Dexter was unlike any TV series I’d ever seen with amazing acting from all involved and excellent character development. It manages to be shocking and funny however, there are a bit too many convenient things that happen so Dexter can get away and there are several dumb subplots like Deb being in love with Dexter which was a low point in the show.
Tonight’s the night… I only recently got to watch the final Season of Dexter and as it is one of my favourite TV series of all time, I thought I would give it a review.
It’s a mixture of genres with action, thrills, horror and humour so I hope you’ll enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing about it.
So let’s begin our dissection of Dexter.
Season 1 Synopsis: The first season of Dexter is an adaptation of Jeff Lindsay’s first novel in the Dexter series, Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Subsequent seasons have featured original storylines. This season follows Dexter’s investigation of “The Ice Truck Killer”. Introduced in the first episode, “Dexter”, this serial killer targets prostitutes and leaves their bodies severed and bloodless. At the same time, Dexter’s foster sister, Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), a vice squad officer, aspires to work in the homicide department, and Dexter’s girlfriend, Rita Bennett (Julie Benz), wants their relationship to be more intimate.
Review: I remember the first time I sat down to watch Dexter, I had no idea what to expect and from the very opening “Tonight’s the night…” speech, it grabbed me right up until the very end of Season 8.
The opening credits are reminiscent of American Psycho with the creating of a meal being shown like acts of violence. It always made me hungry and I love the music; it has a memorable theme tune that I always whistled along to.
Michael C. Hall is perfectly cast as the most likeable serial killer in the business who manages to be a nice guy at the same time. He can be a little goofy one minute to downright terrifying when someone is lying on his table.
It shows how good the writing is when you actually are on his side and it’s all due to “Harry’s Code”; essentially rules that make sure Dexter only kills those he thinks deserve it, AKA REAL bad guys. This gets you on his side but then you start to question your own judgment; what makes him better than the people he’s killing?
This is explored a lot, by Dexter’s own inner monologue as he debates with himself if someone deserves to die. He calls it his “Dark Passenger” which is basically his need to kill and how he tries to control it.
This first Season is definitely one of the best as we are introduced to the excellent cast, all of whom you grow to love as the show progresses.
My personal favourite character from the entire show, aside from Dexter is Angel Batista who is pretty much the only out and out good guy. He’s the kinda person you just want to have as your friend and would totally have your back.
Dexter’s adopted sister Deborah is foul-mouthed but fragile and completely idolizes her brother. She doesn’t have the best taste in men though as we discover that she is in fact dating a serial killer: Rudy Cooper/Brian Moser (Christian Camargo). We also later discover that he is Dexter’s blood brother.
Camargo is perfectly cast as the Ice-truck Killer; he’s incredibly creepy and his mannerisms are similar to Michael C. Hall’s so you believe that there is a familial resemblance.
James Doakes is the hard as nails police Sergeant who is suspicious of Dexter from the very start; Erik King makes Doakes come across as authentic and believable. This is not someone you want to tangle with and he has no sense of humour. Despite that, he is a genuinely good cop and a decent person; he perhaps doesn’t deserve what will happen in Season 2. He does have some choice lines though and his car-bomb temper is what supplies a lot of the humour. Once he left the show, admittedly it did lose a little spark.
In the first season Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez) is arguably just as tough as Doakes and makes a fitting ally for him. She has to be tough as she is a woman who is always fighting politics in the Police Department. She’s not a very likeable character in this season and is a complete bitch towards Deborah. As the show progresses though, we do discover her compassionate side, but she was always rather cold and I would rarely side with her.
Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee) is the funniest character on the show; he’s another lab worker who works alongside Dexter and is essentially a complete pervert. He’s usually talking about his various exploits and is hilarious.
This first Season of Dexter had an unpredictable story and was unlike any other TV show I’d seen before; it’s startlingly original and the daring plot twists kept my attention. I loved how it’s set in Miami where it’s all sunshine and beautiful people, but in reality there are so many dark deeds going on behind the scenes. There is plenty of violence and sex so definitely not a show for the kiddies. Season 1 is essential viewing.
