Top Ten Worst TV Show Endings/Series Finales Ever #9 – Dexter (2006-2013)

It’s been a year since I began this list but I always knew I’d get back to it sooner or later.

Dexter.  It raised us up so high only to bring us crashing so far down.

Needless to say, we’re talking about how the series ended, so if you haven’t watched it yet, beware of SPOILERS.

In a world of sequels to sequels and reboots of reboots, Showtime’s Dexter had a rather unique premise: a serial killer who you could actually root for.

Michael C. Hall starred as Dexter Morgan, the Miami Homicide forensic analyst who, in his spare time, feeds his twisted inner need to kill (which he refers to as his “dark passenger”) by murdering bad people.

The series starts off strong.  Seasons 1 and 2 are particularly great.  Season 4 Dexter meets his match in the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow) and then after that, the whole shebang just begins to unravel.

At the heart of the show was the fact that Dexter, believe it or not, was relatable.  Sure, you don’t kidnap evildoers, take them to a secluded area, wrap them in plastic wrap and then stab them, but at some point in your life, maybe you’ve felt like you don’t fit in.

Dexter suffers from that same anxiety.  He has a hard time making friends.  He has a hard time sharing his feelings because he doesn’t have any, yet he’d like to have some.  He brings a box of donuts to work everyday to use as a social crutch/ice breaker (i.e. he can’t really strike up a conversation with someone without the excuse of, ‘Hey, would you like a donut?'”)

We’ve all been there and yet, we all (hopefully) see improvement in our social circles as long as we keep trying.  Over the course of the show, the Miami Homicide Division becomes Dexter’s family.  The various detectives become his brothers and sisters.  Hell, one of them even is his sister in the form of foul mouthed Debra (Jennifer Carpenter).

Throughout the series, we see the toll Dexter’s double life takes on him.  His job is to help the police department uphold the law.  Yet all too often, he uses department resources (databases, crime lab, etc.) to track down bad guys and kill them before his colleagues can collar them.

Moral issues arise.  Is it right to do something evil, even if it is against someone evil?  Is it wrong to be a vigilante?  Doesn’t allegiance to the legal system mean that we take the good with the bad, that sometimes a bad guy gets off on a technicality in order to make sure good people aren’t railroaded?

In the beginning of the series, Dexter operates with a moral code (passed down to him by his police officer father) that serves him well.  Be thorough and don’t make a mistake (i.e. don’t kill someone who didn’t do something wrong).  Don’t share this secret life with others.  Don’t get caught.

In the first two seasons, Dexter’s murderous craft is an art form to behold.  He uses intelligence, trickery, deception, science and skill to catch his victims, kill them and make them disappear without leaving behind so much as a single trace.

Alas, in season three the writing starts to get sloppy and Dexter begins going from methodical mad man who thinks of everything to guy who wants to be everyone’s friend.  Dexter shares his secret with a district attorney played by Jimmy Smitts, and from thereon, starts sharing his double life with others throughout the series.

That seemed dumb to me.  I remember thinking, “Yeah right.  No one can keep a secret like that for long.”  The whole point of why this character was interesting is because he does so much evil in his personal life and yet still manages to show up to work everyday and beguile a group of colleagues who treat him like a member of the family, fool his sister, his girlfriend, even the step-kids that he takes on as a step-father figure.

Every TV show raises a question.  Here, the question is, “Will Dexter ever get caught?”

That’s the question that kept us on the edge of our seats, season after season.  Will Dexter slip up and be discovered?  Will the people he works with in Miami Homicide end up looking like and feeling like fools when it comes out that one of their own was a murderer?  Will one of the detectives end up taking Dexter in?  Will Debra and Dexter square off?

Alas, the show jumps the shark when Debra discover Dexter’s secret life.  Despite her character being presented as a strong law woman, she goes nuts, quits the force and starts helping Dexter cover up his shit.  Just never seemed like something she would ever do.

Personally, I was waiting for years for that moment when Debra makes a difficult choice to haul her own brother in but I never got it.

The show sort of redeems itself when Deb, faced with the decision of whether or not to back up Detective LaGuerta (Lauren Luna Velez) or side with her brother, chooses her brother and shoots LaGuerta.  Not really an outcome I was rooting for but OK, I get it.  Family bonds are strong and sometimes people do shitty things they don’t want to do in the name of saving a family member’s hide.

To me, the obvious storyline would have been for Sgt. Angel Bautista (David Zayas) to end up in some kind of showdown vs. Dexter and Deb.  Bautista and LaGuerta were married and though divorced, he still loved her.  He looked at Dexter and Deb as his own brother and sister, even including Dexter in on his bowling league.  Surely he could have discovered this and felt betrayed and there could have been some awesome final season long manhunt where he tracks him down but no…nope…Bautista just remains a clueless dummy to the end.

