This new Golden Age of Television is a fun time to live in. It's also a dubious, frustrating one. The biggest problem with long-form storytelling is that once you reach whatever the end is, there's no way you can actually end your story that will please everyone. Try to go the safe route, and you're lambasted for not taking chances. Try to surprise folks with something unexpected, and people push back because you messed with their beloved characters too much. Try to end on a vague, unsettled note, and people will decry the absence of catharsis. Very few popular TV shows with large, loyal followings, are able to pull off a perfect ending that satiates just about everyone (keep this in mind, we'll come back to it later).
Season eight of 'Dexter' was announced as the show's final season. Every fan had a "perfect" ending constructed in their heads for how it should play out. It's only natural since we'd spent the last seven years watching Dexter learn, grow, and manage his Dark Passenger with a great amount of difficulty. As the eighth season began, anticipation for its final hurrah reached a critical mass that simply couldn't be sustained. After everything had been said and done, a large swath of fan backlash commenced. The series finale, "Remember the Monsters?", was considered by many to be the most disappointed finale to a popular series. Those fans are entitled to their opinion. After all, they had spent around 90 hours of their lives, for the past eight years, following these characters. I understand where they're coming from. I remember feeling a lot more than just disappointed when we were treated to whatever ending 'Lost' resolved itself with. However, in regards to 'Dexter's final season, one which I waited and binge-watched when the Blu-ray came out, I have to say I don't understand what all the complaining was about. While not the show's best, the eighth season, for me, stands out as one of the most complicated stories the series ever attempted. It stands out as a dark culmination of so much character building that came before. Season eight shouldn't just be judged by whatever someone thought about its last five minutes. What came before is just as, or even more, important. Suffice it to say, I liked season eight. I had no problem with the way it ended.
Now, before we get too far into this review, I want to makes something clear. From here on out there will be spoilers. Lots of spoilers. Spoilers that will make all those that haven't watched season eight angry beyond belief if there hadn't been a spoiler alert stated before. So, this is your spoiler alert. From here on out I'll be discussing the last season in a detailed manner. A show as popular as this, ending with as much rancor as it did, begs to be discussed. I do this for a few reasons. First, it's a way for me to navigate the season, try to make sense of its many different threads, and come to terms with an ending that I accept - but one that wouldn't have been mine had the writing reigns been thrown my way. Second, I do it to start a discussion of the show's fans - a rabid bunch - hoping to get a considerate dialogue of both sides rather than the hyperbolic vitriol that's been floating around since the show ended in September.
Okay, so just to be clear. From here on out there are spoilers. Lots of them. For those that haven't seen season eight yet, just know that I didn't have any real problems with how the show ended. Was I expecting, or hoping for something different? Yes. Was I completely satisfied? Not really. Do I curse the entire existence of the show because of its last five minutes? Certainly not. There are things about season eight that bothered me much, much more than its vilified ending. The awkward shoehorning of seemingly meaningless storylines took too much time away from the core of the show. The Masuka subplot in season eight is ridiculous - sometimes funny, but mostly inane. The other subplot about Miller and Quinn vying for the newly open position of sergeant is another. Who's Miller you ask? Well, she's been around for a while, but every time she speaks it seems forced. Like they're trying to introduce a new character, but they know they shouldn't be doing that at this point in time, so they leave her story halfway through the season hoping we won't notice.
However, when taken as a whole, season eight is rather heartbreaking. A solemnly sad conclusion that was pretty much inevitable. What I like about the way 'Dexter' ended was that the show doesn't throw consequences out the window. Of course, all along I thought that Dexter would actually be executed for his crimes, but losing everything he loved - Harrison, Deb, and Hannah - seemed just as close to death as he could get.
The eighth season begins with Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) coked out of her mind. She's reeling from the fact that at the end of the seventh season she gunned down LaGuerta in cold blood to protect Dexter and his dark secret. She's quit homicide and is now making a living as a private investigator. Dexter is trying desperately to bring her back into his life, but she pushes back because she blames him for everything wrong in her life.
The Dexter/Deb dynamic of the final season was crucial. I felt like the show did a stand-up job bringing their relationship full circle. A doomed-from-the-start relationship that we wanted so desperately to work out. The other aspect of this season that added even more layers to Dexter's storied past was the realization that Harry, and the creation of his code, were done with someone else pulling the strings. Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) comes into Dexter's life, revealing that Harry's Code was really, at the very least, half hers. We also find out that Harry wasn't as stalwart in the belief of The Code as we once thought he was. These aspects of season eight created a giant shift in the story. Brave character building toward the end of a character arc that just couldn't end in a "happy ending" sort of way.
