On Why Season Seven Of DEXTER Is - Thus Far - A Failure

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor

[Credit where it's due: Episode Five (Swim Deep) aired this weekend as was very good, indeed. Could've gotten where they ended up in one episode rather than wasting three, but they did at least end up somewhere interesting.]

I make no great secret of the fact that Dexter has been a staple of my TV viewing over the past six years. Though the quality has varied from episode to episode and season to season the high points have been very high indeed and many of the lows are flagrantly goofy enough to remain firmly in guilty pleasure territory. But three episodes in to Season Seven, Dexter is losing me. Dexter is failing in a manner that is no longer pleasurable and it all comes down to the writing, specifically in the dogged resistance to change.

Dexter (the show) has been running for six full seasons now without any actual development in Dexter (the character). He is exactly the same now as he was when the show began. Worse, the show's writers and the characters within the show - Dexter himself included - seem perfectly content to just continue asking the same questions about the character now as they were when they began, i.e. is the drive to kill something that can be controlled or is it a fundamental part of who he is. That this question has been asked and answered repeatedly from day one doesn't seem to phase anyone.

Now, they've gotten away with it to a degree thus far by shifting Dexter through different contexts in the early seasons. He went from lone hunter to husband to father and each of those shifts provided some basis to explore, at least slightly, some different aspect of his fundamentally unchanging character. So while he wasn't developing at all we were at least getting to know him a bit better. That has not been the case for recent seasons - ever since Rita was killed, really - and the show has essentially become a basic procedural with the character constantly resetting back to zero. And it's taken a good bit of heat for that.

Now, the final episode of Season Six and the opening episode of Season Seven opened the door for this to finally change. The established parameters of the show shifted, with Deb finding out who / what Dexter really was and Dexter acknowledging and stating what he truly is without any embellishment or apologies. He's a serial killer. Period. By putting Dexter into direct conflict with the only person in the entire show that he has ever shown an ounce of actual emotion for - and, no, I don't think he's ever shown any particular bond to Harrison, who is mostly treated by the writers as a prop to be called on when convenient - they finally opened the door to DO SOMETHING NEW. And given that they are now on the road to concluding the show that meant that they had the opportunity to do so in very conclusive fashion.

And what did they do instead? They immediately stepped back, pussied out and instead reset the character right back to the way things have ALWAYS BEEN. The revelation now means nothing. Deb is stepping into the role that Harry was in through Dexter's youth and - oh, joy - any discussion of his character has once again been reduced to "Can Dexter control his impulse to kill?" Because, you know, they haven't asked and answered that question enough times already.

What they've done is taken a story arc that could have been bold and fresh and pushed the character into new directions - bluntly, I want to know if Dexter will kill Deb if that's what it takes to save himself - and instead taken a route that is cowardly, small and completely lacking in imagination. They have revealed, conclusively, that the emperor is naked. They have nothing to say at all and so they are just going to revert back to the old standbys and hope that nobody notices. Well, I noticed. I noticed because they flew a great big flag in my face that said they were finally going to grow and develop and then immediately refused to do so. And so now all that I see is the enormous squandered opportunity.

Can Dexter pull out of the tailspin? I hope so. I'll give it another episode or two to find out, at least. But with the road that it's on now the show looks poised to end with a whimper rather than a bang and that's just sad for a show based on dousing people with blood.

Around the Internet:
  • As an actor.. what I loved about season 7... is the way that the actors qualified each and every situation that the writers put them into.. and pulled it off in a virtuoso fashion.. It was just awesome.. I'm not slamming the writers.. They had the confidence in the actors.. to bring truth into it all. . to flesh it out. I was very impressed.. Actually.. it was an excellent season..

  • Justme

    I thinkwe´re leaving out the main reason of this season´s disastrous trend.. the girl...the character is soooo boring it is´nt even worth rememering her name.. she is ruining it really. You ca´nt give tDexter such a background to explain his killings and then throw in this nothing, plain girl who seems just to kill anyone that crosses her, in a fit of " I am sixteen and life is baad poor little me". Ruining it..

    Plus I thought we already covered the fellow traveller option with Lumen.. and that had´nt turned out so bad.. There was a chance to bring back the glorious days of Trinity with the character of Isak, but they got rid of him too soon without using his real potential.

