August 16, 2013 by Susan Miller
Susan: Did watching two episodes of Dexter in a row make the show better or worse or the same? I think the biggest problem is going from Breaking Bad to Dexter. That’s a pretty steep contrast in quality. Did you know there are only 5 episodes left in the ENTIRE SERIES? What the heck is going on with this show?
Steven: Can we just say it’s spiraling out of control in a bad way and take another nap? So, confession time: I have been rallying behind Dexter now for the past few years, claiming it is a work of art. But I am starting to lose faith. It’s sort of like when you get behind a new philosopher because you THINK he agrees with you. And then you find out he was actually really good friends with Hitler or Stalin or Noam Chomsky. Someone just awful.
I have always believed that deep down this is a spiritual show. But the topless sports bar has shaken my faith a bit. What was the point of that scene? Did the writers just think, “Hey, Dora Madison Burge is cute and over eighteen!” I mean, the strip joints were a little unavoidable when everyone was working vice, or whatnot. But we need nudity for the father-daughter arc?? Really, writers?? Argh…
At this point, I kind of feel like the show is actually all mess and no message. This whole time I thought they knew the problem so well because they also knew the solution. I guess I was mistaken…
Is there a virtuous character left standing? What about that amazingly comical camera work?
Susan: Maybe we’re supposed to think Jamie is virtuous? And by extension Quinn? They’re definitely growing on me for no reason whatsoever. Also, what is with all of these loooong scenes that go absolutely nowhere? Deb and Dexter eating bad steak and then ordering pizza. Dexter doing a puzzle with Harrison. Harrison hiding the TV remote and then reminding Dexter that he lied about his puppy. Do you even remember the initial bloody puppy scene? I feel like they should’ve put that in the 5 minute “previously on” highlight reel. Have you noticed how those are getting longer and yet the shows themselves are getting shorter? How is this acceptable?
The show is definitely spiraling, but I feel a twinge of intrigue about this new kid serial killer that Dexter has taken under his wing. I especially like how Dexter is never available for him when he says he will be. It really shows how unreliable Dexter is to everyone, and finally this kid gets pissed about it. How has he not been fired from his job? Masuka and Batista are constantly just happily covering for him. Why? Because he used to bring donuts? Blah. Maybe that’s why Deb has such boy issues. Dexter is constantly flaking out on her and she just accepts it as a thing that men do. Oh! And Dexter making Jamie work late on her birthday? Seriously? I hope she’s the best paid nanny in the universe. Anyway, I was actually sad when cute neighbor got killed by angry serial killer kid. Consequences! How novel.
As for Masuka and Becky – that story has gone so far off course that I’m going to pretend it doesn’t exist anymore. Becky! What are you doing? You were on a beloved show! You don’t have to take this part!
What did you make of Elway this week? He got angry and scary for a minute and then went back to normal. They do realize those two have zero chemistry, right? If they end up together it will be the weirdest relationship since Ann and Mark on Parks and Rec.
Steven: Elway? Who in the world is Elway?
Susan: Deb’s new boss/love interest!
Steven: Oh right! I forgot how terribly, terribly invested I was in that whole…thing?
Elway seems like a treat. I sincerely hope this isn’t how one of the writers met his wife… because this romance is super icky. Okay, so I know that not all the characters are supposed to be good. But some of them are, right?
Susan: So now that we’re halfway through the final season – any guesses as to how it will all wrap up?
Steven: Let’s, since we know that the writers have been watching Breaking Bad… I think that Dexter will finally lose his battle with cancer, Deb will go to rehab again and finally start sharing honestly in meetings, and Saul will get a spin-off.
But are the blueberry pies a symbol of Dexter’s insatiable craving to kill or our increasing incredulity over Hannah McKay’s ability to not get dragged back into federal prison–even though she’s hitting all of the hot spots in Miami?
Susan: Ready to try again?
