Revisiting OG Dexter in the Wake of New Blood

I just finished a rewatch of OG Dexter.  I loved it the first time around, but by time Seasons 7 & 8 came around I had lost some interest.  I knew how it ended, but I barely remembered the last episode,  likely because I didn't watch much of the last two seasons leading up to it.

The first time, they kind of lost me with what they did to Deb.  I never really got past having Deb murder María LaGuerta.  

The Deb we knew would not have murdered LaGuerta.  I always thought they were moving towards a final season where Deb begins to suspect her brother is the real Bay Harbor Butcher, and the moral questions that would raise for her.  To this day, having that play out, and in the end Deb arrests him, would IMO have been the better ending.  

Alternatively, OG Dexter can be read in such a way that Deb is the heart, Dexter is the hand, and Lundy is the mind.  What if Lundy never dies?

Lundy is such a great character, and Carradine so good in the role.  Dexter was a character who called for a worthy adversary.   Lundy should have been it.  They created this legendary FBI serial killer hunter, and found the perfect actor to play him, and then just dropped the ball.   Now,  I realize you can't have this character as a regular for all those years and he never realizes the Bay Harbor Butcher is sitting right in front of him.

That's an easy fix; Lundy never retired.  So though he and Deb are together, we rarely see him because he's all over the country chasing serial killers.  But when he is onscreen, maybe only once a season even, Dex does or says something that doesn't sit right with him.  This teases us to the final season when Lundy does retire (and since we find out he's 60 in the 4th season, this would make more sense, he doesn't strike as the kind of man who would retire that early), is living in Miami with Deb, and realizes who Dexter is.  Who does Deb, the heart, choose in this alternate ending?  Lundy is the man she refers to as "a God."  And Deb is a smart detective, she would have seen that Lundy is right.  

I remember being on the AV Club boards back then, and oh was there a lot of Jennifer Carpenter and Debra Morgan hate.  And that was at the AV Club where, at least at that time, there tended to be a less misogynistic commentariat than elsewhere on the internet. 

I always felt it was because Deb broke the rules of femininity.  I still believe that. She cursed like a motherfucker, as Deb herself might say, and fucked like a man.

Carpenter is a great actress.  And Debra Morgan is a great character.  And Debra Morgan deserved a better story than she got.

Season 1 was a total thrill-ride.  Debra falls in love with Brian Moser, who ends up being The Ice Truck Killer, and Dexter's real  brother.  Deb doesn't know that, and it will still be years  before she discovers that Dex is the Bay Harbor Butcher.  Separated as children, after both young boys watch their mother be slaughtered with a chain saw and are trapped in a cargo container with her dead body for 3 days, one of them, Dexter, grows up to be a serial killer with a code, installed in him by his adoptive father, Harry Morgan, and the other, Brian, grows up to be a full-on psychopathic serial killer who loves to torture and murder, you guessed it, women. 

Don't they all?

Well, all except for Dexter Morgan, who doesn't target women.  He is a serial killer who targets other serial killers.  And though Dexter did kill women, I can only recall two, and they both fit his code.  Dexter killed hundreds, but most serial killers are men, so you can do the math. 

One of the standouts of the first two seasons was  Sergeant James Doakes, played by Oz actor Erik King.  Gosh I loved Doakes!


Surprise Motherfucker! is a fan favorite and so is Doakes.   In Season 2, Doakes does figure out that Dexter is the Bay Harbor Butcher, but he is kept hostage in a cabin by Dexter, and eventually murdered by Dexter's Season 2 crazy girlfriend Lila West.

Dexter allegedly wasn't going to kill Doakes, he was going to turn himself in, or set Doakes up for the Bay Harbor Butcher murders.  Either way, Doakes' blood is on Dexter's hands.  Doakes' murder foreshadows Dexter's Season 7 decision  to murder LaGuerta.  

Season 2 also introduces us to the aforementioned FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy, played by Keith Carradine, and Lundy and Deb fall in love.

Lundy leaves after he believes he has caught the Bay Harbor Butcher (Doakes), and doesn't return in Season 3.  At the end of Season 2, Deb is supposed to leave with Lundy, but Dex needs her and she again, chooses Dex.  But only temporarily as she is planning to meet Lundy.  It's never explained why Deb doesn't go ahead and meet Lundy after she takes care of what Dex needed her for,  (one of his stepchildren is missing).  And that's a big gap in Deb's story.  But there are hints that Lundy believes he's too old for her (he is decades her senior) and I kind of filled in the gaps myself.

Lundy does return in Season 4, and he and Deb end up together again.  But Lundy is shot in a parking lot and dies in front of Deb.

So Season 2 actually foreshadows a lot of what will happen to Deb throughout the series.

Deb, in her own way, is as fucked up as Dexter, and when Lundy later dies, so does her chance at a normal life and a better outcome.  Because after Lundy goes, there is no one else that Deb will love enough to choose over Dexter.  More importantly, there is  no one else with the strong moral center Lundy has.  Broken Deb needs that in her life, the two other people she looked up to, were her father, who ended up turning her brother into a serial killer, and her serial killer brother.

I get it, but wouldn't the more interesting choice have been Deb finding her own moral center?  I always considered her the true heart of Dexter.  

And now Dexter has innocent blood on his hands.  Doakes has been sacrificed and the universe demands to be balanced. 

Still, along the way, it's hard not to root for Dexter Morgan.  The people he kills really are monsters.  He marries and makes Rita happy and we think, safe.

But Dexter's sickness prevents him from killing or turning in Trinity, whom he wants to study.  And his obsession gets Rita killed in front of their son, Harrison.  Dexter and Harrison, both born in blood, according to Dexter.

