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Dexter Season 8

Dexter: Season 8

What he said:

He

Dexter had one of the longest runs of any show I have ever watched. I’m not talking including sitcoms; those tend to have longer stints than hour-long dramas.  Quantum Leap, LOST, Battlestar Galactica, and Breaking Bad all had shorter runs than Dexter. Even Star Trek: The Next Generation – which had seven seasons – had a shorter run than Dexter. When you choose to hang in there with a show for that long, you develop a certain level of attachment to it. That’s not to say Dexter was flawless – I’ll discuss some of the show’s problems further down in my review – but if you watch something for that long, you are bound to develop strong feelings about it.  For that reason alone, I will miss the show.  

I have to warn you before we get started, this review is going to have spoilers. I don’t think I can talk about the final season of a show with letting it all hang out. I don’t just want to review the quality of the show, but I also want to vent my feelings about the direction the show chose to go.

I was angry after season seven. Not because I thought it was bad – I actually thought season 7 was pretty good – but rather because for the first time in my experience as a fan of the show, I was really angry at Dexter (the character, not the show).  Dexter (Michael C. Hall) had stopped being the Dexter we’ve come to know and love. Sure, Dexter was a serial killer, but he was a serial killer who killed other killers. Dexter punished people that slipped through the hands of the law. Here is a guy who has a compulsion to kill, but directs it towards people who hurt others.  I’m not ashamed to admit I enjoyed the hell out of that aspect of the show. It might sound strange – if not a little disturbing – to those who don’t know the concept of the show, but most of us who do have always enjoyed seeing Dexter deliver a little vigilante justice. There is something about watching the bad guys get their comeuppance that satisfies some primal part of our brain. Plus, it really forces you to examine some things like ethics and morality. We’re all taught from birth that killing is wrong. But if you look at it logically, you begin to have less-and-less of a problem with Dexter’s hobby.  

Dexter Season 8

But then something happened. That something was Hannah McKay. Ugh, Hannah freakin’ McKay. Just saying her name makes my gag reflex kick in. There has never been a more controversial figure in the show’s history. Some love her (though that number seemed to diminish if you ask me), some hate her, but we all talk about her. Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) is a murderer who was on “Dex’s table”, ready to be disposed of. But for some reason decides to set her free right before he does the deed. This infuriated me. It infuriated a lot of people. Why would he set her free – and even worse - later go on to protect and even pursue a relationship with her?! She’s exactly the kind of person Dexter normally punishes. But then I thought about this conversation he had with Isaac Sirko (Ray Stevenson) during season seven.  This scene is the key to why Dexter changed. Humor me and watch it, you’ll understand my point. Isaac said something that resonated with Dexter. If you think back to previous seasons, there have been several people who knew about Dexter’s secret lifestyle, but for various reasons didn’t work out (and most of them died along the way). In many ways, Dexer was always alone. He had people he was close with, but nobody truly knew who he was and accepted it. But when Hannah seemingly doesn’t care about who/what Dexter is, it gets his attention. So-much-so, that he’s willing to overlook the fact that she is a killer. Dexter was willing to compromise who he was for the sake of being accepted by someone.

It was at this point – and when he put his sister in the horrible situation he did – that I couldn’t side with Dexter anymore. It’s true that Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) the one who actually shot LaGuerta (Lauren Velez), but I blame him for putting her in that situation to begin with. She was still screwed up from finding out about his double life. She had finally gotten to the point where she understood that he “only” kills other killers and sort of accepted it, and then he puts her in the situation of having to choose between a loved one and the law.  

I was disappointed with the Dexter’s choices and actually felt a little betrayed by him. I was angry at what he did to his sister and LaGuerta and for protecting Hannah. I think some people struggled with this. They didn’t know how to react. It was a conflicting time for the viewer, but I am convinced that we were supposed to dislike Dex at this point. His choices were not something that made you want to cheer for him anymore.

Fast-forward to season eight and you have two very different situations for Deb and Dex. Deb is a complete wreck as a result of her actions. She has quit her job as a police officer, is drinking too much, and is now a drug addict. One reason I found it so easy to sympathize with her is that she feels guilty about killing LaGuerta, unlike Dexter. She knows what she did was wrong. Dexter on the other hand, couldn’t be happier. He is upset about what he’s put his sister through, but is happy LaGuerta isn’t chasing after him anymore. He freely admits his life is easier now that she is gone. Boy does this really irk me. It really adds to my dislike of the character at this time, which is still something I’m not totally used to. I was still angry at Dexter and wanted to see him go down, but rooting against someone you spent most of the last seven seasons cheering for is such a bizarre feeling.