Season 2 Synopsis: In the season, the bodies of Dexter’s victims are uncovered and an investigation is launched in Dexter’s own department to find the killer, dubbed the “Bay Harbor Butcher”. During this time, Debra struggles to recover after surviving the Ice Truck Killer’s attempts to murder her, and Rita sends Dexter to Narcotics Anonymous meetings when she suspects that he has an addiction. Sergeant James Doakes (Erik King), stalks Dexter, suspecting that he is connected with the “Ice Truck Killer” killings.
Review: I think Season 2 is my second favourite of the entire show; this was always the way I pictured the show finishing; with the police closing in on him and it gets almost unbearably tense. As we all by now the show doesn’t end in any way like we expected, but I’ll get to that later…
I like the journey Dexter goes through in this Season, how he struggles with the fact that he had to kill his own brother and has been unable to kill since. It’s almost like he’s suffering from PTSD.
New characters in this Season include Special Agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine) who is called in to investigate The “Bay Harbor Butcher” killings; he is my favourite new character this Season as he is a genuine good guy and a bit of a hero. Deb slowly begins to fall for him as she tries to get over nearly being killed by the Ice Truck Killer. I think Jennifer Carpenter doesn’t get enough credit for how well she played Deb. She’s incredibly highly strung and very believable whenever she has one of her many meltdowns.
Jaime Murray is Lila Tournay, Dexter’s Narcotics Anonymous sponsor who ends up completely saving Dexter’s life by killing Doakes when he gets too close. Sadly she is completely batshit so she needs to end up on Dexter’s table. It’s a shame as she is incredibly hot but has a bit of a problem with setting things on fire.
I could never really be bothered with Rita, she was annoyingly squeaky clean and not a very interesting character. I know she is essentially the polar opposite of Dexter but it’s someone like Lila or Hannah (who appears later) who are better suited for him.
There is some nice character interaction between LaGuerta and Lieutenant Esmee Pascal (Judith Scott) this season and it gives a bit more depth to the character.
One thing I will say about this season though, is that a bit too much conveniently happened so Deter could get away from the cops, Doakes, etc when really he would have been caught.
Once again the performances are all excellent and despite a few too many convenient plot twists, this is still hugely entertaining and the DVD belongs on your table.
Season 3 Synopsis: In this season, Dexter kills a man in self-defense and initiates a friendship with the man’s brother, Assistant District Attorney Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits). In the meantime, Rita discovers that she is pregnant, and Debra investigates the murders of a new serial killer, called “The Skinner”, hoping to gain a promotion to detective.
Review: This isn’t an amazing season and I consider it one of the weakest, but it’s still massively entertaining and there are some interesting new characters. This time we are introduced to Joey Quinn (Desmond Harrington) who becomes Deb’s partner; chemistry ensues as they work together trying to solve the case of “The Skinner”.
Quinn would end up becoming one of the best developed characters in the series and would recur right up until the very end of Season 8. Harrington is excellent and plays him as a very flawed character; he makes a lot of mistakes and his moral judgment isn’t the best, but he is at heart a good cop.
Deborah seems to be a shit magnet though and ends up dating one of Quinn’s informants called Briggs; it all goes bad and makes her even more highly strung.
Jimmy Smits’ character Miguel is well developed ad becomes Dexter’s one true friend; as always though things go awry and Dexter is forced to remove him from his life. Although their friendship was well developed, for some reason I just wasn’t grabbed by this storyline like I was with some of the others.
It is tense but since going back through the show again, it pales in comparison to the superior fourth Season. I really enjoyed the finale to this Season 3 where we actually get to see Dexter captured by “The Skinner” and when he realizes that he has a reason to live (his son), he fights back and breaks “The Skinner’s” neck.
