The talked-about and highly divisive series finale of Showtime’s serial killer drama, Dexter, could have been so much better with just one simple change.
Throughout television history, there have been many wildly controversial and divisive series finales, including Penny Dreadful, Game of Thrones, and even more light-hearted shows like How I Met Your Mother. However, the finale for Dexter is widely regarded as not just bad, but one of the worst endings of any show, ever. Led by Michael C. Hall as charismatic and tormented serial killer Dexter Morgan, Dexter premiered on Showtime in 2006 and ran until 2013, totaling eight seasons. The series is based on Jeff Lindsay’s novels, which began with the 2004 novel, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which served as the basis for season 1. As many shows deviated from their source material, Dexter took some unexpected turns throughout its eight seasons, though even the most unexpected twists paled in comparison to the ending note of the series finale.
Season 8 of Dexter saw the titular character at odds with his adopted sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), raising his young son, Harrison, pursuing a relationship with another killer, Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski), and still exacting his own, lethal brand of vigilante justice on people who have slipped through the cracks of law enforcement. Before season 8 of Dexter, the strain of many elements being juggled by a man who started as a simple blood spatter analyst made it seem like his days were numbered. Yet, he managed to not only evade law enforcement and death row in the finale, but get off essentially scot-free, abandoning the life he knew completely after faking his death.
Dexter’s series finale, season 8, episode 12, “Remember The Monsters?” sees Dexter taking Debra’s body out on his boat into a massive storm. Deb’s death – due to a stroke post-surgery, which left her brain dead – was a tragic moment for Dexter, who made the decision to take her off life support and take her body with him. Originally, it seems that Dexter’s plan is to die with Deb; there was a strange relationship between the two in the later seasons of the show, with Deb admitting to herself that she was in love with Dexter, who was raised with her since childhood, but was adopted into her family. Deb’s good instincts as a cop, inherited from their adopted father, Harry (James Remar), were tested after she found out not only Dexter’s secret, but learned that her father was the one who taught him to target violent criminals and channel his murderous impulses.
What angered most viewers about Dexter’s series finale was the fact that he didn’t actually die, but rather got to start a brand new life in Oregon, as a lumberjack. Dexter abandoned his son, Harrison, leaving him in Hannah’s care, and never had to atone for his crimes. For a while, it seemed like this was the route the series intended to take; even Dexter’s most nefarious actions were always seen as a means to an end or excusable somehow. Other endings were suggested in the past where he would have to face his crimes, ending up on death row and being sentenced to death by lethal injection, but Dexter’s survival wasn’t the problem. The problem was in there being no semblance of a resolution.
Deb should have never died in Dexter. The change that would have brought everything together in a sensible way would have been for her to survive her injuries and Dexter to disappear. However, instead of Harrison being left with Hannah, he would have Deb to care for him, and some familial connection to his father. Deb would have likely been tormented by Dexter’s disappearance, as she already struggled with what action was the best to take with him, but it might have offered her some closure. Deb could have then turned him in and launched a manhunt or chosen believe he died in the storm, closing the door on his crimes forever. Dexter could have even left whether or not he actually survived up for audience discourse, depending on what the viewer felt was the best fate for the character.
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