Earlier this year, I wrote about my disappointment in season 7 of "Dexter." What had the writers done? For six-plus seasons, we accepted Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall)--loved him, even--despite his somewhat substantial character flaws: extreme introversion, general social awkwardness, and his frequent tendency to wrap people up in plastic and kill them. We accepted this murderousness because Dexter operated by a code--a code that called on him to channel his homicidal urges and to kill only those people who truly deserved it: primarily, murderers who had eluded the criminal justice system. This code was unbreakable; indeed, at an earlier point in the series, Dexter, confronted with the decision of whether to kill an innocent in order to avoid arrest, seemed prepared to turn himself in rather than break the code. At the end of the seventh season, though, all that seemed to go out the window, as Dexter prepared to kill his lieutenant--and then condoned (if not encouraged) her murder by his sister Deb--in order to escape justice. The shark had been jumped.
Nevertheless, when I heard that this season of "Dexter"--the eighth--would mark the end of the series, I decided to tune in. I had come this far. I might as well see how the whole thing ends. And I have to say, having just watched the series finale, that I wasn't disappointed: It was as bad as I thought it was going to be.
To get the spoilers out of the way: At the end of the series, Dexter fakes his own death in a hurricane and leaves Miami for what appears to be the Pacific Northwest. He has traded in his police laboratory for a logging camp (?)--and gotten pretty paunchy, too, I must say--and the last image we have of Dexter Morgan is him sitting at a dining room table, staring vacantly into the camera. I was expecting at least to hear a "Tonight's the night" in voiceover--a nice way of bringing the series full circle and assuring us that Dexter was at least back to his old, righteous serial killer ways--but we were denied even that. Which is to say, I have no idea what the ending is supposed to mean. Oh, and Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) is dead. And Harrison (Jadon Wells), Dexter's son, has been sent off to Argentina to live with Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski), the beautiful serial poisoner that Dexter fell in love with in season seven.
The worst part of all this is that the writers had a perfectly good--or at any rate, infinitely better--way to end the series. They set everything up so well in the middle of the season. Dexter got himself a protégé, Zack Hamilton (Sam Underwood). Zack struggled with the same murderous compulsions as Dexter, and Dexter was training Zack in "the code." And Zack was doing well, too, chalking up his first kill of "one who got away." How appropriate would it have been to end the series with Dexter passing the torch to the next generation? Hell, if the writers were totally married to the idea of ending the show with "Yukon Dexter," they could have done that, too, but at least they could have left us with a better sense of where things go from here. But no: Zack gets killed off about two-thirds of the way through season eight, so. . . . Yeah, I don't know.
So for anyone out there who has not yet watched "Dexter," here's the deal: Watch the first four seasons (masterpieces--especially season four with John Lithgow). If you desperately feel the need to decompress, season five ("Lumen") is a fitting denouement. But stop there: You'll only disappoint yourself if you go further.