I know what you’re thinking “what do you mean 2009? Didn’t Dexter just have its series finale last Sunday?” Yes, it did, but any fan of the series will admit that ever since the season 4 finale, the end date I’ve noted, the show really hasn’t been worth watching. Even then, season three–which featured Jimmy Smits–wasn’t all that good.
It wouldn’t be hard to find the fans’ ire over the series finale we received, but it was little more than the culmination of several years worth of increasingly disappointing television given the strong start the series had.
Curiously, many of the failings were things that are sometimes lauded by audiences. For instance:
- A Change in Format: Many people complain if a show seems to fall into a formula. They complain about it being the same thing week in and week out. A big hit to the quality of the program came from trying to trying to find this variety, whether or not straying from the norm was intentional. In the first few seasons, the audience could expect some consistency in that about every week Dexter would find some random serial killer he’d need to identify, hunt, and then kill and there was a villain who would be recurring throughout the season, although they wouldn’t necessarily be identifiable as the villain at the start (such as season 2’s Lila West or 3’s Miguel Prado.) In season five, we were introduced to a collection of main villains (creatively known as “The Group,”) lead by Jordan Chase, who made up almost all of Dexter’s targets for the season. This became a problem as it meant we no longer had an interplay between the overarching season plot and the weekly kills but rather a unification of them. It resulted in things feeling very dragged out. In fact, there’s an almost season-long subplot involving the character Cira Manzon–who never appeared again, regrettably, because the actress was pretty hot–which had an exceptionally tenuous connection to Dexter’s plot. Which kind of sums up the role of Dexter’s coworkers in Miami metro for the rest of the series; because the show felt the need to begin tying most of his kills to the season-long plot, which necessarily revolved around Dexter (being the title character and all), and he needed to keep his shenanigans somewhat separate from his job, it meant their roles were mostly superfluous. Which leads us to the second major problem.
- Side Characters: When they were just amusing asides to Dexter’s work (killing) in the first couple of seasons, Dexter’s host of side characters (basically anyone besides his sister or wife) were tolerable. After a while, though, they became insufferable diversions. What was worse was that the writers didn’t even care enough to bother trying to convince the audience that they should care! Throughout seasons five and six the audience endured the courtship and break up of María LaGuerta and Angel Batista, but since it had almost no impact on Dexter we were left wondering why we should care. During this time we see how LaGuerta caused Deputy Chief Thomas Matthews to resign from the force in disgrace … yet at the start of season eight he was back in charge of Miami Metro without explanation. In season eight there was an inane subplot involving Vince Masuka and his daughter that had nothing to do with the main plot. And then there was basically anything that ever had to do with Joey Quinn. When the show stopped focusing on Dexter learning about potential victims through his work with the police force, the police force became superfluous!
- Character Arc: There’s the famous dichotomy of a plot-based vs. character-based story. Dexter always had an internal struggle in regards to his “cover” life (his affection Rita in the first couple of seasons) and whether he wanted it to be his real life or just the facade. This whole storyline came to a head in season four when Dexter dealt with Arthur Mitchel, the Trinity Killer (amazingly well played by John Lithgow), who appeared to be successfully live both lives (but that achievement fell apart under examination, as Dexter learned.) If Dexter was going to reach an epiphany about leading a dual life, it should have occurred in this season. And it might have, however the death of his wife in the finale probably cast that choice into doubt. Unfortunately, this meant that for the following four seasons the audience had to put up with the continuing back and forth of Dexter trying to choose between being a serial or giving it up. It wasn’t character development, it was just a stalled character and that monotony tainted the rest of the series.
So yeah, it really can’t come as a surprise that the series finale was terrible. It was just the culmination of a program that lasted four seasons too long.
- Dexter Producers Explain Finale @ Entertainment Weekly
- The Other Way Dexter Could Have Ended @ Dark Horizons
- Dexter’s Terrible Final Season & How Breaking Bad Ruined the Series @ Grantland