Given the myriad of crucial flaws plaguing the final season of Dexter, it’s been difficult to pick the superlative among them. But “Goodbye, Miami” solved that problem, making abundantly clear why Dexter missed its opportunity to close strong by such a wide margin. The issue is a complete absence of sensible, or even identifiable character motivations for the actions that are most central to the plot.
In a comment I appended to my review of “Make Your Own Kind Of Music,” I noted the same issue. Reasons for Dexter to care about killing Oliver Saxon, when he clearly has bigger priorities now, sprayed like drops of blood in one of the show’s messier crime scenes. Dexter has to kill Saxon because he’s a killer and killers kill people. No, wait. Dexter has to kill Saxon because Saxon poses a threat to Vogel. Oh, but also Dexter has to kill Saxon because Saxon kills innocent people, and no one is allowed to do that except for Dexter and Debra Morgan. Hold up though, because Saxon also killed Zach Harrison, which according to Hannah and nothing else we’ve seen or heard, was very upsetting to Dexter because he and Zach were very close.
In that episode, the inscrutability of Dexter’s motivations wasn’t quite so conspicuous as so many other ridiculous moments pulled focus from it. But now it’s impossible to ignore, so much so that even the Dexter writing team couldn’t completely overlook the glaring deficiencies here. Because at this point, Dexter is pretty much home free. He’s gotten away with murder literally hundreds of times, he’s reconnected with his sister, the love of his life has drifted back in and is ready to start a new life with him far, far away in a new sandbox, one he hasn’t buried turds in. But it’s not time yet, he insists to a baffled Hannah, who doesn’t understand the point of waiting when she’s being actively pursued by law enforcement.
Why? Because again, Dexter just has to kill Saxon first. Not to avenge Zach anymore, because whatever. Because it’s a compulsion of his, and because Saxon poses a threat to Vogel. Hannah is confused at first, but she wants a fresh start when they get to Argentina, so, being the supportive serial-killing girlfriend she is, she backs his play. But there’s no discussion of what “fresh start” means, exactly. Is the idea that Saxon is Dexter’s “one final score,” the homicide equivalent of the big bank job in a heist story? Is Dexter going to stop killing once they arrive in Argentina? How would he deal with his compulsion once they arrive? There’s no discussion of any of this, just a brief flick at Hannah questioning Dexter’s thought process before concluding, as everyone in this show does, that Dexter’s ways are not like our own, and his wisdom must never be questioned.
One would think, though, that at the very least, Vogel would be able to dissuade Dexter from staying in Miami any longer than he needs to. After all, Saxon is her son, and shouldn’t she have the right to proceed with him as she sees fit? Does she not have the right to allow someone into her life because she loves him, even though he might bring chaos raining down on her? Isn’t that exactly what Dexter has tacitly asked of everyone around him time after time after time? When Vogel implores Dexter not to use her as an excuse to kill her son, it’s a perfectly legitimate request, given the circumstances. Saxon hasn’t once demonstrated a desire to hurt Vogel, and if he wanted her dead, he could have certainly accomplished that by now.
Still, Dexter can’t be talked out of it, especially after seeing video of a gleeful Saxon cutting Zach’s head open. (Footage he obtained using the Magical IP Address Computer Hack Software, new from the genius minds that created the Age Progress-O-Matic Suite.) It would be downright selfish to leave Vogel with Saxon, Dexter concludes, because she’s in danger. Granted, his response to Debra when she accused him of selfishness after he informed her of the Argentina plan was basically “Oh…well…yeah…I’ll come visit though!”
And Debra’s safety has never been mentioned as a potential reason for killing Saxon, even though, as another Morgan child that got sympathy and counseling that Saxon feels was unfairly withheld from him, it stands to reason that Saxon poses a far greater risk to Deb’s safety than Vogel’s. With an absence of remotely logical reasons why Dexter wouldn’t be on the first thing smoking out of Miami, the writers are tossing handfuls of spaghetti at the wall hoping something, anything sticks.
