'Dexter' Finale-Ending Shocker isn't Enough to Save a Pointless Season
'Dexter' Finale-Ending Shocker isn't Enough to Save a Pointless Season
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
After lambasting Dexter all season, I almost feel a little guilty for how much I'm about to slam its season finale. To the show's credit, the season did have some moments of genuine interest, excitement and delicious dark humor. Not nearly as many or as rich as in previous seasons, but they were there. And, for the first time in weeks, as the season moved toward its final minutes last night, the suspense resonated.

Unfortunately, it wasn't that visceral, thrilling,"OMG what is happeningggg?" sort of suspense we once expected from Dexter. We knew that this was the finale, and we've watched enough Dexter finales by now to know that something shocking had to happen by the end of the hour. So the suspense became, in my mind, more like a detached curiosity: "Hmm, how are they going to wrap up this mess and try to pull us in for next season?" Which I guess isn't really suspense at all, but it was better than the pure frustration I've felt through most of this season.

At no point did I think that anyone was in real danger -- anyone I actually cared about, anyway. I kept waiting (hoping) for Quinn, whose self-destructive path put a satisfying bull's eye on his back all season, and LaGuerta, who got promoted to captain AND unrealistic psycho hose beast on the same day, to somehow become entangled in Travis's murder spree and become the final sacrifice. Not even cute, dim-witted Jamie, who seemed destined for death if only because she's fairly two-dimensional and annoying, had a real run-in with crazy Travis. (But that didn't keep the writers from wasting two or three minutes watching him watching her, and eying Dexter's kitchen knife. Just one of the episode's many anti-climaxes.) The only characters who were in harm's way -- Dexter and Harrison -- were the two the show could never kill off. One is the star of the show. The other is an adorable little baby in a lion costume, and the only thing that the star really cares about. It didn't take a detective to figure out they'd escape Travis's clutches alive. (Although, if it was a Miami PD detective, they'd still be collecting evidence on that brain-buster.)

That's not to say that the show should never put Dexter in danger, or that they can't do it in an exciting, effective way even though we know Dexter will make it out alive each time. (Each time save, perhaps, the series finale two years from now.) They've done it before, many times. But "This is the Way the World Ends" couldn't accomplish that. After suffering under the dull and inconsistent season that preceded it, the plot-holes just kept piling up. Why would Dexter leave Harrison and Jamie alone at home when he knew Travis had his wallet? Why would the police wait for the blood guy to walk into the double-murder house -- didn't they think Travis might still be in there? Dexter walks three feet away to have a 30 second phone chat with Deb, and that's when Travis walks in, steals his lion mask and Harrison, and escapes by foot? These were obvious contrivances meant to speed up the hour to the conclusion the writers needed to reach.

But, infinitely more frustrating, that conclusion wasn't worth all that perfunctory plotting. The end of the episode sought to give pay-off to the season's dramatic and thematic elements, but both left much to be desired. After quasi-investigating religion and faith all season, Dexter ended back up almost exactly where he'd started: Light can't exist without darkness, faith is good when it's in good things and bad when it's in bad things. He loves his son and he also loves killing bad guys, but he won't be trying to reconcile those conflicting loves with God anytime soon. He sunk that knife into Travis with the self-righteous conviction of a man who knows he's bad, but who also knows that sometimes doing bad things can help the greater good -- exactly as he began this season.

Of course, we need to talk about the last 30 seconds of the finale, which answered the question above ("How are they going to wrap up this mess and try to pull us in for next season?") with the show's longest-awaited reveal: Deb walked in right as Dexter ended Travis. She may not know he's the Bay Harbor Butcher, but she's got to know with the sight of that killroom that this isn't Dexter's first rodeo. Murder-rodeo. Murderodeo? Last season, Deb almost found out about Dexter's hobby, but a flimsy plastic sheet kept her from seeing the truth. That was ridiculous and annoying, but it wasn't nearly as disappointing as this so-called "shocker."

I found it gross, and grossly rushed and unrealistic, when Deb decided she was not only serious about her romantic feelings for her adopted brother, but that she wanted to confess them immediately. But, until she walked in on him, I was almost willing to go along with it, because that story could be deeply disturbing, complicated and messy -- which is something the show needs. Instead, the writers hijacked Deb's emotions (and her believability) all season as a way to stage a big reveal without a big risk. They made her dump Quinn and see a therapist so she'd have space to talk about her feelings. They made her forgive Captain Matthews for hiding his connection to a dead hooker so she'd finally see the world as morally gray, not black and white. And then they made her decide that she's in love with her brother, solely as a way ward off the threat that she would immediately arrest him when we pick back up next season. Again, these developments might have worked if they hadn't been so obviously contrived. The show didn't "hit the reset button" as its been criticized for doing most seasons, but it still played it safe in a way. I'm interested to see how Dexter convinces or manipulates Deb into letting him stay free, but I'm not exactly worried he's going to fail.

I'm actually more interested to see what happens with that creepy intern (What's his name again? Louis? Is it is a bad sign that I don't care?) who sent Dexter the Ice Truck Killer's hand. It was a little frustrating that that storyline got quite literally got boxed up and put on the shelf for next season. But at least there's a real mystery to it. What is that guy's deal? That's not a question that makes me can't-stand-the-wait-excited for season 7, but it's a lot more cryptic and promising than ... well, anything else we have to look forward to.

The Dexter writers clearly intended the final moments of "This is the Way the World Ends" to be the bang that would jumpstart the show's two-season endgame. But it felt a lot more like a whimper to me.

(Image courtesy of Showtime)