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Dexter – Season 8 – The Brain Surgeon

The Showtime series Dexter has been on my list of talked about shows to binge watch for a while now and I was finally able to get it checked off. Instead of going through the entire show as a whole, I’ll do a little bit of a breakdown by season. Obviously, SPOILERS.

Before I get into what happened in this season, I feel like I have to address some things first. The first thing is that this is the final season and there’s a big wind down in the story throughout the entire season. The other thing to know is that this season had an altered production schedule. It basically went into production right after season 7 instead of taking the normal break and planning time in between seasons. As a result, it is apparent that there’s some issues as far as creating a separate story line for this season. Is this season as good as previous seasons? No. Is it still better than most of the things on TV? Absolutely.

The final season of Dexter wrapped up the story of Dexter’s creation as well as bringing his search for humanity full circle. It’s been six months since LaGuerta was killed. Deb left the police force to go to work as a PI. She’s basically falling apart at the seams and not even Dexter seems to be able to comfort her, but not for a lack of trying. Deb’s behavior has become really self destructive. She’s sleeping with one of her targets and trying to medicate herself numb. At one point she even gets arrested for drunk driving after slamming her car into a parking meter. Along with Deb’s problems, Dexter’s also met with an unexpected surprise: Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling). Vogel is in town under the guise that she’s helping the department hunt for a killer. After hours, she directly confronts Dexter with drawings he did with a kid. When he pins her to a wall and asks her what she wants she says that he can’t kill her because she doesn’t fit Harry’s code.

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Vogel is a psychologist that specializes in the study of serial killers. She took up the interest after her own son became one and she had him committed to an institution. It turns out that Vogel created the code along with Harry and was actually almost more responsible for it than Harry was. She describes herself as Dexter’s spiritual mother. She shows Dexter (and later Deb) recordings of her sessions with Harry from when Dexter was a kid. We get to see the process of Harry coming to Vogel for help and how he struggled with the idea of what to do with Dexter. It was Vogel who suggested that Dexter could be used if given a code and actually came up with the general structure of it. She did admit that it was Harry who dictated the details and that the most important thing be that Dexter doesn’t get caught. Vogel is in town because there’s a killer who’s been targeting her and she needs Dexter to take him out. This killer, nicknamed the “Brain Surgeon” has been removing parts of his victims brains and sending them to Vogel. The killer is, in fact, Vogel’s estranged son going by the name Oliver Saxon (Darri Ingolfsson). Vogel had believed her son to have been killed in a fire at the institution where she left him but, of course, he escaped. Now he wants his mother to do for him what she did for Dexter, to teach him how to live a normal life while being a killer.

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Before all of this is revealed, Vogel and Dexter get to know each other. Miami Metro is hunting for the brain surgeon as well as working some other cases. That work brings Dexter and Vogel into contact with a young man named Zach Hamilton. Both of them recognize Zach as a serial killer in the making. He killed his father’s mistress because he believed the affair was killing his mother. Vogel suggests that Dexter teach Harry the code. Dexter is resistant to the idea and actually plans to kill Zach and gets him as far as his kill room. However, given that he’s found his spiritual mother, he starts to warm up to the idea of imparting Harry’s code to a spiritual son. He starts to try to teach Zach restraint but becomes worried that he wasn’t able to control himself and killed Dexter’s neighbor. In reality it was Saxon that killed the neighbor (who he was also dating). Dexter was also unsure of what Zach was up to because he was distracted by the return of Hannah McKay.

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Hannah randomly reappeared at Deb’s house and poisoned Dexter and Deb. Dexter saw Hannah before he passed out and woke up in an industrial park alone. Neither one of them knows what happened or why Hannah returned, but Deb makes it clear that she doesn’t wanna deal with that on top of everything else. Hannah was also seeking Dexter’s help. After her escape from prison, she’d gotten involved with a guy and ended up marrying him. To Dexter’s relief, she wants out of the relationship but doesn’t think he’ll let her go without exposing her or worse. She had kidnapped Dexter to have him kill her husband but then reconsidered. Dexter decides that he’s going to help Hannah anyway but, it turns out, he doesn’t need to. Hannah ends up killing her husband when he gets jealous of her talking to Dexter and tries to imprison her on his boat. Dexter arrives at the scene to find Hannah covered in her husband’s (well, now ex-husband’s) blood. He agrees to help her clean up and then work to help her get out of the country.