    About the distant relationship with Harrison.. I think its not your pink unicorns ending to the family bit story but more realistic given how they drscribe Dexter, what did you expect? I think the few father-son before bed moments are more than enough.. I was afraid when Rita got pregnant and it seemes she was actually going to have the kid that it would ruin the show, in the end fatherhood is just another mask he deals with

  • I haven't watched the show since Rita was killed!! After 6 season of him learning to love having all been for nothing I was a little pissed off!! Is this new season worth watching so is it just more disappointment??

  • Dave Melges

    One of the WORST things writers do, is tinker with successful characters. The "need" to improve people, make them grow or mature RUINS so many shows. Dexter is NOT a teenager....please don't encourage the writers to "change" him.

  • amaru psyn

    re: s07e10

    HAPPY NOW MOTHERFUCKER? ;P

  • Haven't gotten around to watching that one yet. It's been a crazy week. Hopefully tonight.

  • Anto

    Failure? No, not in my opinion. Quite the opposite to be honest.

  • Jason Zolina

    Ray Stevenson made this the best season to date. Granted this has happened since the time of this articles writing.

  • And to reward him for his fine performance he was given an absolutely half assed, trivial and pathetic exit. So poor. So very, very poor.

  • Szilárd Hajdú

    Since Rita died the show is just not that great. They've done a great twist by killing her, I loved that finale, but since that Dexter didn't lose anything, he didnt have a single serious threat, Tic-Tac or whoever was a joke, but Travis had great potential and they fcked it up... And now Isaac too, his death was a joke. I hated the second season becouse of the crazy girflriend and now it seems like Hannah will be like that too... Hope not... Btw the pyro-killer seems interesting, has some potential

  • Aholes like you want spectacular endings... giving us crap like the ending of BSG, personally i like the show the longer its on air the better, too many great shows are over before their time to be replaced by pure garbage, because someone like you decides oooo the story needs an ending.... its TV FFS you want an ending go watch a movie.

  • Micah Carey

    This season is the best in years! You're a pretentious douchebag!

  • I realize that I am very late to the party on this one, but my response now is exactly what it would've been a month ago: You're going to have to watch both this season and next as 1 story. That's what it's intended to be. Passing judgment this early is unfair

  • Baz

    Season 7 hasn't been great so far. And isn't Deb just a little bit too forgiving of the fact that her step brother is a brutal serial killer?

  • GeronimoX

    Your post is like a premature ejaculation, you're all done while they were just starting....

  • travkaB

    My theory for how the show will (or should) end:

    Dexter gets caught (you know it's coming), is either killed in the arrest or is sent to jail and there's some montage of him being on trial, sentenced, sent to the chair, something that ends the character Dexter. Deb goes home to be Harrison's guardian, and as she opens the door, she sees Harrison kill an animal- his first real act of violence foreshadowing his own Dark Passenger. Deb looks at him, her eyes widen, the screen goes black.

    To me, this would be the ultimate ending, full of possibilities- will Deb be the new Harry? Will she try to help Harrison get rid of his Dark Passenger, or teach him to kill safely?

  • jedi4life2003

    Wasn't it one of Todd's points that the reason why he felt that the
    season was a let down after the first episode was because it backed off
    from Dexter admitting to Deb that he was a serial killer? Rothenberg's
    last statement was that the writers opened Pandora's Box, which was apt,
    but it's also acknowledging Todd's criticism, mainly that once they
    opened the box that promptly tried to close it again without dealing
    with what they let out. This was my problem with eps 2-4 as well, that
    they were backtracking instead of progressing. I agree with you, I want
    to see a new side to Dexter, so does everyone else, which is why Todd's
    article is spot on, because for a while there it seemed as though we
    were being shoved backwards instead of being led to new paths. Most people who don't agree with this are attacking the article as though he was actively trying to bring down the show. Nothing in it is libelous or meant to be taken as an attack on Dexter, so wouldn't it be better if we discussed things calmly than reach for the pitch forks and torches? I mean, if you don't like the article that's your choice to make, but it doesn't call for being petulant about it. We're supposed to be fans, not fanatics. I like this site, it has given me a lot of really great recommendations and interesting articles to read that have made it possible to stave off my boredom, so that's why I think that if you're going to be a visitor you should have at least the common courtesy to debate with each other based on sound arguments instead of throwing around jeers. That's my two cents.

