Dexter recap: The End

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September 29, 2013 by Susan Miller

I suppose this is our punishment for sticking with the show.

I suppose this is our punishment for sticking with the show.

Susan: Seriously?  I mean, c’mon.  Seriously?  THAT is the finale you so lovingly present to the world?  Dexter lives on as as the Brawny Mountain Man?  Hannah is stuck with Harrison?  Deb is Dexter’s final kill?  Dexter’s death is FRONT PAGE NEWS?  Seriously?

Steven: Well, to be fair, whenever I have found a capsized ship the day after a ginormous hurricane, my first thought has been to run a front page news story about its owner.  Why did he have to kill Deb again?  I imagine she would have some paperwork concerning that sort of thing.  Also, was he cured?  Does it matter?  Also, is it just me or did the final three minutes feel incredibly like the end of a video game?  Everything was just so abbreviated.  And then there was the weak-sauce opening for a sequel at the very end.  Somebody dropped the ball big time.  And by “somebody,” I of course mean every single person involved.

Did you feel bad for…?  Well, did you feel anything for anyone by the end?

Susan: I felt bad for Deb.  She deserved better than to have her stupid, selfish brother be the one to unplug her.  In fact I am kind of infuriated about what they did with her character.  She got shot, and yet she’s the one, yet again, apologizing to Dexter.  Like her getting shot is a great inconvenience to him and his desire to run off to Argentina with the hot blonde killer.  So stupid.  Deb used to be such a strong, interesting, smart character.  In the end, she has to go into a weird coma so that Dexter can throw her off his boat like he does with all the murderers that he chops up?  Really?  That’s how we’re supposed to think of Deb?  Is that why they had her kill LaGuerta last season?  So she would fit Dexter’s code?  It’s maddening.

How about you?

Steven: Okay, that’s true.  I felt bad for Jennifer Carpenter and C. S. Lee.  That weird daughter story line should’ve been brought up last season or not at all.  I feel like the writers definitely ran out of plot early on this season.  And for what??  They didn’t even put Dexter behind bars or lock him up!  Instead of being a tragedy, this show somehow morphed itself into a… ? 5 years of college-level English classes, and I have no idea what to call this thing Dexter became.  I think I’ll go with “a non-narrative.”  People milled about but I never felt any of it come together.  That one dude is just thwarted on the bus by Hannah McKay’s wicked sleight of hand?  Dexter kills Saxon in the cell with a pen, and then just gets to leave?  Deb goes brain dead and then has to be unplugged?  None of it seemed to add up or develop naturally from the conflicts within the story.

Also, what in the world was up with everyone just murdering and hauling bodies and stabbing people with horse tranquillizers in the middle of crowded, public places?  Did they have to completely abandon all semblance of reality for this last episode just so the math would work out?

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Susan: When Dexter drove his boat up for curbside parking at the hospital and then just carried dead Deb in a sheet out of the hospital and on to his boat – I thought for sure that this was all a dream of Harry’s.  In fact, I would’ve appreciated the show doing something like that because it meant that they would have had to make a choice.  The problem with this finale, and this whole season of Dexter is that they never made any choices.  Let’s shoot Deb, okay, but she won’t die, okay, but she will die, okay, she’ll just be brain dead and Dexter can sort of kill her.  Okay, let’s kill Dexter!  No wait, we can’t do that, let’s let him live.  But is he good or bad now?  We’ll just let the audience decide by ending on some creepy look.  It was just all so lazy.  Why did the actors put up with any of it?  Why can’t they come out and say that it blew?  I doubt anyone would blame them.  I wonder if anyone has tried to get interviews with the actors.  If I were Michael C. Hall or Jennifer Carpenter, I would be furious with the writers for making a hot mess out of their legacy.

Should we talk about Saxon and how unlikely it would be that he would waltz into a hospital to kill Deb when everyone is out looking for him?  Should we talk about how he suddenly became a robotic terminator in this episode?  Or should we talk about the continued ineptitude of Quinn and Batista when confronted with Dexter murdering someone?  Which mountain of stupid would you like to climb first?

