Culture

'Dexter' Cancelled: Mercy Killing or Murder?

Michael C. Hall as Dexter © Copyright: Showtime 2012 / Randy Tepper
Michael C. Hall as Dexter © Copyright: Showtime 2012 / Randy Tepper

When Showtime decided to end Dexter’s killing spree at the close of the show’s eighth season, viewers responded with a mixture of relief, resignation, and righteous indignation. The serial killer saga, based on Jeff Lindsay’s series of novels, follows the titular police blood splatter analyst who turns his life-long addiction to taking human lives into a kind of vigilante justice where he hand-picks his victims from the killers he’s pursuing in his day job. Mired in moral ambiguity, the show’s seductively likeable anti-hero has twisted the formulas cop procedurals into a meta-commentary on the genre itself and turned "Dexter" into a critical and popular hit with the kind of avid fan base who debate every plot point and dissect Dexter’s psyche like a bunch of forensic shrinks.

The show’s recent off-camera development was no exception. The revelation that “Dexter” has reached its end game was not a huge surprise to show’s most ardent devotees. The dead giveaway: The network moved "Dexter" from its fall lineup to the sleepy summer rotation. But the news acted as an invitation to everyone and anyone with an opinion about the charismatic psychopath to weigh in on whether the show had jumped the shark in recent seasons. Detractors complained that after the season six finale, when Dexter’s sister walks in on her big brother in medias murder, the show’s central tension went slack, causing plotlines in each successive episode to become ever more tangled as viewers strained to suspend disbelief. Meanwhile, there is no shortage of Dexter die-hards begging for the bloodletting to continue in the form of a spinoff.

Wherever you may fall on the Dexter continuum, it’s hard to fault Showtime for killing the show off while it still has its dignity. Think of it as a form of euthanasia. In fact, we can think of several other ailing shows that could use a similar act of mercy. Among those that leap to mind: “Californication,” “Bones” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Newsroom.” But for every show that chooses to leave the party before it peters out, there are those who were asked to leave too soon. We’re still in mourning for “Enlightened” and the dearly departed “Bored to Death” while we hold out hope that “Community” makes it off life support.

How do you feel about Dexter’s death sentence? What shows have outlasted their welcome? Which cancellation casualties would you most like to resurrect.

  • Andrew Hanley

    I'd hardly say that 'The Newsroom' needs a mercy killing after only one season. Sure, it's not nearly Sorkin's best or most original but it's a greater sin to cancel a single-season-show when it still has potential. Whereas 'Dexter'? Kill it. Kill it NOW.

  • Megan

    For anyone complaining because Deb knows Dexter's secret I say, "read the books." She has known all along. While the TV series doesn't follow the book series closely, the characters have the tie-in.

    • Dave

      Amen Megan!

      After Season 1 I grabbed all the books that were out to that date and read them. I was amazed just how far the show deviated from the source material. Although I was not surprised by it since it happens all the time. At the end of season 7, I felt like I was walking in familiar grounds with the Morgans. Lol.

    • Dawn

      I agree, she knew all along. But the way they let her handle it on the show could have been better. I will miss Dexter, but better it end now then end up like Weeds. They killed that show the last two seasons. I dont want Dexter to end that way!

  • Erin

    I'm confused that the "The Newsroom" was lumped into the mercy killing category. The other shows listed should definitely go, but The Newsroom has had one very popular season... wasnt it picked up for season 2 immediately? It has an incredible amount of potential, and I, for one, and very excited for its return.

    Andrew, I agree with you about Dexter. I am an AVID (borderline obsessive...) Dexter fan. I've read all of Jeff Lindsay's books and watched the show from the very first episode. However, it NEEDS to go. I hate when networks drag shows out until you end up resenting something you once enjoyed. One of the best/worst examples of this: The Office. An amazing show that should have been 'mercy killed' several years ago.

  • LEANNA

    WHILE I LOVE DEXTER THE BOOKS AND THE SHOW.ITS OKAY TO CANCEL THE SHOW AS LONG AS THE BOOKS KEEP COMMING.

  • Jazzkayo

    *Correction: Michael C. Hall refused to sign a 2 year extension in 2011 unless there was a definite end game to the story in 2013.

  • http://thecarnivalofshadows.com Darren

    First of all Californication is still going strong with their characters. The hopeless romanticism of Hank Moody struggling for that one last chance at the life he's always wanted has just grown stronger this season. Second, Megan, High five! because I was just waiting and waiting for her to find out, however I had hoped that it would continue for maybe a ninth or tenth to start touching on Astor and Cody. But not everybody likes to read words. Signing off Decal0han

  • http://facebook Marcia

    I think cancelling Dexter sucks. Was the only reason I have showtime. Guess I will cancel showtime now !!!

  • Ajay

    'Dexter' might have jumped the shark for a few seasons but Season 7 felt like Season 1 or 4 of Dexter (easily the best). If you are actually paying attention to Dexter blogs they talked about starting the season earlier because the writers were in a really good place and were really clicking.

    Sure the show had hard times, but so do many others. I don't see this as a mercy killing. It wasn't just cancelled and it ended at season 7. The producers were saying even before the start of season 7 that they are in the end-game.

    You might want to try to define mercy-killing before saying that this show was cancelled. (If I recall, Season 7 had the best ratings in it's tenure)

  • https://www.facebook.com/shevlinc?ref=tn_tnmn Chris

    I'm very surprised with Dexter. I think they need to resurrect House. That was also a great show.