Season 3 has plenty of entertaining moments but the overall story just didn’t grab me the way some of the others did. Still, it’s worth a watch just so you can get on to the best Season yet…
Season 4 Synopsis: This Season focused on Dexter attempting to find his way to balance his family life, the birth of his son, and his “extra-curricular” activities until he meet a man named Arthur Mitchell.
Review: Now THIS is the best Season of the entire show of Dexter; everything about it is excellent. You’ve got the best “Big Bad” ever in the shape of John Lithgow’s Arthur Mitchell, who manages to be the most terrifying person on screen. He’s always a great villain because of his calm outwardly demeanor and he manages to remain quite expressionless.
One thing which makes him different from all of Dexter’s other adversaries up until now is that he manages to maintain a family life as well as his other life. It appears on the outside that he has managed to pull it off and Dexter finds him fascinating.
Later, the cracks begin to appear and we realize that Arthur’s “perfect” family isn’t all we thought and his family is essentially living in fear of him.
Lithgow’s Arthur remains the best villain of the entire series because he is the only one who essentially defeats Dexter, especially in the shocking finale.
Keith Carradine returns as Lundy who has come back to find the “Trinity Killer” who is in fact Arthur Mitchell. Sparks fly with Lundy and Deb and they get together… before Lundy is killed in action. What ensues is the best piece of acting I’ve ever seen from Jennifer Carpenter and anyone else in this series. She has a meltdown scene in a car park to Dexter, how she is so messed up and everyone she gets close to ends up dead. She completely breaks down and it’s heartbreaking to watch because despite her foul mouth and flaws, Deb is a good person.
This Season is almost unbearably tense with Arthur being not only scary but tragic as well. You question some of Dexter’s decisions, like saving Arthur when he attempts to kill himself. This was one of the ballsiest moves because if Dexter had let Arthur kill himself, Rita would have survived. Alas, it was not meant to be and once Dexter finally gets Arthur on his table he thinks it’s all over. For Rita, it is as Dexter finds her dead in the bathtub, killed by Arthur.
That’s what always kept my attention with this show was how you’re (for the most) part on Dexter’s side but then you remember “oh yeah, he’s a serial killing psychopath” so he doesn’t think like a “normal” person.
Once again this has fantastic writing and this Season alone is why Dexter is one of my all-time favourite TV Series.
Season 5 Synopsis: The season focuses on how Dexter comes to terms with the aftermath of the Season 4 finale, stopping a group of serial rapists and avoiding a corrupt cop who learns his deadly secret.
Review: How do you follow up a perfect Season of a TV series? With one that is not so perfect; Season 5 has quite a different storyline from the other Seasons which is rather refreshing but it lacks a truly iconic “Big Bad” like Arthur Mitchell. The cast it does have though is pretty awesome.
The highlight is having RoboCop himself Peter Weller play corrupt cop Stan Liddy who stumbles upon Dexter’s dark secret.
Quinn (Desmond Harrington) has more to do this Season as he is suspicious of how unemotional Dexter appears after the brutal murder of his wife. He makes a few questionable decisions however, making him once again one of the more interesting characters.
We get a new female character in the shape of Julia Stiles as Lumen Pierce; a girl who is kidnapped and viciously attacked by a group of men, one of whom is a man called Jordan Chase (Jonny Lee Miller). Dexter agrees to help her get her revenge on these men and can it be that he has finally found a kindred spirit? Nope, she buggers off at the end of the Season too once she has her vengeance.
A lot does happen in this Season story-wise, like Dexter feeling guilt over the death of Rita; one of the things which is so fascinating about the show is how it tries to explore the mind of a psychopath and how various events affect him.
Batista and LaGuerta are now married, which happened rather suddenly and it doesn’t last long. By this season she is a bit more likeable but for her it’s all about the job and she remains a cold and calculating character.
Jonny Lee Miller is pretty creepy as Jordan and you really look forward to him getting what he deserves; it’s all very satisfying but this Season is arguably the most disturbing because Lumin is a rape victim and has been through an awful ordeal. You are 100% on her side and in a “I Spit On Your Grave” kinda fashion she wants revenge on the men that brutalized her.
