‘Dexter’ Series Finale: The Biggest Mistakes of Season 8
This week saw ‘Dexter’ kicking of the final arc of the series with the first of three final episodes, “Goodbye Miami" (read our review here), but are we ready to say goodbye? Critical reception has run the gamut on the Showtime serial killer’s final, meandering episodes, so we decided to take a look back at the biggest missteps of the season, and where they might lead us in the big series finale.
Quinn and Deb, Quinn and Jamie, Quinn and Katia, call it whatever you like, ‘Dexter’ has never managed to sell its audience on the exploration of Quinn, or his romantic pursuits. One might even develop whiplash to ponder the different states in which we’ve found Quinn through the last three years alone, from sending shady private detectives to uncover Dexter’s secrets, to sharing stakeouts and encouraging his vigilante stalking! And while Deb and Quinn’s relationship might have proven an interesting new wrinkle to explore in the wake of Rita’s death, no amount of development for either Katia or Jamie can sell us on the investment that Quinn deserves his happy ending. Least of all now that the character made an absurd correlation between questioning one witness with Deb, and throwing away a functional relationship with Jamie to be with Dexter’s sister again.
Mind you, Masuka has long represented the least loathsome of Dexter’s supporting cast, particularly those whom the narrative consistently positions outside of the main arc. ‘Dexter’ wouldn’t be ‘Dexter’ if Masuka suddenly developed suspicions, or a personal relationship to an ongoing villain, while C.S. Lee’s reliably seedy performance keeps Masuka among the more tolerable deviations we’ve taken over the years. That said, the final season was no place to introduce a long-lost daughter for the character, particularly one that has had no impact on the story at large. Sure, we got a nice scene with Deb and a bit of genuine emotion for the balding blood-spatter analyst, but a few topless shots and some running commentary as an intern do not a worthy addition make.
On the whole, it would seem as if Cassie’s sole purpose lay in providing and introduction for Oliver Saxon/Daniel Vogel, something we’ve gathered to represent a bookending parallel of the first season’s introduction to Brian Moser. That worked in the case of Deb, providing a palpable sense of danger for characters of a series we’d not yet fully come to understand the rules of, though Cassie’s role sin season 8 has seemed entirely expendable as a consequence for association with Dexter. If anything, season 8 seemed positioned to place Cassie in a parallel to Rita, devoting scenes to Dexter’s return to the dating game, though any effort to develop the character quickly fell to the wayside of Zach Hamilton, Saxon, and ultimately Hannah’s return. Why bother highlighting such lengthy conversations with Deb, only to wind up dead in her apartment by the next scene?
Any survivor will tell you that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can cover a wide range of causes and emotional responses, none of which disappear very easily. And while we’d question how much of Deb’s breakdown and descent following LaGuerta’s death truly falls in line with PTSD when contrasted with other traumatic experiences the character has survived, we nonetheless appreciated an effort to actually classify, and breathe in Deb’s distress. It also provided a neat narrative tie for incorporating Dr. Vogel into the treatment, which lasted…all of an episode. Don’t get us wrong, both the characterization of Deb and Jennifer Carpenter’s emotional spectrum therein have always been spot on, but it does neither the real-life condition nor the series justice to attribute Deb’s mental state to something so gripping, only to hand wave it away by the next hour. We do remember that she killed a hitman in cold blood, and left his body behind, right? Anybody?
Ah, Batista. Perhaps the posterboy of ‘Dexter’s fishbowl forgetfulness. We think we’ll miss you most of all. So remember when his ex-wife, former boss ended up gunned down by a serial killer with whom the Morgan family had a violent history, just hours shy of LaGuerta’s ongoing investigation into Dexter? You know, the blood-spatter analyst who has continued to find himself adjacent to all manner of murderous trouble over the years? Remember how LaGuerta’s death conveniently brushed aside Batista’s disillusioned retirement from the force, and put him back on the path? No, just going to leave that suspicious murder of a Miami Metro Captain behind? Alright then, you tried.
Allow us to share with you the most readily available information on Detective Angie Miller, who appeared sporadically throughout the seventh season, and had been given a greater spotlight this time around: “a no-BS African-American divorcee with two kids.” And yet, we’ve spend entire B-plots of episodes this season on developing the race for a promotion between she and Quinn, at Batista’s urging, only for the idea to promptly get the boot once Miller took the position. Perhaps a major bust within the final hours would justify the story’s place within the season, but until then, yeesh.
We never honestly believed that ‘Dexter’ had seriously considered the prospect of a spinoff, nor do we with ‘Breaking Bad’ for that matter, but it’s proven no secret in recent weeks that speculation had surrounded Zach Hamilton as a candidate to carry on Dexter’s legacy. Thankfully, that proved not to be the case (though stay tuned for more of Sam Underwood’s creepy gazes in ‘Homeland’ and ‘The Following’!), though once again Zach seemed to be the ball ‘Dexter ‘ would pick up, and promptly drop two weeks later. The idea of a spiritual successor to Dexter’s ways held some merit, positioning our titular serial killer as a “Harry” in his own right, but the prompt intrusion of Daniel Vogel into the narrative effectively ended any ground the story might have held.
Clearly Hannah couldn’t’ remain the stone unturned in Dexter’s final year, the seventh season neatly setting up Yvonne Strahovski’s moderately-received villainess to return (hey, remember Lumen?). That said, the character’s actual reentry into the Miami Metro scene left more questions than answers, as we learn that Hannah married the man to provide protection for herself, but ultimately decided to kill him by enlisting Dexter’s help. Only…she changed her mind…sort of, and left Dexter unconscious by the side of the road. That is until, Dexter sought her out anyway and wound up embroiled against Miles Foster, who threatened Dexter’s life should he keep interacting with his wife. Hannah of course wound up killing Miles anyway, and dismissing the entire crew of his yacht for a supposed trip to New York, wherein one of the world’s foremost billionaires was never heard from again, and the story appears never to have made the press, ever. Whoops!
‘Dexter’ wouldn’t be ‘Dexter’ without at least some lip service paid to an annual “Big Bad” of sorts, the season 8 case of which seemed to be Dr. Vogel’s purported “Brain Surgeon.” And with any ‘Dexter’ serial killer with whom we haven’t met from the beginning, we’re bound to greet a few red herrings before the ultimate truth emerges. And whether or not you buy Vogel’s never-mentioned son Daniel as the true killer, does it bother no one how many arbitrary murderers appear to have arisen from Vogel’s patients? Not only did A.J. Yates apparently keep women hostage within his private dungeon, with enough circumstantial evidence to pin him as the killer for a number of episodes, but Ron Galuzzo happened to operate as a gourmet cannibal when not peddling fitness equipment in the mall! How did we never bother to explore this?
You’d be hard pressed to earn dislike from a character portrayed by Sean Patrick Flanery, but here we are. Elway seemed to provide a benevolent figure from the beginning, a safe space for Deb to work out her grief, though the character clearly harbored some affection for her. After positioning the character to be a sympathetic figure, Elway quickly turned hostile on Deb and asserted his devotion to the business, a character swerve that never felt in earnest line with what had come before. Now, Kenny Johnson’s Clayton (puzzlingly referred to as “Cooper” on IMDb) has taken over the role in pursuit of Hannah, leaving Elway with…what to do, exactly? The character may yet play a role in the endgame, though thus far has proven too across the board for any real redemption.