Monday, December 17, 2007

Cop-outs and the finale of Dexter

I received an email from an angry reader the other day. She felt that in Baby Makes Three, having Alice get pregnant at the end of the book was a cop out. Anti-woman, even. Resolving my conflict by having her magically conceive was a total breach in trust that I had created with the reader. Now, I am fine with criticism and people can feel however they want about my books -- but, man, I could not let this go. I emailed the woman back - thanked her for her time and for buying the book but I told her that having my character get pregnant - I thought - was the best way to up their conflict. Having babies, or not having babies was the external conflict that highlighted their internal conflicts. It was one of those "it seems like the best thing to happen but it's actually the worst" sort of plot points. I didn't think it was a cop-out because things got worse for the characters after she got pregnant. And I really didn't think it was anti-woman - but again, everyone is entitled to an opinion. I just didn't agree with hers.

But then I watched the finale of Dexter and man, I am pissed. How lame. How terrible terribly lame was that? The driving question of the whole series is "is Dexter good or bad." And in the finale, it seems like it's going to be proven by whether or not Dexter is going to kill an innocent man to save himself. If he does - Dexter is evil. If he doesn't -- good guy. And then the crazy ex-girlfriend strolls in and ruins this delicious balancing act. SPOILER - she kills the innocent man, for Dexter, out of coo-coo bird love. So when Dexter then off's the girlfriend it's still all part of the code that his father taught him. The code he's used to. The code we the viewers are used to. And that's not even the part that made me angry - what made me angry was the voice over at the end. Dexter says he has his own code now. He's going to stop asking if he's good or evil, it doesn't matter any more.

What?? Huh?! He just killed again, using his father's code. And that's fine if he's not going to care if he's good or bad anymore -- but we don't see it! We don't get that from him at all. He's still putting his slides in the air-conditioner and talking about his father??? How is he different? He's not. And if he's not - don't have Dexter say he's different. Don't lie to us - because it wasn't Dexter lying, it was the writer - I thought. I was with him and then he not only took an easy way out - but then he didn't even capitalize on that easy way out by making things harder for Dexter. They just got easier.

I don't know if they are setting things up for another season - but what's the tension if they are? What's the question? What's his own code? Will he kill indiscriminately - if so, don't show him using the old code.

Anyway, I understand my non-fan's anger better, now. Not that I would change my book, or do anything differently, but man, when a writer cops out - it hurts. Last night's finale really put a dent in my Dexter love.


Michelle Rowen said...

Molly, I totally agree. I've been on the edge of my seat all season and I had no idea how they were going to resolve the Doakes issue... and I was really disappointed in how they did it. Lame, lame, lame. I knew there was no way for Dexter to get out of this in one piece with Doakes dead - so I'd accepted the fact that he had to die...somehow. But by doing a deux ex machina with Lila, i just felt totally ripped off. I even would have accepted a tenuous "amnesia" storyline. And then I thought it was interesting that Lila escaped and what it might mean for the future -- but she didn't really. Way too easy. Bleech.

Michelle Rowen said...

I meant, of course, that there was no way for Dexter to get out of this in one piece with Doakes *alive*. Sigh.

Maureen McGowan said...

I was okay up until he found and killed Lila... Too pat. Next season might have been interesting with her out there as a threat to him. Conversely, when he kissed her in the aquarium... I thought that had a lot of potential. Sure, she's psycho, but so is he and they might have made an interesting pair and the "does she love me or will she turn me in" question could have hung over him for a while.
I think all the best conflict has already been squeezed out of the Dexter and Rita story. Now that neither of them is so broken, they aren't as interesting together.
I agree with Michelle that they had to kill Doakes for the story to continue... Hard to know how to resolve that in a way that wouldn't have pissed some viewers off...
It will be interesting to see whether or not they can give him a big overriding conflict in the next season... Right now, I can't imagine what that will be. They've removed all the big conflicts. He's okay with Rita and Rita's okay with him. They're even having normal sex now. Doakes is gone. His sister is happy. He's okay with what he's doing. He's not conflicted about his dead father. He's avenged his mother. Work's going well... Really, he has no problems anymore, so the writers had better come up with something HUGE.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, and Molly. Wait-a-give a big spoiler on your own book!

Kimber Chin said...

Oh, drat. I understand COMPLETELY what the reader is feeling, Molly.

No offence to your writing but the Harlequin copywriters should be shot (if I had bought the book, I would have done the deed myself).

Baby Makes Three is set up as being about infertility and finally accepting it.

First the talk about infertility (which takes about a decade or more to come to terms with), then the five years after the divorce and that's 15 years. The fertility window is basically closed.

Sure I guess the woman could get the pre-menopause boost that sometimes (but rarely) happens but that's a long shot.

Especially when you combine it with that powerful promo line "Creating a family, however, doesn’t always mean creating a child."

