

The writers have set the stage for the only two characters we care about and watching Deb come to terms with Dexter's dark passenger has been a pleasure to watch. Dex and Deb share a complex and layered dynamic that has been intricately built for 7 long seasons, and seeing this new chapter of their relationship unfold has been extremely rewarding as a dedicated fan of the show. Unfortunately, it still does not (yet) compare to Dexter's glory days, but the telling of Dexter's final "untold story" has breathed new life into a show many thought was in its death throes.

After what was unequivocally the worst season of Dexter, season 7 has the possibility to be one of the shows best. That is an impressive feat, in and of itself. My only hope as the show moves forward into its conclusion is that the focus remains solidly fixed on Dexter and Deborah. In this commenters humble opinion, they ARE the show. Push the boundaries of this relationship. Give me something I will never see coming. For even one fleeting moment make me feel again like I did during that first bloodless crime scene.

Don't be afraid to explore the darkness.
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Remove the exploration of Dexter's psychological issues and the show is basically a procedural. It's a cop show where they chase and catch bad guys. Over and over.
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Am I the only person that thinks that Ted's future wife shouldn't be seen until the last episode of the show?



I understand everyone's desire to get to know her and see Ted fall for her as he has with other primary girlfriends in the past (Robin, Victoria, Stella, etc..) But just off the framework of the show, it's the story of how he met her, not how he fell in love with her. I've always thought that he's going to run into her and awkwardly say hi and we'll see her face and smile and Bob Sagat will wrap things up in a nice little bow and the show will be over.



I mean, don't get me wrong, if he meets her 4 episodes from now and the rest of the season they date and build a relationship, that's cool with me too, I get why people want that. It's just that the premise of the show has never promised us that.
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You're correct that the show has never promised to show as Teds relationship with the mother, but HIMYM has always showed us with excruciating detail sometimes every relationship that has formed. Why would the writers not continue the trend with the titular character of the show? Why should we just assume that everything worked for them, when HIMYM has been a show about showing the delicate intricacies of how each relationship came to be.



Ted Mosby is a hopeless romantic, this relationship is going to change that for him. It seems lackluster to wrap all up with one meeting, especially after 8 years of waiting to know why she was so much more special than everyone else.
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The problem is that the name of the show is "how I met your mother", not "how I met your mother and what happened afterwards". The fundamental dramatic formula (Ted's been telling this story to his kids in 2030 for what seems like YEARS, right?)
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If you consider how many stories have already been told which have nothing to do with "how I met your mother", it wouldn't be really "breaking the formula" if they'd continue after he meets her. They already changed the premise several years ago.
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Its pretty difficult to end a series as there is no way to please everybody.

Of the series finales I have seen, The OC and Friday Night Lights were probably the best, but there really wasn't any surprises and they ended with all the characters relatively happy. I was ok with that, but I assume other people were not.

Smallville was somehwere between ok and good, I enjoyed it, but it could have been better. I appreciated that TPTB wanted to pay homage to the series, but it is almost as if that is all the Finale was about, instead of getting Clark to the point he would become Superman and not just cuz that is how the story is supposed to end.

House's finale was also somewhere between ok and good. TPTB had an idea of how they wanted it to end, so that is how they structered the last 5 episodes. The finale itself had a lot of big ideas, that were crammed into 42 minutes, which made it feel rushed and not fully explored. That being said the last 20 min or so of the finale was pretty good and a fitting ending to House, all things considered.

Then there is Chuck, I don't even know where to start...It was really good and really bad all at the same time...

My point is all these shows had their own vision of how things should end. The safe route is the easiest, but also the most boring (for lack of a better term). The more creative route is more engaging and interesting, but it can cause major problems if not executed well (I am looking at you Chuck).

HIMYM faces the same dilema that Smallville did. We all know how it is going to end, so the finale should pay homage to the series, but at the same time heavily focus on how and why this woman is the love of Ted's life. Maybe thats to much for a a comedy series finale, I don't know (really though, isn't the main purpose of the show to make us laugh? so if we laugh is it considered a success?).

Dexter on the other hand could do anything. A cool ending would be him faking his own death and the last scene is him in Europe doing what he does best. Or he could get arrested, or killed or keep on doing what he is doing and nobody catching on. Whatever they decide, as long as its executed well, I will be satisfied
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As someone who has watched HIMYM from the start, I really do hope this is the final season. Reports came before this season even aired that Jason Segel didn't want to come back for a ninth season, and recently reports have began surfacing that Neil Patrick Harris may not return for a ninth season (Neil denied this rumours on twitter).



