[Review] Dexter, Season 7

Courtesy of Showtime
The longer Dexter lasts the less love I feel for it in our love-hate relationship, and until last week I suspected that most felt the same way. Until the penultimate pulled in the most viewers for a Showtime programme ever, and from the looks of things the finale bested that record. So I guess the general public still has a place in their hearts for America's favourite serial killer. Or maybe they were just interested to see how it would end. Like a car accident, they couldn't help but watch. Or maybe they found out that Yvonne Strahovski had nuded up earlier in the season, and were hoping for a repeat performance.

This has started rumours that the show might live beyond the deadline given years back that season eight would be the end. This is a mistake, and the show desperately needs to end. Whatever the cause of the viewership spike, what it doesn't change is that Dexter has delivered its most grating, least interesting, and ultimately, least satisfying season yet. And that includes season five, the Final Frontier of Dexter seasons.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains explicit spoilers for the whole season and entire series, so... you know, you've been warned.

Dexter, like most Showtime shows, but more then any other Showtime show, follows a repeating and almost calculated pattern. Each season starts with a burst of promise, usually in the form of a couple strong episodes, then wanes in the middle when the writers downplay the arc, then waxes again in the last few episodes. The penultimate episodes tend to be better then the finales, and the cliffhangers are always better in the penultimate episodes. Even seasons two and four, the best seasons by far, follow this pattern almost to the letter.

And worst then that, every single finale has ended in the exact same way. There was never any tension as to what would happen: the baddie would terrorise Dex, putting his personal life in danger, only for Dexter to get lucky, tranq them and they'd end up on his table. Dull, boring, repetitive. The writers clued in to this, and started to shake things up. They didn't change anything, they just added more. So from season four on, we have expected for the baddie to end up on Dexter's table, and then afterwards something emotional and shocking would happen. It worked once, in season four. And last year they did a good job sparking my interest again, as Deb walks in on her brother just as the knife came down.

This season picked up immediately, and promised a big change in the status quo between Deb and Dex. And I have to give the writers credit, they let Deb's intelligence do the work rather then spoon feeding her. For the first episode, Dex led her on a a trip through the town-of-lies, only for her to figure him out on her own. It was in the latter half of the second episode that I felt the show falter. I felt like this season should have been an opportunity for the producers to shake things up. Focus less on the procedural stuff, and more on the characters. Rather then get bogged down in yet another cat-and-mouse plot between Dexter and some ultimate baddie, focus on the emotional states of the characters. Deb's internal conflict with her discovery, and the effect that has on her personal life and career. Follow Dex as he meets and falls in love with Hanna. Watch as LaGuerta descends into madness hunting the past for proof of Doakes innocence.

Instead, what we got was a mismatch of all that, most of it mishandled (especially Deb, who comes to a level of acceptance all too quickly) that takes a back seat to rapping up story lines left over from last year, and introducing Ray Stevenson as a European mob boss. Stevenson is great in a role that requires very little, and only gets very interesting in his last few episodes. He is though, like most guest stars on this show, wasted. This season, the writers were clearly aware of their inability to hold the show together. More then any other season, they kept adding plots that went no where (Joey's stripper girlfriend and the arsonist storyline being the chief examples). I knew things were bad when the main story arc and chief antagonist were dispatched in episode nine, leaving three episodes left for the series to twist over on itself.

I did however, like Hanna McKay. I liked that storyline, and I liked the development it gave Dexter. I'll admit, I thought things might have worked out for Dex, for once. I was looking forward to a dramatic and much needed change to the show, and Strahovski brought it. She wasn't like Dex, which would have been tempting, and something the show has tried before. She was her own kind of monster. And I felt, as much as they rushed the relationship, that it was genuine. I just would have preferred the writers had taken more time getting them to a place of near absolute devotion (I'm assuming that somewhere mid season there was meant to be a small time jump, considering how their relationship goes from zero to sixty between episodes, but none of the other story lines match the jump). The five or six episodes Hanna was with Dexter weren't enough time in and of themselves to create a bond with Harrison, as was mentioned in the finale. Or with much of anyone.

I also thought, in the week between last and this, that Deb had poisoned herself to frame Hanna, and that the writers were truly trying something new, with Deb rising to become the main antagonist and Hanna the faithful partner. But no, that collapsed in the opening minutes of the finale. And what we were left with was a blunted, toothless final episode that brushed aside other story lines in favour of cranking the LaGuerta subplot to eleven, as if they had forgot they were running out of episodes. And forced into a final confrontation that will undoubtedly have consequences next year. But for the first time in many season, I don't care. I could care less about weepy Deb and how Miguel will handle retirement and if Joey will sleep with the babysitter. The finale left me happy it was over, not craving more, and that constitutes the biggest failure a show can make.

My apathy grows mostly from the characters. While at first Dexter was interesting, over the better side of a decade his voice over has become frustrating and repetitive. Deb remains the most annoying character on TV, with her half gasping every line, and this season especially if she wasn't just cursing she was weeping. The rest of the characters languish in uselessness, as the writers are unable to find anything for them to do, which I suppose is better then forcing them into story lines that are pointless (again, see Joey's stripper girlfriend).  I did enjoy LaGuerta and Matthew's team up to find the Bay Harbour Butcher, especially of how it was a small subplot that grew gradually larger, and came to its own organic conclusion, which was then forced back to life and flogged, like a dead horse.

The series' best days are behind it. Well behind, at this point, and they know it. It has been nearly seven years since I watched season one, so I'm not immediately sure if the clips of Doakes in the finale were specially shot cameos or just former footage cut in, but it doesn't matter. The clips didn't serve a narrative purpose other then to pad out the run time they couldn't fill with new content, and to remind viewers of how good things were way back when. To even name the episode after this "surprise" is evidence of how desperate the show is to regain a little of what it once was.

I would have looked forward to a final season of Dexter and Hanna on the run, the chase being led by a conflicted Deb. I would have anticipated a final season where Deb slowly eats away at Dexter's new life, driven by a mixture of duty and jealousy (born out of the worst subplot the show has ever conjured, and will not be mentioned here). I would have watched a final season where Dexter goes full dark, and cuts a bloody swatch out of southern Florida. Instead, I know exactly what we'll get next year: Deb will be conflicted, Dexter will be indecisive, LeGuerta's murder will either be resolved in two episodes, or mislead the department to the new big bad, who will be the worst serial killer Dexter ever encountered, who will hunt him, destroy his personal life and then the series will end not with a bang but with a whimper. And I can see it now, the final shot, of Dexter driving his boat out into the sunset.

Mark my words.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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