Blood in the Water: A Review of Dexter Season 8 and Series Finale ‘Remember the Monsters?’

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I always believed that Dexter Morgan was going to die, and after eight heart-pounding, gruesome, emotionally dysfunctional seasons I was validated in my belief.  Sort of.

Admittedly, I knew that Dexter (Michael C. Hall) would come to a bad end. I always believed that he would either be caught or killed but small part of me also hoped for the best and worst for this character. Mainly that he would be discovered, yet ultimately get away with everything. Every single time he’s had someone close in on who he is, what he is, he has walked away, not always unscathed, but alive. So I knew in my heart that the end of the series would mean the end of Dexter’s life, in one way or another.

Therefore, I strongly disagree with those critics out there who believe that it is in fact bad writing that has finished a fantastic story.  Dexter’s tale has actually come full circle over the course of eight years. With each season’s ending we see a little bit more of the man, and a little less of the monster… the dark passenger.  For a serial killer, Dexter seems to be a unique breed of sociopath, in that he actually does care, to a limited extent, about certain people in his life.  It’s this hook that keeps you watching, wondering when he will be discovered by those closest to him and what will he do to protect himself and those he ‘loves.’

I treasured the fact that in this final episode Dexter kills Oliver Saxon right in the police station, on tape, and still walks away. Batista (David Zayas) doesn’t believe what his eyes are showing him and Quinn (Desmond Harrington) is just overwrought over Debra Morgan’s (Jennifer Carpenter) condition and I know that if that had been any other cop Dexter wouldn’t have left the station. I think that anybody looking at that video that didn’t know Dexter or have a preconceived idea about him would see what we the audience saw; Dexter pulling that pen out of his own shoulder and plunging it into the neck of Saxon and then there is this moment where he cradles Saxon’s fall to the ground and then there’s hesitation before he presses the button to call the police in. They just don’t believe Dexter’s capable of cold-blooded murder even with the evidence clearly in front of them. I love the symmetry that again Dexter kills someone literally right under the police’s noses and walks away unscathed by that murder.

Over the course of the series Dexter struggles with what he is and wishes to be normal, to feel like everyone else, but ultimately he discovers that it is his love for his sister Debra that actually sets him apart from the sociopath that he’s always believed himself to be. Deb was always Dexter’s touchstone. It’s his feelings for her that motivate him to protect her both from others and from himself. Since the very first episode, Deb has been the key that unlocks Dexter’s humanity. And it has always been Dexter’s humanity that gets him into trouble.  As a serial killer he is flawless. He stalks his prey, shows them their wrongs and brings them to their end. It is only when he hesitates over killing someone either to learn about them, learn from them, or loves them, that he loses something or someone important to him. And I appreciated that this theme continues even unto the last episode.

Debra no matter what else she was in this series has always been first and foremost, a cop. But she also is in many ways the damsel in distress figure in Dexter’s life as she relied on him to be her hero; her big brother. Statistically then, she was always going to come to one of two ends… she would either have that happy fairy tale ending where she grows old, retires and lives in blissful ignorance of what her brother is (or finds out the truth and accepts him), or she would come to a tragic end, ultimately dying in Dexter’s arms, the cause of which is either her profession or Dexter secret. 

To me, the events leading up to Debra’s death paralleled the demise of Dexter’s wife, Rita (Julie Benz) at the hands of a killer that Dexter was too busy trying to learn from, and later kill, to protect his family. I think that it’s also very important to note that it is only when Deb finally accepts what he is and that he needs to leave her, that she needs to let go of him and grow as a person herself, that she as a character has come to the best ending that could be attributed for her.  It was no surprise to me then that when Debra dies, or I should really say, when Dexter does the only thing he can for her, and kills her, ending her suffering. That when Dexter lets Deb go, her body sinking beneath the waves of the Bay that so many other bodies before have disappeared beneath, that it is in this moment that we witness the demise of Dexter Morgan. No matter that he survives, faking his death; Dexter is dead. It is in this moment that he truly believes that he destroys everything he touches.  So why should Dexter Morgan live when the person who really defined him as a person is dead?

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