Both are also born in the wake of selfish men.  Dexter's mother, Laura Moser, is murdered because his father, Harry, is having an affair with her while using her as an informant against a drug cartel.  Harry doesn't give a shit what happens to Laura, anymore than Dexter, deep down, really gives a shit what happens to Rita.

They both choose themselves.

I did find myself rooting for Dexter, especially during Season 5 when we meet Lumen, played by Julia Stiles, and Jordan Chase, played so creepily by Johnny Lee Miller.

Jordan Chase is a Anthony Roberts-type motivational guru who is the leader of his childhood friends.  They like to kidnap, rape, torture, and then electrocute young blonde women.  You know, for fun. 

After watching a season of Lumen's trauma, it is very satisfying when, near the end, Chase finds Lumen again, grabs her, and Dexter comes in from behind, choke holds him, and says "not this time Jordan."

The inhuman monstrousness of Dexter's victims, often blur that Dexter is a monster himself.

I never really understood the conclusion of Dexter.  Season 8, the final season, explores the fallout of Deb's murdering LaGuerta.  When it begins, Deb hates Dexter, or professes to, but she eventually reconciles with him (after attempting to kill him along with herself) and returns to her life-long habit of choosing him.

At every turn, Deb chooses Dexter.

Dexter is busy with Hannah McKay, another serial killer, unrepentant, whom he falls in love with. 

Dexter is after The Brain Surgeon, who is Oliver Saxon.  Honestly, it's a retconned, convoluted backstory where Saxon is the long-thought-dead son of a doctor played by Charlotte Rampling.  And it ends up Harry Morgan had help creating his serial-killer-with-a-code, and that help came from Doctor Vogel.  Whatever.

Dexter has Saxon on his table, but he decides that instead of killing him, he'd rather call Deb to arrest him.  Because Dex decides he doesn't have to kill anymore, he's in love.

With an unrepentant serial killer.  A woman with no remorse, and no code.  It never made sense to me.  And Harrison's years-long nanny, Jamie Batista, is right there.  Why not leave Harrison with her?  Angel would have helped too, obviously.

Saxon ends up shooting Deb, and she is on life-support, with no hope of ever being anything but a vegetable. 

Dex decides he can't be with Hannah or his son Harrison, because he brings death to everyone he loves.  So he takes Deb's body, gets on his boat, and turns it into an oncoming hurricane.  Deb, who almost saved herself by returning to Miami Homicide and telling Joey Quinn, whom she has had an on-again, off-again love affair with, that she loves him.   We can almost glimpse her post-Dexter life, with Dex gone, Deb working at the job she loves, no longer having to cover for her serial killer brother, and with a man who loves her.

But Deb chose Dexter one too many times when she murdered LaGuerta, taking an innocent life.  The universe demands balance, and Deb didn't earn that life I wanted for her.  

Dexter ends up as a lumberjack, allowing even his son to  believe he is dead, and leaving him to be raised unrepentant serial killer. 

The finale is considered one of the worst in television history.  For me, it just doesn't make sense for the character.  

So now, here we are, 8 years later, and we have Dexter New Blood.  Hannah is dead from cancer (supposedly from cancer), and Harrison finds his real father in upstate NY, living the small town life, fucking the local sheriff, and not having killed in years.  And his sister Deb, long dead, now plays the roll of invisible companion once played by Harry Morgan, their father. 

I really didn't care for New Blood.  I know it's the ending Dexter deserved.  But the Dexter we see here is far from the Dexter we met in the early seasons of the original series.  He doesn't seem to have a code, and he murders a cop.  A nice cop, who is also the local football coach.  At no point during New Blood did I find Dexter someone I was rooting for.  

Is he far from the Dexter who planned to murder María LaGuerta in Season 7 though?  No, not really.  He certainly isn't as funny as the Dexter we used to know though.  

Again, the ending really makes no sense to me.  If Dexter really realized he loved Harrison, and it was the first time he really loved anyone, why would be tell his son to murder him?  Because that's how this ends, Harrison shoots Dexter to death.  But Dexter tells him to.   He wants Harrison to have a normal life.   How does someone who murdered their serial killer father have a normal life?  

The most glaring mistake in the finale of New Blood is not showing us a much-needed confrontation between Dexter and Angel Batista.  Angela, the sheriff, phones Batista to let him know Dexter is still alive and that she suspects he was the Bay Harbor Butcher.  We are shown without any doubt that Batista realizes Dexter murdered LaGuerta (he will never discover it was really Deb), the woman whom after all, Batista was once married to.   We deserved that showdown.

I guess I'm done with Dexter, whether or not there is a second season.  And I suppose they may have one, and Michael C. Hall may play dead-Dexter, and Harrison may become a serial killer who only kills other serial killers, while speaking to his dead father who isn't really there.  But I have no interest in that. 

I would have had intense interest in a season 2 had this season ended with Dexter choosing to turn himself in, instead of telling his son to kill him.  And set up season 2 for not only that egregiously missing showdown with Angel, but a trial in Miami, where Dexter has to face the music, and we see other OG characters' reactions to discovering he's the real Bay Harbor Butcher.  And Quinn realizes Dexter is responsible for Deb's death and so much more that went wrong with her.   

But that's not the way they went, for whatever reasons. 

So I will say, hey -  thank you for the memories.  And thank you to the irreplaceable Michael C. Hall, who gave Dexter such nuance and whose sublime performance made it impossible to take your eyes off him.  At one time, Dexter was a hell of a show.  But I'm over it now.  



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