The television industry is growing exponentially. Every year, a bunch of new shows is released, while multiple others continue their stories with progressive seasons. Amidst all this, from time to time, there comes a show that sets a milestone for further things to come. ‘Dexter’ is one of them. Yes, there were a couple of shows, and films, that featured serial killers. But, most of them were shown from the perspective of the cops and the victims. Hardly any of them ever explored the point of view of a psychopathic murderer. So, about twelve years ago, when ‘Dexter’ graced our TV screens, it was something entirely different for us. Following in its footsteps, we have series like ‘Hannibal’ (which is exemplary in its own right), and the most recent ‘Mindhunter’, that explore the psyche of the killers, trying to understand and portray the mechanics that drive their brains. However, none of them is anything like ‘Dexter’.
No matter what its flaws, ‘Dexter’ is, and will remain, one of the most loved shows. Starting from its opening sequence, that cleverly made use of the “routine” things to show how the simplest things in life can be perceived as an act of violence, to that ominous music, which was even more sinister in its original form, from the perfect casting for its lead characters to the impeccably written antagonists (looking at Trinity and the Ice Truck Killer), there are many unforgettable things that ‘Dexter’ has given to the audience. Michal C. Hall is a great actor who will don every role with seamless perfection, but I guess, even he will agree, that another role like ‘Dexter’ to come by is a very difficult thing.
The Story of Darkly Dreaming Dexter
If you haven’t yet seen it, I’d tell you to head over to Netflix right now and start watching it. It’s advisable not to move forward in this article unless you have finished the show because, for the most part, the finale (that gut-wrenching one!) will be under close scrutiny. And I don’t want to spoil your fun (or the sense of misery that will envelop you after you are done with the show).
This show tells the story of Dexter Morgan, an expert blood-splatter analyst who works for the Miami Metro Police Department. He has a foster-sister named Debra, who also works in the MMPD and he has a girlfriend named Rita, who is trying to move on from her haunted past while trying to raise her two children. His foster and real parents are dead, and he swears that he didn’t kill them! Everyone at work likes and admires him, mostly because he brings doughnuts for everyone and also, he is the type of guy who doesn’t meddle in other people’s businesses. All in all, Dexter Morgan is an ideal brother, boyfriend, friend and employee.
There is one other thing that he is good at. Catching serial killers and, well, killing them! The criminals who succeed in dodging the law or slip conveniently owing to the loopholes in the justice system are the ones with great prospects of finding their final place on Dexter’s table. Oh no, he doesn’t eat them like Hannibal Lecter (though you might get that impression from the opening sequence of the show). He just wraps them in plastic and does the thing with the reckoning and stuff. You’ll get the gist when you watch it, I don’t want to ruin the ritual for you.
Basically, he kills people who kill other people and get away with it. Throughout the series, most of his targets are serial killers, but you’ll fit the criteria even with one single kill. The question arises: why does he do that? If he works for the police, why can’t he just bring those killers to justice? It’s because he doesn’t want the law to get them. He’s not Batman. (Though seeing Michael C. Hall as Batman is a promising idea! He can do it.) He does it because he, too, is a serial killer. He has needs too, however, killing innocent people would not only make it worse but also put a trail on him which wouldn’t be an intelligent thing to do. If you are going to kill, why not clean some dirt off.
Remember the Monsters- the Good and the Bad
The final episode of ‘Dexter’ will go down in history as one of the most controversial, if not the most hated, finales of a show. The first few seasons were pretty solid, but visibly, the content of the show started to diminish after the fourth season. Trinity’s chase and Rita’s death was the highest point of the whole series and after that, there was only one way the series went. Down! The Doomsday Killer season could have remedied things and brought ‘Dexter’ back to its glory days. Personally, I liked the premise of the killer (though it could’ve been bettered), I liked the execution-style with all the imagery and the symbolism, and the finale, Dexter’s revelation(!) to Debra, would have been a spot-on way to end it. But it all got botched up because of the miscasting and the poor handling of the secrets which didn’t jump out as the surprises that they were supposed to be.
The next season was quite exciting in the way that Debra handled the truth while LaGuerta found the blood slide and fixated on Dexter. However, the last season was just a great big mess. I didn’t like the Vogel angle. That was just brought out of nowhere. They could have used Captain Matthews if they wanted someone from Harry’s past to know Dexter’s truth. There are just so many things that they could have done right, and this particular thought frustrates me (and a lot of other fans) very much. But, let’s just take a deep breath and move on.