So by the end of the Season you’re hoping Dexter may have finally found someone who can understand him but it is not meant to be.
Although it pales in comparison to Season 4 and is quite tough to watch in places, Season 5 of Dexter has plenty to recommend, especially Peter Weller as a bit of a bad guy and an intriguing revenge story.
Season 6 Synopsis: This season follows Dexter’s and Miami Metro’s investigations into a string of bizarre ritualistic killings featuring overtly religious apocalyptic symbolism.
Review: This was an important Season for Dexter because it’s the one where his sister Deb finds out that he’s a serial killer. This is pretty huge as you can imagine as it’s something he’s managed to conceal from her all his life.
The real revelation of this season though is Colin Hanks as serial killer Travis Marshall; he’s arguably even more versatile than his father as an actor and comes off as super creepy. I didn’t see the twist coming actually about Professor James Gellar (Edward James Olmos) so they get props for managing to come up with something new.
This Season does have the dumbest sub-plot of the entire show and that is Deb’s feelings for Dexter; ends up she’s actually in love with him which is even more creepy than Travis’s serial killer. That was the moment where the show kinda jumped the shark and it didn’t really work for me.
I liked the addition of Brother Sam (Mos Def) whose story is unpredictable and didn’t go the way I expected. He was likeable and when he gets killed, it’s a genuine shame as he was a good man.
As with every season of Dexter, it’s incredibly well acted and this season does get very tense, especially the final episode. When Deb walks in on Dexter killing Travis you are like “Oh Shit!” and ends on a huge cliffhanger. One thing I don’t think I’ve covered about the show is the humour; although it deals with a dark subject matter, there is always plenty of black humour, especially from Vince Masuka who is a total pervert but he has some choice lines.
By this stage in the series you are totally rooting for all of the main cast and they almost feel like family; Batista has gone through a lot, including a messy divorce with LaGuerta. It’s the kind of show that when you’re not watching it, you’re thinking “I wonder what Quinn or Deb are up to?”
That shows how good the writing has been that you care so much for all of the characters. Although this season does have that dumb subplot, it’s still got plenty going for it with a scene stealing turn from Colin Hanks.
Season 7 Synopsis: The season follows Dexter’s tangles with a Ukrainian mob boss and introduces the character Hannah McKay, a mysterious widow with a green thumb and a chequered past.
Review: So we’re nearly there; the penultimate Season of Dexter introduces the sexiest character of the entire show: Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski). She is essentially the one true love of Dexter’s life and despite her chequered past, she loves him as much as he loves her.
They have genuine chemistry on-screen and I love how she totally understands him; she doesn’t judge him for all his dark deeds. She loves him for who he is, which is why they are pretty perfect for each other. She is also the main antagonist in this Season so you aren’t sure what way it will go.
This season has the net closing in around Dexter, LaGuerta is convinced he is the real ‘Bay Harbor Butcher’ and that it was him who set up James Doakes. Nobody believes her and as she gets closer, she only gets closer to her fate.
Deb spends this Season trying to come to terms with who her brother is and just for a change, has a bit of a meltdown. Because of how she feels about him though, she never tells anyone about his “Dark Passenger” and keeps his secret safe.
She finds it incredibly hard to deal with and when she finds out that he is in love with Hannah she is actually more jealous than anything. It’s all very weird but having Deb know really adds a whole new dynamic to the show, giving it even more tension as you wonder if she’s going to crack.
One of the other antagonists is The Punisher himself Ray Stevenson but rather than being an out and out bad guy, he is actually only looking for revenge against the person who killed his brother. He eventually gets to know Dexter and they become allies when they are hunted by hitmen.
Quinn goes off the rails in this season when he falls for a stripper who works for the Russian mob; once again Desmond Harrington plays the role perfectly and he makes some serious mistakes.
