Tuesday, October 08, 2013

What Dexter got wrong and Breaking Bad got right

I'm in the middle of my revisions on GLORY, the last book in my Dust Chronicles series. And it's stressful worrying about how to tie up all the loose ends and answer all the questions I planned to answer and not disappoint fans of the series...

But two big TV shows recently came to a close, and for me, one did it really well and one really badly.

I'll try not to get too spoilerish, but if you haven't yet seen and plan to watch the final episodes of Dexter or Breaking Bad... be warned. There may be spoilers on the horizon...

First, Dexter

I loved this show the first season. And mostly loved it the second. I also remember really liking the Julia Stiles season, and the John Lithgow stuff was interesting, but at some point the show got a bit annoying. I keep thinking I didn't watch a chunk of one season, (maybe the Colin Hanks one?) but then I realize, no, I saw it all.

I know a lot of people gave up on Dexter, but I kept watching. And I watched the entire final season. I even, for the most part, liked the final season.

Yes, I've heard some really valid criticisms about their adding the Dr. Vogel character, but I thought it added something interesting. And making her son the big bad, I thought mirrored nicely the stuff with Dexter's brother from the first season.

So, I was pretty happy with the final season right up to the last episode. Then WTF?

I don't think any of the resolutions rang true either logically or emotionally for me. Did anyone want to see Debra dead? Not me. And the way it happened didn't make sense either. It wasn't heartbreaking as much as frustrating. She has a stroke??? It felt like a cop out.

But then Dexter takes Debra's body out on his boat, in a hurricane... A super odd choice. Why not leave her body at the hospital???  Why is it better for her body to be with all of his horrible victims??? But I thought, okay... he's so upset about causing Debra's death that he's going to commit suicide.

But no. We're supposed to believe he somehow survives the storm. Even though his boat smashes to bits. Yes. Dexter survives a freaking hurricane. Without a boat. A mile off the coast. Made no sense.

And making even less sense, I didn't believe that once he did live, that he wouldn't go join Hannah and Harrison in Argentina. I HATED that the kid ended up with Hannah. I think I would have been okay if the three of them ended up together... Dexter and Hannah kind of keep each other in balance in an odd way. And Dexter would never let Harrison get hurt. But even if Dexter loves Hannah. Even if she proved she's good at taking care of his son, I do not buy -- for a second -- that he would leave his son with her forever and disappear! Even if he trusts her not to put Harrison directly in harms way (big if), she's a fugitive!  Why would she leave her son with him? Why not Aster and Cody's grandparents? Why not Angel and/or his sister? There were other WAY better and safer choices for Dexter to make for Harrison.

Plus, even if I could believe he made these choices and survived that storm... I didn't find the writers' choices emotionally satisfying. Okay, Dexter's a serial killer. But he's who we've been cheering for this whole series. And in this final season in particular, the writers went a long way toward redeeming him... And yet, after all that, after making me want Dexter to end up okay, he loses his sister, and his kid, and his love? Yuck. And Hannah, still clearly a killer, has custody of a sweet little boy. Double yuck. Clearly the writers believed that Dexter needed an unhappy ending.

On the other hand... Breaking Bad.

I thought the finale was perfection.

It's interesting... Dexter (the series) starts out with a serial killer for a protagonist and makes us empathize with him and justify what he's doing. They made me want Dexter (the character) to have a happy ending. Yet somehow the writers thought that they had to punish Dexter at the end and give him an unhappy ending...

Whereas, with Breaking Bad, we started out with a really sympathetic character, who gets worse and worse and worse -- and in the end gets his comeuppance, but only after taking down the even worse dudes. Perfect. And the people who deserve to live, get to. (Okay, some of them. But letting Jesse and Skyler and Walt's kids live was the right choice.) I'd even argue that the writers gave Walt a happy ending. I mean, he has terminal cancer. Saving Jesse's life and then dying in that lab was about as close to a happy ending as he could get.

Amazing how one series got it so right, and the other so wrong....

Agree? Disagree? Any other endings that got it really right or wrong?


Eileen said...

I'm one of the few people who never found Walter White sympathetic. His situation? Yes. Very sympathetic. Him? No. In fact, I wasn't sure anyone in the show was sympathetic ever. Probably why I never made it through the first season.

I haven't watched all of the last Dexter season yet (and I don't care about spoilers. remember I"m the girl who reads the end of the book). I've loved that character. It's interesting if you read the books because he's not as sympathetic in them.

I do want him to end up with Hannah. She's the first one who understands all sides of him. Can't wait to watch the last season now although I'll have to wait until the quarter's over. My sister's teaching two classes and is swamped and I will not watch it without her. :-)

Anonymous said...

I loved the ending of Breaking Bad, it was maybe overly simple, but completely satisfying, while I gave up on Dexter a while ago.
That first season of Dexter was amazing, but nothing(to me) they did afterwards matched it and I lost interest

Stephanie Doyle said...

Never could get into Breaking Bad - and you don't know how much that pains me now with everyone talking about it. Maybe I'll give it a shot a few years from now!

And Dexter lost me in season 3 I think it was.

But it has seemed like a big year for Series Finales!

Maureen McGowan said...

Eileen, you're right. I probably overstated it when I said Walter White was a sympathetic character. ;)

I never found him truly sympathetic, either. But in the first season I found it interesting to wonder how far I (or people I know) would go in a similar situation..

And over the series, Walt turns into a very, very bad dude. I think the brilliance of that show is how they kept so many viewers invested in an unheroic protagonist.

Another thing in the final show... He finally admits to his wife that she and the kids were never his primary motivation. He liked being bad. He was good at it. And that makes so much sense. If it was all about his family, dude had choices! He has billionaire friends. (Love how they wrapped that thread up, too...)

He was a bad guy. So they couldn't have ended that series with his cancer getting a miracle cure and him sipping Mai Tais on a beach. It needed to end badly (no pun intended.) And it did. Satisfyingly badly.
Dexter, on the other end, could have ended happily. And instead they kill off their most sympathetic character.

The Dexter ending pissed me off! I, too, wanted him to end up with Hannah. And he could have, and chooses not to. Pissed. Me. Off. :)

Maureen McGowan said...

I might have even bought the hurricane survival thing, if he'd gone to Argentina after....

Eileen said...

Oh, man. You have no idea how upset my sister will be. Maybe I'll "accidentally" delete it off the DVR . . . Nah. She'd never forgive me. I'd rather have her be pissed at the show runners than me.

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