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Dexter: “This Is The Way The World Ends”

Illustration for article titled Dexter: “This Is The Way The World Ends”
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At every crappy retail job I’ve ever held, and I’ve held many, I’ve been the guy who lingers long after his shift is over. Every minute of the eight-hour stretch is torture and seems like it can’t pass fast enough, but once I’m at the point where I can walk out the door as soon as I get ready to, it doesn’t seem so urgent anymore. I’d hang around and shoot the breeze indefinitely, then drift out when I got hungry. Season six of Dexter has been the interminable retail shift, but I went into “This Is The Way The World Ends” with a positive attitude because I knew quittin’ time was just around the bend. And now that it’s here, I’m not in as much of a rush to bail as I was when it seemed like this season would never be over.

That isn’t to say that I’m going back on my vow to quit Dexter after this horribly misconceived season. Barring, I don’t know, John Malkovich joining the cast as next season’s Big Bad, I can’t imagine making Dexter appointment viewing at any point in the future. But if I was still optimistic about this show’s prospects of winding down to a satisfying conclusion, I’d have been really jazzed by that cliffhanger, which was pretty much the only bright spot in what was otherwise a season six episode of Dexter.

The biggest issue here was pacing. Considering “Talk To The Hand” left our homicidal hero treading water miles away from the Miami shore, there was a lot of ground to cover, and that meant the typically dunderheaded Miami Metro detectives had to suddenly become able to intuit Travis’ plans accurately in a matter of seconds. All season long there has been a dearth of grounded, realistic detective work, but “This Is How The World Ends” was particularly egregious, since it continued with the pattern of the Miami Metro team figuring out Travis’ next move by interpreting some painting, drawing, or clue Travis left behind. This season hasn’t portrayed a lengthy police investigation so much as it has portrayed a lengthy game of high-stakes Pictionary, a game that Travis won in spite of damn near trying to be apprehended.

This time, the discovered drawing indicates somehow that Travis will kill his next victim on the top of a tall building, so Deb scrambles all of her available officers to Miami’s skyscrapers to await Travis, who is planning to strike during a solar eclipse. In an attempt to create some stakes, the writers contrive a way for little Harrison to be Travis’ chosen sacrifice, which didn’t work because it required the writing to yank the characters every which way to pull it off, and because it didn’t succeed at raising the stakes. Maybe the writers are under the impression that killing Rita off at the end of season four cemented Dexter as a show in which anything can happen and anyone can be killed, but of course, they would be wrong. Rita was a character that viewers had grown accustomed to, absolutely, and probably expected to be around indefinitely, but the character was completely out of runway, and killing her off did little to shake things up. Regardless of how one feels about the technique of imperiling a child to force the audience into caring about what’s going on in the story, it didn’t work here because at no point did I feel like Harrison was in any real danger.

In fact, at no point in the episode did I feel like anyone was in any real danger, which is a reflection of the season on the whole. Debra bumped up against LaGuerta uncomfortably, but managed to make it through the season with her lieutenant job intact. Poor, sloppy, brokenhearted Quinn, who seemed marked for death all season, skated away after neutralizing a threat from Batista to transfer him out of homicide by claiming his professional delinquency is on account of his alcohol addiction. Creepy intern Louis, who spent all season being a weirdo and behaving inscrutably, continues as a member of the team, and the prosthetic hand he dropped in the mail still hasn’t been discovered by Dexter. Even Jamie, who was hanging around Dexter’s apartment when Travis showed up, managed to escape unscathed. Killing off a regular in a season finale can feel cheap and manipulative when it isn’t earned, but I was hoping someone besides Travis would meet their end in this episode, because it seems so little of consequence has happened this season.

