Tuned In

The Morning After: Has Dexter's Game Changed?

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Spoilers for the season finale of Dexter coming up after the jump:

So did you see it coming? I’m generally a guy who never sees anything coming, but this time I kind of did and kind of didn’t.

Part of the issue is that when the makers of Dexter declare in advance that the finale is going to be a “game-changer,” you’re naturally on the lookout for the game-changer. So as I watched the superbly played final scene between Michael C. Hall and John Lithgow, a part of me was thinking: Nope, game not changed yet. (What a scene, though—particularly when you rewatch it knowing that Arthur has already killed Rita.)  As Dexter went off and dumped Arthur’s body from the boat: Game status, still unchanged…

So though I’m not the most intuitive viewer in the world, when Dexter walked into his home full of thoughts about how he was going to devote himself to Rita and his family, it seemed like a pretty clear sign that something awful had happened to Rita or was about to. But for whatever reason I didn’t suspect she would be the final Trinity killing, so I’ll give them that.

On the levels of suspense and performance, this was an excellent finale, with the show operating on a higher level than it has since season 2. But since it came so heavily advertised, it must be asked: was this actually a game-changer, and if so, why?

Honestly, I have no idea. Certainly it was shocking, and terribly sad, to see Dexter walk in on the recreation of his own birth as a serial killer, his baby bathed in Rita’s blood just as he had been on witnessing his own mother’s slaying. The effect has got to be devastating, and has Dexter questioning his efforts to normalize his life.

But does it change Dexter’s game, or the series’ game? If Dexter shuts down emotionally and decides he cannot connect to a family, this brings him back to similar territory to where he was in season 1. If it causes him to decide that following Harry’s Rules has been a failure, that’s game-changing, of course, but would the series ever turn Dexter into a full-out serial killer? Where Dexter the series’ “game” involves Dexter tracking and catching killers, I’m curious whether and how this ending changes it.

In the end, though, I am very curious, which I couldn’t honestly have said about the beginning of this season. So in that sense, I’d say congratulations, Dexter: game changed already.