He wrapped her up in a white sheet, her innocence, in the web of his arduous actuality, palpable, and took her out to sea. Engulfed in a metaphoric storm, he buried her in the depths of the waters, purifying her soul, and offered himself to fate in pardon for his sins.
In true horror style the slasher defies certain death in a supernatural feat of all odds. To source a new victim? Or in servitude to the gods – as penance for past crimes? Sentenced to a lonely life of contemplative torment – a pain induced suffering invoked by acknowledgement, acceptance, guilt and regret; emotions of the humane. Not anything a psychopath would comprehend.
And so the question that has been the crux of an eight-year story, and was the focus of the final season, is brought to climactic culmination in the finale: is Dexter a psychopath?
Unlike Jeff Lindsay’s written series, in which Dexter remains consistent in his pathology, the TV adaptation has presented darkly dreaming Dexter in a different light; a normal boy moulded into ‘crazy’ by a traumatic experience. The series explores Dexter’s journey into the realm of humanity. With each passing season Dexter’s status as psychopath is further and further complicated as typically human emotions creep into his character; exemplified by his love for his sister, his son and Hannah. And finally, guilt and remorse. Dexter starts to feel rather than merely emulate. Dr Vogel, a necessary plot device in season 8, notices Dexter’s emotional ambivalence – questioning the feelings he thinks he has developed:
Dexter: I’d never kill Debra; she’s my sister. I love her.
Vogel: What exactly do you love about her?
Dexter: What do you mean?
Vogel: When a psychopath speaks about love, it isn’t the same thing as it is for typical people. So, what do you love about her?
Dexter: I don’t know. I love having steaks and beer with her and until recently that fact that she was always there for me, she looked up to me.
Vogel: But none of that is really about Debra, it’s about what she does for you. (Season 8, “What’s Eating Dexter Morgan”)
But ultimately it’s an annoying little idiom that speaks louder than Vogel’s opinions – rendering her words as dead as she finds herself: Dexter in a moment of tragic illumination invoked by the demise of his sister Deb acknowledges:
As much as I may have pretended otherwise, for so long all I wanted was to feel like other people – to feel what they felt. But now that I do, I just want it to stop. (Season 8, “Remember The Monsters”)
…and (Dex to Deb):
I would change everything if I could. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” (Season 8, “Remember The Monsters”)
Realising that he is a little more than bad company, Dexter sacrifices his own happiness by letting Harrison and Hannah go.
But it’s Deb who makes the biggest sacrifice – a martyr for the cause of Dexter’s self-realisation; the consequence of tragic love. Deb’s love for Dexter proves stronger than her moral compass, and it is this love – the love of a sister and a friend, and a romantic love unrequited – that saves Dexter. Through Deb’s death, Dexter achieves enlightenment.
Whether intentional or not, Dexter the TV show evolved into an epic drama chronicling the relationship between Dex and Deb, and the ending was always going to come down to the two of them.
It had to.
But much like Dexter Morgan in the finale’s parting shot, many viewers have been left unsatisfied, angry with the world, wtf-ing their way through a Dexter-less day.
The question is why?
Is it because Dexter’s future is left uncertain – will Dexter cope with his newly acknowledged emotion in the only way he knows how (through murderous release) or will he find his way back his son and lover, a changed man? – throwing faithful fans into a vortex of unbearable speculation-driven torment? Were viewers expecting a ‘do or die’ scenario – Dexter goin’ down guns a-blazing or fleeing to certain happiness?
The fact is; life isn’t like that – it’s not black and white, this or that. The human condition is not easily solvable, measured or defined. It cannot be neatly packaged or easily boxed. And a show about that very condition should thus end accordingly; with complication. A great ending is not rendered ‘great’ by pandering to audience sensibility, it achieves greatness by conjuring something that is true to the story…true to the character…true to the mythology.
Dexter’s redemption is uncertain, his future debatable and his character yet unfathomable.
And it’s real.