We take an extensive look at Dexter’s character evolution in the seven aired seasons. How really has Dexter changed? And, what might be coming to our screens in season 8?
Season 1 – Existence
In the beginning Dexter followed Harry’s code to the word and never really gave any attention to his own personal feelings. Dexter never particularly expressed any desire to change and accepted the way he is will never change. His brother, Brian, represented the exact opposite of Harry’s code. Brian was a complete free spirit and lived by one rule, and that was there are no rules. Season 1 ended with Dexter’s strict adherence to Harry’s teachings ending up costing him his brother, and almost his sister Debra, too.
Season 2 – Possession
The beginning of the change. The second season introduced Lila, who represented the importance of dependence as she seduced Dexter making him connect far more with his inner self and begin to understand his own feelings. Dexter struggled with this when he had to make his toughest decision yet regarding Doakes.
When Dexter killed Doakes, this was either give in to his greatest weakness – the need to kill – or set Doakes free and ultimately risk revealing every secret Dexter had kept within. Doakes brought up suicide, and even planted emotions of regret and shame in Dexter’s mind, causing him to consider turning himself in. This again links strongly back to possession, forcing Dexter to make a decision which ultimately leads into the theme for season 3.
Season 3 – Trust
This mostly goes hand-in-hand with friendship, but it extends beyond that somewhat. There were parallels drawn between Dexter’s relationships with Miguel and Rita. Friendship and marriage are ultimately built on similar foundations of trust.
Miguel was the first person Dexter had let the door slightly open to, aside from Harry. Miguel was also Dexter’s first true friend and learnt of the life Dexter had hidden for years. He ultimately was the one character who Dexter thought he could share his inner feelings with, but it wasn’t to be. Dexter’s understanding of trust saw the stark contrasts of both ends, having been able to share his own inner-self, but also knowing that what Dexter revealed ran a very high risk of losing the life he longed for. Dexter learnt of the responsibility trust demands.
Season 4 – Responsibility
With family comes the great demand of responsibility and priority. Dexter eventually learned the hard way that you can’t just make careless appearances and not expect things that will eventually degrade. Dexter’s lack of responsibility became the sole reason for Rita’s death. Dexter needed a wake-up call of what was important in his life other than satisfying his need for killing his victims. Rita paid the ultimate price, and his relationship with Astor and Cody, with whom he’d been a pivotal figure in their development as young children. Trinity brought Dexter firmly back to the ground leaving him upturned and utterly confused. Dexter’s next mission was to learn about selflessness.
Season 5 – Selflessness
This season continued from season 4 in an undetected manner as Dexter was dealing with guilt over his brief and neglectful marriage. The things Dexter did for Lumen were essentially acts of contrition. Dexter knew his failed marriage was his fault and regretted it hugely, and looked for someone who needed to be looked after, to be fixed per se. Lumen was the gem he discovered and attempted to uncover. Lumen was an individual who was hellbent on confronting her demons and selflessly took on her own darkness, showing that faith was a strong tool that Dexter had ignored for some time. Dexter tried desperately to misdirect Lumen’s desires but in the end realised that selflessness is an important lesson to learn.
Dexter may have hunted these same eventual victims for the crimes that they committed, had he not met Lumen, but in the end Dexter understood that Lumen needed to deal with her own problems. Her “Dark Passenger” could only be conquered by her own inner strength. This was something Dexter had not quite attempted to do before meeting Lumen. Jordan Chase was the man who tormented her “Dark Passenger” and paid the eventual price when Lumen disposed of his life.
Season 6 – Faith
Dexter never really attempts to engage with his “Dark Passenger” but he gains a respect for the concept of faith. Dexter’s attitude towards faith is openly described by his attempts to get his son, Harrison, into one of the best schools in the area. Dexter is bluntly rude and mocks the religious teachings held in high regard by the school. Brother Sam was the man to change his perspective during this season.
Brother Sam was able to help him discover a capacity to trust that things will work out when they lie outside your control, that almost something external can help decide the outcome of your actions. Control is one of the most common themes that rides through almost every single season of Dexter, and when Harrison was gravely ill in the hospital, Dexter turns to faith as he is completely paralysed by what the outcome of Harrison’s health will be. The loss of control is something we have rarely witnessed in Dexter.
Travis represented the twisted ideology of faith, with Travis accustoming the role of the devil. Travis distorts faith and the interpretation of it in a radical fashion absolving all that is sin within religious values. Interestingly, Dexter learnt that faith gives hope to those who are in desperate need of it, when control is not a weapon to harness the outcome of a situation. What Dexter was not expecting was the then imminent arrival of Debra, discovering Dexter with a knife in Travis’ chest.
Season 7 – Love
Dexter has discovered that there are two different types of love, and that is innate love for your siblings and that of someone who you are meant to spend the rest of your life with. Dexter learnt that Debra is far more important that he ever realised, that they are bound by blood and that they still love each other no matter what obstacle they face. What is highly unusual here for a normal brother-sister relationship, is that it’s not every day that you discover your brother to be a serial killer. The intensity of this dynamic stems from Dexter lying to his sister for so many years of his life and that the uncovering of this secret came ever so very close to Dexter being one of the most notorious serial killers of all time within the world of Dexter.
Debra, who is now the Lieutenant of Miami Metro Homicide, is the most important figure in those four walls; and with Debra written in a way who is very much disciplined by morals, she should have turned Dexter in, but didn’t.
Dexter also found his soulmate. Hannah McKay is by far more compatible with Dexter than Rita ever was. It’s really hard to fathom, but Dexter shared more with her in one season than he did with Rita in four seasons. Their love is unquestionable for each other, and Hannah is almost a female double of Dexter. She’s a serial killer much akin to him, and accepts Dexter who for he is.
Season 8 – Acceptance?
Season 8 is most likely going to be the very last season of Dexter. Dexter has gone through a journey of transformation over the seven seasons, and it appears that this will be the season where all of these themes, or ingredients should we say, will be pushed to the limits. Season 8 should adhere to existence, possession, trust, responsibility, selflessness, faith and love, but what could be the next theme for Dexter to enslave?
This will all depend on the direction the writers will pursue. Dexter is firmly looking to hide in broad daylight with Debra over the death of La Guerta and Estrada. Hannah has also escaped from the hospital, and we last saw her leaving a plant on Dexter’s doorstep. It’s incredibly interesting to read into Dexter’s cryptic voiceover in the final scene, with him describing the situation as “the beginning of the end.” Will Dexter be going through similar notions of the five stages of grief in the final season?
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance could be very relative themes to be explored in season 8. We just cannot wait.
Be sure to check out the potential last season of Dexter which will begin on June 30 over on Showtime.