Showtime’s “Dexter,” was one of the first dark shows I ever saw that wasn’t animated, and suffice to say initially and for a while it impressed me. As the seasons progressed though major problems that the writers had began to float to the surface…for one most of the folks of color were comedic relief and unable to do anything of value in relation to the leads (Dexter and his sister Debra), the fact that most character relationships were not fully realized and that Dexter was a Mary Sue/Gary Stu, a perfect character according the writers who never had to face accountability for his actions.
Before I get into the details and examples, I have no plan to re-watch “Dexter,” so this will be a reflection from memory. The premise always struck me as intriguing. The show is about a serial killer killing bad people and following a code while dealing with the themes of can he never not be a monster. Sadly, this was never fully explored or realized.
Unlike “Breaking Bad,” and other quality shows where I have an interest and plan to watch again regardless of requests…”Dexter” is only a show where I would review individual episodes and seasons with fresh eyes if enough requested it. I have no desire to watch a show that ended up only being “Okay,” when it could have been great. Hell, it isn’t even terrible enough to review as “HERE ARE ALL THINGS NOT TO DO.” It was missed potential on a much larger scale than “Godzilla 2014.”
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD
How people of color were handled: The first time we see people of color on Dexter and their roles in relationship to him are either in comedic or antagonistic roles, and if their arcs don’t go anywhere they are killed off. The comedic roles are seen in the perverted Asian American character Vince Masuka who flirts and hits on everyone and in Angel Batista, who sometimes has more depth but more often than not is a sweet, funny, well intentioned idiot. Dexter nearly reveals his hand a few times to him, but he is by far the easiest character for Dexter to use.
The antagonist people of color are seen in LaGuerta who is presented as blindly ambitious and whose love for the other antagonist Doakes (who is killed by one of Dexter’s lovers) motivates her to try to bring down Dexter…which never goes anywhere, she is eventually placated by Thomas Matthews, a friend of Dexter’s father and Dexter who also happens to be like every other protagonist on the show. There are also a few serial killers as well such as Miguel, Santos and George King. None of them are fully explored except Miguel who has a connection to LaGuerta. In the end they all die or are neutralized by Dexter…he also doesn’t build any real friendships with them since none of them truly knows he is the “Bay Harbor Butcher.” Some like Doakes are literally just anger directed at Dexter but we never get to know what is behind his anger, so he just becomes the “Angry Black Man,” trope. These writers did not know how to write people of color.
Dropped plot and character arcs: So many character arcs were dropped and didn’t go anywhere. LaGuerta trying to bring down Dexter went nowhere…and her love for Doakes was never fully realized, Vogel the Criminal profiler becoming a mother to Dexter and others like him went nowhere and was simply dropped with them killing her off, Zach being his protege was useless and he got killed off and most of the love stories were that way too. The only one that went somewhere was Dexter and Debra’s relationship and Dexter and Debra and Dexter and Hannah…these relationships actually got mostly fleshed out…sadly the writers didn’t account for the world the characters were in or the fact that they created a Mary Sue/Gary Stu.
Mary Sue/Gary Stu – A Mary Sue or Gary Stu is a perfect male or female character who faces no consequences…everything they do is correct, regardless of what it does to other people. You usually find this trope in the emotionless protagonist in most Shonin animes or most American Action movies (think Emmerich or Michael Bay). It is weak storytelling and it shows that the writers don’t know how to write a real and interesting protagonist. The reason Dexter is a Gary Stu is because he faces no consequences. He is never held accountable, I kept waiting for the police force to find out and for there to be a trial or him having to face the fact that he’d gone against the system that provided him work and who he represented…but they never did. Oh yeah, his sister Debra dies, big woop. He just kills another person and fakes his own death. Yep, that is what happens. He leaves his son, partner and Miami Metro behind and it is seen as a good thing because he is, “A monster who only does harm.” He is still implied to be good though. The last shot we have of him is him up in the mountains, no doubt he is killing bad people there too. He never stops being the good guy. They could have had the trial in season 5 and still do the relationship arc they do with Debra with her coming to accept him. He admits he “Killed his wife,” at the end of Season 4 (the best season that had everything good about Dexter, interesting killer (Trinity) and deals with the consequences of Dexter’s life since Trinity kills his wife while Dexter realized what he did was what put her at risk and that the nature of who he was, was dangerous). He was the savior multiple times, mostly for his sister but that was also a consistent trope within his untouchability.
I really enjoyed the first four seasons of Dexter, even though season 2 had some problems and 3 was a weak season…4 was like the relationship between Dexter and his brother in Season 1 and dealt with what morality and dilemmas were in the show. After that the writers opted for safety and having a “Serial Killer of the Season” which was pretty much a “Monster of the Week,” on a larger scale. Easy outs were taken for making characters not see the shadow serving with them in Dexter and whenever they did, plot armor protected Dexter, the beloved Gary Stu. A trial ending in the death of Dexter could have made this show a masterpiece. It could have been a classic show like “Breaking Bad,” with Dexter a lesser Walter White…but that was not how it goes. The show chose to be safe with poor storytelling rather than a risk taking show with arcs and consequences. In a way, I guess that is the tragedy of Dexter Morgan…the tragedy of “Dexter,” the show that could have been great.
Because of these reasons I would give the show a 6 / 10.