The Real Reason Fans Hated The Ending of Dexter: New Blood
Turns Out Peak TV Viewers Have Dark Passengers of their Own
As I mentioned just prior to the premiere of Dexter: New Blood, I made it very clear that I had no intention of watching this new season. I was still angry nearly a decade after the fact at how the writers had ended the original series, and I didn’t think there was a way for them to end the show successfully after the fact.
Well, reading this week’s TV Guide I found out exactly how the series ended — and surprise, surprise, fans are just as pissed at it as they were when the original series did. And it was through that letter where it became painfully clear why fans were really upset with how Dexter ended the first time, and what that really says about how so many viewers of Peak TV really think about the series they watch.
(Spoilers for New Blood below.)
In the last episode of New Blood, Dexter Morgan who has spent this new series returning to being the monster he once was and trying to raise his now teenage son, Harrison (who found him in the premiere and, big surprise, the apple had not fallen far from the tree) I didn’t actually watch the series so I can’t speak as to the actually details of what triggered the new killing spree and what it finally involved. All that really matters is how it ended.
In the finale, Dexter finally seemed to go a step too far and killed an innocent cop. (He’s actually killed quite a few innocent people throughout the original series, but let’s let that pass. All the fans of the show have.) As a reaction to this, and no doubt following ‘the code’ that he had been taught, Harrison killed his father.
Now before we get to the letter, let’s deal with the obvious. One of the major arguments that so many fans made about the original ending of the series was that they were upset Dexter ran away instead of never facing justice for his crimes. It was always going to be unlikely that Michael C. Hall was going to sign on for another incarnation of this series even if, as was the case with New Blood, the series was a huge hit for Showtime. And the book series that the show was based on (even if the series completely diverted from its path halfway through the first one) ended with Dexter dying. Keeping all that mind, guess what the writer said in the letter:
“Why bring this beloved character back only to kill him off? Don’t they know Dexter fans watch the show to root for Dexter?” (The italics are mine.)
That letter, who no doubt spoke for many fans, basically made clear the real reason so many people were upset with the original ending. It had nothing do with Deb dying or even Dexter killing her. It didn’t have anything to do with Dexter being in exile as a lumberjack. It was because everybody wanted to see Dexter ride off into the sunset (with fellow serial killer Hannah) and raise Harry together. They wanted this monster to get a happy ending. And I have no doubt that’s what those same people wanted from this reboot. They didn’t Dexter to pay for his crimes; they wanted him to ride off into the cold, and have a new series where Dexter trains his son to kill just like his father trained him. Isn’t that sweet. The fact that it was completely against everything the series writers stood for is irrelevant.
I wish I could say I was shocked by this, but I’m not. A couple of months before the new version premiered, I was reading a list of the most ‘annoying characters on television series’ and on the list was Debra Morgan. You know the good daughter who wanted her father’s approval but never got it because Harry was always busy with Dexter. The good cop who tried to get to the bottom of all the serial killings that her brother was behind. The woman’s whose life was fundamentally destroyed when she learned who her brother was — her façade crumbled quickly, she ended up killing LaGuerta, she left the force and spent the last season struggling with drinking, and just as it seemed she might dig out of it, she became the last victim of Dexter, first because he didn’t want to kill any more and then because of his guilt.
Jennifer Carpenter’s portrayal of Debra was unquestionably one of the breakout stars of the series, but I’m unsurprised that there are those on the Internet who view her with the same disgust that they felt for Anna Gunn’s character on Breaking Bad, January Jones’ on Mad Men and at times Edie Falco on The Sopranos. In addition to showing the horrible chauvinism that surfaces far too often on the net about TV series, Deb is essentially playing the female figure that is getting in the way of the ‘White Male Antihero’ being horrible. (I should probably add that prior to her shocking death at the end of Season 4 there was just as many people who disliked Julie Benz’s Rita, Dexter’s wife and Harrison’s mother.) And just as so many people loathed Skyler for trying to protect her family, as many people hated Deb, even though for most of the series it was her job to help bring the person behind these crimes to justice before Dexter could.
Throughout Dexter (and New Blood) we repeatedly heard reference to ‘The Dark Passenger’, the force that has essentially turned Dexter into the monster that he is. It is now fairly safe to say that a similar passenger exists in the spirit of so many viewers of series like Dexter and Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. We may not actually be committing the heinous acts that these horrible men are doing, but this ‘passenger’ is satisfied vicariously by not only seeing them do so, but watching them get away with it week after week. This may be the real reason so many Peak TV dramas have these ‘White Male Antiheroes’ and why so many viewers are openly hostile to the characters (mostly female) who have to suffer through these protagonists actions or even try to stop them. There is something in the subconscious (and I can’t exactly pretend I’m different from any of them) that gets a perverse satisfaction from it.
And this is almost certainly the reason why series like Ray Donovan and Ozark and (probably) House of Cards have been so popular. We may say it’s more of the same and that television keeps going back to the same formulas, but there’s a part of the Peak TV audience that really likes that formula. It’s the same reason that millions probably didn’t cotton to Damages the way I did and so many had an unfavorable reaction to series like Weeds and Nurse Jackie. We may claim we want females to be as horrible as men on television, but the same stigmas that view characters like Skyler White and Debra Morgan as annoying will not allow us to accept female characters doing the even slightly less horrible things that Walter White and Dexter did.
Now the story of Dexter is over for good. He finally paid for his sins, and people are still unhappy. Will this serve as a cautionary tale to networks wanting to bringing back series with these kinds of antiheroes? Well, we got the Ray Donavan Movie, FX is planning another series featuring Raylan Givens of Justified (okay, I’ll admit I’m looking forward to that) and there are rumblings of yet another reboot of 24 from Fox. Hell, at this point it would not stun me if Fox said they were planning to reboot House at some juncture, and he didn’t do anything nearly as horrible as this bunch. It is things like that this that make me really regret that at no point in the entirety of Dexter, Michael C. Hall never had on his table one of the true sources of evil in this world: network executives. Well, maybe after Harrison grows up and the inevitable Dexter: The Next Generation comes along, he’ll do that.