So much hoopla has been made about the last five minutes of 'Dexter' where Dex returns to the hospital, unplugs Deb's life support, carries her to his boat, drops her in the sea like so many of his victims before, and then drives headfirst into an oncoming hurricane only to wind up in the final scene staring into the camera, bearded, and living in what appears to be Alaska. While Hannah and Harrison are set to live out their lives in South America.
I didn't find anything "wrong" with the way those scenes played out. There's been rumors of interference from Showtime in which they demanded that Dexter not die in the end. Whatever. I'm fine with the way it ended because. I had followed Dexter all this time and came to the realization that no matter what, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't be normal. His punishment is exile. After hurting Deb he couldn't live with hurting another person he loved. So what if he's chopping trees as a lumberjack. Why such a big deal has been made about that shot, I'll never know. What I know was that 'Dexter' was one of the most engrossing television shows over the past 8 years. Sure some seasons were better than others - John Ligthgow FTW! - but, on the whole 'Dexter' came to a satisfying conclusion given what had gone before.
I realize I'm in the minority. I realize that the internet is full of endless memes about how ridiculous the ending is, and how turning Dexter into a lumberjack is just about the worst thing that's happened to TV since 'The Sopranos' cut to black. Again, whatever. This season sported a brave character arc for the main players - and weird ones for the side characters (am I the only one who is morbidly curious about watching a spin-off sitcom starring Masuka and his daughter?). It ended in a sad, open-ended place because that's where it was destined to go. Dexter's life was destined to fail at some point. Keeping up the facade was impossible. The best choice, in his mind, was to give up his family. It makes sense to me.
Plus, beards are cool and cathartic, which is probably why he grew one.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The final season of 'Dexter' comes to Blu-ray in a 3-Disc set from Showtime. Each disc is 50GB. With 12 episodes in the season they're spread out evenly between the discs (four on each). Inside the case, printed on the back of the outer cover, is a brief episode list that simply states the titles for each episode. Each disc has its own hub.
Showtime and CBS Blu-ray have consistently delivered stellar visuals with pretty much every 'Dexter' season that has come to the format. The show's final season shows no degradation in quality. As I've explained before in my 'Dexter' reviews the hyper-stylized visuals of a sun-drenched Miami, are alive and well. Yes, the color is pumped up a tad, but 'Dexter' has always been like that. It's South Beach we're talking about here. Everything should look slightly neon, right?
Colors are the only things doing well here. Black areas are top-notch, providing great low-light detail during the many nighttime kill runs Dexter has to make. The show spends pretty much half of its time in the sun and half of it in Miami's neon-lit darkness. Contrast has always been – and continues to be – perfect. Fine detail like facial hair, freckles, bruises, cuts, gashes, and every other bodily injury inflicted during this show look completely realistic. Blood oozes over the screen with a lifelike sheen of crimson. If you enjoyed every other visual for every other season then nothing is stopping you from loving this one too. Near demo-quality as far as I'm concerned.
Like every other season of the show, season eight gets the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 treatment. And, like every other season, it's just as solid as ever.
If you're buying this season then chances are you've bought subsequent seasons of the show – if not all of them. Revisiting my other audio reviews will be just as good as me writing out a lengthy description of the audio presented here. So, we'll just do this in brief. Dialogue is very clear. Dexter's monologue is deep and resonant. The show's now iconic musical track gives the presentation some great all-around sound. Rear channels are audibly active throughout the season's 12 episodes. LFE is noticeably booming during many of the show's more intense scenes. Suffice it to say, this is a strong audio mix that mirrors the other seasons in quality and clarity.
Showtime continues to utterly disappoint when it comes to crafting any sort of worthwhile special features. Given that this is by far the most popular and beloved show the network has ever had, you'd think a retrospective, in-depth send off would've been appropriate. Nope. Special features be damned. It's still the same old story. Stick a couple full episodes of another show they're promoting on the disc and call it good.
I liked the last season, so sue me. I'm not entirely sure what all the griping is about. Is the ending unbelievable? Sure. But, what part of 'Dexter' as a whole has been believable? It's always existed in its own quasi-real-world reality. I for one, found the last season to be sort of heartbreaking. I felt like it did an admirable job bringing a show to an end that, no matter what, wouldn't have pleased everyone anyway. This season has some great video and strong audio. The special features suck, but that's the norm for Showtime shows on Blu-ray. 'Dexter: The Final Season' is recommended, at least from this reviewer. Please, join me over here in the minority.