  • http://thecarnivalofshadows.com Darren

    PS The Office is still funny. It's called "ensemble comedy" and I would like to inquire why Dexter "NEEDS TO GO"

  • frank

    Supernatural (in fact, I'd prefer if they had just let it die with season 5). Sons of anarchy (I love the show, but they drag the plot out too much to be believable). Maybe Burn Notice. It's still good, but it would be easy to see it dragging on. Resurrect firefly, farscape... that's about it. Most shows can't keep momentum long term.

  • http://www.kayskindness.webs.com Kay

    They shouldn't stick the knife into Dex's chest just yet, I am absolutely upset that Season 8 is going to be his last season. I am still just as wrapped up and want to see more as I was when I finishes Season 1 Ep 1! I have a LOT of friends and family who are upset with this too! :-(

  • Pete

    I'd just thought I'd point out that Dexter hasn't been cancelled. Showtime have been very eager to keep the show going giving it's continued and growing popularity, but the writers have been saying for years that they wanted it to end after S8.

    Also echoing the previous comments, The Newsroom is great and I've no idea why anyone would think it needs to end after just the one season.

  • kourtney pancakes

    In the books, Deb knows from almost the very beginning. La Guerra died early. Rita is alive and well. And aside from the fact I hate Rita's character the book is way better than the shows. The fact they are ending is not surprising, since it was starting to get boring and messy. As long as Jeff Lindsay keeps writing I will be happy, but I think that someone should make movies that actually somewhat correspond to the books. Dexter is Delicious is my favorite and would be awesome to see as a movie. No one could do dexter like Michael c. Hall though. His personality in the show compared to the book is very similar and he does a great job at that.

  • Ramon

    Dexter will never end!

  • oscar

    I dont know of speak english and i think what dexter have got continue wiht more dexter is the Boss. I believe understend about text of the web (news dexter, ¿canceled¿?) I m scared. In spanish please. A hi from Spain.

    • Word & Film

      Sí, Dexter fue cancelado. Pero no tengas miedo. Todo está bien en el mundo. –Word & Film

  • Justin W.

    Sooner or later Dexter has to come to and end but honestly I think they could have squeezed at least 2 more season (making 10 seasons total), not to mention a spin-off revolving around Astor & Cody because *SPOILER ALERT* in the books Dexter teaches Astor & Cody, "The Code," and Astor is the physical portion of the capture/killing while Cody is the brains of the operation. NOT TO MENTION....it would be nice to see where Harrison ends up both physically and what life has in store for him. Maybe they'll cover Harrison up in the last season this summer but I definitely think they should do a spin-off revolving around Astor & Cody. That way we can still see more of Dexter because it's my opinion that it's better to be tapered off of a show we love instead of it just ending cold turkey.

  • Tommy

    Deadwood was killed too soon & needs a movie or a last season 2 wrap things up better! As a die hard Dexter fan,it's time for it 2 be put down!

  • Ginko

    The Newsroom has some ugly moments but is definitely interesting. They should kill the lousy romance, not the show.

  • Natasha

    While I will miss Dexter, I am not distraught at the news - it has had a good run and there have been some brilliant and memorable moments. However, I responded quite differently at the end of Leverage. More so after the People Choice Award the show received - after it's cancellation.

    Oh well, what can ya do about it - c'est la vie.

  • John

    I'm a little disappointed that it's ending after eight seasons, I hate it when great shows like this end after seven or eight seasons. Shows like Dexter should do ten seasons before cancellation. Also one must ask to those who complained about season six's finale, have you not read the books? By the end of Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Deb finds out about Dexter's killing ways; which was book #1 the sole basis of the show! I think it's great they kept Deb from finding out until season six rather than her not finding out at all.

  • Dexter fan

    I will miss Dexter and Deb, but I will truly miss Michael C. Hall's amazing talent. He is by far my favorite actor. Loved him in Six Feet Under and cried for weeks after that show ended. I just hope they don't kill Dexter or put him behind bars, but just let the story line fade into the future where we know Dexter is taking care of those who escape the justice system.

  • Adey

    One episode was enough never to turn it on again. Its nearly as bad as The Following.

  • Ray

    I will also be ending my show time subscription. I am an avid hbo/sho flip floper. I go back and forth with bill marh, game of thrones, and dexter. So into dexter I post poned flopping with just a short break between seasons this time. Good job in hooking me for the last couple months of crap programming and soft porn. Glad to know I won't have to call dish anymore. HBO with HBOgo will have my business.

  • kitty kat

    My husband loves dexter and has watched it all the way. It was only recently that I really started watching. It is a cool show, but they should have made it to season 10. It has an emense following and so what if it went to a summer time slot as long as the ratings are good? Uluke supernatural and they will be going onto season 9, come season 10.dexter will be missed.

  • Danielle

    I wish we could bring back Better Off Ted. Also, I think this season of Dexter has been the best so far and I'll be sorry to see it go.

  • telise

    I am sad. Dexter was the most amazing series Showtime will ever come up with. I don't see why else I would subscribe to Showtime, I only watch Ray Donovan to pass time to see Dexter again.....goodbye Showtime!

  • Pamela

    I hate to see Dexter go; however, I did get tired of this seasons' so-called psychiatrist calling Dexter a psychopath. With the exception of Dexter talking to his late father, he is not crazy and knows what he is doing and plans his crimes. He also, until this season seemed to have very little emotion or feelings for others, this would make him a sociopath and a psychiatrist should have known this. As for what show I hated seeing cancelled, that would be "666 Park Ave.", ABC did not give that show a chance. Since ABC is hardly watched by anyone, the network could have given this promising show a chance.

Like What You're Reading? Get the best of Signature, delivered to your inbox every week. Join the Signature newsletter