Civil Discourse Now

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"Dexter": Season finale shaped into mediocrity? QUASI-SPOILER ALERT.

   Serial killers fascinate the American public. "Silence of the Lambs" is only one example of a work from Hollywood, or whatever geographical location one uses to describe film/TV, that glorifies serial killers. Fascination does not equate with cheerleading, but some parts of that fascination overlap. Jack the Ripper might have been the first serial killer to gain notoriety. More recently, when Ted Bundy was tried, he had groupies who sat in court each day and hung on his every word and watched as he waged, an ultimately losing, battle against murder charges in death row, his legal documents carried to court in a Stroh's beer box. (I doubt a change of the name of the brand of beer on his makeshift briefcase would have altered the outcome at his trial.) There have been quite a few serial killers in entertainment and the real world. As to the latter, BTK in Kansas City, Green River in the Northwest, Richard Ramirez a/k/a "Night Stalker" in LA in the past couple of decades. Some would argue the first serial killer did his work in China roughly in the year 144 B.C.E. I could go on with more names, but one need only Google(r) "serial killers" and there are several websites with charts, names, and numbers.

   "Serial killer" is defined, by the FBI, as a person who kills three or more people over a period of more than one month with intervening periods between each murder to "cool down." This would distinguish such a killer from a mass murderer who kills a lot of people in a single episode of violence. A serial killer would seem to be more contemplative and deliberate. One number I have heard repeated has been that, at any one time, 50 serial killers are at large and at work in the United States. When one compares that number with the number of individuals in custody awaiting trial or other disposition of cases, an inference can be drawn that a lot of those people have murdered, and will continue to do so.

   Then seven years ago a TV series appeared on what we used to refer to as "cable." "Dexter" featured, as the main character from who the title was derived, a serial killer. Dexter was protagonist in the series. That was quite a switch on the whole serial killer story. Sure, Mark Harmon played an engaging and charming Ted Bundy, and Anthony Hopkins was a believable Hannibal Lecter, but most audience members did not root them on. Dexter killed other serial killers. In the first couple of seasons, he hit a "block" and could not kill. Some members of the audience hoped he could overcome the block and get another killer. Michael C. Hall played the role well. His day job is as a blood spatter analyst for Miami Metro PD. At night, and in whatever other spare time he has, he hunts down other serial killers. Some of the forensics in the series were questionable. After several seasons, the implausibility of his working for the police and simultaneously being the person who actually killed the people inside the silhouette lines on the floors at crime scenes grew. Still, there was drama and one could enjoy his interplay with other characters, primarily his sister Deb.

   Last Sunday was the season finale of the last season of "Dexter." QUASI-SPOILER ALERT. I will not go into specifics of the last episode. That is why I say this is a "quasi" spoiler alert.

   Quite a few reviewers cut the finale apart and said viewers deserved more. I am trying not to give away too much, but I still have to make a point. Dexter does not ride away, happily, into the sunset. Before I address that, let me point out that there were a couple of pretty bad takes on realities of law enforcement and law in the last episode. I don't see how a person who takes gunshot reside (not used anymore, really) would be allowed into a cell with a person under the circumstances given near the end of the show.

   Anyway, Dexter does not have a happy ending. Only one thing need have been done to achieve that. But I do not think the suits that run Showtime (or HBO or whatever the cable channel is that produced "Dexter") could be allowed to feature a serial killer who has a happy ending to his spree. I have no documentation to support this conclusion. I would point out that for seven full seasons and nearly the entire part of an eighth, we were treated to Dexter's journey through life with his "dark passenger," the supposed alter-ego that drove him to kill the likes of Jimmy Smits and John Lithgow. Dexter was bummed out, but there always was hope he would pick up again when he could kill his next prey. Then we are given this last episode.

   The series already had glorified serial killers, so long as they take the form of Dexter, a person who killed those people who fell through the proverbial cracks in the system. He was an ultimate form of vigilante. He killed---in a state, by the way, that is one of the most prolific in its use of capital punishment---those who deserved (in the judgment of the audience shaped by the screenwriters) who deserved to die. The last episode sits in contrast to the other season finales, particularly #6 in which Deb catches Dexter in the act and realizes he is the serial killer she has hunted over the course of the series to that point.

   If the suits wanted to end the series in such a way as to take a high moral ground, I think the effort only served to make an otherwise interesting series go out on a blase note, much like Martin Luther who, it could be argued, started The Reformation but then, when the people rose up against the princes, whipped up by what he had begun, sided with those same Princes. 

   If evil is glorified in a series, I say ride that evil for all it is worth. The suits should not get cold feet. The should put their tasseled loafers (there's a blast from the past, but I do not have the names of any expensive shoes readily at hand) back onto their feet and re-write then re-shoot the last episode. If evil is to be glorified, the do so. The American public already have seen evil glorified and forgiven, after the last couple of decades of unnecessary wars carried on through the administrations of at least two presidents (one of whom received votes because he opposed war).

   In a somewhat-related note, it would appear the New York Yankees will not play in the post-season. Someone has driven a wooden stake into the heart of that Beast, at least for now.

     individual wd  

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