1. When Debra started dating her superior, FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy.
In Season 2, Deb became romantically involved with the much older Frank Lundy. It wasn’t the age difference that was the problem — it was that Debra was forced into another “inappropriate” romance, so soon after her relationship with the Ice Truck Killer. The fact that she acknowledged her bad choices in men didn’t make this any better, and the pattern has continued throughout the series.
2. When Miguel Prado found out the truth about Dexter — and didn’t turn him in.
Another pattern the series has had a hard time avoiding: an outside character finding out that Dexter is a serial killer and going along with it. (This was mere episodes after Lila learned Dexter’s secret at the end of Season 2.) Miguel wasted no time in joining forces with the Bay Harbor Butcher, despite the fact that he ostensibly had a conscience and knew that killing people — however evil they might be — is wrong.
3. When Debra rebounded with CI Anton Briggs.
What do you do when you’ve been single for five minutes? If you’re Deb, you latch onto the next ill-advised romantic partner. In this case, it was Anton Briggs, who should’ve been keeping a low profile as Quinn’s CI, but of course, he found himself drawn to the complicated Debra Morgan. Their relationship was fine — arguably the healthiest Deb has had — but it was another repetition of the trope that has dogged Deb from the get-go.
4. When Batista and LaGuerta randomly got paired off between seasons.
When Season 4 of Dexter began, Angel Batista and Maria LaGuerta were sleeping with each other. Why? Because why not! There was no chemistry between them, and their relationship — which eventually faltered — was a clear attempt at giving two frequently underused characters something new to do. It never really made any sense, and several seasons down the line, it was easy to forget that it ever happened.
5. When Deb cheated on Anton with Lundy.
Seriously?! Deb just can’t catch a break. By Season 4, it was clear the writers wanted to see her suffer romantically time and time again. Once her relationship with Anton was actually stable, she quickly screwed it up by falling into the arms of her old flame. And of course, he was shot and killed shortly thereafter, because Deb makes bad choices and will always end up alone.
6. When Debra moved on with Quinn, another co-worker.
Quinn wasn’t just any detective: He was a semi-crooked, morally compromised detective with a dangerous suspicion about Dexter. Of course Deb would end up in bed with him. We don’t need to reiterate what’s wrong with giving Deb an endless string of unsuitable boyfriends (i.e. everything), but it was also insulting to the audience. Like the pairing of LaGuerta and Batista, it happened because there was nothing else to do.
7. When Dexter realized he loved Rita, even though he’s a sociopath.
You can’t root for a sociopath. I mean, you can try — and in its early seasons, Dexter made a valiant effort. But at some point, the writers realized that in order to drag this series out for several seasons, they had to humanize the serial killer at its core. And so, in Season 5, Dexter suddenly decided he did have feelings after all. It went against the show’s mission statement, and so began the character’s downward trajectory.
8. When brutalized victim Lumen joined forces with serial killer Dexter.
In Season 5, Dexter discovered Lumen, a woman who had been raped and tormented by her captors. While she was initially fearful of him, Lumen comes to trust Dexter, and eventually, the two joined forces to take revenge on the group of men who kept Lumen captive. Again, the audience had to suspend disbelief that someone else would find out about Dexter, and not only accept it — but actually become his sidekick.
9. When Astor returned home a drunken mess.
It was certainly believable that Rita’s death would send her daughter into a spiral of alcohol abuse and teenage sass; but the timeline here was all wrong: Astor and Cody had barely been gone from Miami when Astor returned, suddenly slurring her words. Dexter had no idea what to do with Rita’s kids, as evidenced by the fact that they were shipped off, so why would the writers waste time addressing Astor’s rebellion?
10. When Dexter and Lumen fell for each other after some cathartic murdering.
As if the Lumen storyline didn’t smack of Lila enough, once again, Dexter had to start sleeping with the strange new woman in his life. Dexter’s love life hasn’t been as much of a disaster as Deb’s, but there is a sense that the writers can’t stop repeating themselves. Are they hoping the audience will just forget that they’ve seen something many times before? The best thing one can say about the Dexter/Lumen romance is that it was short-lived.
11. When Dexter easily dispatched corrupt police officer Stan Liddy.
Here’s what happens when someone finds out about Dexter: He fucks the person, or he kills the person. With Stan Liddy, the corrupt police officer Quinn hired to find out the truth about Dexter in Season 5, it was the latter. The problem with the resolution to this storyline is how easy it was, a sign of the show’s late-season laziness. As soon as Liddy put it all together, Dex barely broke a sweat stabbing him in the heart.
