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A confused mess with a dissatisfying ending
on 12 May 2014
This review contains spoilers and must be taken in context. I have watched all of Dexter's entire box sets from beginning to end, so I can only review S8 as a concluding part to a long running saga. I cannot review this without giving away the plot, or without sounding annoyed, so be warned.
Let's be clear: This season was the last chance for the writers to redeem themselves, to restore the tension, mystery, intrigue and suspense to Dexter and pull everything together in a satisfying concluding act that answered the key question of what happens when Dexter finally gets exposed. The death of a key person at the end of S7 was a perfect trigger for the net to close in on Dexter and for Miami Metro to turn Miami upside down looking for the killer.
The opening two episodes of S8 seemed to be nicely pushing us toward a manhunt with Dexter in the spotlight, with the smart and unflappable Dr. Vogel seemingly teasing Dexter with hints and suspicions. So it seemed that S8 would become a brilliant test of Dexter's ability to deflect suspicion while trying to survive long enough to kill a cruel bad guy.
But then the writers decided not to bother. Instead they brought back Hannah and the pathetic fatal attraction storyline. Then they revealed this season's killer to be a bit-part character who'd only spoke two lines. (At this point it became clear they were making it up as they went along). Then they introduced a possible protege for Dexter (a teenage killer) to teach 'the code'... but then killed him, off-screen, for no reason. Then they killed Vogel, on-screen, for no reason. Then they killed Debs, off-screen, for no reason. Then they killed the sub plots for Angel, Masuka and Quinn by simply abandoning them mid-story and never mentioning them again. Then they had Dexter fake his own death and abandon his son for NO GOOD REASON AT ALL having built up the fact he loves his son.
This whole season felt like a desperate grab for ideas, none of which stuck, and all of which were aborted in later episodes. The very end was terrible and made no sense at all. If only they'd piked just ONE idea and stuck with it, this could have worked. I can imagine the writers' meetings, with everyone having the "best" idea of their own, and the chief writer saying, "Calm down lads, we'll find a way to use them all. Now let's go for a beer."
People talk about how awful this final season was, or that it started going bad as early as S6, but for me it went wrong in S7 when Hannah was introduced. She destroyed the whole premise of Dexter. She gave him too much humanity and emotion. She turned him into a simpering fool who's nothing more than a lovelorn puppy. She also provided him a way out of trouble, somebody to confide in and keep his secrets. She was somebody for him to lust after, which is totally out of character for him. Dexter is a killer not a lover! And then we are asked to care less whether this woman escapes justice and we have to see Dexter try and protect her. No! We don't want this! She ought not to be in this series at all. Get rid of her! Every moment she appears is a moment of worsening quality of Dexter.
There are other mistakes too. The utter refusal to acknowledge or allude to Quinn's earlier suspicion of Dexter (in S5) is a major irritation. With Quinn randomly falling back in love with Debs (who incidentally murdered the police chief and got away with it) it seemed the perfect point to ramp up the pressure on Dexter... But no. Instead it's just a sub-plot romance between Debs and Quinn, with Dexter not involved at all. Quinn seems to be best friends with Dexter in this season and it's not realistic at all. They should have made Quinn suspicious again and work with Vogel to bring him down.
The S7 cliffhanger is conveniently glossed over, nobody suspects Debs or Dexter of anything, and it quickly becomes obvious that it will stay that way. It felt like even if Dex and Debs walked into Miami Metro shouting their guilt to the rafters, nobody would bat an eyelid.
The utter anti-climax of Debs' death is quite frankly ridiculous. She effectively dies off-screen (goes brain dead in a coma) and then Dexter switches off the life support in secret while the doctors are distracted by a big storm. Eh? Seriously? Is that the best they could come up with? It would have taken guts for the writers to have Deb confess everything and land Dexter in trouble, but no, the writers had no guts.
The very final scene? All I can say is just, what the hell is that all about? Dexter having killed his sister, faked his death and abandoned his son to the care of a serial killer who's fled the country, sits in an unexplained log cabin and stares into camera looking miserable. I like to think he's silently apologising on behalf of the writers for the mess he's made us watch. If only he'd shrugged his shoulders, it would have been perfect.
This final season was a wasted opportunity.
My perfect final season would have gone something like this: Dr. Vogel appears and (wrongly) suspects Dexter of being the Brain Surgeon, puts him under pressure and then finds something linking him to other killings in the past. Quinn too begins to reignite his own suspicions from S5 and the two of them go to Angel with their concerns. Angel dismisses them but then he begins to suspect Deb and puts two and two together. Vogel pursues Dexter and using her psychologist skill gets him to accidentally confess. Dexter takes the blame for LaGuerta's death and clears Deb of any trouble. He then spends the final 3 episodes trying to escape the team. In a final shoot-out, Dexter ends up dying in front of Harrison who sits in a pool of blood and is destined to become the new Dexter. Debs resuces him and brings him up as her own. The End. (And no Hannah anywhere to be seen).