Where was I?

Right.  The finale sucked not just because it sucked because it was just one long arc of suck that began in season five and culminated in the disastrous finale.

Deb dies off screen.  We don’t see it.  We’re just told it as a side note, as if it is an afterthought.

Dexter motors his boat to the hospital and pulls up to a ramp and you’re supposed to just nod like an asshole and be like, “OK.  I guess hospitals have boat ramps.”

Dexter then picks his dead sister up out of her hospital bed and walks out the front door with her, past nurses and doctors and security and yeah, I get that they were all dealing with the complications of a hurricane but still, someone would have noticed this.

Dexter then leaves with Debra, again from the hospital boat ramp, and deposits her in a watery grave in a part of the bay where he dumped all of his chopped up victims.

For a brief second you think this is interesting symbolism.  Dexter feels like shit that his double life caused his sister so much pain that it essentially killed her so he dispatches her as if she’s one last victim.

But then you just end up thinking that Dexter is a sack of shit and maybe his sister deserved a nice police department funeral with the flag draped over the casket and the twenty one gun salute and a head stone for people to put flowers on but no, he drops her carcass off in a part of the ocean filled with chopped up bodies.

Dexter, you asshole.

Oh, so then Dexter leaves his young son to be raised by Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski), a murderous wench that he hasn’t even known for that long.

I always felt the writers missed out a potentially awesome story line.  There really should have been a season where Dexter and Hannah get married, go to jobs by day, then serially kill together at night.  Showtime really should have hired me.

So then Dexter points his boat at the hurricane and sails towards it.  And you’re like, “OK…well this is all shit but at least there’s a resolution.  There’s an answer.  Dexter finally feels like such a shit heel for his life of crime that he kills himself.”

But nope.  The writers wouldn’t commit.  In one last brief scene, Dexter has taken a job in the great Northwest as a lumberjack.

So that’s pretty much it.  We watched this show for years only to find out that he becomes a chopper of wood in the end.

Truly, one of the worst TV show finales ever.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you shouldn’t have read any of this.  But at any rate, seasons one through four are great and then it probably should have just stopped at four if the writers weren’t going to take it seriously.

That showdown where Dexter’s friends/family finally take him down…or that big final case where Dexter beats all the odds and walks away a free man one last time never materializes.  It just fizzles out and then leaves you with a promise that one day a show might be developed about a murderous lumberjack that, let’s face it, you won’t really want to see.


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4 thoughts on “Top Ten Worst TV Show Endings/Series Finales Ever #9 – Dexter (2006-2013)

  1. I really wanted Dexter to end with him waking up on someone else’s table bound in plastic. The lumberjack thing was a bit ridiculous, but it did leave room for a return.

    • Dexter ending up on someone else’s table would have also been a great ending.

      The lumberjack thing was ridiculous. I didn’t care for him steering his boat into the hurricane, but at least it was a resolution.

      The five second lumberjack thing just reeks of the writers thinking, “Yeah. We botched this. Maybe one day we’ll come back with a return and make it up to everyone.”

      Except, I don’t think they can. All the people in Miami PD who I wondered will they or won’t they find out have moved on and who really cares if, I don’t know, the foreman of the lumberjack company finds out he’s been killing people during his lumberjack lunch breaks.

  2. I left like it burned out during the whole gf is pregnant/Jimmy Smitts season. Both times I’ve tried to watch the show, I just lost interest then. Shrug. Sounds like I wasn’t missing much. When the heck did LaGuerta and Bautista get married? And then divorced too? oy. how long did the show go on….

    • When he confided his evil side to Jimmy Smitts it was an early jump the shark moment. The whole mystique of the show was he was this man leading a double life and you were on the edge wondering if he would ever get caught. If everyone knows and is helping him then it isn’t as interesting. But ok, Smitts’ character dies and takes the secret with him so ok.

      Season 4 is great though they shot their wad at the end of it. It’s a big shocking surprise but it was hard for them to pick up and go from there.

      I don’t remember which season but Angel and LaGuerta got together, got married in secret because they didn’t want it spilling over into work and then got divorced quickly thereafter, deciding it wouldn’t work out as she was a boss and he was a schlub.

      But I felt like with Angel loving Dexter and Deb as though they were his brother and sister, maybe he could have discovered that LaGuerta got deep sixed by Dexter and Deb and then it could have been one big ending where all these people who were once friends are going after each other.

      Breaking Bad was better because Walt maintained his secret up until the end.

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