There were a couple of throwbacks that made the good bits of the final episode. As people prepare for the storm and Saxon looks for someone to stitch him up, he passes by Miami Chills Ice Delivery, a nod to the Ice Truck Killer from the first season. Also, the hurricane that became the backdrop for all this mess was named Laura, as in Dexter’s mother. There were other small things that they had been tinkering with throughout the season. One of those was the voiceovers, especially that of Harry. Since the beginning, we saw Ghost Harry accompany Dexter through all the ups and downs, advising him in his troubled times, questioning him for his wrong ways and supporting him when he felt alone.
In the last season, though, there was a lot less of Harry as compared to the other times. It was as if Dexter was growing and hence was becoming increasingly less dependent on Harry’s guidance. Every time someone died, there was a voiceover, either Harry’s or Dexter’s himself, that would tell us what Dexter was thinking at the moment. It was these voiceovers that made us feel closer, more intimate to Dexter’s thought-process and helped us understand his ways. This formed a special connection between the audience and Dexter because we were the only one privy to his secret.
However, in the last season, these voiceovers reduced. But, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t understand him anymore. In fact, this meant that after all these years, listening in to his thoughts, the audience was in the complete understanding of Dexter. We, now, knew what every death meant to him and what he would be thinking in the most crucial of times. That’s why when Dr Vogel died, there was just silence. Because we didn’t need Harry or Dexter to tell us how he felt at that moment. However, this whole thing was screwed over when Dexter decided to become a lumberjack! I mean, seriously, what was that all about? This was the point that I don’t think anyone understood what was in Dexter’s head, which no doubt, enraged everything. Because, honestly, we’ve known the guy for eight years, or so. What was that?
He said that he had to protect Hannah and Harrison from himself, which begs another question, why did Dexter leave Harrison with a killer? Didn’t he think that his son would be safer with Jamie, Batista, or Harrison’s grandparents? He didn’t trust himself with Harrison because he thought he’d ruin his life. But didn’t the same thing apply on Hannah? Hadn’t everyone who had been a part of her life destroyed by her? Perhaps, he wasn’t thinking straight because he was grieving over Deb!
There’s another thing that could have aided Dexter’s thought. First of all, because it was convenient. Harrison clearly loved Hannah and they had a flight that would take them away from all the mess that he had created. So, he let them go. Also, Hannah wasn’t an impulsive killer. She didn’t NEED to kill, like Dexter. So, that would mean that she wouldn’t lay hands, or knives, on Harrison. Also, she is a survivor. She wouldn’t hesitate in killing people if she needed to protect the two of them. And above all, she knew Dexter’s secret. She knew about his dos and don’ts, she knew about the code, and she knew about Harrison’s past, i.e., the death of his mother. Being the son of a prolific serial killer and having sat in the pool of his mother’s blood, it is a possibility that Harrison would have developed the tendencies to kill. And if that ever happened, he’d need someone to show him the way, just like Harry taught Dexter. And the only person who could understand and help Harrison under such circumstances would be Hannah.
“If I could have feelings at all, I’d have them for Deb.” This line in the very first episode summed up Dexter’s connection with his “foul-mouthed foster-sister”. Over the course of eight seasons, Dexter had four love interests. In all of them, Dexter tried to find an acceptance for who he was. He wanted to find someone who he could share his dark side with. In the second season, he found comfort in Lila, before he realized that she was too psychotic to handle because he thought that he didn’t have to hide in front of her. A similar thing happened with Lumen. He was still reeling from his loss of Rita, and Lumen came along, sharing a purpose with him, killing with him. It couldn’t have been more intimate than that for him. He tried a similar thing with Miguel Prado, but that man was screwed up in the head in his own ways. Lumen, on the other hand, wasn’t. She just wanted the justice that she wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Once that was done, she knew she wouldn’t be able to continue with what Dexter wanted to be. Smart decision on her part.
