So two of the most iconic television series of recent years ended their runs last month - one to widespread acclaim, the other to jeers heard across the internet.
Let's face it, Dexter ran out of steam a long time ago. After four (mostly) good seasons, two lackluster offerings, and two terrible ones, I don't think anyone was expecting the show's final episode to be any kind of a tour de force. But wow, the last couple episodes of Dex were bad. [[That gives me an idea... maybe Showtime could cut out the serial killer bits and repurpose the relationship-driven portions of the show as a cute family sitcom, a la Ally or those Breaking Bad videos on YouTube. Just a thought... feel free to cut me a check any time, Showtime execs]].
First off - and I know I may take some flak for saying this - but ending the show with Dexter being 'cured' isn't necessarily a terrible idea, or at least not an unworkable one. And there's the kernel of something powerful, or at least decipherable, in the notion that his murderous urges might be cured by the same type of trauma that brought them about in the first place; namely, watching his mother (or, in this case, a mother-figure) being brutally murdered before his eyes. But the show didn't take that idea far enough. If Dexter's nemesis had knocked him out, tied him up or something, and then forced him to watch his surrogate mother being systematically butchered, I might've bought it. In a sense, all of Dex's murders are a subconscious attempt to recreate and relive the memory of his mother's murder; his mind's way of dealing with and ultimately trying to overcome that trauma. He's simply never able to recreate it quite closely enough to resolve anything. So I can accept that vividly re-experiencing that trauma might have every bit as profound an effect on Dexter as it did the first time around.
In order for any of this to come across, however, the relationship between Dex and his new mom - the emotional connection between them - would've had to have been much more deeply and skillfully developed. As it stands, I just didn't care about the character; I didn't care about her death, and I didn't care about the effect her death would have on Dexter. So the whole thing just falls flat.
Ironically, the show already had a character who shared a deep emotional bond with Dexter, one whose death could much more plausibly have turned him psychologically and emotionally inside-out; and, as horrible as it might be to contemplate the idea of poor Deb, Dex's ill-fated sister, being murdered and dismembered by Stock Recurring Serial Killer Character #7 (another profound weakness of Dexter's final season, its lame-duck villain) - it would have made sense, it would have had emotional resonance, and it ultimately wouldn't have resulted in any more ignominious an end for the character than what she already got.
The less said about the infamous "ice road trucker" ending, the better.
And then we have Breaking Bad. The mothership. 21st-century TV's preeminent anti-hero drama.
This is another unpopular opinion, but I ultimately felt the final season represented a bit of a falling-off from the show's glory days. I could almost imagine a crazed carnival barker rattling off a laundry list of the last eight episodes or so's dizzying array of long-awaited plot developments: Hank finds out about Walt! Jesse turns against Walt, and even joins forces with Hank to take Mr. White down! The Chekov's Ricin finally comes into play! Jesse and Marie finally get a scene together!!!
That being said, the last eight hours of Bad were still amazing, and the last few minutes of the finale are something close to perfect. Who could've guessed that one of TV's darkest dramas would have such a perversely - dare I say it? - upbeat ending? And all without compromising the show's central moral vision. Vince Gilligan and co. should teach a class on How to Write a Good Series Finale.
Here's hoping Matthew Weiner takes that class, or at least gets a look at the syllabus, before wrapping up Mad Men next year.