Daringly Defending Dexter’s Series Finale

A lot has been said about Dexter’s final season.  With a show as popular it was (and sort of still is) that put out so many years of quality, expectations were naturally high.  7 seasons of mostly solid content, what else would you expect?  However, many fans were left confused, upset, and downright pissed at the series’ end with words like “unsatisfying” and “sloppy” being thrown around.

I just made another marathon run through the series, and I can honestly say that season 8 is a strong season… finale included.  Is it the best season?  No, but it certainly is the best send off all things considered (more on that later).  So why all of the hate?

The introduction of a couple new characters at the show’s end might seem like it was an unnecessary thing to do, and I would have to at least half agree with you.  Bringing in a “Mother of the Code” in Dr. Vogel was… silly.  Charlotte Rampling did a great job as Vogel, and the relationship between her and Dexter evolved quickly without feeling forced.  But her role was not one that was needed in the least.

Sam Underwood as Zach Hamilton

Sam Underwood as Zach Hamilton

The other character, Zach Hamilton (portrayed by Sam Underwood), was another some people had no love for.  Zach was another person who felt the urge of a dark passenger, but lacked the guidance that Dexter did.  He was meant to be Dexter’s protégé but was murdered by Oliver Saxon, the Brain Surgeon (played wonderfully by Darri Ingolfsson).  The four episodes that Zach appears in, he was funny and interesting.  Underwood does a great job of giving him this sort of childlike innocence even though he is a psychopath.  The character’s purpose was to remind Dexter of himself as a child and draw a meaningful connection between the two of them.

The moment season 6 concluded, when Jennifer Carpenter’s Debra Morgan found out that her brother was a killer, the show only had one direction to go.  They had to show that the destruction that Dexter was responsible for wasn’t confined to his table.  Everybody he came into contact with were worse people after meeting him, especially if they found out he was the real Bay Harbor Butcher.  In order to hammer that point home, they had to have Debra lose control of her life and materialize two new characters to sacrifice for the cause.

Zach was necessary because he represented Dexter as a child, and Dexter felt that this was a chance to make up for the mistake Harry made with him.  He would be able to show Zach how to channel those urges, but also make sure he knows that he doesn’t have to be stuck in the role of murderous vigilante forever.  Just when he thinks he’s able to do some good for him, Zach was ripped away by Saxon because he was close to Dexter.  Since they weren’t going to kill Harrison, Aster, or Cody (although any of those deaths would have led to a very interesting performance from Michael C. Hall), Zach had to be created.  The only justification that I can find for Dr. Vogel is that we never actually saw the impact Dexter had on Harry, so they felt they needed to create a “mother” for him.  So maybe the hate came from the overcrowded cast, but everybody served their purpose and led to what I feel (after a second watch) is a truly perfect finale.

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan

This seems to be where the most contention lies.  I will admit to being thoroughly disappointed after my initial viewing (I think my exact words were, “that was absolute dog shit”), but I understand exactly what they did.  After realizing that everybody in his life would be better off without him and seeing all of the wreckage he left in his wake, Dexter fakes his death and runs off to Oregon to grow an adorable attempt at a beard and become a lumberjack.  If you leave it at that, it is the single most ridiculous way you could end a show like Dexter.  So, let’s break it down.

Dexter didn’t kill himself because that would be too easy.  He doesn’t feel he deserves the sweet peace that death would bring him.  He instead opts for a self-imposed exile.  This way he’s sure he will never hurt anyone he loves, but that isn’t punishment enough to him.  Taking the seemingly random job as a lumberjack makes all the more sense when you remember the most common tool of that trade: a chainsaw.  Watching as his mother is ripped apart by a chainsaw as a child clearly left him scarred beyond repair, and the visions continuously haunt him.  He forces himself to relive it every day because, to him, that is the only punishment that fits his crime.  Another thing to notice is that there are no more voices in his head.  In almost every scene where he is alone throughout the 8 seasons, Dexter has an internal monologue for whatever the situation calls for.  As the series closes out, Dexter quietly sits down, all alone in his house, but there is nothing but terrible silence to accompany him.

Besides feeling anticlimactic, I think a big reason this didn’t sit well with most people is because original showrunner, Clyde Philips, stated his intended ending for Dexter.

“In the very last scene of the series,” Philips explained, “Dexter wakes up. And everybody is going to think, ‘Oh, it was a dream.’ And then the camera pulls back and back and back and then we realize, ‘No, it’s not a dream.’ Dexter’s opening his eyes and he’s on the execution table at the Florida Penitentiary. They’re just starting to administer the drugs and he looks out through the window to the observation gallery.

“And in the gallery are all the people that Dexter killed—including the Trinity Killer and the Ice Truck Killer (his brother Rudy), LaGuerta who he was responsible killing, Doakes who he’s arguably responsible for, Rita, who he’s arguably responsible for, Lila. All the big deaths, and also whoever the weekly episodic kills were. They are all there.

“That’s what I envisioned for the ending of Dexter. That everything we’ve seen over the past eight seasons has happened in the several seconds from the time they start Dexter’s execution to the time they finish the execution and he dies.  Literally, his life flashed before his eyes as he was about to die. I think it would have been a great, epic, very satisfying conclusion.”

To say that would have been an incredible finale does it no justice.  It’s a fun thought, but the reality is that the ending we actually got wasn’t bad in the least.  It had as much to say about the character as the proposed ending from Philips, if not more.  If you haven’t given Dexter’s final season a second watch, do so immediately.  While it feels like it is playing a dangerous balancing act at times, it really is one hell of a sendoff for the iconic Dexter Morgan.

Images Courtesy of Showtime

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