SPOILER ALERT – This review contains spoilers from through-out the show, read on at your own risk!
“Tonight’s the night. And it’s going to happen again and again. It has to happen. Nice night. Miami is a great town. I love the Cuban food; pork sandwiches, my favourite. But I’m hungry for something different now.”
I remember starting Dexter three years ago, and that haunting monologue, accompanying the opening scene of a shadowy Dexter driving through Miami on the hunt for his latest victim, sending chills down my spine. I wondered how it took me so long to check out this show. It’s darkly portrayal of Dexter, forensic analyst for Miami Metro Police Department by day, serial killer by night – but only to those who deserve death, who are beyond retribution, was both enthralling and terrifying at the same time, and altogether riveting. I made my way through the then 5 seasons, before watching 6 as it was released, and loved every second of it. Despite the general distaste for anything post season 4, I loved every minute of it. The depth of Dexter’s character, the relationships he forges and the casualties who get in his way, the show felt like this perfect storm of serious, but fringing on fantastical story-telling, with great metaphor through-out, and a very solid grasp on progression. The writing felt natural, Dexter encountered each challenge in tow of the last – from dealing with his gruesome past, to who he is now, to his family, to his work colleagues and friends and wondering if he can ever safely reveal who he truly is to someone he grows to care about.
Season 7 brought the start of the show ending story-arc, and ultimately, Dexter’s last great hurdle. Dexter’s sister Deb, whose also a detective, catches him at the end of season 6 performing one of his ritualistic murders and the story focuses on their relationship dealing with Dexter being a serial killer, all the while Dexter tries to keep the ever growing suspicions of certain members of the police force at bay. The season ends on a major cliff-hanger, with Deb choosing to kill a member of the police force in order to protect Dexter. It was tense, and all the chips were on the table for a really solid ending to the show. Possibly not up to the tension and momentum of previous seasons, but for a show lasting 8 years, at lthe very east a solid ending seemed to be on the cards.
And then it all went swiftly downhill.
Beginning 6 months after the events of season 7, 8 shows a guilt ridden Deb working in a private investigation company, having quit her police job, while Dexter and co. at Miami Metro are currently on the hunt for a new serial killer, the Brain Surgeon. The investigation is helped unexpectedly by a new character, Evelyn Vogel, who, as it turns out, helped create Dexter, conspiring with his father in his tentative years to give him the code that he still lives by when selecting his victims. Things start out bright for our Dexter, Vogel is a great character to introduce at this point, bringing more light onto Dexter’s origins, and perhaps even being able to help him fix his relationship with Deb and figure out his place in the world, with his son Harrison in tow.
Then a young psuedo-apprentice character was introduced for Dexter in Zach Hamilton, a young, reckless-but-has-potential socio-path sculpted in the same image as Dexter, albeit from a much more privileged background. Going well, good possibility for Dexter’s adversary and ultimate demise in this Zach Hamilton character, the apprentice could become the master. Then Hannah McKay is re-introduced. She is an old flame of Dexter’s from season 7, and also a serial killer with a penchant for poison. Okay, following so far, getting a little convoluted. Then Vogel’s estranged son, Oliver Saxon, is introduced as the Brain Surgeon, and the show just falls off the rails.
The writer’s just suddenly seem to stop caring about any level of cohesive story-telling, or even believable character mechanics, or even characters that actually matter. There are not one, not two, not three, not four, but five characters that are introduced in this season who have very little to no affect on the overall outcome of the story, or in the lives of the characters they are meant to have relationships with – Zach Hamilton being the biggest offender of this. Introduced as this character who Dexter can take under his wing and who Dexter can relate to and train to take over if he decides to hang up the blood stained apron, he is mercilessly killed off and forgotten about after only 4 episodes. The other four characters only get more convoluted, including a daughter for Dexter’s lab partner Masuka who is probably the most pointless character I’ve ever seen on screen. Rivals, love interests, even enemies are introduced, but get no depth, and have no real influence on any of the events of the story. They are literally human filler, some of them even being in as many as 8 episodes without any lasting effect being felt from their presence.
This, of course, leads me onto the storylines of this season. It really felt like the writers didn’t know which angle they wanted to play for the final curtain, and as a result, none of the stories presented actually worked well on screen. For the final season, you want a feeling of unpredictability that grips the viewer and has them clamouring to predict each outcome while the writing is always one step ahead of any thinking the fans. Dexter’s last season has the polar opposite feeling of unpredictability; you’re wondering what kind of laughable twist will happen next, with each episode offering very little in the way of build up towards a believable climax and the characters all feeling throw-away on screen.
Take the final storyline for instance – Dexter grows a conscience, decides he doesn’t need to kill any more and is ‘cured’ of his sociopathic tendencies, decides he wants to leave with Hannah McKay, his serial killer girlfriend and his son.
That’s fine and dandy, until you throw in that Deb, his sister who has grown up a cop practically her entire life, suddenly decides she is okay with this plan and keeps Hannah in her house, even allowing her to cook dinners for them both. It sounds like a sitcom. Dexter and Deb: The adventures of a brother and sister police team, ones a serial killer with a homicidal girlfriend, the others a detective harbouring them both. Dexter has a son and plans to leave, Deb wants to see him happy, will he escape? Tune in to find out!
I love Dexter, up until the end of season 7 I still think it’s one of the best shows ever made (yeah, I said it!). The Dark Passenger motif is a great metaphor for people living with what they may feel is a second life that they don’t think others will understand, an aspect to their personality that they struggle to keep to themselves and they struggle under control.
It’s a show that works as a great surface level story and as a more poetic, metaphoric exploration of people and the human psyche. Season 8 is not even sort of close to the ending the show, and it’s fans deserved. Not one of the issues Dexter is presented with through-out the show are addressed, only one of his greatest fears is seen to fruition, and even that just feels contrived.
The last season doesn’t tell a believable story, even in the mildly fantastical universe Dexter’s writers created. It is as bad a failure as any other television show you care to mention, and all I am is bitter and disappointed. You have been warned!
[easyreview cat1title=”The Arcade Verdict” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″]