With seven series in the can and a slowly vanishing sense of wonder, everybody’s favourite blood-spatter analyst turned serial killer was just about ready to hang up his knives. The eighth and final season of the once darkly hilarious detective drama promised to be a grand finale to the mad little life of Dexter Morgan, but would we die-hard lovers of the dark defender be treated to the pitch-black conclusion we knew at heart we deserved? Or would fun-wrecking show-runner Scott Buck take another wrong turn, digging deeper beyond the abyss of awful that was series seven?
The opening episode, A Beautiful Day does well to set-up a feisty storyline for the series, the introduction of Charlotte Rampling’s fantastically dodgy doctor Evelyn Vogel adding a new layer to Dexter’s obviously chequered past. However, right from the offset it’s clear to see that the tone of series eight is far too similar to the wrong-footed, soap-opera style drama of series seven as opposed to the early black comedy of Dexter’s roots. As the series ticks on, this becomes more and more apparent, with more focus shifted onto the relationships between supporting characters rather than the trials of Dexter himself. At the end of the day, who cares if the kid’s nanny is having problems with her boyfriend? Dexter is a show about a vigilante serial killer; we expect grisly murders, not an Eastenders-style argument every episode!
As with each of the previous series, the main plot to series eight concerns an unhinged psychopath committing an ongoing chain of increasingly gory killings, paralleling Dexter and creating a new nemesis for him in the process. Despite this being a mirror of previous plot-lines, series eight takes a slightly more wobbly approach than its predecessors. Instead of devoting every episode to the hunt for the mysterious ‘Brain Surgeon’, we’re treated to several diverted story-arcs following a possible child-prodigy of Dexter’s, a clumsily renewed take on Dexter’s relationship with his sister, and of course the return of not-so-old flame Hannah McKay, who continues to be duller than a butter-knife. These pointless and unfulfilling side-quests add too little to be justified in a series that really should spend its time gearing up for a grand finale.
On the bright side, Michael C. Hall turns in another award-worthy performance as the titular anti-hero. Even as his material slips below-par, Hall maintains the trademark Dexter charm that’s kept us hooked for eight long years. Series veterans Jennifer Carpenter and David Zayas too meet their consistently great standard, despite taking knocks to their usually well-honed dialogue. Where the cast really begins to falter however, is with the frankly talent-less Yvonne Strahovski. Whether it’s down to her emotionless character, insane lack of development or simply her sour-faced pout, Strahovski tumbles at every hurdle, never truly mastering the chemistry between her Hannah and Hall’s Dexter. The result of this is a bland and lifeless on-screen couple that need to be believed to give the series plot any hope, and that sadly fails.
The main selling point of series eight however, is of course the very fact that it is the finale to the long-running Dexter brand (although a spin-off may be in the works). Die hard fans huddled together to finally put their worries to rest with the epic finale to Dexter Morgan’s journey through darkness. Then when it came to it, of course, it was a total and complete let down. A botched escape, a few significant but diabolically handled major character deaths and that final shot; a really rather random conclusive segment that basically took the form of a giant middle-finger to every major fan Dexter has ever had. But really, could we have ever hoped for anything different after such a wonky final run?
With few defining features and far too many episodes that really are simply unwatchable, Dexter stumbles to a disappointing and undeserved conclusion in series eight. My advice? Switch off immediately following the chilling series six finale, making it so that the immensely tense cliffhanger lasts forever.
Dexter Series 8 and the complete collection box-set is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from November.