Hannah, on the other hand, was something different, altogether. As Dexter said, she wasn’t drawn to his darkness like Lila, didn’t need it like Lumen and wasn’t unaware of it like Rita. She knew what he was and wasn’t scared away or enticed with it. Hannah was a killer too, but her motivations were different. In the end, fleeing to Argentina was preferred by Dexter and he realized that he didn’t want to kill Saxon like others. Considering these things, Hannah was good for Dexter. Some people didn’t understand her purpose in the show, and they aren’t to blame. The writers got slacker by the season, and by the time they got to Hannah, well, let’s say that it could have been worse!
Dexter’s connection with Rita, in the beginning, was because he wanted to blend in, and having a girlfriend is a normal thing to do. Over time, he started to care more and more about her and the kids. It became evident that he needed her as much as she needed him. No matter what people think about Rita, she was an integral part of Dexter’s humanity and that’s why when she was killed by Trinity in the season four finale, Dexter was devastated. In the next season, they gave ample time for Dexter to accept his pain and deal with it as normal people do. This was the most important thing. They gave him time to grieve. And this is why the series finale sucked more because as devastated as Dexter should have been for Deb, he wasn’t. If he had committed suicide, jumped into the ocean with Deb’s body, or went into that hurricane with her by his side, the ending would have made a lot more sense.
Instead, the writers did what they did and Deb ended up in the ocean with the rest of Dexter’s preys. Considering this, it seems a rather awful thing to have been done by someone who loved her the most. Okay, he pulled her out of the life-support. He mercy killed her. Also, it seemed a fitting ending for her. After she saw Dexter for who he was, she was torn between her morality and her love for him. This was handled pretty well, given that they explored every aspect of how she would deal with Dexter’s truth.
After killing LaGuerta, everything fell apart for her and her leaving the force was an appropriate thing to do. She even tried to kill the both of them when she steered the car into the lake, but she loved him too much and couldn’t bring herself to live without him. All of this was understandable. They even brought Dr Vogel to make her understand that. She really did love Dexter (sexually or not). From the very beginning, she had been looking up to him, she defended him, protected him, supported him. She was there all the time, and all these seasons, we saw Dexter being there for her too. He didn’t let her go in the last season. He tried to win her over, to get them back to the way they used to be. They did love each other and, in most senses, they were soul-mates.
Undeniably, there was a very strong bond between the Morgan siblings. Then why did we not see it in the final episode! That emotion, it wasn’t handled well. The fact that Dexter donned his stalker outfit while killing Debra suggests that he was considering it along the line of his regular killing, though a lot less gory. The fact that he took her on the boat and dumped her into the ocean says that it was to be his last kill. Maybe, he was trying to justify his actions by applying the code to Debra. She had killed LaGuerta, i.e., an innocent person. Maybe, as ‘Dexter the loving brother’ he couldn’t bring himself to kill her, so he allowed his Dark Passenger to do the job for him. Maybe, that was the thought behind his actions.
Another thing that justifies him pulling the plug on Deb was because she asked for it. In the third season when Camille was on her deathbed, Deb asked him to “pull the plug or smother me with a pillow.” He was just following her wishes.
Deb was a driving factor in Dexter’s life. She was the yin to his yang. Most of the times, we saw both of them chasing the same killers, with their own methods, trying to get justice in their own ways. They were two sides of the same coin. In one of the theories, it is suggested that they were analogous to the De Morgan’s law, a logic quite often used in Maths and Computer. In simple terms, it talks about two functions that are co-dependent. Neither can exist without the other. This is exactly what Dexter and Debra’s relationship was about.
A lot of fans were outraged by Debra’s death, which not only felt quite sudden but also messily mishandled. She was one of the main characters, one of the most loved ones and perhaps the most badass one, too. After all that she had been through, she didn’t deserve to die because she was, essentially, a good person.
Jennifer Carpenter, who portrayed Debra, didn’t agree with this. She had seen the most awful thing in her life, and she had done awful things in her life, and her sense of justice dictated that those who did awful things should pay for it. What took a toll on her psyche was that she and Dexter were awful people and they weren’t paying for it. She even broke down to the point of confessing in front of Quinn but was stopped at the crucial moment. Even when she was shot by Saxon, she thought that she deserved it. For her to stay alive, Dexter had to die. Because it seems impossible that she could spend the rest of her life covering up for him. But, she couldn’t live without him, either. This leaves only a few ways in which her story could have ended.
