Serial killer series heads into final season having hung on too long; prepare the kill room
Oh “Dexter,” you’ve had a good run, especially given the high capture and incarceration rate for serial killers (heck, most CBS procedurals seem to catch one a week). But now it’s all ending, and if last season and the first four episodes of this one are any guide, it’s a couple of years too late. Although the Showtime series has earned a well-crafted send-off, its narrative contortions and Dexter-Deb relationship appear to have run their course. It was great while it lasted — particularly in the middle seasons — but all that’s left now is to prepare the kill room and accept the inevitable.
For those who missed season seven, read no further, since SPOILERS are ahead. Suffice to say the decision to choose her vigilante, serial-killing brother Dexter (Michael C. Hall) over another suspicious cop who had sniffed out his criminal nature has left his adopted sister, Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), with some serious emotional issues to work through.
Like last season, these early episodes introduce a rather tepid if customarily grisly serial-killer plot that has yet to fully coalesce, as well as a new psychologist (Charlotte Rampling), who offers Dexter another “window to your past.” Yet while there are creepy moments — and the show continues to peel away the layers of what makes a monster while questioning whether its protagonist truly is one — “Dexter” remains well short of the operatic highs it reached in previous cat-and-mouse games between the protag and well-matched foes.
Granted, Hall is utterly brilliant in the title role, but the supporting plots are chronically uneven, there’s been nothing of late to rival Jimmy Smits’ or John Lithgow’s arcs, and the Dexter-Deb connection feels terribly played out, even if one can get past the semi-incestuous elements that were introduced when the show explored a possible romantic attraction. (OK, so they’re not blood relatives, but having been raised as siblings the family roots are still there, and it’s icky.)
The good news for Showtime is that “Dexter” has clearly served its purpose — not just representing the pay channel’s signature series for multiple years, but by providing a sturdy lead-in, helping pass the baton to the Emmy-winning “Homeland,” and in this final run no doubt giving a boost to the new drama “Ray Donovan.” In TV’s circle of life, the show has done its job, completed its mission.
Those who have been along for the ride will doubtless be curious to see how it all wraps up, but as the show spools out the cellophane, it can hold the tissues. Thanks for the memories, Dex, but it’s time to go, and at this point it’s a passing that merits saluting what’s come before it, but not one worth mourning.