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For a little while during the season that gives Dexter his own little psycho killer pseudo-family. He’s got a mother, a girl and even a son. As an added bonus, Vogel has been helping Deb come to terms with all the things that were bothering her and actually gets Deb pretty much put back together. This all leads up to a bit of a meandering back end of a season that involves Dexter trying to figure out what he wants more; to be happy with Hannah or to focus on stopping the Brain Surgeon. To make this a little more complicated, there’s also a federal marshal on the hunt for Hannah (after Deb let it out that she was in town). So along with pondering major life decisions, he also has to keep dodging a federal marshal and a PI looking for a bounty. Of course, he manages to do it. He also decides to take Harrison and go to Argentina with Hannah. Deb isn’t thrilled about the decision, but she does want Dexter to be happy and she starts to accept that Dexter and Harrison are happy with Hannah.

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Before he can go, Dexter has to take out the Brain Surgeon, who ends up killing “their mother”. In a great cathartic moment in the show (at least for me), deb is actually the one who helps him knock the killer out before leaving Dexter to deal with him. However, when Dexter gets ready to make the kill, he has second thoughts and realizes that he wants to be with Hannah more than make the kill. It’s actually a similar sentiment to what he expresses to Trinity about Rita before killing him, but this time, he actually acts on that feeling. He calls Deb in so that she can make the arrest and boost her newly restored police career. This is actually the last time we see Harry as he tells Dexter that he no longer needs him now that he has something besides the desire to kill to fill him up. Unfortunately, the marshal sets Saxon free and gets killed for his trouble. Deb tries to kill him, but gets shot for her trouble. She makes it throgh surgery where she and Dexter say their goodbyes as well because Deb is trying to convince him to go.

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Hannah and Harrison make it out of the country and Dexter stays around long enough to see Saxon captured (by Batista of all people). In the aftermath of the arrest Dexter finds out that Deb had a complication from surgery and is now brain dead. He heads back to the station to confront Saxon and ends up killing him by creating a scenario that looks like self defense. Quinn and Batista, still in shock from Deb’s sudden turn pretty much just let him write it off as self defense and walk away. Dexter heads straight to the hospital where he pulls the plug on Deb and carriers her out to his boat. He drops her body into the ocean before driving his boat straight into a hurricane and disappearing, presumed dead by his former colleagues as well as Hannah. The audience gets to see that Dexter is actually living his life in seclusion working as a lumberjack in a remote location. The final scene of the show is a shot of the once again, emotionless Dexter staring back into the camera.

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There were some other minor story lines in the season, like a Quinn / Deb / Jamie triangle and Masuka having a daughter, but those were pretty much completely unimportant. The season was really about completing Dexter’s development. Throughout the series Dexter’s constantly been considering how he fits in to the world and what he should be aspiring to in his life beyond just killing. It started with Rita when he basically began to become “more human” after becoming attached to her and the kids. That story was turned on its head when Rita was lost and, since then, it’s been a lot about Dexter fumbling through his partially developed humanity and the unfamiliar situation of living in two different worlds. Dr. Vogel’s character points that out to him directly and it becomes apparent to him that he has to make a choice. After showing so much promise that Dexter may actually get the happy ending that the season was working toward, he ends up throwing it all away.

Throwing it all away may be too harsh. In the end, he just realizes that he doesn’t want the thing he thought he did. When he has it all (Vogel, Harry, Deb, Harrison, Hannah, even Zach) he leans toward the idea of living a happy life. However, when Deb dies, he’s forced to deal with the other side of becoming more human. Namely, he has to deal with sorrow. The show has always made it clear that Deb was, above all, the most important thing to him. Having her die as a result of being associated with him forces him to take a look at himself through the lens of his newly developed humanity. That version of Dexter is able to look at himself and accept responsibility for the death and destruction that surrounds him. As a result he makes the choice to preserve Hannah and Harrison by removing himself from their lives. I believe that’s why the Dexter at the end seems to have regressed. With those connections gone there would be no reason for him to hold on to his humanity and, furthermore, it may have been too painful for him to hold on to it. It’s not a happy ending to the show, but it’s also not as sad as it could be. I can’t say that I love the ending from an emotional standpoint but, from an intellectual standpoint, I definitely appreciate it.

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