New this season are Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) and Jacob Elway (Sean Patrick Flanery). Dr. Vogel is an expert on serial killers and shows up when this season’s killer, the Brain Surgeon, makes his presence known.  She has worked with Deputy Chief Matthews (Geoff Pierson) in the past and is brought on as a consultant to help with the latest string of murders. She also knew Deb and Dex’s dad, Harry (James Remar). There’s something  going on in with her that Dexter can’t quite figure out. He is unsure if she is a friend or foe. Elway is the owner of a high-end private investigation firm, which is where Deb is currently working. While neither the performances nor characters blew me away, I didn’t have any real issues with them either. It isn’t clear what roles they were going to play for quite some time, but once they were clarified I was fine with it.

Another new character this year is Zach Hamilton. Zach (Sam Underwood) is a disturbed young man who has recently killed his first victim. I won’t tell you how or why, but like with Hannah, Dexter decides to give Zach a chance and teach him Harry’s Code.

Now at this point in the story, it is very clear to me that we’re not supposed to like Dexter, or at the very least be conflicted about his actions. He chose to compromise who he was for the sake of his own happiness, even if it meant innocents would be hurt.  Why? Again, it’s because after years leading a double life, Dexter wants to find someone he can be himself around. If he’s off hunting a victim, he doesn’t have to want to have to come up with a lie about where he’s been when he comes home at 3:00 in the morning. He wants someone who understands what is going on inside of him. In a way, he is attempting to build another family. He has Deb and his son Harrison, but Harrison can never know what he is, and Deb doesn’t totally accept it. She hasn’t turned him into the authorities, and has actually killed an innocent to protect him, but she hates him now. She hates him for ruining her life and for the death of LaGuerta. So in his own warped way, Dexter is trying to be a “normal” person. He just so happens to have compromised everything Harry taught him in the process.

Dexter Season 8

This is not the first season to show Dexter balancing the two sides of his life. The conflict between the killer and the family man goes all the way back to when he was dating Rita in season one. But this time around Dexter is very serious about walking away from it all, and this is where the first major problem comes in. So at the end of last season he’s willing to kill LaGuerta to protect himself, because he doesn’t want to go on the run. But now he wants to stop killing all-together and run away with Hannah because he loves her? Say what? It makes the fact that he was willing to cross that line and murder an innocent in LaGuerta rather pointless. Not to mention, the idea that he doesn’t want to kill anymore, because of his love for Hannah, makes absolutely no sense at all. Everything revolving around Hannah and Dexter’s feelings for her were so poorly written and executed. If Dexter is disturbed enough to where he kills because he has a compulsion to, that isn’t going to go away because he found somebody he loves. It’s completely unrealistic. I’d actually be willing to forgive that aspect of the storyline if their relationship wasn’t so poorly done. Their “relationship” was so forced and sappy it was cringe-worthy. I completely understand they were trying to show you Dexter was desperate and at a point where he simply wanted to be accepted. No problem there. But the chemistry between the two characters just wasn’t there. I could have given a pass to this unrealistic part of the story if their relationship had simply been more believable.

Hannah’s character really screwed up quite a few things. She even messed up Deb’s character a bit. Deb HATED Hannah in season seven, but she accepts her this season because she makes Dexter happy?! Come on! Why did the writers force the acceptance of this horrible woman and poorly written (and acted if I’m being honest) character? I don’t get why they were so high on her.

Speaking of Deb, I was annoyed with how quickly she recovered from season seven. Deb killed an innocent person to protect her brother. It screwed her up royally and rightly so. She should have been a wreck for the rest of her life. She should not have been normal old Deb after a handful of episodes. Not only that, if you check out the trailer below, the made it seem like her emotional state was a huge part of this season, and in the end it wasn’t.

Some people said they hated the ending. I can’t say I completely agree with that. Some of the things leading up to it were very poorly done, I agree with that. But the meat and potatoes of it were very satisfying to me. I think most of us wanted to see Dexter go down and we only envisioned it happening in one of two ways. We figured he would get caught, killed, or maybe even both.  Realistically he should have. But Dexter’s self-imposed exile really sat well with me. The idea of him being a broken man who chooses to live with his guilt, rather than do something like commit suicide, shows me that wants to actively punish himself. He thinks he deserves to spend the rest of his days being reminded about the lives he’s ruined. I like that he had remorse for what he has done and wants to make himself suffer for his sins. It also made me feel a little pity for him. He looked so pathetic in the end. I feel like he deserved it, but I still pitied him a bit.

While I was very saddened over the death of Deb, I felt it was an appropriate ending for her. She was my favorite character on the show, but this is a show about serial killers after all. A happy ending was unlikely to happen.  Aside from some really bad special effects while Dexter was burying her at sea (I told you there would be spoilers), I found it pretty touching. The same can be said for the scene in the hospital, which is probably part of the reason I take some pity on Dex in the end.

