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.