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“I’m not the old Dexter anymore,” our murderous anti-hero proclaims in the penultimate episode of the hit Showtime series. The problem is, that the writers putting words into Dexter have seemed to change too. Perhaps it’s that the show’s novelty has worn off after eight seasons or that, in those eight years, other (and arguably better) thriller shows like Homeland and Breaking Bad have come along. Or maybe it’s just lazy writing. Either way, the plots of season 8, and the last few seasons to be fair, seem to have good ideas but poor follow-through. Instead of coming up with smart plot lines that explore Dex’s inner-psyche or Hannah’s reemergence or Vogel’s relationship with both her son and her prodigy, the writers have gone for lazy story lines with details that veer dangerously close to telenovela quality.
It’s not all bad. The latest episode showcases the best and worst Dexter has to offer. The themes and character work is as strong as they’ve been in a long time, but the season’s uniformly weak writing means that the good stuff is buried among some truly ridiculous turns.
The episode starts with Miami Metro cleaning up after Vogel’s death. In a moment of pure amnesia, Dex even says how weird it is to be a part of a crime scene he’s working. But he’s quickly sent home because of his personal connection to the doctor and given time to track down Saxon. While Quinn and the other detectives have no evidence that tie Saxon to Vogel (remember, he shed a new name and identity when returning to Miami), he does make an appearance at the station to give one more statement after his ex, and victim, Cassie. He leaves, but Dex takes a DNA sample that eventually lets it come to light that Saxon’s momma is the recently deceased Dr. Vogel. Finding this out, and operating on a hunch he’s had since meeting Saxon, Quinn jumps to the (right) conclusion that Saxon killed both Cassie and Vogel and plasters his face across every TV screen in Miami to facilitate his arrest.
Oh yeah, Dexter also sent video footage he stole of Saxon killing Zach and sent it to the local news. Remember when I talked about lazy writing? Here’s an example: Saxon is an accomplished serial killer with multiple secret identities and an abandoned mental hospital for a private killing lair yet he doesn’t password protect the videos of his gory hobby?
Also, if I may switch gears for a moment, why doesn’t Hannah McKay have the smarts to at least get a wig and some sunglasses? Speaking of Hannah, she’s in the process of moving to Argentina. On her heals, is Elway, Deb’s ex-boss, who seemed to walk off another TV show and into the Dexter universe for very little reason. Elway knows that Deb has knowledge of Hannah’s whereabouts, and even searches her apartment but comes up empty except for a Google search for tickets to South America. But, feeling Elway’s breath on her neck, Hannah persuades Dexter to leave Miami as quick as possible.
But Dex wants to kill Saxon first, or at least that’s what he thinks until he’s on Dexter’s table. Once he has Saxon all tied up in his Haunted Asylum-like hideout, Dexter reneges. "This is usually my favorite moment,” he says, “now I don't even want to be here. I'm feeling a much stronger pull. I don't need to kill you."
This scene is very important and, with a little more skillful writing would have been a defining moment in Dexter history. But what is it trying to say? Is the love of a woman all that it takes to squash his Dark Passenger? If so, what about Rita? And even though he doesn’t have the urge to dispatch of Saxon why does he think leaving him unaccompanied would end up well?
It doesn’t. Dex leaves him tied up with the plan that Deb will “find him” and report him to the feds. But Elway shows up first, trying to track down Debra, and, believing Saxon’s flimsy kidnapped victim act, frees him. How a respected PI doesn’t recognize the most wanted man in Miami is anyone’s guess. But either way, Saxon stabs him, steals his gun and runs away…but not before shooting Deb in the stomach.
The episode ends as Dexter, having finally chosen his family over his bloodlust, drives to the airport on his way to an all-too-perfect international escape while his beloved sister lays potentially dying in an abandoned sanitarium. Oh, and a hurricane is coming.
I kid about the inconsistencies because they are many and glaring, but “Monkey In A Box” offered some truly wonderful moments. Darri Ingolfsson is sublime as Saxon and the emotional moments between the Morgans are extremely well-acted and quite touching. The asylum scene are filmed beautifully and "Monkey In A Box" is one of the best shot episodes in Season 8. But, ultimately, the bad, implausible moments overshadow the goods ones.
It’s a shame. At one time, Dexter was one of the best shows on TV. It’s still good, but I don’t think it’ll go out in the blaze of glory I was hoping for when the season started.
Dexter’s finale will air next Sunday at 9/8 central.