Now there were some things leading up to it that really bothered me. Dexter faked his own death by driving his boat right into a hurricane. First of all, how the hell did he survive that?! We see him drive right into the thing and it completely destroys his boat. Not to mention, when Batista (David Zayas) finds out about the wreckage from his boat, he’s saddened by the loss of his friend. Um, hello, Hannah escaped from Elway with Dexter’s son. He would have alerted the authorities about this, but Batista seemed shocked when he heard about Dex’s “death”. Speaking of Hannah, there’s the minor detail about her walking around Miami as if she isn’t one of the most wanted people in the country. She doesn’t even attempt to disguise herself! No wig, no new haircut, and hell she doesn’t even so much as put on sunglasses or a baseball cap. Then you’ve got the fact that Dexter walks right out of the hospital with his sister’s body and nobody seems to notice or care.

Dexter Season 8

This kind of stuff is just sloppy, inexcusable, and happened a little too often in some of the later seasons (6, 7, and 8 in particular). Characters and storylines were introduced, treated as if they’d play some larger role, and then dropped like a hot potato. Remember Louis from season 6? They teased at him playing a major role in season 7 and he didn’t. Remember the detective who was competing with Quinn (Desmond Harrington) for the promotion this year? She disappeared so fast after she got the job that I don’t even remember her name. Remember Masuka’s (C.S. Lee) intern before Louis? There was no point to her at all. And what about the Santa Muerte murders? Remember them?

This season was a mixed bag. Most of the season did not feel like the show’s final one. It just didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. The ending for Deb and Dex was both tragic and depressing, but very fitting in my opinion. The issues I mentioned above were inexcusable, but they really didn’t pop up until late in the game. There was some really sloppy stuff going on here, but it was also a fraction of the season. Prior to that, I didn’t have any major objections. Finding out that Dr. Vogel helped Harry create Harry’s Code was unexpected, but interesting. Dexter being drawn to her because he feels she helped create him was a decent enough angle. It reminded me a little bit of a Frankenstein type of story. The same can be said for Dexter looking for a “family” in Zach and Hannah. I might have hated them both, but they were key to showing how far Dexter had fallen, and how desperate he was to feel like he belonged. I also liked that they gave Masuka a happy ending with the discovery of a daughter. It was minor, but a nice way to send off the character. I really grew to like Quinn too. Quinn was introduced as a mystery. They indicated the character was morally grey – and he was at times – but in the end he really came off like a cop who wanted to make a difference. He could be a bit of an ass, and even accepted money from criminals in the past, but seemed to genuinely care about catching killers and protecting the innocent.

There are some people who say the show should have ended after four seasons. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. I don’t know. But one thing I do know is I do not agree with this notion that every season after four was bad. I can recognize the first four were better than the last four, but I do not think seasons five through eight were all bad. To be completely honest, I thought five and seven were good. Maybe not as good as one through four, but closer to them than the two weakest seasons: six and eight.  The show definitely hurt its legacy in the long run though. The first four seasons were the stuff of greatness. The issues with the latter half of the show changed a lot of people’s opinions about this show. Some actually grew to hate this show. I did not. Like I said, I thought two of the last four seasons were actually legitimately good, but I admit there were definitely some warts in the second half of this show’s run. One thing I can for sure is that I’m really going to miss this show. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but I grew to like some of the characters quite a bit. I’m going to miss Deb Morgan a lot. She had a potty mouth, a big heart and a great sense of humor.  I’m going to miss Masuka’s pervy jokes. I’m going to miss the dark humor in general. Dexter had a knack for taking some pretty gross stuff and making it light of it. But most of all I’m going to miss how much the show made me think.

Rating: Thumbs half up.

This review was written for your reading pleasure on September 26, 2013.

 

What she said:

She

I always find it very difficult to review television shows as a whole or even by season.  Except maybe those BBC shows that consist of four, two hour episodes that are very closely linked.  The problem is that you often end up with varying feelings throughout the season, and it’s hard to look back and figure out how you really felt in retrospect.  Certainly, this is true for Season 8 of Dexter.  Let’s be honest, the writing on the show has been fairly inconsistent since I think it reached its pinnacle with the Trinity Killer in Season 4.  It’s almost like they didn’t know where to go from there.

The minds behind the show decided that make Season 4 the start of some introspective evaluation for Dexter.  He went from being pretty robotic to just fairly robotic, and he started to examine his spirituality and his capacity for true emotions, like love.  I think in the pursuit of these novel goals, they unfortunately slacked on the writing, leaving some pretty large plot holes and insufficient character development in most recent seasons.  Season 8, while fairly enjoyable, continues this trend.  And, if you haven’t already heard, it concludes with one of those most talked about and hotly debated finales ever.  Frankly, a lot of people are just plain mad.

