Every Season Of Dexter, Ranked
Darkly Ranking Dexter
Everyone’s favorite serial killer is back in Dexter: New Blood - a Showtime original limited series that reveals what the titular homicidal hero (played once again by Emmy winner Michael C. Hall) has been up to since leaving Miami and, hopefully, will serve as a more satisfying ending for fans than the series finale turned out to be. Now, outside of that underwhelming curtain call, there is very little about this unique, long-running crime series inspired by Jeff Lindsay’s novels that I do not like, which made ranking the best Dexter seasons (from least favorite to favorite) almost as difficult as following the first rule of Harry’s Code. Well, you might not get caught too far off guard by my personal choice for the weakest of this otherwise brilliant series’ eight chapters as it tends to be most fans’ least favorite. Oh, and before you read on, keep note of our SPOILER WARNING.
8. Season 8
Like I said earlier, there is very little I dislike about this series and that includes Dexter Season 8. The revelation of Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) co-creating Harry’s Code, the triumphant return of Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski), and the devastating death of Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) not long after suffering a major falling out with Dexter are all story elements that make it far from a waste. Unfortunately, most feel (and I would agree) that its strong suits pale in comparison to the disappointment of the final episode which, instead of resolving the story, puts our title character in a new undisclosed location and with a new life as lumber jack.
7. Season 6
On the other hand, at least we don’t see Debra developing romantic feelings for her adoptive brother in Season 8. Honestly, without that, I would have ranked Dexter Season 6 much higher since since the main plot - involving deadly religious fanatics played by Colin Hanks and Edward James Olmos (who turns out to be a figment of the former’s imagination) - is thrilling, thought-provoking, and leads to one epic season finale in which Deb learns Dexter’s secret. Thankfully, that was enough to help her to snap out of it, but not quick enough to save that portion of the series from a bizarre subplot that goes absolutely nowhere.
6. Season 5
A romance always worth rooting for, however, was Dexter and his wife, Rita (Julie Benz), which is why her murder was just as devastating for us as it clearly was for Dexter - leading to his own discovery that he truly is capable of love in the worst way possible. He would continue to prove that in Dexter Season 5 by helping his new friend, Lumen (Julia Stiles), get back at a ruthlessly deceptive motivational speaker (future Elementary cast member Johnny Lee Miller) and his hench crew of serial rapists. It is a satisfying revenge tale that, in my opinion, was only ever bogged down by the romantic subplots - including Joseph Quinn’s (Desmond Harrington) doomed marriage proposal to Deb and Angel Batista (David Zayas) and Maria LaGuerta’s (Luna Lauren Velez) doomed marriage.
5. Season 3
Speaking of marriage, Dexter Season 3 sees him and Rita taking a huge step in their relationship after discovering she is pregnant, which forces Dexter to turn over a new leaf in his commitments while worrying about how his own child could turn out being raised by a self-described “monster.” To make matters worse, his attempts to teach Harry’s Code to Assistant District Attorney Miguel Prato (Jimmy Smits), who turns out to have his own homicidal tendencies, backfires horribly, almost causing Dexter to miss his own marriage ceremony. However, a beautiful and uplifting ceremony it would turn out to be in the season finale, in which our anti-hero’s desire for a normal life becomes a top priority in what might be the series’ most heartwarming season.
4. Season 7
Call me crazy, but I almost find it even more heartwarming to see the widowed Dexter fall in love again with deadly gardener Hannah McKay, and sad to see Deb come between them after Dex already worked so hard to patch things up with her after catching him in the act at Season 6’s end. I also find LaGuerta’s controversial investigation into Dexter as a Bay Harbor Butcher suspect one of the series’ greatest magic tricks, because it coerces you into nervously rooting against somebody who you know is truly doing the right thing. After all of that, to see Dexter Season 7 end with Dex turning in his own girlfriend for Deb who then becomes a poster child of self-loathing after killing LaGuerta to protect him is on par with a classic Greek tragedy.
3. Season 2
Of course, before LaGuerta suspected Dexter’s double life, her close friend and partner Sgt. James Doakes (Erik King) kept a close eye on him even before his victims were discovered, which prompted the hunt for the Bay Harbor Butcher in Dexter Season 2. It is quite a rush to see Dexter come frighteningly close to his first real breaking point as his relationship with Rita is not going so smoothly, his perceived innocence is more at risk than ever, and his addiction sponsor, Lila (Jamie Murray), is not right in the head. She ends up being the one who kills Doakes, who had been held prisoner by Dexter most of the time, in the series’ explosive season finale… literally.
2. Season 1
I actually find the Dexter Season 1 finale to be equally perfect and the season as a whole to be one of the most perfectly constructed premiere seasons of any television show ever. For one, it gives us an oddly touching father-son story told through flashbacks of Harry Morgan (James Remar) teaching young Dexter how to be a “good” serial killer and also proves to be a haunting tale of self-discovery, with Dexter learning more about his disturbing origins. Plus, Dex’s almost flirtatious cat-and-mouse game with the Ice Truck Killer (who turns out to be Deb’s fiance and his biological brother) is suspense at its best and could have worked as a satisfying limited series if you ask me.
1. Season 4
Of course, if the story had not continued past the first season, we would not have had the pleasure of what most consider to be the series’ masterwork: Dexter Season 4, and a masterpiece on nearly every level it truly is. Raising his new infant son Harrison, is severely interrupting his alone time and, meanwhile, Dexter is tasked with his most chilling and notorious adversary: the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow in a surprising turn on the Dexter cast), who turns out to be a lot like Dexter, from a gut-wrenching childhood to having his own family. It's a spine-tingling face-off that resulted in an Emmy win for Lithgow, a Golden Globe win for Michael C. Hall, and one of TV’s most devastating season finales in which Dexter discovers he killed Trinity too late to save his wife.
It is a real testament to how powerful Dexter Season 4 is because I still profoundly moved by it having already had the ending spoiled for me previously. Now, I can only wonder how Dexter: New Blood will measure up to it or, better yet, if it will give fans the ending they feel they deserve. We shall see when the revival season premieres Sunday, November 9, 2021, on Showtime.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.