Dexter Finale: Where Did It Go Wrong?

Like it or not, the Dexter finale is in the books. Most people don’t like it at all from most of what we’ve been able to see online.

[SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT — DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN]

This “poll” is by no means scientific, but just to give you an idea of what we’re talking about, we looked at a cross-section of 30 consecutive comments on the official Dexter Facebook page today, and out of those commenters, only two people were for certain satisfied.

Six commented on how depressing it was but didn’t break one way or the other on whether they approved, while 22 outright hated it. Even if you give the uncertain responses to the affirmative, that’s a dismal approval rating (under 27 percent).

As a fan of the show who just kept hoping that the final season would get better, it’s easy to see why everyone is so ticked. However, it’s also rather simple to understand why we should have expected this continued deterioration all along.

Most Dexter fans and critics are in agreement that the show was never the same after Rita died. That isn’t to say it was a mistake in killing her. Season four was one of the best TV seasons ever filmed. But much of the talent that made Dexter such a great series departed after Trinity had been dispatched.

Unfortunately, executive producers Sara Colleton and Scott Buck failed to grasp what made the series must-see television for 48 episodes. Their Dexter Morgan is more hopeless romantic than charming serial killer, a fact we became painfully aware of in the last 12 episodes.

Dexter fell in love and turned in to the dumbest guy on earth. Seriously, how many of you didn’t see something going horribly wrong when he inexplicably left the Brain Surgeon restrained to the chair instead of killing him at the end of episode 11?

The show had some decent episodes after season four, but it was far too inconsistent. By the time it sputtered into this last run, the needle had broken off and we were coasting on Empty.

By the time the Dexter finale aired, the show had become unrecognizable, and many of us were simply watching out of morbid curiosity and an undying devotion to the series and the character we once loved, hoping that somehow it would all turn around and something cool or dramatic or unexpected would occur to redeem what we’ve had to experience the last four seasons.

Didn’t happen.

Deb’s death was one of the most contrived, telegraphed plot points I’ve witnessed. Everything after the halfway point of the season pretty much pointed to it.

The execution was even worse and sapped what should have been a heartrending moment of any emotional weight. From the beginning, Dexter has been able to outsmart us, but when he left the Brain Surgeon to Deb, he was pretty much the only person unable to see the next scene coming.

I spent most of this last season calling Dexter an idiot and griping to my wife about how lazy the writing had become.

The series was once a candidate for Top 10 shows of all time. And maybe it still is if you remove everything post-Trinity from the canon. You honestly could because, while they share characters and ties to major events, the tone and writing and character behaviors are so skewed from their season one-through-four selves that it’s like they belong in different genres:

  • The Clyde Phillips era (1-4): dark comedy-crime drama
  • The Buck-Colleton era (5-8): dark fantasy-romance

The final solution of Dex stripping away all connections, even to his Dark Passenger, and leaving behind those he’s come to care for, was simply way too far fetched to be believable.

Killers don’t just stop. Dexter would still be killing if he were alive and free. The fact this is Buck and Colleton’s explanation of the final scene proves an unusual disconnect between the writers and basic understanding of human behavior, made even more troubling by the fact they’ve spent four years as EPs on a show where their main character is a serial killer!

And how the heck was Dexter able to fake his own death after riding his boat into a hurricane?

Buck’s answer: “Hopefully it’s not a question that will be examined too closely.”

(Any wonder why I’ve thought the writing was lazy all season?)

For the curious, here’s how Phillips would have ended it had he stayed on after season four.

And for a much better take on how the eighth season should have gone than Colleton, Buck, or Phillips could come up with, here’s a Dexter finale rewrite from YouTube of all places (NSFW — language):

Dexter Re-Write (embedding disabled, but trust us: well worth your time)

Do you think the Dexter finale was as poor as many fans and critics are saying?