The end of Dexter is likely to be in blood, too, mainly because that’s where our hero was born, and, for better or (mostly) worse, it’s where he’s been the most comfortable.
Unlike Walt, who lived a normal life before becoming a monster, Dexter has always considered himself one, and has spent the entire series trying to camouflage it. We know that he watched his mother be murdered by a chainsaw-wielding drug dealer, and that he spent three days in blood before Harry (James Remar) rescued him and took him in. Growing up, Harry was the only person who knew who damaged Dexter was, and spent his formative years trying to find a way to channel that darkness.
But it was not until this final season that we learned where he chose to seek the help to make his ‘code’. Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) who spent her life studying psychopaths, took Dexter’s case seriously, and helped guide Harry through the motions of raising Dexter to become who he is. She has always viewed him with a certain level of detachment, but Harry never could, and when he realized just how far Dexter was willing to go, he committed suicide, the first death in the line of those have become privy to Dexter’s secret.
Dexter has spent his entire life knowing that he had no humanity, and trying to hide in plain sight. He was attracted to blood, so he became a blood-spatter analyst. He worked for the police, which allowed him to stalk his kills. But he knew he couldn’t be considered a loner, so he made efforts to be social, and it has fooled almost everyone on the show.
The problem is, in his effort to fake humanity, he has developed feelings and emotions. These are the clearest in relationship with Rita Bennett (Julie Benz) a divorced mom with two children, who seemed to fall in love with who Dexter was pretending to be. And despite his best intentions, he began to feel something as close to love for her and her family. Eventually, she got pregnant with his child, and he decided that they should get married, only partially because it was his cover. Rita had no idea what the true nature of Dexter was like, so it seemed that the ultimate conflict would come when she eventually did.
Then in Season 4, Dexter stalked the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow), a man who had been getting away with murder for more than thirty years, and had been doing so with a wife and two children. Rather than kill him when he had the chance, Dexter let him live to try and learn his secrets. He eventually killed him but not before Trinity learned his. He found Rita and slit her throat.
In many ways, Dexter has never truly recovered from this horrid death. Paradoxically, this has led him to feel more human urges than he has before. In Season 5, which occurred immediately following Rita’s death, he tried to stalk another victim. It was not until he had, that he found another potential victim, Lumen Pierce (Julia Stiles). Rather than kill her, he tried to tend to her, and eventually learned that she had been raped and tortured by a group of men. Trying to work through his own grief, he agreed to help her find and kill them. Lumen was the first person who learned Dexter’s secret who never considered him a monster, and he thought he could build a future with her. But after they finished their kills, Lumen seemed to be free of the darkness that had plagued her and left Dexter feeling more alone than ever.
It was not until Season 7 that Dexter would begin to feel his greatest emotional conflict, when two very different women learned his secret. Deb, his foster sister, who had also gone into police work, is the most fully realized character in the series, certainly the one who has been through the most emotional growth.. Dexter cared for her far more than he did any other person on the show, perhaps even more than Rita. He was willing to sacrifice his brother for her in the show’s inaugural season, and as she has made a steady climb up the world of law enforcement, the two have always been leaning on each other. It was not until season 6, however, that the true darkness emerged. Deb admitted that she had romantic feelings for her brother (one of the sickest revelations on a show filled with them) and was finally willing to admit. But when she went to see her brother, she encountered him at the moment of his latest kill, and a knife was permanently driven through that part of her heart.
Deb’s immediate reaction was to believe her brother and cover up the murder, but in doing so, she very quickly realized that her brother was not only a killer, but had been responsible for many of the murders that she had been investigated over the series run. This filled her with a horrible sense of revulsion, and filled her with a conflict that she still can’t resolve.
While she was still dealing with this horror, she began investigating a series of murders that involved a woman named Hannah McKay (Yvonne Stravoski) . It quickly became clear that she was a killer, too. She ended up on Dexter’s table as well, but the end result was nothing that either of them (or the viewer, for that matter) expected. After a few episodes, it became clear that Dexter really did feel something as close to love as he could manage for Hannah. But just as happiness seemed near, Debra began investigating Hannah. She drugged her, and when Dexter found out, he turned her in. Unlike every other season, however, where the main killer ended up on Dexter’s table, she escaped custody, and left an orchid on Dexter’s porch. (This storyline hasn’t yet been resolved, but Hannah is scheduled to appear again in the series last episodes.)
While all this had been going on, Maria LaGuerta, the ambitious police commander, had been investigating the possibility that the ‘Bay Harbor Butcher’ — falsely identified as Doakes in Season 2— was still out there and killing. Eventually, she began to think the killer was Dexter, and set out to entrap him. Slowly, she began to close in on him, and Dexter did something he never did before— pursued a kill that didn’t match his code. He arranged for LaGuerta to come to a shipping container, catch her by surprise, and frame her for murder. Deb, however, caught up with them. With LaGuerta urging to “Put him down!”, in a vale of tears, she shot LaGuerta.
Deb’s immediate reaction was to resign from the force, and go into an enormous downward spiral, moving into private security, and abusing alcohol and drug, under the guise of ‘cover’. She now utterly despised her brother, and hated herself for what she had done. Determined to atone, she tried to confess her crime to her fellow cops, but Dexter and Dr. Vogel managed to convince them that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Sessions seems to work, and Deb was able to talk to her brother coherently. But her first action when they were alone was to drive the car into the river, and nearly drown them both. For the first time, Dexter has begun to question that his relationship with his sister might not survive.
Dexter has, for each successive season, become a bit more human. But the last few episodes have shown his mask is starting to slip more and more. He lost control in front of his son for the first time, he is losing patience with people at work, and after learning that Vogel is writing a book about him, he’s losing attachment to her help. (It’s also becoming evident with each episode that she’s, in her own way, twisted as well.) Dexter’s story will probably end badly too. And considering the aftereffects of the last person who learned his secret, there may not be anyone we can call a hero.
When a series ends badly, the world takes note. But cable have been known to end better than most. Six Feet Under, The Wire, and The Shield all made exits that did the series proud and demonstrate how good TV can.
Breaking Bad and Dexter have built up a significant fanbase, and its safe to say we’re hoping both series end the right way. Not happily, not with everybody getting what they deserved, not with a big twist. The right way. Heisenberg and The Dark Passenger are owed that.