Dexter: 8.12 - Remember the Monsters?

After eight years, the first four of which were rather good TV, Dexter brought his rampage to an end this week. The final episode aired, and after weeks of broadcasting my disappointment with this last season, it may not be a huge surprise that I didn't particularly like it. There was a little part of me that hoped they were saving some monstruous twists or dark stylings for this last week, but no, it was very much in the tradition of the last few.

Well, except the parts that weren't, and I will say this - for the first time in a while, the finale of Dexter did get a genuine smile and laugh out of me, even if it wasn't intentional. Let's dig into it, and beware, I will be doing spoilers, right up to the very final shot of the episode.


The Medium Old Days

Before I get specific about the finale, I will say this: there were weeks at the start of this Dexter season where it looked like it might be okay. I was quite up on the show after the mostly-good seventh season, the Vogel character was a good way of circling back to Dexter's origins without doing something ridiculous like bringing back Harry, Deb's breakdown after killing LaGuerta was being handled well enough.

Unfortunately, those two elements either went nowhere or got duly shoved aside, and most of the second half of the season has been... not even bad, but dull. Zach was introduced as erstwhile sidekick and killed before we could start to like him. Hannah returned and cured Dexter's urge to kill by making him loads of really good dinners. Most of this wase shot in a really boring, straight on, heavily lit fashion that made us forget this used to be a show with style and verve.

In this finale, Ms McKay gets a victorious moment taking out Elway, but otherwise is only here to give Dexter something to strive towards and an excuse to ditch his kid. Speaking of Harrison, his "I love Hannah!" declaration seemed ridiculous at the time, but retrospectively was clearly meant to make Dex's sacrifice at the end seem heroic, and not grotesquely selfish.

Lastly, Oliver Saxon was introduced as a nemesis, and although the actor playing him does a decent job once he's revealed as a murderer, he's too little too late as an enemy to actually give this final season something to kick against. The big problem with this year was a crushing lack of tension, and the final episode demonstrates this nicely by dispatching Saxon in fairly quick scenes. The second of these could have been an interesting chance for Miami Metro to suspect Dexter, but no, we're not going there, even though it's the logical storyline to do in a final Dexter season and couldn't they even hint at the possibility?

Weirdly, one of the most genuinely tense elements in the Dexter finale was a set of sequences that didn't feature the lead character at all, just Saxon terrorising a poor guy who worked at a vet.

A post-it note from the beginning

Right, that's the season eight plotlines dealt with. If it sounds like I was being quite cursory about them, that's only because the actual episode was too. Having spent most of the last half of this season building up this stuff, it gets thrown overboard in the finale to focus on Dexter and Debra. It's a fair enough choice to put Deb front and centre for the conclusion, but it ends up looking bizarre because she's been effectively sidelined ever since she magically got over her depression a few weeks back.

But now we get some flashback scenes to Deb and Dexter in happier times, and then she, um, dies, more or less off-screen. This is enough to kick Dexter into a guilty spiral of misery, throwing her body into the sea (after stealing it weirdly easily) and sailing into the heart of the storm to end himself, in a sequence kinda undercut by ropey effects. Everyone now thinks he's dead, so our hero has finally saved his loved ones from the Curse Of Dexter. Hooray. (I'll address the coda in a minute.)

The good news is, in raw post-it note form, Dexter deciding he's beyond saving, it's too late for him to become human and he has to die isn't a bad way to end this show. Sadly, they've presented it here in a way that feels unearned and dull. Michael C. Hall makes a lot more out of it than it deserves, even making the individual scenes genuinely moving at times, and at least he didn't just run off with Hannah, so it isn't the worst possible ending.

He's a serial killer and he's okay, he stabs all night and he stabs all day...

Lastly, there's the ridiculous epilogue where Dexter becomes a lumberjack. I'll give them this: it did surprise me. I laughed out loud at my television when that came on screen, simply because it was so uniquely silly. If this is meant to be some lonely purgatory for him, why not prison or some less silly form of exile? Why didn't he kill himself? Did he ultimately not have the courage? If so, couldn't we have seen that on screen? Instead of just throwing vague ideas at us in the name of silly ambiguity? Maybe it's an attempt by Showtime to keep him around in case they decide to resuscitate this in a few years.

If you were wondering what happened in all the Miami Metro subplots, then keep thinking about it, none of them went anywhere. Masuka's daughter really was apparently just a way to give him something to do. Even Quinn's relationship with Deb barely matters in the end.

This Dexter finale was mostly terrible, folks. Even the slightly-touching scenes, getting to my heartstrings thanks to decent acting from Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter and my years-old attachment to the show, couldn't ultimately distract from the level of mess on display. It clearly wanted to be all Dexter's sins coming back to haunt him, but since they'd completely failed to build that theme in previous weeks and have generally portrayed Dexter as a righteous superhero, it felt flat and half-hearted. Ah well. At least we'll always have seasons one to four.

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