DVD Review: 'Dexter: The Final Season'

By: Heather Seebach

**The following review contains no season 8 spoilers. Since the finale is what everyone wants to discuss, there will be a section at the end about the spoiler-y elements (with a forewarning)**

This year, the 8-season saga of television's most popular serial killer came to a controversial end. Many people felt Showtime's Dexter should have been put out of its "misery" years ago, but I quite liked the seventh season (my review here). This final season, however, is not so easy to defend. Despite a handful of good ideas, season 8 is plagued by bad writing, worse decisions, and a finale that unravels all the good.

After the shocking events of last year, this season sees Debra Morgan starting a new career path and attempting to cope with her guilt, while Dexter becomes acquainted with a serial killer expert named Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling). The psychiatrist and foremost authority on psychopaths is herself being stalked by a nut called "the Brain Surgeon" who Dexter can't wait to get on his kill table. Other guest stars this season include Julian Sands and Sean Patrick Flanery (whose cake make-up/tan is terribly distracting). 

Dr. Vogel

This season started off interestingly enough, with the introduction of Vogel and a mysterious killer. Soon it becomes polluted with lazy writing, including cringe-worthy dialogue, shoe-horned story
lines, and inexplicably awkward moments. We get such riveting (sarcasm) subplots as, Will Masuka's daughter like him? and Who will be promoted at Miami Metro? There is also far too much romantic BS, though this is hardly a new problem with Dexter.

Season 8 feels a bit like two seasons, however, because 5 or 6 episodes in, there is a marked improvement. As Deb winds down her brooding and Dex has a handful of new "friends" in his life, things get interesting. There is no shortage of surprises, though you won't like all of them. There is also a prominent family theme running through this season which I enjoyed, particularly a twisted take on the idea of the nuclear family.

Unfortunately, it all goes to shit in the very end, and I can't blame fans for being so vocally angry. The final episode is not all bad, but the writer's final decisions were poor ones destined to piss off those who love the show most. If it were any other season,  fans could consider it a loss and wait around for a better season, but ending the series on a sour note will unfortunately ruin the entire show for many people. Personally, I still remember the good in Dexter and won't let its bummer conclusion spoil an otherwise enjoyable show.

Dexter: The Final Season on DVD is a 4-disc set is presented in widescreen 16:9 with English and Spanish subtitles. Total running time is 10 hours and 33 minutes. Special features include a Debra-centric "From Cop to Killer" featurette, behind the scenes of season 8, and featurettes about each of the first four season 8 episodes. The 2-disc Blu-ray 1080p HD release includes the same features. WARNING: the chapter screens on each disc are spoilery as fuck! I had at least two major season 8 surprises ruined for me by the mini-synopsis and/or the accompanying photo. Beware!

 For more special features (and better seasons), I recommend Dexter: The Complete Series Collection on DVD or Blu-ray, which includes every episode of the show plus over 3 hours of special features. The Blu-ray set comes packaged in a really cool replica of Dexter's trophy box. There is an alternate gift set version that is packaged in the forensic bust/head Dexter re-creates blood spatter with! Not going to lie - it's pretty damn cool but also pretty damn pricey.

Spoiler Discussion

**The following contains season 8 spoilers**

 This is where I intend to discuss in detail my gripes with the final season, and the bits I actually liked. I'll start with the bad so as not to leave a bad taste in your mouth (again).

The Bad

- I hate that Miller is suddenly thrust to the foreground to pave way for the promotion subplot. I've said this time and time again, but I hate when background characters are inexplicably shoehorned into a show suddenly as an easy segue.

- The moment when Debra said to Sean Patrick Flanery: "You're a saint." Gag me with a spoon. I really hope that wasn't a reference....

- "Make Your Own Kind of Music." Love the song, but Lost had dibs on it first, yo. Back off. 

- I hate the way Hannah is turned from formidable killer to helpless abused wife this season. Then her role becomes entirely girlfriend and mother. We finally get a real female foe and their "rivalry" ends with Dexter planning a life in South America with her. Really?

- Speaking of Hannah: gratuitous sex scene? Not that I mind, but seemed a bit out of place for this show. It wasn't nearly so random as the one between Quinn and Jamie, though. Yikes.

- Of course: the finale. I actually liked most of it, especially Dexter's final confrontation with creepy Ryan Gosling (as I call him). Deb dying was the first step toward "wtf?" - it's heavy-handed and necessarily bleak. I mean, Quinn just left his girlfriend to be with her! Ugh. Still, I could have gotten over that. Then there's that ridiculous scene of Dexter stealing a body out of the hospital and loading it onto his boat with nobody noticing. Then he proceeds to bury his beloved sister in the ocean - you know, where he dumps all those disgusting, evil murderers. Seems appropriate.

Did you notice how, between stabbing the Brain Surgeon at the station and arriving at the hospital, Dexter changed into his kill outfit? That made it obvious he was going to pull Debra's plug. So I imagine this is why the writers had him dump Debra in the water - she is his final kill. COME ON! I have not even gotten to the most ridiculed part of the finale yet! So Dexter decides his actions have killed his sister and he needs to get away from his remaining loved ones. First of all, Debra was shot because Dexter did NOT do the very thing he always - kill. If anything, Debra's death should have reaffirmed his lifestyle of killing killers! But no, he decided to drive the Slice of Life into a hurricane instead. Yookay. I assume suicide was never his intention (that would've been really stupid), but abandoning his son after EVERYTHING that has happened to him is about the most frustrating thing the writers could ever do to fans.

So he fakes his death and ends up working in a lumber yard somewhere. This epilogue alone tore the finale down significantly. It was already ridiculous in the end, but if they had just dropped the last few minutes, it might have been salvageable. The worst part was the incredibly awkward, anti-climactic final shot. The music didn't even swell and it just faded-to-black before cutting to the credits. How can anyone not throw their arms up and scream at that? What an epic dropping of the ball.

The Good:

- I liked the idea of Dexter working his way through the novel of a psychopath expert to vet her old patients. I only wish they had done more of this, like one killer per episode for at least the first half of the season.

- I liked Debra and Dr. Vogel's therapy sessions. Although I'm not a huge fan of Hannah (see above), I also enjoyed her scenes with Debra. Alison Bechdel would be pleased with all these women-only exchanges.

- Dexter harpooning the faux-Brain-Surgeon under the bed was pretty badass. 

- Quinn was less of an idiot this season! Hooray! His orange face still bugs me, though.

- I liked the parallel between Deb and Harry just before he died. Particularly, I love that we see Harry was nothing like how Dexter envisions him. Harry was not the stoic, advice-spewing mentor we always see, but rather a terrified, guilt-ridden father. This discovery led to Debra attempting to kill Dexter, which was a pretty cool moment as well. It was nice to see him hating her for once.

- By far, my favorite thing about this season was Zach Hamilton. I love the idea of Dexter passing his code onto somebody else and that SHOULD have happened, especially in light of the finale. When we were led to believe Zach went rogue and killed Cassie, but it turned out he went after a killer instead -
 loved it! And how Hannah and Dexter were like replacement parents to him, especially at their dinner with "grandma" Evelyn. That was delightfully tongue-in-cheek. But alas, the writers killed him off and ax'ed the one really great subplot this season. *sigh*


So, in conclusion, the finale season was not all bad, but unfortunately the devastating effects of the finale will be all most people remember. It's a terrible shame it went out like that, and I'm gonna try my best to erase it from memory and pretend like Dexter and Hannah are double-teaming serial killers in Argentina right now.

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