Dexter series finale recap: Our Take on That Shocking, Strange Ending

The series closes with a surprisingly lovely, bold and moving hour. Here's what 'Remember the Monsters?' got right and wrong
Ep. 12 | Aired Sep 22, 2013

Dexter (Michael C. Hall) unexpectedly spends the entire series finale sitting in this chair staring into space.

Showtime

Now Dex driving the Slice of Life into stormy hurricane seas. Once again, I'm thanking the producers for the lack of voiceover. I'm half-expecting Ghost Harry to pop onto the boat and go: "Hey, Dexter? I'm a mental projection from your own mind and even I don't know what the f--k you're doing." And then Ghost Harry would vanish in a puff of exposition.

Dex stops the boat and gives Deb a burial at sea. He has a phone chat with Hannah and Harrison. Hannah is super happy. Dex tells his son, "Daddy loves you."

In voiceover, Dex explains he destroys everyone he loves and can't let that happen to Hannah and Harrison.

So he drives his boat toward the hurricane. We think he's going to go full Perfect Storm up a wave. Then it cuts....

Post-hurricane: Slice of Life wreckage. Batista getting the news of Dexter missing. Hannah reads the news at a street cafe, presumably in Argentina. I half expect to see Alfred and Bruce Wayne nodding at each other at nearby tables. Hannah makes a comment about going to get ice cream and she take Harrison down the street.

We get a crane shot that suggests a fade to black is coming... then we get an actual fade to black... then we get a beat...

And everywhere Dexter fans start to compose hate tweets about this ambiguous ending where we didn't know if Dex was alive or dead when suddenly--

The show comes back. Whew! There's more. We're in Oregon at a logging operation. We see a bearded Dexter Morgan. He finishes his shift. He doesn't talk to anybody. He goes home. He sits in a barren room. He looks into the camera, nearly as vacant as Deb before he pulled the plug.

And we are done. Overall it looks like there's a lot online outrage about the finale. Is it better than the somewhat similar finale for The Shield? Absolutely not. I'm not making an argument for canonical greatness (I've been blunt about the show's flaws this season). But given the episodes we've seen, especially in recent weeks, I was surprised that this finale was this polished and effective. Here's what I thought worked and did not work:

WORKED:

1. Dexter's fate. Admit it: When trying to guess Dex's fate before the finale, you never once thought "lumberjack." This was the most important element and I think the outcome is solid. You want to avoid Dexter being killed by somebody or ending up in jail -- those are the all-too-obvious choices. Here Dex has chosen exile. He's a shell of his former self, avoiding all human contact. As the producers point out in our interview, he doesn't even have his voiceover now. Basically, his ending is unexpected and fair (and, let's face it, leaves the door open for Dexter to return in another series).

2. Debra's fate. Not a home run, but interesting. On an emotional level, there's something a bit disappointing about not having Deb expire in a more active guns-blazing way. She basically died without knowing she died. In the show's kill room scenes, Dex often extracts some valuable growth lesson from the person he's dispatching, like he's some sort of self-help vampire. Those victims are murderers, so we don't mind him leeching off their deaths as a growth opportunity. But here, that's also what's happened with Deb. The point of her death seems to mainly serve as one final lesson for Dexter. It would have been nice if Deb's death also somehow accomplished something for her character's arc and struggle which have been so compelling over the last couple seasons. Instead, Deb was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and got shot by a psycho that Dex decided not to kill -- whoops. I suspect some viewers who have strong anti-euthanasia beliefs will be upset Dex did the full Terri Schiavo, but that didn't bother me -- Deb wouldn't have wanted to "live" like that. (By the way, not that it matters, but doesn't she have a couple hundred thousand worth of stolen jewelry back at her apartment? Yeah, that's right, bet Dexter writers thought we forgot about that).

3. Saxon's fate. We didn't care all that much about the brain surgeon this season, but as I already detailed above, Dexter and Saxon gave us an excellent final face-off in that interrogation room.

4. Production values: The acting, writing, direction, music... all great.

FINALLY: What DIDN'T work

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