All long-running serials experience creative ups and downs, but perhaps no series' merits have been more passionately debated — and called into question — than Showtime's Dexter. There's no denying the show's powerful early seasons...or is there? After last year's, uh, controversial series finale, the whole series was called into question by some fans. But is that really fair?
Based on Jeff Lindsay's novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Dexter explores the question of whether someone born bad can use their dark impulses for the greater good. Like any good superhero series, Dexter is often defined by its villains, and this series had some great ones — John Lithgow's Trinity Killer in season four being a particular highlight. But splashy violence aside, the constant threat of Dexter's exposure was the tension that held the show together. This show had a lot of moving parts, not all of which were lopped off and thrown in the ocean.
And then the later seasons happened.
The Netflix Debate Club is a weekly Kinja debate where writers face off about the most polarizing aspects of their favorite shows — and want you to join in.
THIS WEEK'S TV SERIES: Dexter (2006)
Cory: Even though I personally absolutely despise Dexter's finale, I don't think it canceled out the show's earlier greatness. The weirdest thing about Dexter as a production is that the writing staff changed so frequently that every season seemed to view the titular character and his worldview differently. Some writers felt the need to illustrate the horrible consequences Dexter's lifestyle could bring to his loved ones, while others —including those in the room at the end — preferred that he reach some kind of happy ending. Despite the inconsistencies, the show got it right enough of the time. Dexter becoming a lumberjack in the end doesn't negate Michael C. Hall's performance, his character's showdown with Doakes in season two, the creepiness of the Trinity Killer in season four, nor Jennifer Carpenter's Emmy-worthy work in season seven.
Price: I may have to disagree, Cory. The power of a good ending can't be denied; countless mediocre stories have been redeemed by terrific endings and I'm afraid the reverse is true. The ending is usually what stays with us and in this case I'll be forever haunted by [spoiler] Deb's maddening death and Dexter's unearned second life as a lumberjack in a glued-on beard. The primary problem was that the writers and showrunners believed that Dexter deserved a happy ending when Deb was the true audience surrogate (and character we'd become most invested in). I also felt that this ending negated all of the series' earlier, more sophisticated examinations of how vigilante justice — and murder in general — corrupts everything. That Dexter might survive to kill again was not only a thematic betrayal of what had come before, it was deeply dissatisfying. On the other hand: hey, we're still talkin' about it! Backhanded compliment or not, at least Dexter's ending wasn't forgettable.
What does everybody else think? Does Dexter deserve to be remembered for its early greatness or for how it ended? Should the show's title character have met with an end more befitting that of his own victims?