As the last season was announced the series would move toward one of these two goals: the happy end or the death of Dexter. Dexter being exposed was another strong possibility. Yet the writers chose none of the above. While they defied expectations, that may not have been for the best. If there was one continuous thread to the previous seasons, it was the ongoing humanization of Dexter. Certainly this comes up as this season offered what Dexter never had: a mother. Enter: Dr. Vogel, the psychiatrist which developed Harry’s code, who therefore serves as a surrogate mother. Except she’s everything but maternal, even encouraging Dexter’s murderous nature.
Meanwhile, Debra has left the police force and works as a private investigator. Her relationship with Dexter is strained, although Dexter refuses to give up on her as if she was his anchor to his humanity.
The return of Hannah MacKay makes it possible that Dexter will have a family. Even Captain Matthews seems to serve as a replacement father as he keeps reminding Dexter about Harry. And then Zach Hamilton is a surrogate son, a serial killer to whom Dexter teacher Harry’s code.
The family angle is paralleled with the supporting cast. Quinn is getting out with Jamie and starts thinking about getting a better situation. Masuka finds out he has a daughter and wonders if he can be a dad. A number of spectators have wondered what was the point of Masuka’s daughter? I’ll offer this: After a long list of Dexter doubles, one can forget that Masuka early on was described by Dexter as another man pretending to be normal. Could he overcome his sex obsession and become a family man? He does and this gives hope for Dexter himself. But Quinn doesn’t come through as he fails getting the promotion and then fails being fair to Jamie after she moved in with him.
Dr. Vogel points out that Dexter isn’t a perfect psychopath because of his feelings. In her view he can’t have empathy and says as much until she begins to revise her judgment. However this may blind her to the danger of her own murderous son and costs her her life as it had cost her charge Zach Hamilton his.
Still Dexter lets their murderer go as his happiness with Hannah allegedly freed him of his killing instinct. This proves a dire mistake and costs Debra her life. The lesson doesn’t escape Dexter: he causes the death of all those who are close to him.
After so many promises of family, Dexter loses it all: Dr. Vogel, his son, his fiancée, his sister, even the ghost of his father, his job and the relationships he had there.
The scenes where Dexter shuts Debra from life support in the hospital, takes her body to his boat and dumps her body at sea are the more resonant. They remind us of his first kill, the nurse, and of his other disposals. But the final scene, where he’s seen to have survived the storm and working for a lumber company, lacks any such resonance. In the main, the ideas for this season weren’t bad but their execution was ultimately unsatisfying.