Steven: Oh, how about we just pull back a little and look at the whole dumb mountain range.  My biggest, most essential issue with this season of Dexter is that we saw the wires.  The idea of puppetry–the real idea–is there here is a wooden PERSON walking about and gesturing and dancing before your very eyes.  A good puppeteer is a magician who brings something inanimate to life.  So too is the story teller.  Or at least he SHOULD be!  We all know that characters are not real.  For example, on Breaking Bad, Jesse doesn’t actually mourn the death of Jane by throwing himself into new depths of addiction.  Jesse is a collection of words on a page that were poured forth into creation by Vince Gilligan.  A good story teller makes you believe that Aaron Paul is driving his go-cart ever more manically because of some overwhelming demon and not because Vince is off to the side shouting, “Now again, but more angry!”  This entire season I felt the push of plot, the necessity of the actors standing over here while looking over there sorrowfully.  Saxon was the great culmination of this need: the perfectly wooden marionette whose wire stood out as if it had been painted bright yellow.  I wasn’t convinced of anyone’s motivations all season, and I don’t think it had anything to do with the puppets.  Each scene this episode was more contrived than the last, until finally Dexter was sitting ambiguously in that log cabin, patiently waiting on his mark for the spin-off.  Ugh.

Is there anything more constructive that we can even add to this disaster of a finale?  How many thumbs down do you give it?  Will we ever recover enough from this to talk fondly of what used to work on this show?

Susan: All the thumbs.  It was honestly the worst finale of a TV show I have ever seen.  Was there anything good?  I got really excited when Batista and Quinn watched the tape of Dexter killing Saxon.  Quinn had this look on his face, like all his suspicions were finally confirmed, but it didn’t matter because he was mad at the guy for killing Deb.  And then Batista asked how they were supposed to explain it, which made me really excited that he was in on it too, and then… it just fizzled out.  That would’ve been a perfect opening for Batista and Quinn to have an honest conversation about Dexter and how they knew who he was the whole time, but he brought donuts and stayed out of everyone’s way, so who cares.  Instead?  Instead they just acted dumb and let him walk out.  If you’re going to do that, why have the scene at all?  SO LAZY!!!!

I read an interview with Clyde Phillips, the original Dexter showrunner and he revealed how he wanted to end the series in season 5:

“I haven’t shared this with anyone. And I can tell you that this is what I personally would have done should I have stayed with the show. I chose not to stay with the show, and so everybody did what they did, and I had no problem with that…and I think they did a good job with the final episode. But here is what I personally would have pitched. In the very last scene of the series 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, LaGuerta who he was responsible for 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.”

I would’ve much preferred that ending.  What do you think?

Steven: Oh my goodness that’s 10000000% better than what happened.  Why oh why didn’t they do something like that?  There would’ve been justice, the beginning would’ve been tied to the end, and we all would’ve gotten a little closure.  As it is, they get to do a spin-off.  Who do they think will be their target audience?  Certainly not the people who say this show get so terribly, terribly botched.  Are they planning on drawing a new crowd of “I’ve heard of Dexter” viewers?  How is Michael C. Hall supposed to get work as an actor after this?  I feel like we just watched Hall playing Michael Clayton in that last taxi ride scene (you know, the weird 5 minute close up on George Clooney where we all realized, Oh, he’s NOT a genius).  Only instead of 5 minutes it was 27,000 years and now TV isn’t even a thing anymore, but something archaeologists talk fondly of like Sumerian cuneiform or VHS tapes.

Okay, I’ll do one more lazy-writer scene.

Lazy writer 1: But how do we end it?
Lazy writer 2: Yeah, endings are hard.  Do we have to end it?
Lazy writer 1: Let me check with the boss. [lazy writer 1 leaves, returns moments later] Yeah, he says we have to end it.
Lazy writer 2: Oh, I know!  What if we don’t end it, but we SAY it’s an ending.  We could just have Michael look at the camera all…I don’t know…hmmm…what emotion should he have?
Lazy writer 1: No emotion!
Lazy writer 2: Ambiguity.  I like it!  You must have gone to grad school.
Lazy writer 1: Only three times!
Lazy writer 2: It’ll be like that final scene in Michael Clayton.
Lazy writer 1: The one where George Clooney just sits there for 20 minutes?
Lazy writer 2: The very one!
Lazy writer 1: That’s my very favorite scene of anything ever.
Lazy writer 2: I know. [lazy writer 2 produces DVD of Michael Clayton from behind his back]
Lazy writer 1: I love you, Lazy writer 2.
Lazy writer 2: I know. [they fling their fast-food filled bodies at each other, knocking the script for the finale into a nearby shredder]

Two months later

Michael C. Hall: So the ending is no ending, and in the last scene my emotion is no emotion.
Lazy showrunner: Also there’s no script.  So you guys will just have to wing it.
Michael C. Hall: WHY DO I PAY YOU PEOPLE????

