America’s Favorite TV Psychopath

DexterBy Dane LaBorn

America’s favorite psychopath is about to put away his knives and retire. Dexter entered his eighth and final season on June 30. After seven years of following his every move, every twist of his psyche, I am going to have trouble letting go. I can still enjoy him in the books written by Jeff Lindsay, but never again will I hear his chilling voice narrating his darkly funny inner thoughts. With the differences between the books and the show, it won’t ever be the same again.

Some of the more fascinating aspects of a show that has run as long as Dexter has are what happens behind the scenes. Michael C. Hall met his now-ex-wife, Jennifer Carpenter, on the show. Marriage and divorce spawned out of a program about a serial killer’s day-to-day woes. Hall also struggled against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while continuing his work on the show. His fellow cast members were shocked by the news, as he had not revealed his struggle to anyone.

Dexter’s darkness dwells on Showtime, the only network that could possibly get away with such an extreme subject matter. Even in it’s extremities though, the heart of Dexter lies in his eternal struggle toward humanity. He doesn’t revel constantly in his predatory instinct as so many of his type do. He suppresses that part of his brain, calling it his Dark Passenger. Although he often uses this to help him catch killers, Dexter’s code, instilled by his father Harry, guides him through the world, never allowing him to fully succumb to the darkness.

Dexter’s code is what makes him something of an anti-hero. Rather than preying on the innocent, he has strict guidelines in place so that he knows everyone he kills is guilty of one thing and one thing only; Murder most foul. Dexter allows that lizard part of his brain to take over, sometimes helping him sniff out major serial killers far ahead of the police. His job, as a forensic blood spatter analyst for Miami Metro PD., affords him the full force of the police database without compromising his identity. This is how, in the seven years we’ve been watching, Dexter has managed to find several of Miami’s most notorious serial killers and put an end to their wickedness.

Dexter was damaged at a young age, having witnessed his mother die in front of him, and this fractured his psyche. When his adoptive father Harry realized just how far the damage had seeped into his son, he took measures to ensure that if Dexter was going to grow up this way, he would aim it in a righteous, almost vigilante direction. He instilled his code in Dexter, and cautioned him to live life alone. This suited Dexter’s diabolical side quite well, but didn’t fit with his carefully managed facade.

Enter Rita. Damaged in her own right, Rita Bennett was to become a light in Dexter’s dark life. Introduced by Dexter’s adopted sister Debra, Rita had survived an abusive and drug addled marriage, and was subsequently shaken to her core. When we first meet her, a mother of two, she and Dexter had a very platonic relationship. Eventually, Dexter realized that there was at least a part of him that cared for Rita. They eventually married, and later had a son, named Harrison. Tragedy struck in the form of the Trinity Killer, whom Dexter had dispatched mere hours before, then came home to his wife who had been tragically killed.

Dexter’s darkest point followed suit, but he didn’t go through it alone. Another victim of unspeakable abuse entered his life. Played by the beautiful Julia Stiles, Lumen Anne Pierce was one person who Dexter actually helped by using his skills as a predator, allowing her to take revenge on the men who harmed her. Their relationship ended after she had said revenge, telling Dexter that her Dark Passenger was finally gone. She left, but assured our Dark Avenger that his secret was safe.

Dexter struggled to find meaning in life outside of his nighttime activities. He attempted to find God, or faith, wondering if it was something that should be instilled in his son. Along the way, he meets a reformed criminal calling himself Brother Sam, played by the incomparable Mos Def. Sam tried to reel Dexter back from the darkness, but his own sudden murder at the hands of one of the men he tried to help ensured that Dexter would never step back, as he viciously took revenge on the man who had taken one of his first and only true friends.

Deb faced her biggest challenge in all the years we’ve watched her as she finally discovered who her brother truly is. This being in a more recent season, I won’t spoil too much of the whirlwind that comes because of this, but along the way Dexter finds love and Deb has to make a choice between her family and her own morals. We leave them at the end of season 7 with Deb having just irreparably fallen from grace, as Dexter watches on in shock.

Now it is over. Dexter’s diabolical darkness, his predatory hunger, will rear it’s head no more. Sunday, June 30, is the eighth season’s premiere, and after seven years of watching him hunt and kill, the question on everyone’s mind was ‘How will it all end?’ Will Dexter become a victim of the criminal justice system, wiling his remaining days away on death row? Or perhaps he will once again escape, perhaps this time without his good name, and will have to run. Or will his love return to him? Does Dexter have a happily ever after?

I guess you’ll have to watch it for yourself.

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