Mesmerizing. That’s the word I’d choose to describe the hit Showtime series Dexter. The title sequence alone deserves accolades. Simple morning preparations such as slicing grapefruit or frying ham turn sinister, creating a sense of foreboding that simmers just beneath the surface. Michael C. Hall’s dead eyed portrayal of the sympathetic serial killer is profound, a psychological study unlike any other.
The reason Dexter is so mesmerizing, despite its dark subject matter, is that right from the start, in the first season, we are shown why Dexter is subject to such blood lust: the grotesque murder of his mother and his subsequent trauma. This helps cement him as a sympathetic anti-hero, rather than a full-blown villain, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a serial killer with a strict code: he only carves up other serial killers. Dexter’s also a blood spatter analyst for the Miami PD, which means he’s in constant danger of being discovered by one of his law enforcement co-workers, while providing himself with a clever cover.
During the run of the show, we not only see his process evolve, we see his longing for a normal life, his attempts at living one, and his failures as he cannot let go of his need to kill. Despite this, we cheer him on. Each season we see him make a little progress, keeping our hope in him alive, even as he dumps another body into the bay.
Dexter goes from being a lone wolf to a boyfriend, a surrogate father and protector, a husband, a biological father, and a mentor. He experiences real relationships which help him develop as a person. From a ravenous wolf in sheep’s clothing, Dexter transforms into a father who cares deeply about his children, a brother who looks out for his sister, and a man desperately trying to keep his macabre addiction from overtaking his life.
Yesterday, Showtime stated publicly that season 8, which premieres on June 30, will be Dexter’s last. Although I’ll be sad to see such an original show go off the air, fans of Dexter have been calling for the end since season 6, when his sister Deb found out about his off-duty activities. How much more story could there be to tell, they wondered.
Plenty, it seems. Seasons 7 and 8 are one complete story arc, beginning with Deb’s discovery of Dexter’s real identity as a serial killer and ending with her seemingly siding with him, costing the life of LaGuerta, their boss. Season 8 will continue with Deb’s spiral of horror as she comes to terms with the fact that her adopted brother is a cold-blooded serial killer, while Dexter deals with the resurfacing of an old acquaintance.
Despite the continued high ratings and viewership during season 7, Showtime, the writers and even Michael C. Hall are ready to move on. After almost 100 episodes, it’s time to say goodbye to Dexter.
The question is, what does saying goodbye entail? Will Deb continue to cover for him? Will she turn him in, knowing he’ll be condemned to execution by electric chair or lethal injection? Or, will Dexter escape and begin anew elsewhere? What will happen to his son, Harrison? Will he continue in Dexter’s footsteps? It’s also possible that the writers of Dexter will keep doing what they do best: offering an alternate ending the audience never considered, such as the identity of the Ice Truck Killer in season 1, the tragic end of season 4, and the shocking finale of season 6.
For my part, I wrestle with what I’d like to see happen. In real life, of course, we’d all agree that serial killers need to be stopped from upping their body count. Watching Dexter, however, you can’t help but hope that despite his ‘Dark Passenger’, he will someday be able to live a normal life with his son. I fear, however, it is not to be.
I’m interested in seeing how Showtime will fill the hole made by the loss of Dexter, which has been nominated for twenty-five Emmys, ten Golden Globes and was presented with the highly coveted Peabody Award. Whatever new story Showtime chooses to replace our beloved Dexter, it certainly has some big shoes to fill.