They blew it.
Pretty completely, it seems to me.
At the beginning of this final season of Showtime’s “Dexter,” an ingenious and promising new character was introduced who’d have been just perfect for the job of dispatching Dexter Morgan in the series’ final episode ever: a psychiatrist named Vogel, played by the great Charlotte Rampling with all the condescension and sangfroid of a shrink who specializes in serial killers and understands them perhaps all too well.
It was Dr. Vogel we quickly learned, who convinced Dexter’s adopted father – played in Dexter’s hallucinations by James Remar – to turn his homicidal son’s “Dark Passenger” loose on other serial killers in a “code” that would make him the ultimate weapon in the TV world of vigilante justice.
Vogel, then, was, in effect, Dexter’s “mother.” And, most importantly, she was played by Rampling, a British actress who, at her time of life, has all the grandeur and gravitas a minister of higher justice on TV ought to have.
And what a final episode to the Showtime TV series that might have been – some sort of situation in which the woman whose ideas spawned America’s second favorite serial killer (Hannibal Lecter will always be the first) is forced to extinguish the very instrument of her invention.
But no. “Dexter” ends tonight. Forever. Dr. Vogel, unfortunately, has already ended. Her throat was slit in Dexter’s full view through her front living room window by the psychotic real son she’d had long ago and locked away in a mental facility.
That son, it seems to me, was dragged in off the street at the last minute to be one of the drivers of this evening’s final episode of the Showtime series. And that – a brand new killer out of nowhere – is, for certain, one of the tell-tale signs of writerly desperation by “Dexter’s” overseers.
But then they’ve been blowing it all season. As a consequence, all of the alternatives for this evening’s finale are second rate. For all I care, frankly, he could escape with Hannah to Argentina and, after a suitable period of hiding out, return to America and become a contestant on “Dancing With The Stars.”
What is enormously ironic, though, about the finale of “Dexter” and the second-to-final episode of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” is that it puts the Emmy Awards in the decidedly odd position of being, for many people, a distant third in the evening’s advance interest.
Oh sure, it is always great fun to watch celebrities disport themselves on live television. One never knows what baroque bit of jackassery waits in the wings to spring up in prime time in all of its high-def splendor.
But the Emmys, I’m afraid, have become something the Oscars can never be and even the Grammys seldom are: a lineup of the Usual Suspects taking turns receiving the ostentatious hosannas of their peers. Its the most insular of the Entertainment Industrial Complex’ log-rolling festivals.
So, by all means, let’s see where “Downton Abbey” and “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” and “Modern Family” stand tonight, if anywhere at all.
But, for many of us, our hearts are on cable TV wondering what will befall “Dexter” in his series finale and what will happen to Walter White, the satanic, cancer-stricken meth tycoon of “Breaking Bad” in one of the show’s two final episodes.
I’m told by the most trustworthy eyewitness I know to Hollywood folkways that the main reason there is a virtual communitywide obsession with “Breaking Bad” – especially now in its final weeks – is that no one has ever been able to anticipate in advance where show-runner Vince Gilligan and his writers were going to go.
One can easily imagine that at least a third of the audience at the Emmys hopes they make it home in time to watch the “real time” coastal broadcast of “Dexter’s” finale and “Breaking Bad’s” preparation for its final farewell next Sunday instead of DVRing or TiVoing it. The suspense for Sunday’s fictional universe will outweigh, for many, whether Sofia Vergara or Julia Louis-Dreyfus gets the Emmy. (In Louis-Dreyfus’ case, she already triumphed tragically in that she co-stars with James Gandolfini in one of his final films – Nicole Holofcener’s touching little romantic comedy “Enough Said,” opening soon in Buffalo.)
DVR users, by the way, should know that Sunday’s shows are almost unanimously said to run a little long so accommodations will have to be made when you set your DVR.
This much we know about “Breaking Bad’s” Sunday episode: We’ve already seen a flash forward to it taking place in which a future fugitive Walt steals back to his suburban digs, now filthy, crumbling and abandoned and sees his alter ego’s name “Heisenberg” angrily emblazoned on the walls.
Something else we know about Dexter Morgan is that he was long ago unmoored from his beginnings in Jeff Lindsay’s series of “Dexter” novels. “Dexter’s Final Cut” by Lindsay is being published almost simultaneously with the show’s finale and it is about the sudden intersection in Miami of Dexter and the movie business. It is not a swan song equivalent to the TV series.
TV shows end. But successful fictional characters frequently survive even the deaths of their authors (Sherlock Holmes, anyone?)
Meanwhile at the Emmys, I already know one of the anomalies of the show which is trying desperately to keep current. (Look at all those nominations for Netflix shows.) There is no way that one of the most deserving men in television – Alex Rudzinski, the profoundly talented director of “Dancing With the Stars” who brings off the complex dance routines and chatter of the show with eerie perfection – won’t evade recognition yet again.
Categories at the Emmys always are a bit tortuous, but even so there is no exact proper category for what Rudzinski does. So a nice golden statue congratulating him on doing it so brilliantly will, once again, not be his.
It will be fascinating to see, in fact, how many of Sunday’s Emmy winners have shows across the dial which command, for many, so much more interest than the Emmys themselves.
And let’s not even talk about the evening’s ratings, OK?