When all else fails, it’s time to trot out Ghost Harry to urge Dexter that killing Saxon before leaving Miami is the only possible option. This is the choice that frustrated me about this episode most of all, I’d say, because it’s just insulting. To suggest that Dexter is doing what he feels like doing, and who gives a damn what sense it makes and who might get hurt in the process, that’s not okay either, but it’s what Dexter has been doing since its inception, so it’s at least expected. But to have Ghost Harry so deeply invested in Dexter dealing with Saxon before leaving Miami completes the process of making Ghost Harry make absolutely no sense whatsoever, a process I incorrectly thought was finished a couple seasons back.
At this point, Ghost Harry has no connection to the thoughts or feelings of any real or imagined person on the show. He’s certainly not a manifestation of the actual Harry, or of the Dark Passenger, or of Dexter’s conscious, or Dexter’s id, or…anything at all really. He’s a prop to trot out when the writers need another way to beat the audience over the head with the nonsense they’re trying to pass off as competent storytelling. It’s really too bad.
Then, after an hour of puttering around in which Dexter gives his notice to a not-terribly-beat-up Batista, Quinn dumps Jamie, and Harrison slices his face open, the episode culminates with Dexter rushing to save Vogel from Saxon but arriving moments too late, and being forced to watch as Saxon gives her the ol’ Catelynn Stark. Because this show is so, so, so goddamn stupid, I can only assume that what happens next is that Dexter really has to capture Saxon, because he blames himself for Vogel’s death. He should absolutely blame himself for Vogel’s death, but this show will never be honest about why he should blame himself.
I just know Dexter will be all “I was torn between two worlds, the manic pixie dream serial killer that represents my future, and the pretend mother that represents my past, and my hesitation in vanquishing Saxon resulted in her death.” Here’s the problem with that: Saxon, who again, never posed a direct threat to Vogel, said again and again that what he wanted from Vogel was to be chosen. To be helped and rehabilitated like Dexter, like Debra, like Zach. To be made into a biological child she could love as much as she loves her spiritual children.
There’s absolutely no reason to believe Vogel couldn’t have succeeded at doing so, had she been given the opportunity to try. But because Dexter must always get what he wants, the writers will keep trying to convince us that Dexter needed to stay in Miami to protect Vogel, when in fact, the only thing endangering Vogel was Dexter’s outright refusal to stop insinuating himself between Vogel and Saxon. Saxon being on the loose wasn’t a reason for Dexter to stay, it was all the more reason for him to leave. Yet another conspicuous hole that will never be paved over in this disaster of a season.
The only thing that got a plus hung onto this grade is the interplay between Charlotte Rampling and Darri Ingolfsson, as their duets provided the only few moments of respite in what was otherwise a torrential downpour of stupidity. Despite all of the nonsense going on with the Dexter part of Dexter, there’s some credibility and some tragedy to Oliver/Daniel, and Ingolfsson’s performance, while a bit hammy at times, sold the idea of the character quite well. When he’s paired with Rampling, the only defensible part of this season, it was easy to forget, in flickers, that I was watching the show I was watching. Alas, there was always something there to remind me.
- Miami Metro roundup: Angie Miller sighting! Masuka’s daughter is a pothead! Quinn and Deb are a thing again! I should stop using exclamation points sarcastically, it isn’t fair to punctuation.
- Clayton is closing in on Hannah, thanks to Harrison’s ER visit.
- I’m convinced the Hamilton Family is paying Matthews, or they have a videotape of him doing something that involves a ball gag, because it seems like his only job is doing favors for them.
- The editing in the Harrison Gets Hurt scene made me laugh so hard I had to rewind it like seven times.
- Dexter listed “See Astor and Cody one last time” in his list of things to do before he leaves Miami. Dude, just ghost. Leave poor Astor and Cody alone, for Christ’s sake.
- Funny nonsense from Deb while talking to Clayton: “I don’t keep up with Dexter’s dating life.” …17 seconds later, “If Dexter was dating Hannah McKay again, I’d fuckin’ know about it.”
- For those who were absolutely beside themselves about the episode numbering, the issue has been fixed.