Spoilers, if anyone cares.
Hmm. OK then. We start ‘Remember The Monsters?’ with Deb bleeding out, Hannah at the airport with Harrison, being watched by Elway, Dexter trying to balance his killing life and personal life, and the storm approaching. To start with it looks as if Deb will recover, but she’s also acting as Saxon-bait; for reasons never adequately explored, he still wants to kill her. Quinn’s penultimate contribution of any note to the show is to be the passive recipient of a declaration of sickbed love from Deb. And not “I fucking love you, you motherfucker”, so it counts as quite affecting by Deb standards.
Saxon turns up, of course, and is captured, but even had he got into Deb’s room she wouldn’t have been there; something went wrong, as if sometimes does in TV hospitals, and she died. Whatever else can be said about the decline in Dexter, the relationship between Dexter and Deb has always been right at its heart – enhanced, if we’re being honest, by our knowledge of the offscreen goings-on of the actors – so seeing that connection finally and irrevocably broken was touching, if not as wrenching as it would have been three seasons ago. The same could be said for Dexter’s summary of where he was, where he is now, and what’s changed: “As much as I may have pretended otherwise, for so long all I’ve wanted was to be like other people, to feel what they felt. Now that I do, I just want it to stop.”
Then, for old times’ sake, or like a bouquet tossed to an adoring audience after an encore, Dexter gets to perform one last consequence-free killing. This one’s in Miami Metro, and is recorded on video, for all the difference that makes. Dex claims, spuriously, that it was in self-defence; Quinn and Batista watch the tape with him and are all, yeah, whatever, Dex; show’s nearly done, and we established a while ago that you can do what you want, so carry on.
And now officially free of any sort of fear of detection and punishment, Dex heads to the hospital, turns off Deb’s life support, and takes her out of the hospital and onto his boat. All without anyone stopping him, or even asking awkward questions. You know, the more I think about this the more it starts to look like a Dexter dream sequence, in which he gets to make all the rules, and turn all the traffic lights to green.
Anyway. The main problem with the episode, and it’s been a problem for a while, is that the whole episode had an unmistakeable air of will-this-do? What looked like an intriguing premise at the start of the season – the creation myth of Dexter – was jettisoned in favour of the usual dance of death between Dexter and the season’s Big Bad, even if he was neither big nor bad. Plot threads with the supporting cast – Quinn’s promotion; Masuka’s daughter – went nowhere.
And the same applies to the endings, of which there were three. The first was the best: Dexter realising that he destroys the people he loves and sailing into the storm; fair enough. Not great, and not the sort of ending which survives much analysis – have you ever tried not killing people, Dexter, and seeing whether that makes a difference to the death and destruction which surrounds you? And is the best future for Harrison really life in a foreign country with a stranger who happens also to be a serial killer? – but fair enough. And I suppose the first coda, with Hannah in Argentina, would have fitted with that.
But the big twist finale – he’s alive! He has a beard! He’s a lumberjack and he’s OK! – was just stupid. It just looks as if the writers and Michael C. Hall – who’s an exec producer himself and can’t escape responsibility – were indeed too much in love with Dexter to kill him off completely, never mind answering pertinent questions like how in the name of arse he managed to escape from the storm in the first place. The final glower to camera hinted, to me, that the Dark Passenger still resided within, although in a small community Dexter will presumably have to find other outlets for his urges, like… sorry, I’m out of knowledge of what the leisure opportunities might be in logging towns. He’d have been better off killing himself.
Or, hell, heading to Argentina with Hannah and Harrison. As I’ve said before, I was pretty relaxed with the idea of Dexter getting away with it, even if the twisted but nonetheless consistent morality of the first few seasons was replaced by Dexter essentially killing anyone he needed to kill to cover his tracks. But we didn’t even get that, or the capture which looked like the inevitable endgame during the first couple of seasons.
Which is a great shame, because to start with Dexter was startlingly and refreshingly unlike anything else on TV: gleefully amoral, mordantly witty, and as cool as the other side of the pillow. By the end, though, I was left with the feeling that the show will stand as one of the examples of what happens when the money’s too good to turn down, and a show is prolonged well past the point – the end of season 5, for my money, but your mileage will vary – at which the creative inspiration has run out.