I found the finale to this season one of the very best; that moment in the container when Deb is pointing the gun and Dexter and LaGuerta unsure who to shoot, my heart was in my mouth. She ends up shooting LaGuerta and covering for Dexter, thus sealing her fate for the end of Season 8.
As much as I enjoyed Hannah in this Season, I did miss having someone genuinely threatening like Arthur Mitchell and it ends up being rather forgettable in places too.
Highlights include a flashback episode featuring Doakes again who as always, has some great lines. The devastating finale to this season was outstanding and I was counting the seconds until the final Season which we’ll get to… right now.
Season 8 Synopsis: The season follows Dexter, who is forced to deal with his past when he comes across Dr. Evelyn Vogel, a woman who claims to have structured the code for him alongside Harry. This season also deals with a new serial killer in Miami that removes pieces of the victims brains, and with Debra who is unable to deal with the fact that she murdered LaGuerta.
Review: And so we come to the final Season of Dexter; a lot of people found it incredibly disappointing but these days isn’t everybody disappointed with everything all the time? I found this Season to be incredibly satisfying and I loved how it all ended.
Dexter doesn’t get killed or arrested. In fact, by the end he has essentially been cured and no longer wants to kill. I wasn’t expecting to actually be moved by the final episode but I genuinely was.
Deb was always doomed, especially after her murdering LaGuerta at the end of the last season. There was no way she could live happily ever after and although I hated seeing her die, it was inevitable.
Hannah McKay returns and it’s really because of her that Dexter no longer wants to kill. They decide that they want to run away together and live happily ever after with Dexter’s son Harrison. By now we all know that Dexter would never be allowed to have a “normal” life as everyone he ever got close to dies.
The main addition to the cast this season is Charlotte Rampling as Evelyn Vogel, who we discover worked with Harry to create “The Code” for Dexter to live by. It ends up that her son Oliver Saxon/Daniel Vogel AKA “The Brain Surgeon” who she thought was dead, is also a serial killer who has come back to see if his mother will teach him “The Code” like Dexter. When she essentially betrays him he slits her throat in front of Dexter in one of the most shocking scenes of the series. I did find Vogel rather unsympathetic though and came across as untrustworthy too, so although her death was shocking, I didn’t exactly lose sleep over it.
If you thought Deb had meltdowns before, wait until you see this season. She has now quit the police force and is essentially an alcoholic, unable to deal with the guilt of killing LaGuerta. She works for a PI company run by Jacob Elway (Sean Patrick Flanery) who ends up having feelings for her.
Surprisingly, this season does lack the tension that other seasons had and there’s almost a bit too much going on to keep up with.
You SO want Dexter and Hannah to get away at the end and finally live the life they want, but fate has other plans. When Deb is shot by Daniel Vogel this changes Dexter’s plans forever; he can’t run away knowing that the man who shot his sister is going to get away. He sends Hannah and Harrison away while he takes care of business.
He realizes that everyone he loves get hurt or killed and decides that Hannah and Harrison will only end up victims. He fakes his own death after dropping Deb’s body off in the ocean (like his victims). The show ends with Dexter in Alaska as a lumberjack and the final shot has him sitting completely alone in the cabin. I loved this because rather than him being captured or killed, he has lost everyone that matters to him. He is now completely alone and Harrison can have a normal upbringing without a serial killer for a father.
I found this a very ballsy way to end the series and frankly I loved how they dared to do something different. Pretty much all of the main character’s stories are all wrapped up and unlike a lot of other TV shows, I wasn’t left with any outstanding questions. I kept thinking about it for days after watching and if a TV show can have you thinking about it after you’ve watched it, then it has done its job.
So, if indeed anyone as actually taken the time to read my ramblings here, I will try to summarize. Dexter is one of my all-time favourite TV shows with well-developed characters, dark humour, violence and bizarre twists that will keep you glued. The acting was fantastic by all involved and I hope to see all of the cast have great careers.
Yes, there were some hit and miss moments but it’s unlike any TV show seen before or since and even now I miss some of the characters and think about them often.