Steven: Ok, I have a sad prediction for the series finale. Not that it is sad in plot, but that I’m sad that this is the direction the show seems to be heading. I have this achy feeling that the series will end with Hannah and Dexter running off and living happily ever after. (Otherwise, why bring Hannah back?) Deb will fall in love with Elway. (Is that really his name??) Quinn will finally start treating Jaime right. And Angel will…find a puppy? I really feel like this show has forgotten somewhere along the way that it is, in fact, a tragedy. Or at least it’s supposed to be. Do they think that Dexter is a good person after all?
This, I think, is my problem with the contemporary narrative. If you have ever been baffled by the term “post-modern” allow me to offer up what the folks at Oxford have to say: “A late 20th-century style and concept in the arts, architecture, and criticism that represents a departure from modernism and has at its heart a general distrust of grand theories and ideologies as well as a problematic relationship with any notion of ‘art.'” Beside this definition I have written (because I’m so clever), “This sounds like a mental health diagnosis.” Maybe Dexter isn’t a post-modern TV show, but I would still argue that it IS sick. Its sickness rests in the fact that the writers have, as C.S. Lewis puts it, abandoned the Tao. In narrative we need the presence of absolute good. Without it, everything else is thrown out of balance. If the characters who sin aren’t faced with consequences, then the narrative starts to unravel. Actions removed from their natural reactions take on an unreality.
I am terribly afraid that this show will have a happy ending. Not because I’m a mean old guy or something, but because that trajectory will be devoid of reason, and a story devoid of reason cannot be called a good story. I still want to look back and say, Dexter was a good story. The writers are threatening that future more and more.
What would salvage this show for you? Or, in other words, what fate does each character deserve?
Susan: I would argue that the main cause of this sickness is Dr. Vogel. She allowed Debra off the hook for killing LaGuerta. She created the code and taught it to Harry who taught it to Dexter. She told Dexter he was perfect and good. She convinced Dexter to take on kid serial killer as a pet. She is the ultimate evil, and must be stopped. But how? Why? Will this husband of hers that they mentioned previously come up at all? What’s her deal and why is everyone just putting up with it?
I also think the show went off the rails when it let Dexter off the hook for Rita’s murder. There was never any real investigation into Dexter, even though Quinn had all the pieces. The writers just matched him up with Deb and said that was that. Then they gave Dexter Lumen and said, see? He’s a good guy after all! He’s helping Lumen get revenge on her captors! Three cheers for Dexter! My hope is that Hannah turns even more evil and Dexter realizes she’s got to be taken out. I also hope that Deb regains a stronger voice of reason and forces Dexter to realize he’s got to give up the code.
The best fate for the characters would be for Batista to figure out the Morgan’s game and put Deb, Dexter, Vogel and serial killer kid in jail. Then Jamie can raise Harrison, Quinn can settle down and be a real cop, Masuka can hopefully teach his daughter a skill other than topless bartending and the whole thing can drift away. Is it a perfect ending? Not at all. But it’s the best I can hope for right now.
Steven: I would have to agree with you. Life in prison for everybody involved! I definitely think that Dr. Vogel is the source of all the show’s internal moral relativism (read=immortality) and that the narrative will have to neutralize that relativism. However, I’m still not sure the show has its own internal moral compass. My fear is that they too are relativistic. If they don’t know what “good” is, what measure can they even compare Dexter and Dr. Vogel with? It sort of becomes meaningless to say that Vogel is “worse” than Dexter or Deb if there’s no standard. Worse because she’s the origin of Dexter’s badness? Until the writers show me that they know what good behavior is and why, I think I’m going to be a little uneasy. It’s important to note at this point that I never feel this uneasiness when watching Breaking Bad. We know that Walt’s actions are bad. Here, I’m not sure we’re being shown that Dexter’s are.
Could it be that the show is too character-driven? The ending I fear would be like the comedies of Shakespeare, where everyone is paired up and relatively happy. That sort of plot develops out of the characters’ concerns, and I definitely feel like that is the driving force at this point.
Can you think of anything that’s been strictly plot-driven and not ridiculous like this whole Sergeant business?
Susan: Well, it seems to me that Vogel is driving the plot of this season. She appears at the beginning of the season to help find the melon-baller, then get close to Dexter, then heal Deb, and now to keep young kid serial killer alive so that he can keep killing people. She’s really the only narrative force this season… right?
