Dexter season 8 finale review: Remember The Monsters?

Review Billy Grifter 23 Sep 2013 - 15:32

The Dexter finale leaves Billy feeling depressed, but not because the show's now finished for good...

This review contains spoilers.

8.12 Remember the Monsters?

Dexter is done, all that's necessary now is to dispose of all the plastic sheeting, and send the show's lifeless body to the deep six.

It's a sad truth, but as the clock ticked towards the final part of Dexter, I toyed with the idea of skipping it entirely. On offer instead, due to abysmal scheduling, was the Emmys. But as much as I wanted to see Neil Patrick Harris try his earnest best to forever erase Doogie Howser, M.D. from our collective memories, and truckloads of self-congratulation, I felt after ninety-five previous episodes I should do Dexter the courtesy of watching the ninety sixth. What a mistake.

Remember the Monsters? was a final figurative nail in the coffin of this once great creative endeavour. I did consider for one very long moment just turning in the review with just the words 'It's over', but I finally opted for a few extra comments.

Before I get into what actually happened in this final story, I'd just like to talk about an entirely fake synopsis that was going around Reddit which described an entirely false version of the Dexter conclusion. It wasn't very good, though in retrospect it turned out to be no worse than what the writers of Dexter actually delivered. Maybe it was based on an early draft, because it contained a good number of things that did make it in here, and most of them weren't wonderful.
So what did we get? A storm surge of sentimentality the likes of which looked like it had been saved up for eight whole seasons for a final relentless splurge.

The focus for this was the relationship between Dexter and Debra, and the part they played in each other's life. 

It had been telegraphed last episode that Debra wasn't going to survive, as the death of LaGuerta needed to be closed off eventually. However, they insisted on giving the impression she would live, even if I'd be surprised if anyone watching really thought that at any point. Yet they had medical people on hand to make really unguarded assertions about her prognosis, like those that enjoy being sued often provide. But I was already having problems even before those, when they loaded Debs into the ambulance and Joey went with her. Where was the paramedic? Gone to Starbucks hoping they don't get a call saying his patient destabilised on the journey to the hospital, and they're fired.

As a distraction to Debs' medical issues, they had Dexter, Hannah and Harrison trying to exit through the airport from Florida, in the middle of a hurricane. That would make them stupid, but then most characters weren't firing on all cylinders I noticed. Daniel was walking around bleeding profusely and pistol whipping people while hoping that it would go unnoticed. That last aspect was a recurring theme of the whole story, because apparently once a hurricane is on its way you can practically do anything in Miami without drawing attention to yourself.

These events served to construct the critical confrontations; one between Dexter and Daniel and the other between Hannah and Elway. Not sure which I liked most, but together they probably represented the best of what the episode had to offer.

But before we got there, we needed at first to conclude Debra's story arc, which happened just after Daniel was so very easily caught. That he was arrested was regrettable, because I so wanted to see Dexter kill him with a fork. After Dexter ditches his cutlery, he's informed that Debra won't be walking away from her first day back on the force, as she's almost brain-dead. As he's responsible ultimately, he doesn't take this news well.

They then presented a very cheesy flashback where Dexter and Debra are introduced to baby Harrison, an event that presumably happened between seasons three and four. They tried to make them appear younger, with the hair styles that they had in this period, and it all looked stupidly false. I also don't recall Debra being ever that happy, making the scene border on revisionism. It's all tugging at the heartstrings from a show that was happy instead to slice through them for most of its running time.

While I was reflecting on the schmaltz of that exchange, the story flipped to Hannah who was so absorbed by having a little boy to look after that she allowed Elway to sit next to her on the bus! It was a short and sweet exchange that elicited one of the few smiles I managed throughout, mostly because Elway was such an unpleasant dork.

Dexter's failure to keep Debs from harm comes with a heavy penalty, but there was unfinished business to conclude first.

The death of Daniel demonstrated, as I'd said several times this season, how poor a killer he was compared to Dexter. In a straight fight with only a pen as a weapon he comes off decidedly second. I took this weapon choice as some attempt at irony on the part of the writers, where they've killed off characters with their pens for all these years, and now Dexter does his final kill using one. I hope they laughed writing it, because if that was the intention, it wasn't that witty.

All season eight episodes can end without a true WTF moment, and here it followed the death of Daniel. Dexter, Joey and Angel review the video tape of Dexter killing him, and conclude it was 'self defence'. To show what dedicated law enforcement officers they are, they don't even take a proper statement. Thankfully that's not a real problem, because free to go after just murdering someone Dexter heads off to collect Debra for one last trip in the Slice of Life.

I learned so much in that last hospital scene. Like how when you turn the life support machine off and the patient dies, no alarms ring whatsoever. And, that you can freely wheel dead people around in public, as long as the weather is bad. Not sure when that knowledge might be useful, but it's good stuff to know. In one final poetic point, Debra is deposited with the majority of people Dexter killed, as another symbolic victim. Any concerns that she might unhelpfully float are soon dispelled as she sinks gracefully from view leaving Dexter to the ravages of the oncoming storm. I'd have been happier if they had left it at that, but they just couldn't do that, could they?

The scene where Hannah learns of Dexter's 'death' in Argentina was unintentionally hilarious. I found it funny because Hannah was in many respects a replacement for Lumen, played by Julia Stiles. And, for one moment in my mind I'd transposed the two, which logically meant that she'd see the story, then smile, and then the Bourne music would play. But it didn't unfortunately, even if the scenario offered the possibility of comedy gold.

The insults on our viewing intelligence weren't over either. The climactic scene where Dexter is trucking logs on Highway 1 before going home to be alone and miserable, capped it for this writer. The look on Dexter's face represented exactly how I felt about how the show ended; depressed.

It left the underlying lesson that it's best not to be a serial killer because it will impact those around you, and you'll end up alone in poor accommodation. Somehow, I was expecting something deeper, more revealing about the human condition.

What I took from Dexter as a series was when you've delivered such amazing TV as the end of season four represented, you shouldn't go on. The final part of the Dexter narrative revealed that the writers had drawn a blank in how to end the show dramatically. And, despite having a few interesting ideas like introducing Dr. Vogel, the creative cupboard was utterly bare for most of the final season.

For anyone wanting to blitz this show from the outset, I'd recommend that they stop after season four, and not experience Dexter: the declining years. While there wasn't much in the past season to enjoy, it doesn't ultimately detract from when Dexter was a real rollercoaster ride, and not something less panic-inducing. Perhaps the controversial premise, of a serial killer as hero, never really bore much ethical scrutiny. And once that was exposed, the directions available for the characters rapidly narrowed.

It might not have gone out on a high, but it's certainly a show that people will talk about for years to come, even if only as a stern warning to writers about when it's best to conclude a successful show.

Read Billy's review of the previous episode, Monkey In A Box, here.

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