  • chinagreenelvis

    "I want to see Dexter kill Deb."

    This is everything that is wrong with this article. You have no fucking idea who Dexter Morgan is.

  • Quotes should be reserved for things that people actually said.

  • chinagreenelvis

    I wasn't quoting your words, merely what I perceive to be your thoughts.
    And let's be honest; you would like to see that, wouldn't you? You clearly wouldn't mind.

    The very fact that you would consider, for even an instant, that Dexter killing Deb would be a possibility shows that you don't understand his character or what motivates him.

  • Then you clearly don't understand what quotation marks are.

    Quoting a perception of my thoughts? That's simultaneously asinine, incredibly self absorbed and literally nonsense. Particularly considering that my ACTUAL THOUGHTS are right there in plain view.

    And if you don't think a sociopathic serial killer would consider doing pretty much anything to protect himself, then I'd say it's you who doesn't understand the character. He's already showing very clearly that he has no problem whatsoever lying to and misleading Deb for his own gain. He'll protect her when he's not at risk himself but what will happen if she becomes a direct enemy? That's an interesting question worth exploring. I'd say it's one of the only really interesting questions left to explore about Dexter at this stage of things. And given that they're now setting up a pretty clear triangle between Dexter, Deb and Hannah I'd say it's a question they're at least going to dabble in.

  • stimp

    What? You obviously haven't been watching closely. In the season with Doakes getting offed. He question himself whether he would kill and innocent man to get out of it. At the end, before the crazy girl killed Doakes, he basically was going to have Doakes arrest him.

  • chinagreenelvis

    Even an intentional misquote still requires the use quotation marks!

    Dexter would never kill Deborah Morgan, even to save himself. "If I were capable of having feelings, I'd have them for her." Anyway, they already tackled his option to murder her at the end of season one. Killing her off at his hands (willfully) would completely undo everything the series has established about who he is.

  • Ah, but my gut feeling is Hannah is a more effective lure than Brian was. She offers Dexter a level of connection that he's never had before and that's a much different situation. Especially considering Deb was a completely passive / innocent victim at that point and depending on how things play out with Hannah she could very well end up playing a much more antagonistic role this time around. Very different scenario.

    And note the "If" at the beginning of the quote you use. Dexter himself acknowledges that he DOESN'T have any emotions for Deb. He just wishes he did. If Hannah offers him something better, that wish goes out the window.

  • chinagreenelvis

    Dexter thinks he doesn't have emotions, but that's what his training has led him to believe. This is another integral part of his character, and the consequences of Harry's upbringing. We've seen, repeatedly, that Dexter questions himself in ways that we already know he should be confident.

    We hardly know anything about Hannah at this point; any conjecture about what role she might play seems highly speculative, but it's already obvious his major conflict with her is whether or not to kill her.

    Bottom line, I think if Dexter murdered or even considered murdering Deb, I'd be pretty disappointed with the show and would absolutely feel as if it were a writing decision and a direction that is unfaithful to what the series has established. All the talk about "taking things in new directions" may satisfy people who think the word "edgy" defines an appropriate concept to strive for, but I think solidarity of content is far more important to maintaining the audience.

  • Oscar Rivera Toledo

    this guy needs to go watch glee or something else cuz he doesnt know what he saying

  • dur

    Um, dexter is a psychopath. Change is not possible, his brain is literally unformed in the emotional areas. It's why he acts like Spock from star trek. Try to learn a bit more about the character before you expect the impossible from him, then get pissy about it not happening, hmm?

  • skidroe34

    And the show is by far a failure. Read the stats, Imbecil! I hope Dex comes and gets you for writin shitty blogs! Ha ! That would be hilarious.....

  • skidroe34

    You're a complete idiot! Maybe you should be the writer! NOT!!! You're to fricken stupid, that's why you just write dumba** bullsh** on on dumba** websites! you're just bustin on Dexter because you''re pissed that you're NOT a writer (and obviously never will be)!!!

  • Season 7 is much better than Season 6.
    I'd say letting go of his trophy blood slides is a form of character development, and thinking outside the box by setting up a trap for the Russian mob guy walking in on Colombians shows he's adapting.
    I love all things Dexter, but I admit that one thing that's irked me is he's gotten 'dumber' as each season goes by. Once he was a master of the crime scene, knew exactly what to do to always get away with it... the last couple of seasons has him falling into predicaments created out of stupidity or oversight, which ruins the character.

