This past Sunday, Showtime’s dark hit drama Dexter wrapped up its eight-season run with a finale that most fans and critics, including our own Christian Law, saw as weak, unsatisfying, lazy and haphazard, but showrunner Scott Buck stands by his decision to end the show in the way he did.
Spoilers for the series finale of Dexter follow.
Following the finale’s overwhelmingly negative reception, Buck told THR that he, for one, was fully satisfied with Dexter‘s swan song, stating:
I’ve also heard that some viewers are not happy with this season, and they all have different reason for it. So much of the stuff you read is that people want the show to be like it was the first few years where Dexter would go out and kill people. If we had continued to follow that line, the show would have gotten old very fast. This is a show that’s run for eight years, and in order to sustain interest you have to continue to grow and evolve. So yes, I am happy with where we ended the show. This is absolutely the ending I wanted.
The finale, titled “Remember the Monsters?,” saw lovable serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) give up his dream of living in Argentina with his young son Harrison (Jadon Wells) and gorgeous girlfriend Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) after foster sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) ended up a vegetable following a near-fatal shooting by antagonist Oliver Saxon (Darri Ingolfsson). Instead, Dexter took Deb off life support then faked his own death in a hurricane, choosing to pay for his crimes by becoming a lonely lumberjack in rural Oregon.
On that bizarre ending, and the vacant look Dexter shoots the audience before the episode cuts to black, Buck said:
We wanted to leave it all in the viewers’ head. I don’t know what he’s thinking in that moment; I know he’s in this self-imposed prison and the reason he locked eyes is essentially so we can feel as uncomfortable as he does in his world. He’s someone who was just moments from taking that final step toward humanity who then has to face himself as the monster he believes he is and decide his own fate. He gives himself what he deserves. I don’t think in that moment he’s fighting the urge to kill; he’s dealing with the reality of the misery of his life in that moment.
That explanation just didn’t cut it for most fans of the show, many of whom voiced their disappointment and outrage on Twitter and Reddit. One such commentator was former showrunner Clyde Phillips, who left the show after its critically acclaimed fourth season. Responding to a dissatisfied Redditor, Phillips wrote that the finale ultimately suffered because, “They broke the code with the audience” and that, “It’s so important to keep the rules in place when doing a show like that.”
Phillips had his own take on how the show would have ended, which may appease the fans angered by Buck’s decidedly ambiguous take on Dexter’s grand exit:
In the very last scene of the series, Dexter wakes up. And everybody is going to think, ‘Oh, it was a dream.’ And then the camera pulls back and back and back and then we realize, ‘No, it’s not a dream.’ Dexter’s opening his eyes and he’s on the execution table at the Florida Penitentiary. They’re just starting to administer the drugs and he looks out through the window to the observation gallery.
And in the gallery are all the people that Dexter killed—including the Trinity Killer and the Ice Truck Killer (his brother Rudy), LaGuerta who he was responsible killing, Doakes who he’s arguably responsible for, Rita, who he’s arguably responsible for, Lila. All the big deaths, and also whoever the weekly episodic kills were. They are all there.
That’s what I envisioned for the ending of Dexter. That everything we’ve seen over the past eight seasons has happened in the several seconds from the time they start Dexter’s execution to the time they finish the execution and he dies. Literally, his life flashed before his eyes as he was about to die. I think it would have been a great, epic, very satisfying conclusion.
Wow. That’s certainly a drastically different conclusion for the series than Buck’s version, and, as a long-time fan of the show disappointed by the finale, I can admit that I actually like the idea of Dexter ending up dying on someone else’s table a lot more than an ending that will probably lead to the character making a cameo in the new season of Ax Men.
While packing a potent emotional punch, Phillips’ version also allows the series to bid adieu to its cast members in a more definitive, dramatic way. How the show would have arrived at Phillips’ vision, we’ll never know, but it likely would have been more focused and exciting than the actual final season, which drew widespread criticism for confused, extraneous B-plots, as well as a less-than-thrilling main storyline involving the psychologist (Charlotte Rampling) who developed Dexter’s code.
Check out the full interview with THR here, in which Buck elaborates on the finale and notes that Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski) and Joey Quinn (Desmond Harrington) could potentially both be exciting characters to center on in Dexter spin-offs.
What were your thoughts on the Dexter series finale? Whose vision for the show do you prefer: Buck’s, or Phillips’? Sound off in the comments section.