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Dexter Season Finale Review: “Surprise, Mother Fucker” (Season 7, Episode 12)

When your show has had as much criticism levied against it as Dexter has for going downhill with the utmost speed, and when viewers have lamented the death of one Sergeant James Doakes for years, it's probably best if the teaser for your finale doesn't use a flashback to try to trick people into thinking Doakes is back from the dead.
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When your show has had as much criticism levied against it as Dexter has for going downhill with the utmost speed, and when viewers have lamented the death of one Sergeant James Doakes for years, it’s probably best if the teaser for your finale doesn’t use a flashback to try to trick people into thinking Doakes is back from the dead.

While it took me until last season to find my confidence in the show beginning to waver, the show could never fill the gaping hole left by Doakes’ untimely demise, a fact driven home by the flashbacks utilized in the finale. His character brought a certain levity that the show has since lacked.

There’s still Masuka being his lovable pervy self, except we’re getting to see it less and less, and the dark humor that initially drew me into both the television and book series has all but disappeared from the show at this point. The darkness is still there, but not so much the humor.

I still remember the scene that sold me on the show way back in the first season. Dexter was called to a crime scene at a hockey rink in which they found the victim’s body chopped to pieces and resting inside the goal. When asked what the killer could be trying to tell them, Dexter was quick to reply with this: “That hockey’s a violent sport?”

Where along the line did we lose that, the dark humor replaced with mere darkness? Well, to be fair, it’s not entirely absent, but the stabs (pun intended) it’s taken at dark humor in recent seasons are more likely to elicit groans than laughter from me.

My guess would be the start of season five which marked the beginning of the post-Clyde Phillips era, as the former executive producer and showrunner left his post following the season four finale. Few would agree with me, but the first four seasons were all about equal, and season five is where the cracks began to show.

They toughed it out well enough for one season, managing to maintain a respectable level of quality, but then everything fell apart the following season and they’ve been scrambling to try and put the pieces back together ever since.

Watching this season, that really is the sense you get, that they’re just slapping things back together with tape and glue and hoping it will hold, that fans won’t notice the damage. Many have been fooled, calling this season a return to form, but I am definitely not one of them.

For a couple episodes, I almost believed what they said. Deb finally found out what Dexter did with his free time and it made for gripping, tension-filled arguments between the two. Yet as soon as those arguments of theirs took a dip in quality due to a number of factors, ranging from her confessing her love for him to Dexter falling in love with a known murderer that Deb wanted locked up, the illusion was ruined.

What I was left with was a show that lacked both direction and conviction. Just as you thought you knew where it was headed, things would unexplainedly shift. Plot threads were no sooner introduced than they were tied up in the messiest and ugliest of fashions.

Because of this, the show never was quite able to find its footing, and the constant scrambling around only drew unwanted attention to flaws that, prior to last season, were more often than not ignored on account of the show’s highs distracting from its seemingly inevitable lows.

For example, Dexter has always required a greater suspension of disbelief than most shows. I mean, the parade of serial killers in Miami can only go on for so long before it becomes ridiculous. Up until Trinity, however, they were interesting enough that it didn’t matter how absurd their mere existence happened to be.

Not anymore. Anytime a compelling character enters the fold, he or she either is killed off too soon or has his or her potential squandered. This season it was Isaak Sirko falling victim to both. First he morphed from unstoppable killing machine with sights set on Dexter to the sort of guy who’ll have perfectly rational and calm conversations with the man who murdered his lover, going so far as to tell said man that they could’ve been good friends under different circumstances.

Then he was abruptly killed off and used as fodder for Dexter’s emotional development, Sirko unexpectedly giving him a life-lesson in death. It just served to illuminate how rote Dexter has become.

Whenever Dexter kills someone now, which is becoming a rarity, they end up unintentionally spouting off something that makes Dexter rethink everything he thought he knew. It’s as if the writers are treating it like a children’s story by shoehorning in morals at the end of every episode.

Moreover, it’s so troubled narratively nowadays that it might as well be a children’s story. The characters, with the obvious exceptions of Dexter and his sister, are pretty much all as lifeless and insipid as Stephanie Meyer’s Bella Swan. And the writing itself is about on par with the story in which she resides, the writers routinely making it difficult not to call them into question.

For that last point, there’s no better example than the finale, an episode which literally caused me to begin talking to the television as if it could hear me and answer the questions I directed towards it.

What’s the point in these flashbacks besides padding the run-time? Why wouldn’t Hannah sell Dexter out when he was so quick to do the same to her? If LaGuerta was this steadfast in her belief that Doakes was innocent, why the lengthy delay between his death and her investigation?

Does Harry seriously want us to to think this is Dexter’s first foray into killing with complete disregard for his code? Wouldn’t Hannah have been under close watch at the hospital, what with awaiting trial for murder and all, meaning her escape would’ve been a lot harder than we’re led to believe?

With Batista retired, and LaGuerta shot dead, can someone off Quinn so season eight can be the Dexter, Deb, and Masuka (and ghost Doakes, please) show? Dexter and Deb are not at all worried that LaGuerta was shot with Deb’s gun, or that Deb called dispatch about her whereabouts shortly before shooting her?

Heck, would Dexter’s original plans have fooled anyone besides this show’s inept police department? Lastly, Hannah escapes from jail just to leave Dexter a plant and go off into the night?

Honestly, I don’t know why I waste the energy wondering about these things since it’s become increasingly clear that Dexter actively avoids doing anything truly surprising. The episode title would have you believe that the events of the finale were supposed to be shocking, but I’m sure most viewers’ reaction was this: “Finally.”

Finally LaGuerta is dead. Finally Batista is out of the picture. Finally this season is over. Alright, that last one’s probably limited to me. I’ll begrudgingly sit through one last soul-crushingly disappointing season out of loyalty, and a need to at least see how it ends even if I know I’ll most likely hate it. But if the record-setting ratings as of late get it extended for another season, or more, that will mark the end of my viewership because this is one ship I’d rather not go down with.

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