    But all in all, I'm enjoying this season a hell of a lot more than Season 6 or the season w/ Jimmy Smits (was that S3? Jimmy Smits sucked).

  • Completely disagree with the article. Dexter cannot change - he is a psychopath, addicted to murder. Debs is the one who is changing, who has her entire life revealed as a lie, and who tries to cope with all her conflicting feelings.
    And no, the show shouldn't (yet?) be about is Dexter willingto kill Deb to protect himself. And putting the character in that bind is something you can only succesfully pull off at the end of the series, not at the start of a season.
    Up to now we have had amazing acting from both leads, and a chilling and charismatic bad guy in Ray Stevenson. Dexter is trying to get back to normal as quickly as possible ) which makes total sense for the character. Debs has to adjust her sense of family history, her emotions for Dexter, her position as a cop, her concepts of right and wrong. And it makes for incredibly compelling viewing.
    This is definitely the best season since season 4. And it's a real shame that this season didn't follow the mediocre season 5, but that we had to suffer through the inane season 6 first (with Mos Def being the only positive element therein, and he died way too soon).

  • Chicago7

    In regard to the Dexter/Deb relationship, I admit I've been squicked by the incestuous element. I was furious with that quack of a shrink who planted that idea in Deb's mind. But my reason is this. I believe that Dexter and Deb are in fact biological half-siblings, sharing the same biological father. The scenes introduced to us showing Harry becoming friendly with Dexter's mother, combined with her murder scene, when Harry scooped up baby Dexter and rushed him away, leaving another child on the scene, ignored, told me everything I think we need to conclude that Harry's deep caring and concern for Dexter was based on more than just being a good guy to a child of misfortune. Dexter was his own child. So Deb having romantic feelings for him didn't sit well with me at all. And if my theory is true and Deb ever finds out through some DNA test or something, it just might be the thing that puts her over the edge.

  • Mike Damone

    It's a tv show about a serial killer. He finds bad people and kills them. Sometimes he almost gets caught or found out and that's the thrill of it. Who cares if a serial killer is a good father or not. I think he should kill Deb. Getting her off the show would be a way of making the show even more fun to watch. Go read a book if you don't like the character development.

  • skidroe34

    I think he should kill off the idiot that wrote this article!!! LOL

  • I love that you just told me to go read a book as though that's some sort of argument-winning insult. And as though Dexter isn't based on a book. That has character development.

  • Mikey P

    I think this is the BEST start to a new season of Dexter EVER!!!!

  • Well, hot damn. Episodes two, three and four were horrible but episode five (Swim Deep) was GREAT. One of the best of the entire run of the show. Smart, efficient, not afraid to push and challenge the characters ... it's finally paying off on what was promised in episode one.

  • Wednesday Lee Friday

    Is this a troll? Honestly, is it a troll to get people to pass this article around out of sheer outrage? Dexter has changed tremendously since the first season (well, not his hair--but he explained that). He went from not understanding relationships or sex, through a marriage, to fatherhood, to revenging his own pain, to where he is now--actually sharing his dark passenger with the person who means the most to him. Rita changed him. Astor and Cody changed him, as did Lila, and Trinity, and Lumen, and Harrison.

    When the series began, Deb was self-conscious and unsure. Her self esteem often hinged on what she thought her father would think. She was terrible with relationships, intimidated by LaGuerta, and was unwilling/unable to examine her own behavior. She has dealt with that and more, and has actually altered her own behavior in an effort to get the life she wants.

    Showtime could have dicked around all season with what Deb knew, what she suspected, whether or not Dex was lying. They didn't. They gave it up upfront. We've been able to see Dex and Deb struggle with Deb's discovery, what it means, what it's always meant. To say that there's no value in that because Dexter might not have to murder his own sister? That makes me wonder if you have the first clue as to what drama is all about.

    For me, the only disappointment of the season is ***spoiler alert****

    Louis turning out to be just some lame bitch instead of the devious, two-steps ahead, supercriminal he purported himself to be. But we still have Sirko. Even if none of that were true, I'd probably still watch just to see Masuka.