There wasn’t even an emotional or thematic payoff here, as the faith thread the writers have woven through the season led to not much of anything. When Dexter finally put Travis on his table, the scene that followed had the responsibility of justifying all the time we spent on Brother Sam and Dexter’s religious questioning, and it didn’t land. Part of this is because the scene between Michael C. Hall and John Lithgow in the season four finale was so breathtaking and perfect, and this felt like a pale imitation. Colin Hanks, to his credit, was able to finally start showing some of his potential following “Get Gellar,” but he still lacks the gravitas to convey that he and Michael C. Hall are well-matched as actors, or that Travis and Dexter are well-matched as characters. The scene fell flat, as we saw Dexter stumble over the conclusion it was obvious he would reach from the beginning: Faith is good, unless it’s bad. I should have been relishing that scene, instead, I wanted it to be over as quickly as possible.


The shot of the light going out in Travis’ eyes never came, though, because Dexter is interrupted by Deb who was coming to tell him that she wants to be his sister wife (a misuse of the term, I know, but it made me laugh when I wrote it in my notes). First things first: Kudos to Scott Buck and his team for making a gesture of good faith to the audience that the reset button won’t be hit after every single season, and that there is some understanding that the show isn’t going to be on the air forever. Deb walking in on Dexter with his knife plunged into Travis’ chest is not a moment that will be easy to roll back in season seven (regardless of whether or not Buck stays on as showrunner), and it got a genuine, intentional smile out of me for perhaps the first and only time this season.

That said, I’m not sure I’m in love with how we got to this reveal. Many commenters complained last week that Debra’s realization that her love for Dexter was romantic wasn’t properly set-up and felt out of left field. I disagree then as now—it makes perfect sense to me that Debra wouldn’t think about something like that unless forced to in the way that intense therapy requires. What I do think is hasty and unrealistic is Debra’s decision to confess her feelings to Dexter this soon. I’d imagine that the decision to take the hard left from a sibling relationship into a romantic one is not one a person would rush, particularly when said person also works with and directly supervises the sibling in question. It’s an extremely complex situation, and it doesn’t wash that Deb would run out to tell her brother she wants to get busy with him, as if he would so obviously reciprocate those feelings. What worked for me about the initial reveal of Deb’s feelings was that she was just as gutpunched by it as the audience was, but one episode later, she’s completely internalized it to the point that she’s ready to confess.


Given that the point of all this, ostensibly, is to muddy the waters after Dexter’s pastime is revealed to her, I’m not sure I understand why it was of value to begin with. Dexter is the only source of stability and sanity in Debra’s lonely, tragic life. I’m not sure why her emotional dependence on her brother wasn’t enough of a peg on which to hang the conflict of her finding out that he’s a killer. Actually, I would find it easier to deal with the fact that a sibling was secretly a killer than a romantic interest, and Debra has essentially decided to trade one for the other. It’s hard to judge any of this without seeing how it plays out next season (and who am I kidding, I’ll watch the season seven premiere to get an idea of the course the season is plotting), but after a dismal dozen episodes, Dexter has convinced me that perhaps it’s got a few gasps left in its lungs, and that’s not a minor accomplishment.

Stray observations:

  • When Dexter was stranded in the ocean, I sort of hoped he would get swallowed by a whale. That would have at least been a surreal and hilarious way to explore the faith angle. Though I did find it interesting how cavalierly Dexter killed the crooked immigrant smuggler. That was the kind of moment I thought we’d see from Dexter in “Nebraska,” and the gravity of it was glossed over completely.
  • “I can’t stay here much longer if you’re gonna stink like that.” If ever a single line of dialogue encapsulated my feelings on an entire season of television, this one did.
  • Many ridiculous moments here, of course, but none more so than Dexter being able to smash in a wall inside the scene of a double-homicide before anyone saw the Lake of Fire fresco.
  • Masuka does a mean Yoda.
  • Deb’s initial come-on to Dexter: “I don’t know, you almost died. I didn’t know if you needed to… unload, or whatever.” Ha!
  • “Is that my shirt?”
  • That’s all folks, thanks for reading and commenting.