Dexter Season 8

Season 8 opens six months after the death of LaGuerta.  Debra has had a glorified melt-down over what she did, quit her job, severed ties with Dexter, and is living a somewhat shady existence working for a private investigation company.  Meanwhile, Dexter is getting on with his life and still working for Miami Metro.  The season introduces us to Evelyn Vogel, an expert in criminal psychology who seems very interested in Dexter.  She begins to pop up wherever he is, and it’s finally revealed that she worked closely with Dexter’s father when he was a child, arming him with “the code” that he abides by as a serial killer today.  At first, Dexter wants nothing more than to avoid Vogel and to focus instead on helping Deb find her way.  But he slowly warms up to her once he realizes that they have a strong connection.  

As the season continues, there are minor plot developments with the peripheral characters.  Quinn is dating Batista’s sister Jamie for much of the season, but things ultimately fall apart.  Masuka finds out that he has a daughter, stemming back to his younger days as a sperm donor.  She’s a little firecracker and ends up working for Miami Metro as well.  

But the crux of Season 8 really focuses on Dexter and Debra, their relationship, and their interactions with Vogel.  And, of course, there is also a large scale serial murder case that permeates throughout the entire season, and that’s the “Brain Surgeon.”  He’s essentially a killer who leaves his victims with parts of their brains scooped out, like, with a melon baller.  Nice and gross.  Of course, everything comes full circle, as we learn that the Brain Surgeon ties in closely with Vogel.  And it becomes a showdown between the Brain Surgeon and Dexter.

And let’s not forget about Hannah McKay, who returns to the scene to shake up things around Miami.  She’s got a lot of people on her tale, but Dexter continues to have a soft spot for her.  This, of course, becomes a point of contention between Dexter and Deb, and also was a hot topic with fans of the show, many of whom have long grown tired of her.

The strength of Season 8 lies in the acting of its main characters—namely Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan.  Early in the season, as we see her fall apart with guilt, she really stretches the boundaries of her skill and exercises her acting chips.  Michael C. Hall is likewise decent, even if you do not agree with the direction that his character is taken in.  Charlotte Rampling as Vogel, love her or hate her, conveys her role well.  She has some really weird and mesmerizing eyes.  The other characters are ok; although they’re fairly limited by the material that they’re given.  I feel bad for David Zayas, who plays Batista.  Talk about a character who is left fairly pointless.  He’s just sort of along for the ride.

So, now to the downsides of Season 8.  Honestly, they’re more of just a continuation of the issues that have become chronic to the series.  The character development of the show has dropped off immensely, focusing purely on Dexter and Debra.  For those who do not agree with the evolution of Dexter’s or Debra’s characters, then that can actually make the series pretty painful to watch.  It seemed logical to me that Debra would hit rock bottom in Season 8, but she very quickly begins to turn things around, and ultimately turns out to be Dexter’s greatest defender.  To me this is very unlike the hard-nosed do-gooder Debra that we’ve known all these years.  That said, I’m not totally opposed to this move, as we know she’s at her most vulnerable and just looking for someone to care about her.  Dexter, as we learn this season, truly is that person.  He realizes, too, that he genuinely cares for Deb and that he’s capable of actual compassion.  Again, people will disagree with this move.  There are still those out there who believe Dexter should always and forever be the cold-blooded killer of the past.  But, you’re going to have to get over it.  The series’ writers obviously don’t agree, and as Dexter softens, the result is less and less kills in Season 8.  And that’s, obviously, a huge gripe from the viewing population.

Dexter Season 8

And then we have the return of Hannah McKay.  I’ve always hated that woman.  Not just because she’s amazingly pretty, or because she always makes sure she wears a top sheer enough to expose her bra; that’s part of the reason.  It’s because she gets away with whatever she wants with little regard for others.  And it’s this quality that becomes Dexter’s downfall.  In the pursuit of Hannah getting whatever she wants, Dexter becomes irrational, sloppy, and unlike the killing professional he’s been in the past.  Get used to seeing Hannah.  She sticks around for much of the season, and just like that callus on the bottom of your foot, she won’t go away and she becomes more and more irritating the longer you’re stuck with her.

Season 8 becomes very preoccupied with moving the story forward, and so viewers will often find that there are times when the finer details are glossed over or swept under the rug.  I can think of a few moments just from the finale when there were some obvious red flags that the show decided to ignore.  These aren’t dealbreakers for me, but they are disappointing.  I want to sit the writers down and say, “Hey, you may want to address the gigantic purple elephant in the room.”

All of these negatives aside, I’m ok with this final season of Dexter.  I don’t love the much-debated ending, but I also understand it, even if it is slightly laughable.  There were some decent episodes in Season 8, and that kept me going where I would have otherwise gone astray.  I’m relieved that they’ve decided to put the series to rest.  It’ll never be what it once was.  But it could have fizzled out in a much more disastrous fashion—a la The Office.  Hey, they can’t all be Breaking Bad’s.

Thumbs half up.

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