  • flyingreddragon

    I agree 100% the show could have dicked around all season as to how dexter was going to get out of being caught telling lies to his sister, or saying it was an isolated incident, but they went full throttle exposing what he has done and who he is to her. And for the first time the show is actually doing something different it's not about some serial killer, it's making tie ends with previous seasons. The author of this article is way off and imo this is the best season so far, I was actually a little disappointed with season 5,6 but they were still great.

  • Todd Brown!! WTF?!? Seriously you're an idiot. Best season hands f@*&ing hands
    down... TARD..

  • This show is ,meant for mature audience, what are you doing here?

  • Way to present a rational argument you can be proud of.

  • Vitamin R

    I completely agree-- the show has always had its weaknesses but managed to at least be entertaining and then peak (because of Lithgow) in season 4. The problem is that at that point they could have thought about giving it a satisfying ending in season 5 or 6, but instead Rita, the children and Harrison were brushed aside and we got Lumen in season 5 and then I don't even know what (religion??) in season 6. It feels like they're just in it for the money at this point.

  • Gerard Gibney

    Anyone who could turn around and say the Jimmy Smitts season was good has no Dexter cred at all, loving this season so far, this article is rubbish. What better way to move Dexter to redemption than to develop a love interest with a reformed killers partner.

  • Svensk_Riddare

    I Love Dexter!

  • Jamie Tram

    Well, considering that they've completely dropped that point about 'can Dexter resist his impulse to kill', which I also agree was getting a bit old, and we do see a new relationship form between Dexter and Debra, as she starts to understand what he does and become accepting of it, this article is basically irrelevant as of episode 4.

  • Guest

    This season is not terrible at least not yet. The thing about the show is that the premise is already a narrow one and you could only do so much with possible stories. There is an actual story development and it has some elements of done before but what can you expect. This show probably lasted a little too long, Seasons 5 and 6 to me were a bit weak and sloppy in the writing department. I just hope they don't have Laguerta sit on that blood slide too long, should be soon.

    As far as doing something new they did in the previous season finale, and so far the only thing I did not like was the 12 step thing. But besides that it looks that point of yours is nullified.

  • Sean Good

    wow...what are you smoking?? Best season since S4!

  • MIke

    Couldn't disagree with you more. The dynamic between Dexter and Deb has been electric in the 1st 4 episodes. The acting/writing has been spot on. My friends and I watch the show every week and this season has been unbelievable!! No letdown at all. Great, great season so far....

  • I understand your dilemma But - it would not be Dexter if he we not allowed to be Dexter; it's about the Maze that his world creates around him and the challenges that arise out of the cravings of his "Dark Passenger". However I would have liked to have him have more of a hassle out of the Video Game developer. Out of the highly disappointing season of Breaking Bad I was maybe the only one of my friends who boasted about how well the show has maintained a sense of integrity (all shows have ups and downs / Dexter's have been minor) -

  • Chris

    Id agree with this article if it was written in the past 2 seasons as Dexter went from being great to decent to complete garbage but this season has actually been really great again and is a must watch finally again. Some people's opinions just baffle me.

  • Big Bick

    who the #*@$ cares

  • Season7Rules

    This writer here is simply playing devil's advocate to draw an audience with this. There is no substance to this person's writing at all in regards to his points.
    Todd Brown, you should be ashamed of yourself for calling yourself a writer and not seeing the pure brilliance in episode 7.3. The scenes between Dexter and Deb were spectacularly crafted and the acting and music was spot on. This season rivals the best that Dexter has offered.
    Stop trying to be the "hip dude against the lemmings" guy. It simply is a failure of attitude. We all know you love the season and the route it has taken. Otherwise, you would have said you have stopped watching all together. Stop faken' to make the bacon. Fail.

  • This is hilarious ... Not even remotely playing devil's advocate and stand behind every word in the piece. As I do behind every word in the reviews of the individual episodes linked above. This has been far and away the worst season of the show so far and it's sad to see it completely descend into soap opera territory. Dexter has joined shows like Six Feet Under and Rescue Me as series that started brilliantly, then ran out of steam but kept going anyway. It's gotten to the point now where the characters are referring to themselves as being cliche within the dialog of the show itself and that's never a good thing ...