Fin.

Susan: That was pretty much perfect.  The internet seems to agree with you.  Which one of these do you like best?  All of these endings to Dexter would’ve been much, much, much better.  Do you have a favorite?

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Steven: It’s a tie between the clip of Michael Scott shouting “NO! GOD! NO GOD PLEASE NO! NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” and Walt and Skyler reading the script.  I’m glad there were so many Breaking Bad ties.  It seems the rest of the world is also marveling at how very different these two series are concluding.

Good-bye, Dexter.  We will never see you again.  Especially not in your spin-off, “Terror in Timberville.”

Susan: Should we revisit the good times?  Any special characters/moments/episodes you’d care to remember?

Steven: I will always remember Dexter’s return home after dispatching with Trinity.  The senseless cruelty of that final sequence of events…if there’s one single reason Dexter should not have gotten away scot-free it’s Rita.

Then my faith in the show petered out for awhile.  And then Deb walked in on Dexter mid-murder in that haunting old church and it surged back!  What excitement that following season was.  Deb wrestled with what to do with this new, world-changing information.  LaGuerta was back on Doakes’ trail and Dexter was finally in danger again from his home base.  Even Dexter struggled, struggled with his addiction, actually trying to be better, and then Hannah McKay came along and gave us a glimpse of what a normal Dexter might actually look like.  That whole season was almost as good season 4 with creepy John Lithgow and baby boy Harrison complicating Dexter’s life in new and interesting ways.

It’s difficult to recall now, but there were definitely some high points back there in the long-long-ago days of Dexter.

How about you?  Favorite scenes?  Characters you wish could’ve come back somehow?

Susan: Yep, the Rita scene was a huge high point.  It’s actually the reason I decided to watch the show.  That scene broke the internet and got me to pay attention to the show for once.  When we got around to watching the show, I knew what was coming, but I didn’t know when or how and it made it all that more tragic when we got there.  The fact that it was such a non issue in later seasons, especially with Harrison and Hannah, was one of the most infuriating things about the end of the show.

Despite that, I really liked Lumen’s character, and her relationship with Dexter.  I would’ve liked to see her again, and find out if she had been able to go on and live a normal life.  I also think it was a bit odd that we never saw Astor or Cody this season, given how big a role they played in the early years.  I loved Dexter’s relationship with Rita, and would’ve liked it if the writers had allowed her to be a bit smarter about Dexter’s extracurricular activities.  I also would’ve liked to see Deb settle down with Quinn earlier, to avoid the whole incest plot line.

In fact, if I had my way, I would’ve ended the show in season 5.  Season 5 would have been the fall-out from Rita which would lead to an investigation into Dexter.  Dexter would be grieving, and dealing with single parenthood, and would therefore be more susceptible to slipping up.  Quinn would share his suspicious with Deb, she’d get mad and break up with him, but she wouldn’t be able to look at Dexter without doubt after that.  The show would end with Deb catching Dexter and turning him in.  I don’t know if I’d like the electric chair ending as much as Dexter helping Miami Metro from jail.  It also would’ve been nice for him to escape on a technicality and get killed on accident (car accident, etc) to have the universe “take out the trash” like he used to do.

If you had your way, when and how would you have ended it?

Steven: I would have ended last season, if not a little before.  I liked that Deb found out, I liked that she had to struggle with it, but ultimately I didn’t like that she lost out in the end.  My ending would’ve gone like this: the pressure mounts and mounts from all sides–Deb, Miami Metro, and whomever Dexter is hunting–and he finally throws his hands in the air, turning himself in to Deb and forcing her to take him in.

That wouldn’t have been the ending.  Next, in Dostoevskyian fashion, Dexter would have continued to be sick in prison.  He would continue to kill.  Deb would visit him, as would Brother Sam (who never should’ve been killed off), and one night Dexter would have his burning bush moment.  Now, sentenced to life in prison for all of his heinous crimes, Dexter would work with Miami Metro to catch his colleagues not yet incarcerated.  Too, Dexter would work with his colleagues within the walls of the prison to help rehabilitate them as best he could.  That would’ve been my ever-optimistic answer to concluding Dexter.

Oh what could’ve been!

So long Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter.  I hope there’s much better and brighter in your future.  For now, I think I’ll revisit Six Feet Under and remember the good ol days.

Next week: Homeland returns, Breaking Bad concludes, and we all move on from the anti-hero phase of television drama.  I think I’m ready for the next big thing.

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