I have a tendency to DVR a lot of shows, especially running series like Game of Thrones and Dexter. I am actually a couple of seasons behind on Thrones, but I finished Dexter. I was disappointed, not just with the final episode, but with the entire season. Truth be known, Dexter probably went at least two seasons past its prime. So here goes, and if you have not yet watched Dexter's final season yet, you might want to skip this as I will probably give more than a few spoilers about both show and books so beware.
There be Spoilers Here!
As I remarked awhile back when reviewing House as a series, all adaptations suffer when they leave the premise. House, I pointed out, started out as a medical version of Sherlock Holmes, but when the series left the character premise in later seasons, the show began to lose its edge. The same is true with Dexter. I know that maybe, if I had not read the books, I might feel differently, but I know folks who have only viewed the series, and they too were not happy with the last couple of seasons. While the series strayed from the books, it also strayed a long ways from the originally established character. Realistic characters grow and change, but Dexter is not such a character. For that matter, none of the characters in the series is of that nature. Therein lies one of the problems. Maybe we recall when Dexter was the angel of death, but the show's writers must have forgotten that idea.
Anytime the script leaves the established nature of a two dimensional character, they have violated the verisimilitude (truth) of the writing. I remarked on another site that on one of the shows I watch that one of the central characters had violated her nature and received a reply that what had happened was more realistic. While there maybe truth in the response, it is not true to the series. Deb killing LaGuerta, Dexter becoming attached to another serial killer and slowly becoming "human," Dexter's odd visits by his father which started as backstory and then became Dexter's conscience, and even Masuka suddenly becoming a loveable father all left the established premise.
Next was the final season, itself. It lacked cohesion. We are suddenly introduced to a magical psychologist who actually came up with Harry's law, had a serial killer son of her own, was counseling the would-be next Dexter, and helping Dexter with his love life. It didn't stretch the credibility of the series, it shattered it. Not only did we seemingly have a convention of serial killers, we had the serial killing family, a drunken, drug addled sister and a boat load of plotlines that had ZERO to do with the series. I really don't care about Masuka's Daughter, Angel's restaurant, Quinn's love affair with Angel's sister who is also Dexter's nanny, while Quinn is actually still in love with Deb. Next is the love affair of Dexter and Hannah. It caused a loss of focus on the seventh season and was one more unnecessary plotline in the eighth. With Hannah's reappearance, there was the feeling of "oh yeah, the writers still need to do something with that whole worthless plotline from the seventh season. Let's make Dexter suddenly more human and then keep him from having his happy ending." Next was the "let's throw in a plotline where Deb works for a private investigator, is a drunken mess, sleeps with criminals, and then is killed off for no other reason than series is ending, and we have to kill off at least one major character." Soap opera much?
The plotline with Colin Hanks could have been one of the great ones. Deb's discovery of Dexter, the killer, could have been the perfect plotline to have even possibly driven the series into possibly more seasons, but instead, the seventh season becomes less about what Dexter does, and more about leaving what was a great premise. A show that establishes itself as a series about catching and killing serial killers while avoiding all the complications of dealing with high profile killers, then that show needs to stick to that premise. Leaving that premise is something we've seen again and again, and it almost always spells disaster. It happens when a detective show establishes that it will solve one crime an episode suddenly becomes a continuous plot about catching the same killer. Ratings and viewers drop and the show has been "improved" to death and yet Hollywood seems to never learn. Leaving premise is killing shows like Bones, The Mentalist, and even Castle. Staying on target is why NCIS has lasted. Everyone knows going in what to expect. Each week, the team of NCIS will solve one case, at some point a minor plot point or two will be inserted that will grow into a longer plot line that will lead to the last two episodes of the season and the cliffhanger that will lead into the next season. Characters are established, changed out as needed but the premise remains the same. Gibbs is always Gibbs. Unfortunately, Dexter was not always Dexter. He went from avenging serial killer to angst ridden "teen boy" with family issues. It killed the series and created for a very poor final season.
Dexter giving up everything and killing off Deb for no reason and then having Dexter appear as a lumberjack was not humorous, dark or in keeping with the premise. It was just dumb. I would have been better if they had just let Dexter ride off into the storm. It would have been inconclusive, but at least, better than making Dear Deadly Dexter into a Monty Python song or a song and dance man.