I, along with millions of other devoted fans — and we had to be devoted, didn’t we, to stick around through the flailing plots of the past few seasons; maybe it’s that crush I have on Michael C. Hall — watched with bated breath the Dexter series finale last Sunday. And ever since, it’s been a media blood bath. Reviewers have shown no mercy, cutting it down as if they’d cling-filmed it onto a table in one of Dex’s killing rooms.
And I think the creators of the cuddliest serial killer on any screen thus far are getting a bad rap.
Truth be told, I was devastatingly disappointed. I had hoped Dexter and Hannah would run off and live gorgeously ever after. Even if it meant having that annoying kid in tow. (I also wanted Debra to be happy, even if it was with the scrawny, snaggle-toothed Quinn.)
I genuinely felt Dex deserved it. Apart from LaGuerta and Doakes (and, OK, maybe a couple of others), Dexter just took out the trash — and good riddance to them. Not only did he prevent the all too common scenario of villains remaining on the lose, or being set free because of technicalities or shoddy police work or what have you, he prevented the drain on the judicial system and the cost to the state and taxpayers involved in trials and possible, if doubtful, incarceration. Dexter Morgan was a hero! (And a hottie!) Of course we rooted him on.
Many of us Dexter fans would agree that the series peaked in season 4, with the brilliant John Lithgow as the Trinity Killer and culminating in the shock murder of Rita. The Showtime hit had been sliding downhill ever since and really lost its way with the creepy semi-incestuous feelings Deb had toward her adopted brother. It didn’t need to go there. Really.
But I was happy to see Hannah back. Even I, a hot-blooded hetero gal, fell under her spell. Actress Yvonne Strahovski was luminous, sexy, enchanting — and a better looking pair, homicidal or not, has never been matched. And their love story ranks up there with some of the best ever.
Apart from the silly asides — such as Masuka having a daughter (heh heh heh), for one — the show stayed on the path it had started down: humanizing Dexter. We saw his battle his Dark Passenger, witnessed him gain the upper hand only to fall back then edge ahead again, in a fierce fight for survival. We saw his small victories, and the awe etched in his anime eyes when he realized that a feeling he had always faked had incredibly become real. He did love. And we viewers felt he deserved that.
The series had always had as much humor and humanity as it did darkness, so a couple of killers riding off into the Argentine sunset would have tracked. We fell in love with Dexter. If we were supposed to see anything abhorrently wrong with his unique brand of psychopath, then I for one missed it. What little collateral damage there was could be forgiven. Don’t we forgive it every day, celebrating our military despite the horrific things they’re sometimes compelled to do (bombing weddings, comes to mind), and for what? Isn’t war more about money and power, politics and greed than any humanitarianism?
Watching the episode, my heart stopped the moment it was clear that Deb would not survive; it was equally clear then that Dex couldn’t either. Either he would sacrifice himself, finishing what his sister started when she had tried to drown them both.
Or, more likely, he would punish himself. Not in a real prison, I didn’t think, but in a prison of his own making, all alone and stripped of any chance of happiness. He’d sacrifice himself for those he now genuinely loved — his sister, Hannah and Harrison. Dex would do it even though that is not what Deb would have wanted, as she herself made clear to him on what would be the last time they spoke — go be happy, she implored him, don’t feel guilty about me or anything.
They pulled the plug on my dream ending. I could easily envision Dexter and Hannah decorating any Argentine street cafe with their good looks when they weren’t running the flower shop I imagined they had opened or having beautiful, model sex. I could see them entertaining Deb when she visits, Dex grilling steak, as usual, and probably the best he ever made her given the South American country’s love of and pride in their beef. I easily pictured them showing her the sights and showing off their Spanish.
Eventually, Quinn would join them, loving Deb enough and having had suspected Dex enough not to be shocked when he learns who he had been. We saw that in the interview room when he and Angel watched the video of Dexter stabbing Oliver in the jugular with a pen. In a way, the calm, clinical way Dex put him down was confirmation of his suspicions. But also, it was OK — Dex had after all avenged the would-be murder of Quinn’s true love.
In my hoped-for finale, Miami Metro would go on as it had, its star detective Debra back in the fold and, after finally allowing herself love, much less prone to foul-mouthed tirades and epic bitchiness. But what we got was life and love shattered, Dexter living out his self-imposed sentence on a cold mountain somewhere, at once human finally — and finally dehumanized.
Dexter fans have complained its ending was terrible, to say the least. I disagree. It was fitting in tone and progression to the episodes leading up to it. But it was utterly disappointing. After making us love Dexter, making him the hero, making us cheer him on, the series producers decided to give us all an unwelcome and unnecessary lesson in morality — crime, even justified crime, cannot pay — that seems not a little hypocritical and a lot cruel.