It's kind of fitting that it ended this way. For a long time (dating back to the third season), I've wondered whether Dexter was actually a good show. I've certainly enjoyed individual moments and even full episodes, but since the end of Season 2, there's been that sinking feeling that the series wasn't what we thought—or hoped—it would be. Every single time that the show would rope me back in with a fascinating story, be it Trinity or Dexter's relationship with Lumen or most of Season 7, something would go wrong and I'd remember, "Oh yeah, it's Dexter." I don't want to say that this eight-year journey wasn't worth it, but after "Remember the Monsters?" ended (and I stopped laughing), I felt that feeling again. Oh yeah, that was Dexter.
Frankly, the series finale could have been much worse. The good news is that the oft-mentioned Reddit "leaked" spoilers weren't true, for the most part. Quinn did not randomly become a serial killer-in-training and Dexter, Hannah, and Harrison didn't get to live happily ever after with no consequences. The bad news is that what actually occurred wasn't that much different or better than that possible ending. Deb did in fact die from complications from her gunshot wound—quite suddenly, I might add—but Dexter, not Quinn, took care of Saxon, like he probably should have two episodes ago. And although Dexter, Hannah, and Harrison did get their butts out of Miami, and in ridiculously stupid ways, they are separated and generally unhappy.
So Dexter didn't get his happy ending, which is what I feared would happen for so much of this season. Yet at the same time, he didn't totally have to face the music either. Deb died—and Dexter was somehow able to take her off life support, wheel her out of the hospital, and put her in a boat during hurricane conditions because obviously—but it's not as though Dexter had to admit any substantive wrongdoing to anyone other than her lifeless body, and to himself, I guess. In fact, Deb actually absolved him of any wrongdoing, repeatedly. It's nice that he recognized that he didn't deserve to have a 'normal' life, and that his actions negatively impact everyone around him, particularly in light of last week's random TRUE LOVE IS THE ELIXIR nonsense, but c'mon. Where this ended doesn't really line up with much of anything that happened this season, does it? If anything, a really stupid happy ending would've tracked, at least somewhat, with all the empty conversations Dexter had with Vogel about how special he was for loving, or something. Instead, he experienced a last-minute change of heart, and one that's a little more consistent with the character in the series' total run, but one that was mostly empty in light of the last 11 episodes. The show was so far gone by the time the series finale rolled around that no path would've worked particularly well, so I guess we can appreciate that the writers kind of tried to rectify their mistakes in this final hour.
Still, they still couldn't help themselves. Just when it seemed like Dexter would do the half-assed noble thing and just kill himself by driving a boat with too small a beer cooler into a full-blown hurricane, he apparently lived—and lived just so he could log. Don't get me wrong, Michael C. Hall pulls off the beard-and-flannel look quite well, but huh? Deb died, Harrison is with a woman who will be a fugitive the rest of her life, and he's just going to Brawny Man it up in the Pacific Northwest or something? But this is how the show has always worked, ever since that wobbly ending to Season 2. Dexter might suffer, but it's always temporary, and he'll never pay with his life. Others will, and he can spout off about consequences, but he still gets to survive. That tells us all we need to know about how the writers view the character, and what they think he deserves. That final ending felt like something that another production might film just in case, only to realize that they didn't need it. But not this show; they can't let go of the chance to let the 'hero' kill some more bad people and be sort of disappointed and affected by all the awful things he's done.
For Deb, this was probably the ending we all knew was coming, even if it was the one we didn't want to face. Her death could have truly meant something—you know, if it'd forced Dexter into a darker or more honest instead of inspiring him to adopt new grooming habits and abandon his son—but instead she ended up at the bottom of the ocean. There was something fitting about Deb being Dexter's final body dump, which made that scene the strongest moment in the entire episode. But even disassociated from the very odd way the season progressed after Deb drove Dexter off the bridge and tried to kill him, Deb's role in the final episode was kind of weird. We expect the show to pull the rug out from under us when a character's in the hospital, but Deb was shockingly healthy—I think the doctor even reinforced her confidence in the recovery—only to almost immediately fall victim to a stroke and be hooked up to life support, all off-screen. Deb was the character who grew the most during the series' run, and she was the true heart and soul of the series. Once the writers lost the thread with her this season, Dexter never recovered. Her death wasn't not emotional, but it didn't have the weight it deserved. Jennifer Carpenter did her best, and she and Michael C. Hall shared some fine moments in this final season, but her crowning achievements on the show happened last year.