Steven: I think so. But then again she’s not in an extremely dynamic position either. The only outside force on her was when the half-skulled fellow broke into her house. Like Dexter and Deb, she isn’t being pursued and she isn’t trying to actually accomplish anything with obstacles between her and her goal. So far this end game doesn’t seem very end-gamey. It seems to me like the writers are just moving pieces around and waiting out the close. Did we already mention the “this steak isn’t very good” scene? #frustrated
Susan: Unfortunately, we did. It was the most notable scene of the last two episodes we watched, and I can’t even remember if it was this week’s or not. Hey – what do you think the worst possible ending would be? For me, it would be for new kid serial killer to kill Dexter and dump him off the edge of his boat. That would set-up the spin-off the network is dying for and be the most ludicrous anti-ending ever.
Steven: I don’t even know at this point! I wanted Dexter to find redemption and accept his penance, but I just don’t see how that all is going to work out. I do like this idea that his disease isn’t intrinsic but accepted through negative action, however, I’ll be very upset if he breaks his murderiness through self-knowledge and pure will (i.e. if some pseudo-psychological, Nietzschean ethic comes to the rescue).
Perhaps the worst way for the show to end would be in Dexter and Hannah’s wedding, with the final shot being some sort of nod to the fact that they can both still kill again. That would be enough pointlessness rolled into one scene to completely invalidate the show for me. Also, if someone else goes to prison in Dexter’s stead, I would be particularly peeved. I am realizing more and more that this is NOT a Russian novel. And it makes me kind of depressed.
How has your view of Dexter changed over the course of the series?
Susan: I was listening to a Breaking Bad podcast this week and they talked about how Dexter was sort of destroyed by Breaking Bad. Everyone thought Dexter was great until Breaking Bad came along and did everything Dexter was trying to do, only they did it so much better. Now that they’re both on at the same time, and both ending their runs at the same time, that is becoming abundantly clear. I had a great time with the series until season 6, and enjoyed last season much more than Homeland. But now, it’s just limping toward the finish line and that makes me sad. I feel like this is a show that has been ravaged by behind the scenes drama, changes, and differences in leadership. I feel like they stopped making choices long ago and have just floated along on their premise and these well-established character types. Dexter has almost become a procedural, but they’re too lazy to even try to make that work. The inherent problem with this season is that the creators are afraid to commit to their vision and drive the story forward based on choices. At this point I would be happier with whatever vision they choose – I just want them to make a real choice and stick to it. Right now, the show has no voice, no momentum, no trajectory, no intrigue. It’s very sad and really strange. I don’t know what to make of it.
How about you? Has your view changed over the course of the series?
Steven: It absolutely has. I definitely feel like the writer’s room has changed since season one and two. Back then there was a clear logic: “Dexter is an addict. He will either be destroyed by it or saved through grace.” I feel like that rationale has been abandoned, and I have no idea why. It’s gotten to be such a muddle and I just don’t see how the writers are going to see themselves out of it. I suppose the same could be said about Breaking Bad. I don’t know what the ultimate vision is going to be there either. But I have a lot more faith in Vince than I do in whoever the heck is running the show now. (Is it still Scott Buck?) There was a clear story to be told once upon a time, and that has been completely abandoned… which is rather unfortunate.
Oh how I miss season 4. Why couldn’t they just have wrapped up the story back then? It would have been perfect to have Dexter turn himself in then, or go to prison for what happened (an ironic bit of justice). Now it is all just so frayed.
Susan: No, I’ve got it. I think we should have had the Vogel/Harry storylines in season 3, have Rita and Trinity in season 4, and then have him confess to Deb in season 5, and end the series that year. He could’ve experienced actual grief about Rita’s death, and that would lead Vogel to realize that she was wrong about Dexter. He would abandon the code, turn himself in, and do time to ease his guilt about Rita’s murder. Boom. Done. Show saved. Sigh.
Next week! Deb wants Dexter to kill Hannah. Dexter tells Deb he’ll take care of it. Vogel and serial killer kid gunk up the plot. Elway and Masuka’s daughter act strange. But hey, at least Breaking Bad will be on too. See you then.