That being said, even if the principal cast does agree to return, there are really no stories left to be told. They can only lead Ted on a journey for so long, because they revealed during "The Trilogy" that his daughter would be born in order for their 2015 viewing. HIMYM has played enough on the future events someday coming true and finally be revealed, the thing Craig Thomas and Carter Bays need to realize is that future is now,
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It's not certain that the character "Daughter" is actually Ted's biological offspring. If Ted is the stepfather, he might have met their mother in 2029, giving them 17 more possible seasons.
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If they cop out on that storyline, HIMYM will officially be the worst show ever. That would be silly for them to create that story line. I'm fairly certain that it has to be Ted's biological daughter due to the fact that in 2030 she is roughly 15 or 16 years old making her born in 2015. All though Lyndsy Fonseca and Davie Henrie are now 25 and 23 respectively and look much older then when the show first started.
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I don't think "series finale essentials" exist. Obviously, there's a built-in essential for HIMYM, but that could occur at any time.



Look at Newhart...one of the greatest series finales ever, often imitated, never duplicated, and didn't give any characters closure, answer any questions, or solve a damn thing.
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1. Dexter has being good for a few episodes (episodes that probably should have happened around season 2 or 3), but I don't think we can extrapolate that out to a good ending yet. HIMYM has been getting no closer to the end at all. Based on the preponderance of evidence from the last several seasons of each, I'm pretty comfortable predicting a disappointing ending for both shows.



2. For Dexter, he has to get found out and he has to die; he can't just go to prison, because that would be a more interesting story than most of these seasons. By the end of this season, LaGuerta will be focused on Dexter. Yes, I said it, Dexter, the character's downfall will be Laguerta (much like she has been the downfall of Dexter, the show).



As for HIMYM, there's been too much buildup and there can be no satisfying ending. She's no one we've met, so there's really no real reveal, and it would be like when a procedural introduces the villain in the last 10 minutes. She needs to be introduced by the beginning of the last season or at latest the midseason finale and it needs to end with a wedding or an unplanned pregnancy.



3. A series finale cannot possibly answer all outstanding questions. Closure for all major characters is also completely unrealistic. It just needs to resolve the main question.



HIMYM: how does he meet the mother. this probably takes more than showing us the meeting, but takes us getting to know her enough to find out what makes her mother material. In other words, what makes her able to breed with this guy who is completely incapable of making a relationship work long term



Dexter: what the heck happens to a serial killer who kills killers? obviously, he gets caught and dies, but nonetheless, they need to show how that happens. they've started by showing what happens when his family finds out, but they need to show us the flaw that gets him caught and how all his colleagues react.



Lost: this one was nearly impossible to screw up. the only thing they absolutely needed to do was say what the nature of the island was and why they all ended up there



This is not rocket science, just conclude your main storyline.
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This is a terrific article. Interesting for me as I've watched all of Dexter but none of HIMYM. I mostly agree with Cory's synopsis of Dexter as Season 7's treatment of Dex and Deb's relationship has been mostly excellent, while the rest of the show is still tedious.



The best series finales ever were Six Feet Under and The Sopranos, and they are way ahead of any other shows. They were great for completely different reasons: Six Feet Under for providing ultimate closure tying in with the central theme of the show, and The Sopranos for its innovate ways of touching base with most characters and finishing on a post-modern note that just felt right.
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I'm glad someone is bringing up the slow, spiraling end that is defining HIMYM. In all honesty, I agree. Meeting the mother is no where as important as the relationships that are at the core of the show. At the same time, I ask myself, how much of the story is going to be about the relationship between Ted and the mom. I don't want to just "meet" her for a 2 or 3 episode story arch. I've waited 8 years to meet her! I think she needs to be a bigger part of the last season of HIMYM, whether it's this season or the next one. I think we need to see their relationship developing. This has to be the one, big, last all out romance in HIMYM.



As for Barney and Robin, when I found out last season that they were going to get married in that 'flashforward' I cringed. I mean come on. Talk about circling the drain. They've already tried this story line. Give it a rest and move on. We found out a couple of seasons ago that they destroyed each other and weren't good for one another, I can't imagine what would change that besides desperation.



I also agree that last season of Dexter was by far the worse so far but this season has been pretty awesome though I feel that we haven't really met the bad guy even after more than a few eps into the season.
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I can pretty much guarantee that Ted will finally meet the mother in the final episode (or possibly, you'll get more ankle-going-out-the-door/yellow-umbrella-in-a-crowd-of-black-ones type sightings and only see her face in the finale.
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I don't think most people know but Dexter is based on a book series.
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Only the first season followed the books so the series finale won't have a blueprint.
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Nice article, Cory. Keep it up!

I agree with you to a large extent. I've watched every episode of both shows and I am completely reinvigorated about the Dexter story and where they are going, while at the same time I couldn't care less about who the mother is on HIMYM.

