• Showtime prevented Dexter’s death in the original finale, opting for him to fake his own death instead. The network was clear that they wanted Dexter to live on.
  • The original showrunner had a different plan for the finale, where Dexter would be exposed and punished for his crimes. Showtime’s rule made this ending impossible.
  • Dexter: New Blood, the revival series, brought back the magic of Dexter’s earlier seasons but gave him a different arc. His death in New Blood felt unnecessary and came too late to have the desired impact.

Showtime’s popular series Dexter has a famously hated finale, and many viewers were under the impression that Dexter’s death would’ve been a more fitting end to the show — but there’s a frustrating reason it didn’t happen that way. Dexter ran for eight seasons on Showtime, seeing the ups and downs of the moral-code-driven secret serial killer and blood spatter analysis expert Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall). Dexter went through a lot in the series, finding a fulfilling romance with Rita (Julie Benz) and having their son Harrison before she was murdered by the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow), and Dexter was forced to forge his own path.

Even with Dexter finding a sliver of happiness with fellow murderer Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski), his arc on the series clearly points to his death in the final episode. However, that’s not what happened, and some viewers have, in turn, declared that Dexter had the worst series finale of all time. Instead, Dexter disposed of Deb’s (Jennifer Carpenter) body in the middle of a hurricane and faked his own death in the process, starting over with a new identity. While Dexter: New Blood would never have happened without this finale, the follow-up season may not have been necessary at all if it wasn’t for one rule that prevented Dexter’s demise.

Dexter’s Finale Death Was Ruled Out By The Network

Dexter cast characters police

Reportedly, it was the Showtime network that effectively put the kibosh on Dexter’s death in the original finale. Producer John Goldwyn spoke with Variety about how the writing team crafted the highly-anticipated ending and revealed that Showtime was very clear about Dexter living on past the show. “They [wouldn’t] let us kill him. Showtime was very clear about that. When we told them the arc for the last season, they just said, ‘Just to be clear, he’s going to live.’ There were a lot of endings discussed because it was a very interesting problem to solve, to bring it to a close, Goldwyn stated.

The fact that Showtime executives heard Dexter’s arc for the last season and immediately assumed that Dexter’s life was on the line points out that may have been what was intended — and audiences certainly weren’t wrong for expecting it. Dexter’s first showrunner, Clyde Phillips, revealed that he had a very different plan for the Dexter finale, seeing Dexter outed for being the Bay Harbor Butcher and punished for his crimes. Either Dexter’s death or Phillips’ original plan would’ve been fitting conclusions to finish Dexter, but Showtime’s rule made the ending that audiences wanted impossible.

Dexter: New Blood Fixed The Finale’s Death Mistake Too Late

Dexter Morgan death in New Blood finale

Nevertheless, Dexter‘s legacy continued with the series Dexter: New Blood, which did see Hall’s serial killer bite the dust after his son Harrison (Jack Alcott) takes on the most scrupulous interpretation of Harry’s code. While not quite as controversial as the original series’ ending, there’s no question that Dexter’s death in New Blood was simply too little too late. Showrunner Phillips’ involvement in New Blood certainly brought back the magic of Dexter‘s earlier seasons, but the killer was also given an entirely different sort of arc in the revival series, one that didn’t necessitate his death in the same way.

It’s in this regard that Dexter got two finales yet missed its perfect ending. Since New Blood saw Dexter conquering his urges better than ever before and teaching Harrison his adoptive father’s titular code, viewers saw him now in a mentorship role and wanted him to continue to guide Harrison. Had Dexter died in the original series finale, it would’ve made a much larger impact and paid off the Dexter season 8 trajectory in a satisfying way. However, the ending audiences wanted for Dexter was copied and pasted into New Blood, forgetting that the protagonist’s path had ultimately changed.

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