No need for Doakes’ catchphrase, unless sarcasm is your thing, because the series finale of “Dexter” stayed true to the abysmal quality and ludicrous storytelling that had become its signature in recent years. There was no surprise, no exceeding of expectations: “Dexter”‘s final episode was a bust.
Perhaps a conscious attempt to prevent fans from missing the series or perhaps a sign that the show’s writers are as sadistic as the characters on the long-running Showtime series, the finale managed to open with a wacky premise and continue digging the well deeper with each passing moment.
By the time the coda aired, the finale had already positioned itself as one of the worst television finales of all time. When it did air, legitimately revealing that Dexter Morgan had become a lumberjack, it secured its place as the worst of all time. This was an all-out nightmare, except it really happened, and it will be forever etched in the memory of the millions who wasted their time watching it.
Given that Sunday’s episode closed one of the worst season-long exercises in dramatic television history, there was no way it was going to be good. The idea of building a narrative–you know, the thing that makes viewers invested enough in the characters to make them care about what happens in the finale-was lost upon the writers, who felt the need to change the direction of the final season with each passing minute.
Either that, or they forgot that the goal of the final season was to provide a compelling resolution for two characters who were once among television’s most intriguing.
For all its shortcomings, particularly in seasons five and six, “Dexter” had developed the Dexter and Debra dynamic to such an extent that the season six finale (Debra’s first irrefutable glimpse of Dexter’s secret) and the season seven finale (Debra’s decision to be complicit in one of her brother’s killings) resonated. They provided worlds of potential for the final season, and with only twelve episodes to fill in the eighth and final cycle, the writers could not have asked for an easier job.
All they had to do was make the season about Dexter and Debra’s dynamic and build to a final boiling point. All they had to do was finish the show they had developed for over seven seasons.
Instead, they resolved the Debra-Dexter relationship early so that they could focus on an origin story involving Dexter and his philosophical mother Evelyn Vogel. Except that wasn’t compelling enough, so they re-introduced Yvonne Strahovski’s Hannah McKay as Dexter’s soulmate. You know, the character every viewer hated but was willing to tolerate for an episode or two because Strahovski is goregeous and was in “Chuck?” The one who had no chemistry with star Michael C. Hall? She’d make for a great endgame, wouldn’t she?
Except even that storyline wasn’t enough, so Dexter decided it needed to introduce Vogel’s estranged, psychotic son Daniel, played by Darri Ingolfsson, an actor who, beyond looking somewhat like Ryan Gosling, brings absolutely nothing to the table. Daniel, you see, was the real “Brain Surgeon,” a seemingly-insignificant villain from earlier in the season, and he was going to represent a final “big bad” for Dexter.
Oh, and while all this chaos was going around involving the show’s main character–one who, a few years ago, was considered one of television’s most iconic ones–there were also other random, inconsequential storylines involving Angie Miller beating out Joey Quinn to become sergeant and Masuka meeting his biological daughter who had no secrets, interesting character traits or anything that could potentially create interesting television.
Even at its previous worst, “Dexter” was never this random in its individual seasons. Why did it save its most directionless, illogical, fleeting storytelling for the final, closed-ended season?
Had the show maintained the right course–one involving Dexter and Deb–its rough sketch for the finale could have produced something tolerable. But because it had backed itself into such a terrible position, every element of that rough sketch was a failure in execution.
“Dexter” should not have left Debra in a vegetative state after being shot by a bad guy as insignificant and as poorly-portrayed as Daniel Vogel (especially since it was Dexter doing the right thing–letting the cops arrest Vogel–that resulted in the shooting).
It should not have turned a potentially-high-conflict climax between Debra and Dexter into a riff on euthanasia that involved Dexter “protecting” his baby sister by pulling the plug.
It should not have dampened Batista’s and Quinn’s glimpse into Dexter’s murderous streak by allowing them to believe this was an isolated act they could legally pass off as self-defense.
It should not have acted as if Dexter, no matter the panic during the Miami hurricane, could just walk into a hospital, kill a patient, walk out with her and throw her on his boat.
It should not have acted as if Dexter’s murderous ways–rather than his attempt to get better–led to Deb’s death.
It should not have acted as if abandoning one’s son with a woman who, for all her charm, is living as a fugitive in another country is the noble thing to do.
It should not have revealed that Dexter, in fact, did not commit suicide by steering Slice of Life into a hurricane and instead faked his death Kenny Powers-style to become a logger.
Unwilling to commit to a singular focus for its final season, it is no surprise that “Dexter” was unwilling to settle on a coherent resolution for its final episode. But that does not make it easier to stomach.
This was a show that had legions of fans. It was a show that featured some great performances and some tremendous characters. It deserved a satisfactory resolution that spoke to the heart of the series.
And by having Dexter do the noble thing of abandoning his son and lover not by suicide but to become a lumberjack, the writers prove that they did not appreciate what the viewers deserved. They did not appreciate that fans did not want Dexter to have his cake and eat it too. They could tolerate a changed Dexter who embraced humanity or a conciliatory, yet ultimately-villainous Dexter who realized he would never be who society needed him to be.
But they should not have to tolerate a resolution that suggests the latter–that Dexter cannot be a true “father” for his family–but keeps him alive as if he’s some sort of altruistic hero, rather than a selfish villain, whom the audience should want to know is still kicking.