I'm not sure that HIMYM can even do anything to redeem itself down the stretch. We all already know that the final lines of the show will be something like, Old Ted: ".... and that's how I met your mother. The end." Kids: "FINALLY! Can you unchain our shackles now." Because, honestly, no kid would willingly sit through a story that inane and long. That leaves the journey as the only redeeming part, only it's been more miss than hit as they tend to tread water or take detours that we know are ultimately meaningless. Plus, they could have given us a chance to actually get to know the mother and see how Ted is different in a relationship with "the one" (and how that affects his friendships with the others), as opposed to the train wreck that falls in love with every woman that brushes up against him.Something that I would be interested in seeing, but which most certainly will not happen.

Dexter, on the other hand, I have no concerns about with the direction they are taking and not knowing the end game makes the journey all the more worth it.
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i think dexter is opening new stories instead of developing their old ones, like How i met your mother is doing. but both of them are executing their path for series finales really well.
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I feel that they can't end Dexter with him just being able to continue the life he leads. Meaning he either is imprisoned or dies. It just wouldn't make sense him going on since the show will be over. And I bet Deb will die also. I actually hope Isaak continues into the last season but don't think they've ever continued a villain to the next season.
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I love HIMYM, and still do. It's not as consistently good as it was in the earlier years, but when it delivers, it produces some of the best episodes of the show - I can think of a few episodes from last season and the season premiere of this one that I would count as some of my favourites. However, unlike seemingly most people, the fact that we haven't met the mother yet doesn't bother me. Most sitcoms that deal with the lives of single people are about their journey of finding love, heartbreak when it ends and then finally meeting the one right at the end of the show's run, and I haven't heard people complaining about those shows for dragging in terms of the lead finding the one. It seems like just because HIMYM happened to reveal the "big secret" that its lead will find the one in the show's title, that people are complaining endlessly that Ted hasn't found her yet. Look at another long running sitcom in Frasier. Despite everything else that went on, Frasier's major goal was to find love and happiness, which doesn't happen to the last few episodes. Why would it be any different for Ted if it unfolded in a similar fashion?



But that's enough of my rant. Part of me does hope though that HIMYM does get a ninth season, but if it does, then only if the Barney/Robin wedding is this season or the season nine premiere. Not because it will introduce the mother and have her on the show for a season (which I think would be great) but so we can probably conclude the stories of all the characters, and if it's the season nine finale, then the current story will be dragged out way too much. We know that there is enough that goes wrong at that wedding that that episode will probably not conclude things for Barney and Robin and it will be good to see some form of conclusion between them, whether it is together or apart (and I still favour apart).
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First I 'd like to say that this season of Dexter is amazing and second I'd like to say that I found the last few seasons to be just as good contrary to critical belief. This is one of the best shows ever to showcase the darker side of Humanity in it's truest forms. I think this show is brilliant an deserves a lot of praise.
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Good article. I think for the most part people who watch HIMYM don't watch it for the mom reveal. The show can be very hit or miss and when it's bad it's awful, but when it's good it's usually very good. So who the mother will eventually be has long since been irrelevant, but will make for a fun finale unless they are having a bad week. As for Dexter I have never thought it was awful just at times brilliant but always good TV. This season has been long awaited and is being done beautifully with plenty of extra plot to gnaw on besides Dex and Deb. For the final season I'm expecting a dynamic duo of Deb and Dex to go out with a bang...
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I have no clue how I would like Dexter to end, which is unusual because normally I have an idea. I'm assuming Dexter won't die and he won't get rid of his dark passenger so I'm guessing it will end in a satisfactory way but with some indication that everything will remain pretty much the same.



I don't watch HIMYM religiously or anything but I've caught a few episodes and it seems from this article that "the mother mystery" is the same as "Deb finding out about Dexter" - something the show needs to inject it with that boost of energy and fresh dynamic to get it to the end. Also, if the mother is revealed in the finale there won't be anytime for reaction or development which will equal a bad finale.
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Its a tricky situation. I felt that recently with Weeds. I knew it had to end all the meandering it did in those final seasons. In our house we just wanted "to put a bullet in it" and call it a day. Can't say for HIMYM, but I can for Dexter. Its a great show and its time has come. ENOUGH.
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Oh, and why didn't you mention Breaking Bad? I know its not airing now, but its still in its final season.
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Love this article. It explains quite perfectly while I quit on "HIMYM" a while back (and never, ever tried to get back into it), and while I'm loving "Dexter" this season and cannot wait to see its ending. Fact be told, though: whatever that ending is, it better involves the death of Quinn and, ESPECIALLY, LaGuerta. Sorry if I'm offending anyone, but, sincerely, that bitch deserves one hell of a gruesome death.
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Why all the hate for La Guerta? She has been a good character - well acted - adding just the right amount of friction to be worthy...
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