Dexter Morgan is and will remain one of the most interesting characters in fiction for me, joining Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley in all his sociopathic glory. I continue to read Jeff Lindsay’s novels — a new one is out this fall, Dexter’s Final Cut — and had looked forward with anticipation to viewing the DVDs of the eighth season of the Showtime series Dexter. I wrote about the seventh season here.
The first episode of the final season makes clear that we will be going through some sort of journey involving the relationship between Dexter and his sister, Debra. She is wracked with guilt, self-medicating to the extreme, and working as a private investigator for Jake Elway. Dexter seems untouched by the events in the last episode of the previous season. His focus is on Harrison, now 4, and his job. Meanwhile, a new serial killer has surfaced in Miami, labeled the Brain Surgeon for his gruesome MO — he cuts the top of the head off his victims, and carefully scoops out a specific part of the brain. The Miami Metro team is going through change: Batista is now their CO, and he’s urging Quinn to take the sergeant’s exam. Masuka learns that he’s a father. Into the usual chaos strides Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), a neuropsychiatrist who’s offered to help on the Brain Surgeon case. She shows a special interest in Dexter from the moment they meet.
As well she would. It turns out that she’s as important to Dexter’s life as his father, Harry, had been. She and Harry developed “The Code.” She knows Dexter extremely well, and helps him repair his relationship with Debra, as well as assist on the Brain Surgeon case. I have to admit, I kept waiting for her to reveal that she was also a psychopathic serial killer, but what developed was far more surprising. It seems that Dexter had been developing empathy. This surprises Vogel as much as it did me. Could Dexter be redeemable? Rehabilitated?
The first half of this season was highly entertaining and downright mesmerizing watching these accomplished actors reveal their characters’ struggles and desires. I wish I could say the same about the second half, marked by the resolution of the Brain Surgeon case and the reappearance of Hannah, the blonde murderess who got away. She chooses to get Dexter’s attention by drugging both him and Debra, then leaving Dexter by the side of a road in the middle of nowhere. Lovely girl! And then the Brain Surgeon strikes again…they’d gotten the wrong guy! The real Brain Surgeon killer was still out there.
While Dexter hides Hannah from a U.S. Marshal hot on her case, pushed by Elway who sees a big reward if she’s caught, he’s also developing attachment to Vogel, seeing her as his “spiritual mother.” She understands him. Hannah understands him. They both love him. You know this is not going to end well.
I won’t reveal who the Brain Surgeon really is — only that he’s been around for nearly the entire season and he has a remarkable connection to Vogel…and Dexter. The writers did themselves proud in this particular serial killer and his ruthlessness, giving a stark contrast to Dexter and showing just how much Dexter had changed. Which he had. In ways that surprise even him. But, but, but….
The final three episodes were disappointing, to say the least. There was a sense of rushing to finish, rushing to tie up all the loose ends (when that really wasn’t necessary), and dealing blows to characters that I thought were unnecessary and unfair. The actors all carried through with it, however, and gave it the only plausibility that was possible. One character’s resolution in particular made me yell at my TV in frustration. But, but, but….
Dexter remains true to himself in the end. I’d been watching this series as a writer studying characterization and how the actors do it. I have to at least give the writers props for giving Dexter back to himself in the end, older, wiser, more experienced at being himself, and considerably more ironic. Michael C. Hall brings him to life and makes that final episode, in the final minutes, more believable than it had the right to be.
Am I sad the series has ended? I found myself missing the Dexter of the first 3 or 4 seasons, the vigilante serial killer and keen observer of human behavior who spent a lot of time mystified and trying to figure things out. He was funny and horrifying. Debra was his rock. They were a team. I’m sad that that ended….