A Review of the DEXTER Finale: So long, Dark Passenger

Courtenay Blog IconSPOILER ALERT: The following review covers the final season of the television show “Dexter,” including the finale.

The Dark Passenger bid us adieu, slipped into a hurricane and emerged unscathed on the other side as a lumberjack. What the … ?

The final episode, "Remember The Monsters," of the “Dexter” TV series aired on Sunday night. The finale was a disappointment to many, including myself. Viewers found fault with the “lumberjack” coda. However, that was the one scene that I didn’t mind. What troubled me was not Dexter’s choice to live the life of the lone wolf in the Northwest, but the journey that got him there.

The beginning of this season inspired some intriguing story potential: Is Dr. Vogel, who created Dexter’s moral code, a friend or foe? Will Debra ever emerge from her psychosis and the guilt of killing LaGuerta? Will Dexter and Debra be able to salvage their relationship? Is this final season going to be about family or about Dexter discovering his humanity despite being a serial killer? Is Dexter's identity as the Bay Harbor Butcher finally going to be revealed?

But, the final episodes of “Dexter” leading up to the finale were lacking. Dexter’s relationship with Hannah always seemed forced – especially compared to his relationship with his previous loves, Rita and Lumen. The eighth season taunted us with the question of whether Dexter would risk it all to join Hannah in Argentina, but it felt like Dexter had already been risking it all (for several seasons now). Often, the writing did not appear organic. The writers seemed to force Harrison into the arms of Hannah. In the finale, she ends up the sole caretaker of Harrison, and the audience was reminded constantly that Harrison loves Hannah (in case we forgot) to justify them ending up together sans Dexter. (As an aside, did it ever occur to Hannah to dye her hair and not wear such a brightly colored dress when she, a wanted fugitive, is trying to escape Miami? At least put on a hat or sunglasses.) And, we didn’t need to be reminded of Deb and Dexter’s love for one another through those awful flashbacks to Harrison’s birth. We got it. We’ve been plugged in for all these seasons.

After Dexter decides not to kill Saxon, Saxon escapes and shoots Deb. As a result of her injuries from being shot, Deb suffers a stroke and slips into a vegetative state. Dexter, angered and grieving because his decision not to kill Saxon led to Deb’s condition, removes her from the oxygen and watches the last breathes slip from her lips. Dexter sneaks Debra out of the hospital in broad daylight, quite unrealistically. After ceremoniously burying Debra at sea, Dexter drives his iconic boat “Slice of Life” into Hurricane Laura, (Laura was the name of his mother, by the way), which is fast approaching the shores of Miami.

Initially, the apparent suicide of Dexter Morgan pissed me off. It did not seem like a choice his character would make. He had too much at stake. But by the end of the episode, I realized, after discovering his new life in timberland, Dexter was staying true to himself. His excursion into the hurricane was a practical decision because it would ensure that Elway would no longer think he and Hannah were on the run, and Hannah would presume him dead. Miami Metro would not pursue him in the death of Saxon. Everyone would go on with his or her own lives, including Dexter. And, most importantly, Dexter’s struggle with his Dark Passenger would no longer directly affect those he loved.

The last scene of the finale reveals an ambiguous image of Dexter. Dexter, alone in his flannel flanked by Douglas firs, leaves his lumber job for his home. He sits inside and looks out the window. He is alone. He peers into the camera, and there is fixedness in his gaze. Dexter seems sure of who he is. But, who is he now?

Dexter has chosen to live alone, but where is his Dark Passenger in all of this? Is Dexter cured? His father/his conscience chose to leave Dexter after he made the decision not to kill Saxon. Is he still not killing? And, if he is still a killer – where is his conscience in all of this? Does Dexter still live and/or kill according to the moral code?

I happen to think Dexter’s last decision to fake his death and live alone provided a way for him to stay true to himself and his Dark Passenger. Dexter always will be a killer – not even the promise of love, the beaches of Argentina and fine Gaucho beef can cure him. And, I would have been disappointed if Dexter walked into the sunset with his South American family. Dexter is a dark character. We love him, but we should also be afraid of him. He didn’t require a happy ending.

Watching Dexter emerge donning a red beard and flannel among the pines reminded me of the television series “Twin Peaks” co-created by Mark Frost and David Lynch. Many have acknowledged links between “Twin Peaks” and “Dexter” in the past – the copious amounts of donuts in the first few seasons, the quirky detectives, light and dark tones, bodies wrapped in plastic and, now, Dexter finding a new life among the pines. But, I’m not sure where BOB figures in all of this.

In the end, despite my disappointment in the final season and the finale, Dexter Morgan is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. Even when the show revealed weaker moments in storytelling, Michael C. Hall’s performance carried the show. The show was and is groundbreaking. Heck, Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times said there would be no “Breaking Bad” without “Dexter.” She might be right.

I’ll miss Dexter. I’ll miss so many aspects of his character: his elaborate plastic kill rooms, his hands always buried in his pockets, his shifty eyes, his uncanny ability to pick locks, his superhuman strength, his vigilante justice, his love of donuts, his love for his family, and his many moments wrestling with his Dark Passenger. I’ll miss you, Dexter. I hope you subdue your Dark Passenger. I’ll try to do the same with mine. I know you’ll be fine, though, because you’re a lumberjack and you’re OK. You kill all night and work all day.

 

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