Across the board, the finale felt pretty matter-of-fact. Saxon, never a compelling or intimidating threat, beat up The Killing and Boardwalk Empire's Eric Ladin and then almost immediately got arrested. Dexter taking him out was about as a boilerplate as the show gets, though it did manage to squeeze a nice moment out of Dexter, Quinn, and Batista watching Dexter kill Saxon on tape. All three of actors did good work in that scene, with Desmond Harrington portraying Quinn's pleasure with just the righ amount of glee and David Zayas working through the confusion of the moment quite methodically as well. Honestly, this was probably Zayas's best work since like Season 4 or something; that's what happens when you give solid actors interesting things to do. Even the flow of the episode lacked complete urgency, hurricane or not. In one 10-12 minute sequence, Dexter left the airport, visited Deb in the hospital, went to the hotel with Hannah and Harrison, accompanied them the bus stop to say goodbye, then returned to the hospital. Along the way, he seemed about as concerned as he'd be chasing a gang-banger through the mall. So very little emotion or energy, pacing-wise, which is again pretty evocative of Season 8 as a whole.
Ultimately, "Remember the Monsters?" isn't really a divisive finale. The people who really, really love Dexter probably enjoyed this episode. There weren't any big twists, there were a few good individual moments, and sure, Dexter faced some substantive consequences with Deb's death. For those of us who've been disappointed with the final season, the series finale didn't take the show down any further into the depths of awful television. So much of the show's swan song was so boring and devoid of urgency, and this finale was mostly the same, with a slight uptick in quality. It was entirely mediocre: typically dumb in spots, but not Season 6 levels of dumb, or even as bad as last week's penultimate episode. People won't be angrily tweeting about it in five years, because it just didn't have any impact at all.
It's too early to solidify the series' legacy, for sure. But I do think we'll probably look back in a decade and be confused about how much we talked or cared about this show. Time isn't going to be kind to it, and that hasn't very little to do with this finale. It was a decent, regularly frustrating series with a few great performances to keep it from sinking. Dexter will likely be remembered more for what it did for Showtime as network, and for Michael C. Hall's performance, than for anything else. And that's okay. Not every show is capital-G Great, and now that it's over, we can all admit that Dexter wasn't.
– Absolutely no Masuka this week, so apparently that story with his daughter did, in fact, go nowhere. Do you think they made it out of Miami during the hurricane, or did they just smoke a bowl together and do something really awkward?
How did he not even appear in the finale? [UPDATE: Masuka appeared briefly, and I forgot. Whoops.)
– Nobody else learned Dexter's secret, which reminds me that overall, my finale predictions weren't too far off. I went 4/6, if we're assuming that the seeds for a spin-off weren't really there. I mean, Hall is not doing this anymore, right? Someone take his phone away so he can't agree to a six-episode miniseries event called Dexter: Ax Man or something.
– But on that note, isn't the hurricane the perfect opportunity to wash up a bunch of bodies? I know the show has done that before, but if you're going to do a hurricane story and there aren't going to be any tangible consequences anyway, why not?
– I appreciate that Dexter put on his Murder Henley to drive across the extremely calm pre-hurricane water to retrieve Deb and kill her. That guy is committed to the bit.
– Another thing that happened off-screen with very little import: Elway's death. I'm assuming Hannah just straight-up poisoned the dude on the bus, but wouldn't people have noticed that? Although people always did stupid stuff on this show, the number of CLEARLY idiotic choices this season was through the roof. [UPDATE: Apparently Hannah just tranq'd him, as commenters have pointed out. I still don't recall this scene at all, but I trust you. My apologies.]
– One last time, it needs to be said: Michael C. Hall was so good on this show. Without him, Dexter would've gone nowhere fast. He brought a lot more texture to the role than it probably even deserved.
– We've reached the end of the road. Thanks for reading my reviews of the last two seasons. What an experience it's been.
What'd you think of the series finale?
AIRED ON 9/22/2013
Season 8 : Episode 12