Dexter is finally finishing! As with other long-running shows, viewers are increasingly confused whether they want it to go on longer, or finally have an amazing ending. Personally, I'm in the latter camp, and was excited before the seventh, penultimate season even started to see how they'd bring all these years of serial killing to an end.
But obviously, that creates expectations for this beginning-of-the-end run. Did they meet them? Oh, and obviously there are SPOILERS. Massive spoilers up to and including the final episode. Don't read this until you've seen it.
Listing My Favourite Serial Killers Is Totally NormalFor two years before this, US channel Showtime seemed to think Dexter could last forever as a franchise, year after blood-soaked year, as our wry homicidal hero squares off with a different guest serial killer every season. Unfortunately, this attitude took some tension from the show, making it increasingly clear Dex would never be caught. His wife's death at the end of season four should've been the start of his downfall, and if they'd done that, ending the show two or three years earlier, it might've been a really consistent run, instead of having that obvious slack in the middle.
But hey, at least we're walking into the light now. Season seven really made me feel it could all fall to pieces at any moment, and that made it the best since the afore-mentioned fourth year with Trinity. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't perfect, and I'm going to list all my qualifiers in a minute, but still, the real sense that big shit could happen is exactly what's been missing from Dexter, and it made so much difference.
The big shift, of course, was Debra finally discovering her brother's secret, and that's the part that really did work, as Deb went through all the stages you'd expect: horror, acceptance, genuine effort to participate, and finally renewed horror. The best scenes of the series are usually the ones that feature Jennifer Carpenter as Deb or Michael C. Hall as Dex, and that's even truer now they have this long-anticipated material to get their teeth into. Bravo.
We Don't Want No Cops Or Season Six Stuff, NoThe writers even dug into the slightly odd "Debra falls in love with Dexter" plot from last year, and although they didn't make it any less sudden and icky, you can understand why they did it: Deb as presented in seasons 1-5, without added love-incentive, would probably have turned Dexter in.
Other season six plot points don't fare as well: Detective Mike Anderson and computer nerd Louis are both killed off quickly in service to the new Isaak storyline, so clearly there was a discussion in the writers room ending with: "Yeah, no idea". In Anderson's case, I suspect they were lining him up as the New Doakes (Cop Who Suspects Dexter), then gave that gig to existing character Laguerta, leaving Mike pointless. And fair enough killing him in that case; god knows they have enough police characters without meaningful storylines already.
Which brings us to Quinn, who had a doomed relationship with a stripper, then sulked. He didn't even say anything when Laguerta was arresting Dexter, even though he had the exact same suspiscions in season five. His one chance to contribute something relevant, and the writers missed it. I can only assume it got cut, or Quinn actor Desmond Harrington has pictures of the writers doing a bad murder.
Though that does continue The general Dexter rule since season one: all scenes not featuring Dex, Deb, the Big-Name Guest Murderer or a Dexter Love Interest will be boring/pointless. No, sorry, I just don't care about Angel's restaurant.
Love And Baseless Psychotic MurderSpeaking of love interests, though, let's talk about Yvonne Strahovski's Hannah McKay. Unlike some fans, I enjoyed Julia Stiles as Lumen (Season 5 girlfriend, not yet killed off, can she come back next year please?), and took time to warm up to Hannah, but they did eventually sell me on their relationship. I mean, Dexter meets a new character who will "finally accept my true self" every damn year, the sentiment started to ring hollow a while ago, but they managed to show it in action, and fair enough. The scene between them at the start of the final episode was really sad, and shame they'll be at odds next season. The storyline with her father was tedious and predictable for the most part, though.
And then Dexter offed said father, because he's now a pure serial killer, rather than a Dark Avenger. Of course, Dexter ditching the code was clearly the preamble for the finale, readying him to kill Laguerta. Is that the whole reason for it? Are they trying to reduce our sympathy for the character, portraying him as less a superhero and more a, well, "creep motherfucker"? That bit of finale dialogue suggests it. And maybe that points most clearly to the message they want to wring out of the entire show: "Guys, he was always a serial killer, even if you like his rationalisation, he was always going to fuck off the code and start killing indiscriminately in the end, and you were supporting it. Stick that in your face and stab it."
Which might be the most controversial point of the whole thing: Is this otherly simplistic? Discriminatory towards serial murderers? Isn't it nicely coincidental that he happens to become less likable just as the lies crash down around him? I'm not sure how I feel about all this yet, and I may not have a solid answer until the whole thing has ended.
I'm more or less done now, except to say that the final scene was great. Hugely contrived to reach, especially the mechanics to get Deb in place, but loved it once it got started, a great way to finally push Deb away from him, which will clearly be the last straw.
You'll note that the Isaak storyline barely got a word in, despite taking up much of the season, and that's because of the odd way they curtailed it early. Loved Ray Stevenson in the part, though, and it was interesting to pit Dexter against people who kill for money rather "because they're just crazy". But by the same token, I can see why they pushed that aside and returned to more familiar territory for the final weeks.