Dexter: New Blood Finale Made Me A Better "Breaking Bad" Fan (Opinion)

When it comes to grading how well a series does at wrapping up its run, I've been using a 10-point series finale grading scale over the past several years. On the "10" side, I have Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad as the standard-bearer. Why? Because Gilligan wasn't satisfied with "just" sticking the landing on one of the best shows in television history with the 2013 finale "Felina." He then went back to give Jesse's (Aaron Paul) story an ending in 2019's El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, a Netflix feature film sequel/epilogue that felt as if it was made immediately after the original finale and not six years later. So when you not only successfully end a series once but twice? You definitely get the top spot. So who gets the "1" side? Well, that dishonor belonged to Showtime's Michael C. Hall-starring Dexter.

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Image: Showtime

Over the course of nearly eight seasons and for 95 of its 96 episodes, the series was at the top of my list of favorite shows. While not always perfect, it was a universe that I enjoyed "living in" for an hour every week, with an ensemble cast of flawed but noble-in-their-own-way characters that you cared about. And then the series finale "Remember the Monsters?" hit and pretty much cluster-f***ed everything that came before it. With what felt like a "pissing contest" between the show's creative team and the cable network over what condition to leave the franchise should a return or spinoffs be considered, what made its way to the screen felt as disconnected to the series that came before it as any finale I've seen before (and I've seen some rough finales).

So when fans heard that Hall, original series showrunner Clyde Phillips, and director Marcos Siega were teaming to get them caught up with what Dexter's been up to with Dexter: New Blood, there was a ton of excitement that the new series would correct the mistakes from the original series finale and restore the character to some prominence. Most important, they wanted to know how Dexter's story would end this time around and what the future would hold for him… and if this ending (if it was one?) would vibe with what they felt Hall's character deserved. Which is just a very wordy way of saying that they didn't want Hall, Phillips, and Siega to be responsible for a second s**t ending. So did they pull it off? Do I have to go looking for a new "1" for my 10-point series finale grading scale? Well, we're going to throw on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign now and throw down an image spoiler buffer because we're going to dive right in…

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Michael C. Hall as Dexter in DEXTER: NEW BLOOD, "Sins of the Father". Photo Credit: Seacia Pavao/SHOWTIME.

So if you've made it this far then you know by now that Dexter dies by Harrison's (Jack Alcott) hand in "Sins of the Father," the series finale (unless a new series/season is what EP Scott Reynolds is planning to announce on Monday) that aired this weekend. Is that the way it should've ended? Nope, and yet again we're faced with a finale where the character suddenly acts out of character for the sake of forcing a morality play at the end. But was I surprised? Nope, because Phillips made it pretty clear during an interview in November 2020 that Dexter shuffling off the show's mortal coil was how he wanted the original series to end, saying, "My personal ending for the show was that he was going to be executed for his crimes. He's lying on the table and outside the window are all the people he's killed. That was just in my own head. I never pitched that to anybody."

Did we really think that mindset was going to change nearly a decade later? And for those of you who might think there's a slim chance that Dexter survived since there isn't a definitive "Oh s**t, he's dead!" scene, Phillips cleared that up in an interview with Deadline Hollywood: "I have three words for you: Dexter is dead. I wouldn't do that to the audience. It would be dishonest. Here, there is no question that this is the finale of 'Dexter.' Dexter is dead."

But should he be? Of course not, at least not for the "morality" reasons that Phillips and others have offered in the past. Because with all of the talk about being respectful to the viewer and presenting a "real world" that they can relate with, having Dexter pay for his crimes by death or imprisonment isn't realistic. Even if you do see Dexter as nothing more than someone who's become a bigger "big bad" than the "bigs bads" he's been taking off the playing field, how many people like that actually receive that kind of comeuppance? Not nearly as many as there should be. So what we have instead is a series that detaches itself from the reality it's looking to embrace to spin a morality tale where resolutions are a little too black-and-white with not nearly enough gray.

And that leads me to what's been the essential problem with both the original series and the revival. Though the viewers may differ on certain aspects of Dexter and his universe, most of them don't see him as some kind of "evil" deserving of the same "divine justice" as those he's disposed of got. Dexter is an example of doing the best with what nature and nurture have created, turning his "uniqueness" into something that's beneficial to society and not a curse. He's Batman if Batman had a body count (instead of just beating people near-to-death and traumatizing them for life) and no "rogues gallery." He's the gunfighter that the town hires to take out the "big bad" gunfighter. It's not always pretty. Sometimes, folks get hurt or killed (though we could debate just how "innocent" the folks Dexter killed were). Viewers understand that. But that never meant they didn't care or that it didn't matter. They just realized that between the "good guys" and the "big bads" lives Dexter Morgan, a dark shadow keeping the other shadows at bay. It's a place that most of us live in, and one that could benefit from a Dexter or two in it every now and then. Too many of the "big bads" winning the day lately.

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Image: Showtime

So what's next? Well, we'll probably learn this week whether Harrison will be the focus of a spinoff series or not. I'm expecting online reactions to be pretty fierce between tonight and tomorrow. And to be fair? As "Dexter" standards go, this was actually a pretty good run. But in the end, it's a forced morality tale disconnected from its viewers that doomed the franchise for a second time. On the plus side? At least now I can say that Dexter is truly the complete opposite of Breaking Bad on my 10-point series finale grading scale, what with it now having found a way to s**t the bed finale-wise twice. An impressively disappointing "achievement" if there ever was one. And a note to Hall? I hear there's talk of a possible Six Feet Under revisit of some type. As a fan of that series, too? Let me just say that the finale was an 8.5 to 9 on my scale so please don't touch it.

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About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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