Dexter facing off against a severely underwhelming (and slow-witted) "Big Bad" during its final season wound up, as we discovered, being the least of Season 8's problems. Even though I didn't loathe the finale as much as some of you (though the final lumberjack scene was most definitely bulls***), these past twelve episodes have been so muddled and wasteful that there's a big part of me now that feels empty about the entire series as a whole. Which is probably the worst thing you want from a final run, no matter how disappointing. And, yes, it is hard to think this now because I definitely enjoyed the first four seasons. They weren't perfect by any means, but they held merit. Hell, I didn't even mind Lumen the way some folks did. I just resented how conveniently she left the show and that her story became so closed-ended.
But I think now, after Sunday's series finale, there's a sound argument to be made that Dexter's final "Big Bad" was... the final season of Breaking Bad. And Dexter lost. Tragically and definitively. No, it's hardly fair to hold up most shows to Breaking Bad, especially with the streak it's been on as of late, but we just can't overlook the fact that this was Dexter's first time going up against Breaking Bad in the summer. Dexter's always been a fall show. And not only that, but both shows were ending their storied runs and both shows aired in the same time slot. And one was rising to great heights while the other was sinking like a Bay Harbor anchor.
Now I'm not going to throw out my own "endings" for Dexter -- as in "Deb should have killed him" or "He should have been arrested and executed" -- but I am going to list four things that Dexter Morgan should have done in order to have given us a more satisfying season. Four things that Breaking Bad did do, which wound up giving us big moments, big payoffs, and big emotions. Yes, a lot of this is "20/20 Hindsight," but there's no mistaking that Dexter and company got so much wrong while Walter White and the gang wielded so much right.
As in... don't build something up just to squash it back down. Release it. The most interesting parts of Dexter's Season 8 were back during the first four episodes when Deb was a completely shattered human being. So much so that she even tried, at the end of "Scar Tissue," to kill both herself and Dexter in a giant, shocking car crash into a lake. But then Dexter and Deb were miraculously brought back together. Almost immediately afterward, in fact. Their insane tension erased. And Deb just became a third wheel who kept commenting about how weird her life was now that she accepted both Hannah and Dexter the way they were.
Now think about if Breaking Bad had done this. Both shows were coming off a big cliffhanger. And Dexter's cliffhanger was even more violent and shocking (if not a little convenient, since LaGuerta was no one's favorite to begin with). So what if Breaking Bad decided to have Hank discover the truth about Dexter and then... drop it? Maybe Hank got mad for a little bit, but then he learned to live with Walter's horrible past as a drug kingpin. Maybe, by the end of the season, he and Walt were having backyard barbecues again. Likewise, what if, at the end of next Sunday's Breaking Bad finale, Walt and Jesse were back to sitting on couches, drinking beer and watching TV? Under a Pest Control tent?
Don't drive your story into a brick wall. Smash through the wall and keep on racing. Never return things to the status quo.
It's hard to clearly see the jagged, damaged side of your Dark Defender once they start making Bobbleheads of him. And t-shirts. And Halloween costumes. And each and every summer four thousand rabid fans scream their heads off in Comic-Con's Ballroom 20, treating each cast member -- especially the two leads -- like rock stars. I'm not saying this was the direct cause of Dexter losing his edge, but somewhere down the line the series forgot that Dexter was a deranged anti-hero. A murdering miscreant. And a smart one at that. Sure, he was ready to kill LaGuerta -- an innocent -- at the end of Season 7, but who wasn't ready to kill her?
If the show really wanted to challenge Dexter, and the audience, they would have had Batista figure out the Bay Harbor Butcher connection. Or someone else who was more likable. Like they did with Doakes in Season 2 (even though they copped out when it came to having Dexter make a choice about killing him). Anyhow, somehow this series became way too precious with its characters and began assuming that each of them was somehow crucial to the show. That somehow we cared about things other than what Dexter and Deb were doing. They assumed we cared about Quinn and Batista. And about Masuka doing anything other than making a pervy comment.
Why did I care more about Steve Gomez dying two weeks back on Breaking Bad than anything Quinn's ever done? I mean, Gomey never even got to have his own side stories. No scenes with surprise daughters or thieving interns. Nothing about hooking up with Ukrainian strippers. Just a few brotherly ball-busting moments with Hank. (Note: It probably also helped that he was good at his job and not woefully inept like the members of Miami Metro)
The reason we felt worse about him dying was because no one on Breaking Bad is safe. No one's ever been safe. And to think, Breaking Bad now has Bobbleheads too. And t-shirts. And rabid Comic-Con fans screaming for the cast. And all the trappings of a show that could get swept up into their own fandom and begin to think its characters need to be present every week in order to appease some fans' need for normalcy - that the supporting cast is there to create a comfort zone for the viewer and not serve the overall story.
