‘For so long all I wanted was to feel like other people … now that I do just want it to stop’
In a surprising flourish, Dexter’s ending came through in ways I wouldn’t have expected. It was moving, enthralling, dark, revolving and emotional beyond anything the show has seen in a very long time.
I did not expect myself to take nothing away from the Dexter finale because there were some things that I had been expecting. But the finale moved me. It did not fall flat, it did not disappoint. It felt like an elegant and somewhat imperfect but very real solution to the entire series.
Dexter’s ending did not have plot twists or sudden disclosures but I think I can safely say that I had stopped expecting those long ago. What I had wanted the final episode to do was provide absolute justice to a long-running show with a tribute of a goodbye. And it did pull through.
This episode was about all the ghosts of Dexter’s life finally coming around full circle. It was about an arc of realization that brought him face-to-face with his own reality. Something he had ignored over the years, over the deaths of everyone who loved him, every life who touched his.
This episode took us on a three separate journeys. The first one was Hannah McKay’s, as she finally came through for Dexter in a way that made it real to believe that she loved him. Though the chemistry between the two characters has always been flaccid and Hannah’s motivations seemed concerning, to say the least, in this episode she stood out as her own person, as someone who you could actually have liked to see paired with Dexter, maybe in a parallel universe. She was there for him when he needed her, proving that his belief in her had not been unfounded.
The second journey was Debra’s. She was shot in her gut in the last episode and as she struggles to recover and gets operated upon, we see the reactions of the people around her. Dexter stays back to make sure she is okay. Quinn is angry and upset but brave and Batista is steady as a rock. When Dexter and Debra talk, she is heavily sedated but hopeful and he is ready to leave and they don’t know it then but the goodbye they say in the end of that conversation will be there goodbye for life.
Pulling out a scene from the past, from the day of Harrison’s birth, when Debra and Dexter first hold him, was the writers’ way of taking us back to the connection. Whatever else has happened on the show, the Dexter-Debra relationship has been a tumultuous up and down ride put they’ve stuck together through it all with the help of a very strong bond. The flashback scene, though it felt a bit forced, made me see the cheerful old Debra who looked up to her brother and admired everything he was, before she knew his truth. In that sense, that scene was a tribute to her.
To give Debra a massive blood clot and a stroke that leaves her on life support, was one of the finale’s unexpected twists. It felt weird at first; because though Debra’s end had been anticipated, I’d thought it would happen in a more cliche, dramatic manner…with another run-in with Saxon or something of that sort. Instead, Debra slowly fell away into an abyss of life beyond consciousness while the rest of our attention was diverted.
Saxon…Saxon was never meant to be the formidable enemy who defeated Dexter; instead he was just one more loose end Dexter was meant to tie like he has so many others. I liked that Saxon came through as a weakness in the end, that Saxon was not the ultimate anti-hero to Dexter.
The third journey was Dexter’s. In the breadth of one episode, Dexter moved from believing in a happy ending for himself, to a point of hopelessness about his own life. As Dexter dealt with Saxon after knowing his sister was lost to him, he seemed to sift through his psyche and realize what it had meant to be him, all these years. It had cost him. It had cost everyone around him. His twisted lifestyle had come at a price, paid by every single person he had loved. And so Dexter made his decision.
When everything was wrapped up, he returned to Debra. The hospital is in chaos because of the impending storm. The chaos enables him to slip next to Debra without being noticed. Since Deb is gone beyond repair, there is no point trying to revive her. Instead, in the most heart-wrenching scene of the show, Dexter apologizes to his sister, who can’t even hear him and never will. The apology that took too long in coming, after everything the Debra ever did for him and everything that he ever did to chip away at her soul, meant nothing anymore.
“I’d change everything if I could. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but I can’t leave you like this. I’m your big brother.”
He tells her he loves her as he pulls off her life support system. In that moment, the dying Debra has a peaceful serenity to her face and being. Wrapped in a white sheet, pale as a ghost the backdrop of a deep, dark, stormy sky, Dexter carries her to his boat Slice of Life and loads her in. He takes the boat far off into the sea and then stops. There, with the help of a surprisingly good mobile network (despite the built up storm), he talks to Hannah and Harrison for the very last time, though they don’t know it.
Hannah is boarding the plane to Argentina with Harrison. She escaped Elway by one last trick out of her bag of poisons and drugs. She tells Harrison he can see penguins in Argentina because it’s close to the South Pole, and that’s Santa Claus’s summer home. Harrison snuggles next to her and falls asleep.
After Dexter’s goodbye, he picks up the ghost-white form of Debra and carries her to the edge of the boat, tossing her in. Her body hits the dark surface of the water and slides beneath, pulled down by the rippling surface of the water. And that is how both we and Dexter, say goodbye to Debra Morgan, with all her strengths and flaws. And that is when Dexter reveals his final decision.
He is never meant to live with people. He hurts whoever he touches. With that thought in mind, he pulls away deep into the storm, away from the coast.
When the storm clears, the wreckage of A Slice of Life is recovered but there is no body. The news is delivered to Batista. Somewhere in Argentina with Harrison, Hannah reads the same article. Teary eyed though she is (and me, by then), she flicks away at her tears, turns to Harrison and says, “Hey, how about we go get some ice cream, yeah?”
But before the scene closes, we are taken to some remote location, deep inside a forest where a lumberjack is at work. We know at once that it is Dexter but he walks away to a small cabin, sits down and stares right into the camera for one last time.
So that’s it. Should Dexter have died? Should Dexter have left his son with an unpredictable, wanted fugitive who doesn’t even acknowledge the need to maybe alter her appearance? Will Dexter be back?
I don’t think he should. I think though Dexter’s death was impending and expected, in the end we saw that Dexter was not ready to give in to that urge. He did not want to take his own life because Debra’s unselfish love and untimely death, all because of him, finally made him see that the only way for him to STOP being inhuman was not by driving into the sunset with his girlfriend and son but stay put and force himself, every single day, to think about and live with the things that he did, the things that happened to him.
Dexter’s creation was an unfair process in which he was drawn, first by his mother’s killers and then by his foster father and Dr. Vogel but Dexter’s demise was something he himself chose as a way to repent for the rest of his days. So no more bad-men killing for Dexter? I don’t know. All I see is the strength it takes to pull away from all the people he loves or ever loved and to choose to live alone this way.
Tremendous and moving finale; the storm that came was unexpected but delivered with perfection.
Micheal C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter were flawless to the finish.
End Notes: I did not want to add anything sarcastic in this post because, the finale was about more than just this season. Bad as this season was, the final episode of this show delivered the best it could, given the circumstances. And so I felt it was only fitting if I addressed the emotions and not the loopholes. Besides, I mostly did like the finale and its haunted effect on me overshadowed its loopholes. Also, I don’t want a spin-off. The ending satisfied me but if its only purpose is to stem a spin-off, then that makes the ending seem ineffective.
Try reading this for some Dexter mockery and laughs!