Directed By Steve Shill
What’s the best way to wrap up a big long story? Do you concentrate on the characters, ensuring that their journeys come to an end in a satisfying manner? Is it a matter of destroying the world you have set up to justify the use of such a clinical term as ‘the end’? Or is it a case of doing both, throwing every last inspired thought and radical idea into the pot for one final thrill ride both visceral and emotional? Well, it really depends on who you ask. And, ideally, if you want to have the options presented, you should probably have something left in the creative vault before the plug is pulled. With two episodes left, and the show’s past sticking to the formula of season finales tend being unofficial two-parters, Dexter has set up for the endgame on yet another dud note horribly lacking in innovation, imagination or even basic common sense.
Dexter is all set for his dream move, forcefully relocating his young son in order to move to a non-English speaking country in a completely different cultural climate so as to start a new life with Hannah. But he still wants to kill Oliver Saxton, AKA Daniel Vogel, AKA The Brain Surgeon, so intends to wrap him up before he makes the big move, along with the equally messy business of informing Debra and the department. These already troublesome events are made harder by the unbridled stupidity of characters circling the drain and resorting to tired contrivance in order to set up for an illogical final show down, one that despite the chaotic and unfocussed narrative is far from unpredictable.
At the very least, there is some sense that this is actually the end, something which wasn’t on the agenda outside of marketing in previous weeks, and this stretches beyond the ultimately anti-climactic Dexter/Hannah/Harrison moving away from Miami angle. Debra is on her way back to Miami Metro in a bizarrely decent frame of mind, something which as suggested previously means rekindling a spark with Quinn, guiltily trying to get out his relationship with Jaime. Dexter informing Batista of his decision to up sticks results in a bromantically emotional exchange is very much a ‘moving on’ piece that suits the tone of final days. A consistently repeated phrase is “starting a new life”, which means ending this one, i.e. the show.
This is an overwhelming problem, one of many, that makes ‘Goodbye Miami’ such an infuriating experience; the idea that the show will end with Dexter simply making a lifestyle change. Were that logic sound, the show should logically have ended after Rita was murdered at the end of Season Four. With each tedious, irritating and poorly conceived moment that passes, this seems like the right call that was never made. The simple fact is, the show is called ‘Dexter’ for a reason. It is about Dexter, about a man is driven to kill and surrounding his efforts to harness that need in accordance with a code that will maintain his life. His moving is not that big a deal, on the face of it, as Miami just happens to be the city he lives in and isn’t integral to his story. The idea that simply moving to another country with Hannah will somehow convert him in to a non-killer is insulting even in suggestion; were the show to end on the note that this belief on the protagonist’s part is indeed misguided, it doesn’t change the fact that a destination was chosen which creates no tension and no real drama.
Or at least, it creates no tension or real drama when neither of these elements are present anywhere else. There is simply no momentum to be found within the plot, which follows the lead of such classics as A Little Reflection and Scar Tissue by going nowhere at a very slow speed for long stretches then suddenly making dramatic turns only to return to the aimless wandering. Dexter’s hunt for Saxon is a non-event, for reasons that will be mentioned later, and his interactions with characters follow a non-linear pattern consistent with a scriptwriter with no solid plan on how to proceed. One moment he’s at work, the next he’s playing with Harrison, then he’s looking into Saxon, then he’s meeting at Vogel’s house…all without any sense of time or procedure. The episode moves from scene to scene with no flow or sense of progression. This is perhaps because, yet again, the direction is so lobotomized that it may have well been carried out by A.I. controlling the cameras and sound system. This lifeless quality also hurts the episode by making efforts of more profound nostalgia seem tacked on.
There’s a horribly ironic moment when, for reasons inexplicably indulgent and exploitative, Dexter sets up a kill room at the site of the show’s first kill, the choir master in the pilot Dexter. Harry, who to give the episode some credit some credit actually gets some decent face time, facilitates a conversation that ends with Dexter, in wonder, musing on how far he has come since that memorable execution. The irony is that for any loyal fan, the direction both Dexter the show and Dexter the character have gone in is backwards at speeds physically impossible for most vehicles. The terrifying decay of his character is shown not only by him continuing to make the same mistakes he was punished for in the past, but also in the regression of his abilities as a canny detective. He apparently has no idea how to find a target, Saxon, despite knowing he’s in Miami, knowing the person he is closest to and having the ability not only to hack in to his computer on top of previously acquired personal information. In fact, he shows little enthusiasm or any notable effort when it comes to his quest, one that is important to him in dialogue only.
In truth, Dex has been off his game for a long time now but it’s only in the dull moments that one truly appreciates just how badly. Season Seven, looking more and more like a towering model of television genius by the second, was badly flawed in many places but managed to paper over the cracks with its sizzling direction and breakneck pace. Here, however, the going is so downright boring that one starts to notice all the little niggles and flaws that eat away at your subconscious until finally becoming apparent to you; they are wholly illogical lines, exchanges, events and circumstances which are not only stupid, but unfeasibly stupid. There is so little to be engaged with, you start picking apart details that ordinarily you would be able to let go of or may not even notice.
Some are worse, and funnier, than others. Facing a permanent move to Argentina, Dexter takes a quiet moment at work to do some research on his prospective new home by…using Google Images to look at pictures of Argentina. Rather than perhaps research the financial situation, currency rate, educational system or even look for living accommodation, he is just…looking at pictures of things in Argentina. This is just a silly moment that isn’t important, though. Less amusing is how Vogel suddenly conducts a 180 degree change of opinion on everything she knows and feels, ignoring pre-established character traits, culminating in her blatantly lying to a psychopath about being scared while her shaking hands spill a cup of tea when a woman of her experience should know to rely on a half-truth. Then there’s Hannah taking Harrison to the hospital with no attempt at disguising herself (wear a wig, woman!) and then somehow knowing everything medical about the kid so she can fill out a form at reception. Or how about the absurd suggestion that Jaime has been studying at college despite being a 24 hour super-nanny for Harrison?
Again, these are stupid little details that shouldn’t matter, but are egregious when there isn’t anything to take your mind off them. Less niggly is genuine concern, and even contempt, at other statements which prompt guffaws at best. Harry, trying to convince Dexter to go after Saxon and not worry about Hannah and Harrison, vehemently states that this is the first time Dexter felt like he had something to lose. Wrong! Harry himself (the hallucination at any rate) was present when this very theme was first openly broached, as Dexter lay on the table of The Skinner in the Season Three finale. Dexter was genuinely afraid for the first time as he faced the prospect of dying before having the chance to hold his own child, which was stated almost verbatim by…yep, you guessed it…Harry himself. On top of this, the entire length of Season Five proved that this was the case with Rita, as her loss almost destroyed Dex in a sorrowful and selfless crusade to find redemption. When you have characters blatantly contradicting the show’s history, it makes you wonder whether as a fan you know the show better than the writing team now steering the boat. Another shock ending, one which manages to squeeze in yet more illogical fallacies and sneer-inducing mistakes, cannot save them.
All of this is so much worse than watching a poor episode. It is the moment when you realize that the people writing said installments had no plan, had no vision and are now stuck in a disastrous state of desperation and flailing in the wind, out of their depth and losing more and more with every passing minute. Certainly, they have lost respect, but more importantly they have lost any potential momentum going into the final two episodes. A few weeks ago, all hope seemed lost only for a small stream to emerge in the least likely place. This week, the façade has been exposed as deception and the dream for a fitting ending is truly dead. Move on people. Nothing to see here.