So, she deserved to die. But did she deserve to die like this? Offscreen! Didn’t she deserve people mourning for her? Didn’t she deserve a proper funeral? A gravestone that spelt badass or a park bench that didn’t allow anyone to sit on it? There were so many ways that her death could’ve been handled, and the finale didn’t make use of them.
The World Without the Morgans
One of the things that bothered people about the finale was the ambiguity about the futures of the rest of the characters. In the end, we just knew about the Morgans and Hannah’s state. But, what happened to other characters like Batista, Masuka, and Quinn? Even Vogel, the not so interesting and seemingly quite unnecessary character that popped out of nowhere in the last season found a clear-cut(!) end to her story. Then why were the people who had been there since the very beginning left as loose ends?
Starting with Batista, his arc of trying to retire and opening up a restaurant seemed okay, until he doubled back and joined the force again! What was that about? Why introduce this arc in the first place if it wasn’t going to amount to anything? Maybe they wanted to explore the possibility of his retirement. We did see Batista stuck in the job, nabbed of promotions and all. Even Deb had more upheavals in her career than Batista, who had been in the force long before her. In such a case, it seemed sensible that he might have wanted to give it all up, and even did, almost! But then, this job is something that he had been doing for a very long time and it would suck to just give it up. He liked his job and it was after giving it up that he realized how much he wanted it. All in all, it makes sense, if you give it a lot of thought. It could’ve been easier and better if they went with a different thing for Batista. Perhaps, him finally finding out about Dexter could have spiced it up. He does have LaGuerta’s research, so why not?
And Quinn, poor guy. His story was beginning to shape up, with him being in a relationship with Jamie, which led to the sergeant exams in which he performed well but didn’t get the job. This paved a proper path for him that gave a sense of direction where his story could possibly go towards the future. But the writers decided to take it all away and bring him back to Deb, whom they then killed. Okay, fine, maybe they wanted to resolve the whole Quinn-Deb angle. We get it! But there wasn’t really a proper resolution. When Dexter took Deb off of life-support and buried her body in the ocean, we saw the two of them say their goodbyes.
But what about the rest of the people in Deb’s life, who loved her and cared about her just like Dexter? How did they react to her fate? How did they figure out what happened to her? And how did they deal with it? How broken would Quinn be after losing the love of his life! What turn did his life take after this? Had he been with Jamie, we could’ve concluded that she could have been the shoulder to cry on for him. That she would take care of him and get him through Deb’s grief and maybe even inspire him to do better in his life. We would have hope for him. But with what happened, or didn’t happen, in the finale, we had nothing.
Masuka’s story, though, had a better conclusion. For years, he had been a sexist. It was surprising how no harassment cases were levied on him in all these years. It seemed karmic for a guy like him to end up with a daughter and, finally, be privy to the other side of the world, i.e., the world that had to endure his constant commentary for so long. It was also good to finally see him have a proper relationship with a woman, him being normal and good and respectful for someone. His story reminded me a lot of how Barney’s story ended in ‘How I Met Your Mother’. He was a lot like Masuka. Though unlike Masuka, he’s had some serious relationships, most of his life his had been a string of one-night stands. In the end, he, too, ended up with a daughter which reversed the scales on him.
In an Alternate Dex-verse
No matter how much we argue about how the finale wasn’t a justified end to our beloved characters, there is one thing that we can all agree on. It is what it is, we can’t change it. Deb’s dead, Harrison is on a foreign trip with his killer mom (pun heavily intended) and Dexter is Wolverine now! Without the claws, that is.
In truth, the writers aren’t to blame either. Turns out, they too wanted Dexter to die and bring everything to a conclusion with his death. And if they’d had more time on their hands, perhaps they could have delved more into the possibilities with which we could say goodbye to our favourite serial killer. However, Showtime switched the date of the premiere of the final season to three months before it was earlier announced. On top of that, they told the writers that there was no way Dexter was going to die! But still, a lumberjack?
The end could have been a very different thing if Clyde Phillips, the original showrunner and executive producer, hadn’t left the show after the fourth season, i.e., after its high point. How the subsequent seasons would have turned out is something unimaginable, but there was a clear idea that Phillips had in mind about how Dexter’s story would end.
