Dismembering the Dead: an Examination of Dexter Season 8

An end of a reviewing era, and a look at what many people call one of the worst final seasons in TV history, Dexter Season 8.

This will be giving away everything too early, but it’s not the worst final season of TV history. It is far more boring than anything else this show has had up to this point. But bad, not so much. Season 6 was far more immediately terrible and missed key character elements. It’s villains were also way more generic, kind of.

To explain: Season 8 has Dexter going after The Brain Surgeon, a serial killer who removes pieces of a victims brain, specifically the cortex that allows empathy. To help combat this threat Miami Metro brings in Dr Evelyn Vogel, a psychopath whisperer, who just so happens to have secretly helped Dexter’s dad create the code and mold Dexter the way he is (I did say this was not immediately worse, right?). Meanwhile Debra is still extremely fractured over killing LaGuerta over and has pushed herself to new extremes to get away. Oh, and Joey is dating Dexter’s nanny/Angel’s sister, Jamie. And, Masuka finds out he has a daughter he got when he donated sperm.

The main issue that drags the whole show down, outside of a secret contributor to Dexter’s past… again, is the blandness of the main villain. This has been a problem since season six. Since season six the villain have not been compelling. Season six kind of got away with it by having Tom Hanks’ son, Collin, and Edward James Olmos, but they are no Ice Truck Killer, defiantly no Trinity, and not even the girlfriend from season two. The Brain Surgeon is boring while also trying to have a version of the twist season one had, just with an actor who was not hired for his talent it seems.

The twist here in season eight, that the Brain Surgeon is somehow related to another character works for the kind of thematic arc this season is going for. To break that down, if each season is about Dexter being pushed to confront who he can really be with, and we went from a blood relative who wants him for twisted reasons, to a possible girlfriend for him with Hannah, then it only makes sense that in the final season you would make it be all about Dexter finally creating his own family unit his way, and not marry into one.

This thrust to make and the break the family unit kind of makes sense with the rest of the seasons choices… kind of. Many arcs like Joey and Jamie, or Masuka and his daughter feel very pointless by the end. Masuka’s might be going for what Barney received at the end of How I Met Your Mother. He goes after women, but the true women he needed was a daughter. The problem is that, in the end, it’s just kind of left there in no new status quo. Joey’s on the other hand…

The biggest mistake this series makes is on its send off to Deb. Deb was arguably the best character in the show, with the most consistently growing character arc. She starts are a Vice cop who wants into homicide and eventually becomes head of the agency only to learn a crippling truth she must grow back from. It is very strong. There are of course some big mistakes thrown in. All her boyfriends for one. But overall it was strong. It’s a shame they ruin it to force Dexter to reach the end of his arc.

Before getting into the end of the series I think it’s pertinent to mention that I do not think Breaking Bad ends well. I am not someone who thinks Walter White was a good person, but the idea of some dumb, bland biker gang getting the best of him seems cheap. He bested all the smartest minds in the Arizona (or is it New Mexico) drug game only to be brought down by discount Hell’s Angels. Not the way I thought he should be brought down.

I say all that to mention how, at least, Dexter is not trapped into a flimsy mind game with the Brain Surgeon. The events that finally bring Dexter down are partially of his own making, partially things he had no control over. Still doesn’t make it good, but it’s better than Breaking Bad.

With that out of the way… Dexter, the show, has always been about reinforcing how Dexter cannot have attachments. Literally from season one that is what the show has been about. That makes the ending almost kind of perfect… now, the way it gets there ultimately is cheap feeling, and the changes to Dexter’s character does not feel all earned, but the idea that Dexter leaves everything behind to go somewhere else makes sense. It’s a shame that to do so he ships his son off with his love interest, his step kids never come back, and his sister, well… dies.

Yeah, Deb, the eternal compass of the team is killed off in a very contrived way. Then Dexter is able to somehow sneak her off to sea and send her away makes no sense on how he could possibly have done that. That may not sound bad on text, but maybe saying that a character who went through so many psychological breaks as Deb, only to grow and come out the other side a stronger woman, to then be killed by a bullet (it’s more complicated, but that’s where it starts) all so Dexter realizes he’s can’t have a family is cheap, and totally fridges her.

On the plus side, the fact Dexter’s last kill is the one Miami PD knows about, is on camera, is in self defense, and with a pen of all things is very fun. That, on top of how his last kill makes him human, finally, is quite an interesting idea.

In the end though, I still like the show. Even as it gets very bland it still has this atmosphere, and has such compelling characters like Deb, and Dexter, and Angel that it all works even when it definitely makes no sense, and is kind of ridiculously dumb at points.

Oh, and I can confirm that Dexter truly is Bad Superman.

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