  • Darthballs Prostate Exam

    "far and away"...hardly. 5 was so bad (except Johnny Lee Miller) that I didn't think it would get worse...then we got season 6 which still makes me cringe thinking about it. Season 7 has been a breath of fresh air. Nice to see Dokes again too. Seriously, you've lost all credibility by giving ANY credence to season 6. Best season so far this certainly is not. That award begins and ends with John fucking Lithgow.

  • faraday

    You saw Season 6 right? Because Season 6 was complete and utter GARBAGE! I'll take this actually entertaining and intriguing season over that shit any day!

    Now quit your whining. There's more to life than complaining, plus there is so much other good TV out there!

  • J Kay

    You can't judge a season based off of 3 episodes. These are all very premature reactions.

  • I presume you somehow missed the 'Thus Far' in the headline. Though, that said, this week's episode was pretty crap, too.

  • severely disagree been the best season yet so far!!!!

  • Kevin

    This is gonna bean epic season you are a Moron obviously

  • Oooh, with capitals, even. Then it must be true.

  • lol

  • this is the best season to date.

  • Alex Ya

    Best season so far ... Deb knowing his secret, and Dex now doing it without the blood glass slides.

  • dexter is an emotionless person.he's not a good person but he does good job by killing the serial killer.he is organised, careful and follows a code.what more development can you expect from the character.they have told everything about him what we are supposed to know.he's emotionless,fakes most of the things that he does,loves kids,had a girlfriend and later girlfriend rita so that he can have a cover life.he doesn't trust anybody and people whom he trusted were wrong people. Dexter can never kill debra because she's the only one for whom he wishes to have feelings for.he a novice when it comes to showing emotions.Only thing we need to know is what kind of troubles dexter will get in and how he will solve it.only direction in the development in the character will be if he control's his urge to kill in future.

  • Skiznot

    One word: Wrong.

  • Larry Strong

    I agree with you. When Deb found out about Dexter, we all expected big things plot-wise. But for Deb to put him into Serial Killers Anonymous and develop a 12-step program for him was just ridiculous. That wiped out any suspense and turned Dexter into a comedy.

    Last season was boring, and Dexter's been boring for several seasons now. I think my favorite season was with Jimmy Smits.

  • spazmodeus

    Interesting. While the seasons have been hit or miss, I have actually forgotten a couple of the ones that were not so good, I am not sure how you expect Dexter to develop. Serial killers are what they are and don't generally develop, I do hope they show him break his code this season and kill outside of the code. This will show that he is, after all, a serial killer and has NO moral compass. With the pressure from Deb he should crack, and maybe he will get caught.

  • JQ

    Crazy...Dexter is excellent. Amazing cast and fantastic writers. Idiot.

  • This season is turning into the best yet, and the seasons that weren't so great were still better than any other show on tv.
    Dexter has changed quite a bit actually, he really did love Rita and loves Harrison, in the 1st season that was not possible.
    People who say this one is a failure aren't paying very good attention.

  • Chicago7

    I think showing the degree to which Dexter is able to feel affection for anyone - limited by his own admission - is really just revealing elements of the character we started with and doesn't actually represent character growth on his part. Having said that, I'm a loyal fan of the series and love it still. I guess I don't bore easily or something.

  • Anon

    I guess you've never seen Breaking Bad.

  • Alexi

    To each his own taste or you're convinced that what you think is the best has to be really the best in the world?

  • Or Game Of Thrones. Or Boardwalk Empire.

  • Hiroaki Johnson

    Or Mad Men. Or Homeland.

  • Or (though completely different) Moone Boy. Or The Thick Of It.

  • Hiroaki Johnson

    I'll have to check those out. I'm also fond of Justified, has a nice pulpy feel and Goggins kills it.

  • monsterkillsthepilot

    better than any other show on tv.. I am so sorry for you

  • Loves Harrison, my ass. He kicks that kid to side so often it's just ridiculous. Dexter is the definition of absentee father.

  • Ben J. Kullerd

    I have to agree with you about Harrison. Dexter shows very little real affection, if any, for his son, and he's rarely a serious element of the show. Mostly, he's a sticking point in the plot to add minor conflict to an already tense show. I haven't watched last Sunday's episode, so I don't know how I feel about this season yet, really, but I'm sort of in the middle of being disappointed and hopeful with the show.

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