In an interview, Phillips expressed his discontent with some of the aspects of the show and revealed his own alternate ending. He didn’t mention what he had in mind about Debra, but he did say that Dexter would have found an end fitting to a serial killer. He would think, after all the mess he’s have made, that everything is going to be okay, but then it wouldn’t be. He’d open his eyes and would find himself on the table. No, not one of his own, but the execution table of the Florida Penitentiary. As a needle, of the drugs, would be pierced into his skin (a call-back to what he did to his own victims), he would look towards the observational gallery and all his victims and all the people who died because of him would be there. The Trinity Killer, the Doomsday Killer, the Ice Truck killer, all the major and even the minor ones, along with Rita, Doakes and LaGuerta, the ones who died because of him would look at him. And that’s it.
Notice how the name Debra is not on his list? Perhaps in Phillips’ ending, Debra didn’t die, or at least, didn’t die because of Dexter! This ending does seem a lot better than the lumberjacking that Dexter is up to now. In fact, dissatisfied with what they saw on the TV, the fans decided to come up with their own endings. And damn, are they good! I scoured Reddit with the threads that discussed the alternate endings for ‘Dexter’ and some of them, really gave me the chills. Most people focused on Debra being alive, but, in the end, since it was about Dexter, it all came down to where he went further. Some wanted Dexter to die, but there were others who agreed that killing Dexter wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as having him out and about in the world.
One ending explored the possibility of Dexter being unable to let go of his ‘needs’ and allowed him to continue at the MMPD doing what he has always been doing. Some others considered the scenario with Doakes, somehow, coming back to life and jumping on Dexter, saying “Surprize, m***!” The descriptions that some people came up with were really interesting!
Another scenario considered the happy ending for Dexter. That he drops his blood slides in the ocean and leaves for Argentina with Hannah and Harrison and we see them playing on the beach. A blood slide washes up on the beach, and he keeps it, for old times sake. Or that he continues his killing spree in Argentina, this time with Hannah’s help. And maybe even send a card or two to Deb about it. Or that, Hannah finds some bones buried in their garden and doesn’t understand whether it’s Dexter or Harrison who put them there! The possibility of Harrison turning out like Dexter has also been emphasized upon by the fans. Considering how both of them sat in the pool of their mother’s blood.
There is one other place that could provide one with a different and a more fitting end. However, the road to that end would be very, very different from the one that the show took over all these years. I am talking about the books. ‘Dexter’ was adapted from Jeff Lindsay’s ‘Darkly Dreaming Dexter’. However, after the first season, the show strayed from the books and created its own storyline. You could head over to a bookstore and start reading the books which are coincidently eight, like the number of seasons. A lot of things are different in that world, for example, Rudy doesn’t die in the first season, Rita doesn’t die in the fourth, and so on. There is some mention of the drug cartels as well. Also, there are no stupid incest fantasies!
The Legacy of the Dark Passenger
When a show is wrapped up, the writers try to tie up all loose ends. With ‘Dexter’, this is clearly not the case. The choice of the showrunners to keep him alive suggests that a revival or a spin-off is not a far-fetched thought. If one wanted to pick up where the show was a left-off, they could tug at any of the loose ends to kick-start a new show. One of the most prominent possibilities would be Dexter coming back to his own ways to rid the world of a dangerous serial killer. And what an intriguing premise it would make if that serial killer turned out to be none other than Dexter’s own son, Harrison. A time-leap isn’t that difficult to cue in. Just a thought!
Perhaps, a new season could explain why did he particularly choose to be a lumberjack. A self-imposed exile is what the showrunners have mentioned a lot of times. Death had never been an obscure thing for Dexter and because he had killed so many people, he had looked into their eyes in their dying moments, that he understood that death was more of a reprieve than a punishment. Especially, for a person like him. So, instead of taking the easy way out, he forced himself to live, quelling his ‘needs’ that I don’t suppose would’ve just disappeared. Maybe, his choice of cutting down trees is symbolical in the way he cut down everything in his life that provided support, that provided life to him. He is killing here too, it’s just a lot less bloody.
Or maybe, he was there to kill someone, Back on his killing spree. Maybe, if the camera had lingered long enough, he’d have said something. Or maybe, because we now understand him a lot better than we understood him the very first episode, when it all began, maybe that look was enough to let us know- “Tonight’s the night.”