Of course, consider too that Breaking Bad, complete with all of its catchphrases and bumper stickers, is still ending things when it should. And not three years too late.
I'll give you a real example of the two series in terms of "playing it safe": Right before the third to last episode of Dexter, Showtime announced that actress Aimee Garcia (who plays Jamie) would be live-tweeting along with the episode. My years at this job made me instantly assume that Garcia tweeting along meant that it was curtains for Jamie. That this would be a big episode for her, and probably her swan song. It made sense. The Surgeon knew her. She was close enough to Dexter's world to kill. And maybe her death would give Batista an interesting, revenge-feuled story for the final couple episodes. But this was my mistake. I thought Dexter would ramp things up during the few remaining episodes, but instead all that happened was Quinn broke up with her. Whoopty-s***. Again, my bad.
Too much of Dexter's final season rested on the shoulders of people who were introduced during Dexter's final season. Why bring in people like Elway and Clayton so late in the game? Why make Dr. Vogel so crucial during the last leg of the race when Season 7's main story was between Dexter and Deb? How about instead of having a bunch of go-nowhere side stories featuring Masuka and his daughter, or Quinn competing with Detective Miller (also someone who just started having lines in the final run) for the open Sergeant position, you use those characters you already have in interesting ways that benefit Dexter's overall story?
Why wasn't Batista made an integral part of Dexter's last season? Why did he spend so much time peering out of his office window, through the blinds, looking at Quinn and Miller - trying to choose between the two of them. In fact, the Season 8 premiere gave his character a small window to have a much more interesting story as he was still grieving for LaGuerta and had a bit of friction with Dexter over Dexter not exactly mourning her death the way Batista hoped he would. There was even that moment when LaGuerta's vase shattered all over Dexter's office floor. But that was it. Nothing came of it. And by the end, Batista's main role was to tell Dexter and Deb, over and over, that they'd always have a place at Miami Metro.
All of them remained inert. They were just there to hear bad news and react to it. In the end, it felt like Dexter had too little story for too many episodes, whereas Breaking Bad's final eight doesn't have a wasted moment.
Breaking Bad used the players it already had to expert effect. Suddenly, even characters who had been innocently marginalized at one time or another (Marie, Flynn, etc) were brought fully into the mix and given their moments to shine. No one was spared the consequences of Walter's actions. Hell, not even Holly.
Breaking Bad didn't introduce a new DEA agent to take down Walt, or a new therapist to help repair Walter and Skyler's shattered relationship. Jesse didn't get a new love interest and Hank didn't get a new partner. The stage had already been set for us. The story was already there. In fact, even more of Walter's past sins came to light as Jesse discovered the truth about Brock and Walter, out of spite, told Jesse about Jane. Truth be told, this was also an element that made me enjoy Dexter Season 7 compared to Season 8 - the way past threads came back to haunt the characters and inform the story.
Not only did Dexter's Season 8 hand us a bunch of new characters to watch while it did next to nothing with most of the ones it already had, there was just a sour déjà vu-ness to it all. The Brain Surgeon was basically Ice Truck Killer 2.0. A psycho posing as a loved one/boyfriend so he can get close to Dexter's world while also leaving gruesome trinkets for a family member who doesn't know he exists in order to get her attention. Unfortunately too, this clandestine move also meant that they had to cast a bland unknown in the role. A guy who the internet mocked, even before being revealed as the Brain Surgeon, for seeming to come from some sort of Rent-A-Ryan Gosling store.
Oh, and throw in a bit of Trinity too since the Surgeon even walked right into Miami Metro and confronted Dexter, just like Arthur Mitchell did. Except this time Dexter just, you know, let him leave and didn't think to follow. On top of this, we got more of the same old "Dexter trying to get to the killer before the cops do" stuff that the series had been doing for years and years. First with the Surgeon, then with Zach Hamilton, then with the (real) Surgeon.
Meanwhile, nothing about Breaking Bad's final episodes felt like a retread. It was all traumatically new territory - scarring us forever in the process. Each scenario was devastatingly fresh and fiendish, taking each of the characters to perilous places they could never return from.
The villains Walt's now facing (even as he himself has become a villain) are nothing like his opponents of the past. No one's poised and precise like Gus. Or gruff like Mike. Or crazy like Tuco. Jack and the Neo-Nazis are cruel criminals, but they don't lack reason. In fact, one of the most interesting elements of the show is how much their "white supremacist" nature is downplayed. On any other show, it's almost a given that we'd get nutty speeches about white power thrown into their rhetoric. But Breaking Bad, unlike Dexter, doesn't feel the need to do that kind of hand holding.
Source : ign[dot]com