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Dexter Series Finale Recap

“Remember the Monsters” review

The season 8 and series finale of Showtime’s Dexter, centering on a dry-humored avenging serial killer and his struggle to keep his “dark passenger” a secret, aired last Sunday to mixed/negative reactions from fans and critics. This last season had been muddled with characters and plotlines, some of which never even got resolved and are left completely openended, such as Masuka’s daughter appearing. This would have been irritating, if they had any point to begin with.

While being a flawed episode of the series with an open-ended and unsatisfying ending, “Remember The Monsters?” does have some of the best scenes of the season, which began with promise. The first episodes of season 8 shifted the shows’ focus from crimes and Dexter’s issues to simply being about the characters, particularly his foul mouthed sister, Debra, played by Jennifer Carpenter. She gives an amazing performance throughout this season especially, and is one of the high points of the episode.

***WARNING: FULL SPOILERS OF DEXTER TO FOLLOW.***

After eleven episodes of jarring twists and turns, the end is finally near. Episode 12, titled “Remember the Monsters?” finds Dexter and fellow serial killer girlfriend Hannah’s dream of running away from the past to Argentina with Harrison (Dexter’s son) coming to a grinding halt when an impending hurricane closes all flights. Debra has been shot by the main villain of the season, a serial killer named Saxon. He was the son of Dexter’s spiritual mother, Dr. Vogul, who we find out raised him to only kill other killers with his father. Now still stuck in Miami, Dexter is newly motivated to pursue Deb’s shooter and avenge Dr. Vogul’s death.

Dexter goes to check on Deb. After having shown a strange flashback taking place right after the birth of Dexter’s son (between seasons 3 and 4), Debra talks about what a great father he’ll be and what an amazing brother he’s been to her over the years (and where the phrase “Remember the Monsters” is said by her to explain how he always protected her). The flashback ends and we’re back in real time. Debra tells Dexter how she forgives him for his lies and crimes over the years and for the first time encourages him to move away and be happy. These are her last lines, as later in the episode she becomes catatonic. At this point, Dexter avenges her, and returns to her in the hospital, making a devastating decision. What follows are the most emotionally wrenching and best written scenes of the season. Not wanting her to spend her life catatonic, he disconnects her from life support, wraps her in a sheet, and carries her to his boat and rides toward the sea.

Once away from the mainland and ever closer to the storm that impeded his escape, he calls Hannah and Harrison. They’re boarding a new flight to Argentina and speculate about their future together. He tells his son that he loves him, and after hanging up, throws the phone in the ocean. Dexter gathers Deb’s body in his arms and gingerly drops her in the sea, just as he had done so many times before with his victims. Looking at the approaching hurricane closing in, he faces it and rides the boat straight in. Hannah and Harrison are then seen in Argentina, and after seeing a news headline confirming Dexter’s death, she sadly seems to accept this and she and Harrison walk away to get ice cream. The screen fades to black.

Then the screen fades back in. And guess what it shows! Dexter! He’s alive!!! And he’s a… lumberjack…? In one of the most bizarre closing scenes of a TV series, a now bearded Dexter is shown working at a lumber yard. He walks in an empty cabin, sits down, and looks at the camera. Then it really ends.

Some thought the series would end with Dexter dying in a Scarface-esque type of shootout, or getting caught, or something along those lines being dramatic and amazing. Instead it ends miserably and quietly, somberly petering out in an open ended cop-out of an ending. Instead of having a season full of tension and suspense centering around his secret being exposed (Breaking Bad?), they choose a completely different route. They could make another season of Dexter if they wanted to, nothing was resolved except for Deb’s death. Her arc in these last two seasons and her last scenes this episode were the best written and engaging of any other character in the series. No other character, except for possibly Dexter, develops or changes  as much as her. She ultimately dies because of Dexter’s “sickness,” and when he drops her in the ocean, in a way you can’t help but think of her as his last victim. It almost would have been better if he jumped in right after her, instead of choosing to live in exile away from those he loved, believing everyone around him ends up dead.

The first four seasons of Dexter were so well done and popular, it paved the way for shows like True Blood, American Horror Story, and The Walking Dead to exist. Dexter saved horror television, and was unique and surprisingly humorous. It needs a better ending than this. Sad or depressing endings have the potential to be emotionally effective and memorable, but in this case it feels wrong. I only hope the reason they chose this appalling and bizarre ending to such a great TV series is to make more. A movie or miniseries of Dexter returning and having to deal with being outed would be greatly preferable instead of the depressing, inconclusive ending we’re left with here.

Pros: Some amazing scenes, Deb’s arc was handled almost perfectly, and her role in the series ends mesmerizingly. Great scene of Dexter killing Debra’s killer with Masuka and Angel later helping clear Dexter of accusation.

Cons: Muddled plot all season, and characters’ stories ending abruptly and undramatically, especially Dexter’s. Bizarre last scene that doesn’t feel like Dexter’s last scene at all….

2 and a half

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