So you have this reader,
who is likely infertile herself,
overjoyed that she finally found a novel that dealt with that pain
('cause I sure couldn't find one without a miracle baby and I've been looking, hard) and she gets... a miracle baby (that isn't in the cards for most of us).


Kimber Chin said...

Oh, and those that are wondering why the title doesn't give it away...

With many infertile couples,
the baby is always the third "person" in the relationship. We might not talk about him or her but the baby is there and is very real to the couple.

Yeah, sounds crazy but it is something you have to live through, I guess, to understand.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Maureen - I think the series has got to be over -- what could they possibly do? Unless the tnesion comes from will his sister catch him? I thought her problems during the finale were actually more interesting than his. She had to make a choice and stick with it.

Kimber - I think you're right. My backcover copy is pretty leading and my title is a weird kind of spoiler. It's just tough being criticized by what the book 'isn't' rather than 'is'.

Have you read The Baby Wait by Cynthia Reese? Excellent book not at all a standard Superromance that deals with infertility and adoption and the toll it all takes on a marriage. Excellent book.

Kimber Chin said...

Ahhh... but think of it this way, Molly, your writing was so good that it actually hurt the reader.

That's why I can't read your novels. You make the children so alive that it is too painful for me to read.

If you were less of a writer, I could read them and not cry my eyes out.

BTW... as you probably know, adoption is not as easy a solution as it is perceived. The hubby and I can not adopt (and I completely agree with the rules on this one. If I didn't know me, I wouldn't give me a child either). If you think your parents can't mess up your life when you're an adult, think again. LOL

Anonymous said...

There's going to be a third season... so not sure where they're taking it.
It did feel like a series wrap up to me.
The more interesting choice would have been for Dexter to kill Doakes and accept that he is a serial killer, and abandon his code and deal with the repercussions, but I understand how that would make this series less commerically viable.

I think the choices they made appealed to a lot of non-writers out there. Neat and pretty, and a protagonist to root for..
You know, what middle America would want..

Molly O'Keefe said...

THERE IS GOING TO BE A 3RD SEASON??? OH man - why do they have to do that?

Heidi the Hick said...

This is how I felt at the end of the 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean movie. After the credits.

She should have had her own pirate ship. That's all I got to say about that. Total cop-out. (the rest of the movie was a total mess though, so...)

Wylie Kinson said...

In terms of emotional closure - I was fine with the end of Dexter, especially since that 'divine intervention' theme kept coming up in the voice over.

But yes, the writer in me is wondering where the heck they're going to go with the next season -- unless they make LaGuerta (sp??) the next Doakes (as in, she's trying to clear her friends name and starts suspecting Dex?)

Molly - I was totally cool with the ending of Baby Makes Three, ... but I've never had trouble with infertility so it'd be hard for me to understand it from that perspective.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I've been thinking about Dexter and what they are going to do alot the last few days. We rented Live Free or Die Hard last night - all because I have a crush on the Mac guy - anyway terrible movie but the whole time I was thinking about Dexter - and I think it's going to be about the sister finding out about him and Dexter is going to get Rita pregnant and that willscrew him up.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree ... Dexter was a bit of a cop out but I think they had to do that because of the upcoming Season 3. I don't think the threat to Dexter is over because of what Wylie said
"unless they make LaGuerta (sp??) the next Doakes (as in, she's trying to clear her friends name and starts suspecting Dex?)"

I totally think that's what will happen. Did Doakes leave some clues hidden for her to find in Haiti? We didn't get much of the Haiti storyline. And I think that Lundy will be back too - that storyline with Dex's sister isn't done yet.

But I would have much preferred to see Lila live at the end - perhaps becoming a copycat serial killer using Dex's bag of tools and Lundy called in by Interpol to help with the crime and he finds the connection of Lila to Dex?? Ah, God. I've got to stop re-writing TV shows!!
But still, even though the show's finale wasn't as completely satisfying as the lead up episodes to it, this whole Dexter season has been completely absorbing and awesome. Go Michael C. Hall. I hope he wins a wack of awards. What an amazing actor.

Lil Lex said...

I agree that the finale was a bit on the lame side. Sorta like the season 1 finale ... everything was tied up in a nice neat package.

Would it have been feasible to release Doakes? Hear me out: Dexter would work to try and clear Doakes' name, attempt to undo what he knew was wrong in the first place. Doakes would work with Dexter to try and control his urges and re-write Harry's code ... It would have been the crime-fighting odd-couple! Suspicion would arise from everywhere, from Deb questioning Dex's new friendship, to LaGuerta questioning Doakes, to Dex and Doakes fearing each other.

The real kicker is that despite a weak finale, I am so hooked on Showtime and HBO drama that I am completely uninterested in my backlog of network TV shows. Heroes? House? Prison Break? Who cares?! I want more Dexter!

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