12. When Dexter met Brother Sam, who babbled about religion and then died.
Season 6 of Dexter was arguably the messiest — well, perhaps until the show’s current and final eighth season. Brother Sam was a troubling character for a number of reasons. On a series that has struggled with characters of color, it was regrettable to have rapper Mos Def playing a figure who uselessly regurgitated the season’s religious themes and then got killed in a forgettable subplot. He deserved better, and so did the audience.
13. When Dexter’s dead brother popped up again.
Brian Moser’s return was teased endlessly, and the shocking reveal was supposed to be a major talked-about moment. But seriously, who cares? We know Dexter sees dead people — hello, his dad is like always around — and the Ice Truck Killer hadn’t been on anyone’s radar since Deb’s flashbacks in Season 2. Worst of all, Brian’s return in Season 6 was a reminder of how far Dexter has fallen.
14. When Debra decided she had romantic feelings for her brother.
Nope. Bad, dirty, wrong. Who conceived of this horrific development, and why? Deb falling for Dexter — her brother by adoption, but her brother nonetheless — was a low point in Season 6, a season filled with low points. It was icky and embarrassing, the culmination of six seasons of Deb getting fucked over by the writers. Thankfully, this plot was mostly abandoned once Debra learned her brother is a serial killer.
15. When Dexter finally caught up to the audience and learned that Professor Gellar had been dead all along.
The contrived twist that Travis’ mentor Professor Gellar was dead would have been bad enough as is; but thanks to the deductive powers of the internet — and some really sloppy writing — everyone called this big reveal before Dexter did. It was so obvious that some fans even wondered if the writers were purposely leading us astray. No, just more laziness and a serious underestimation of the show’s audience.
16. When Det. Mike Anderson was killed off before he got to do anything interesting.
Another character of color underserved by the series, Mike Anderson showed up randomly at Miami Metro and departed just as unceremoniously. There were a lot of problems with the Isaak Sirko storyline in Season 7, but the offing of a thinly drawn detective added insult to injury. Poor Mike Anderson. You didn’t even stick around long enough to start dating Deb or to become suspicious of Dexter.
17. When Louis became a serious threat to Dexter, then died.
Even more frustrating than Mike Anderson’s untimely demise was the abrupt removal of Louis Greene. Beginning in Season 6, Louis was set up as a major threat to Dexter and a certifiable creep. He was all poised to be the next big bad — or at least, a significant thorn in Dexter’s side. And then he got shot in Season 7 for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Guess all that character development was for naught.
18. When Dexter was all set to kill Hannah McKay, but then decided to have sex with her instead.
Season 7 also introduced us to Hannah, another character who suffered from the writers’ obsession with giving us the same storylines over and over again. Dexter falling for a beautiful and dangerous female? Been there, done that, did it again. The romance between Dexter and Hannah should have felt lively and fresh, but it was way too forced and distracted from the more interesting story of Debra coping with the truth.
19. When Debra got a new boyfriend, who, surprise, was a drug dealer!
Actually, newfound P.I. Debra Morgan was supposed to be tracking Andrew Briggs — their relationship was part of the job, part Deb coping with the fact that she killed LaGuerta. And it might’ve worked if we hadn’t seen this exact same story before. Here’s how lazy the writers are: Deb’s Season 8 squeeze was Andrew Briggs. Her boyfriend in Seasons 3 and 4? Anton Briggs. It could be an intentional homage, but it’s nonsense either way.
20. When the woman responsible for The Code appeared out of nowhere.
Charlotte Rampling is a tremendous actor, and Evelyn Vogel hasn’t been the problem with Season 8. But there’s something so frustrating about the way the series shoehorns in new characters. In this case, the audience had to suddenly accept that Evelyn basically made Dexter the serial killer he is today and we didn’t meet her until Season 8. Wouldn’t it have been helpful to have mentioned her beforehand? It’s too much to take in this close to the end.
21. When Masuka’s long-lost daughter showed up.
It’s such a cliche, it’s laughable, but yes, in its death throes, Dexter gave one of its characters an estranged family member to shake things up. From the beginning, Masuka has been only occasionally interesting. While it was kind to finally give him a little substance to work with, adding a daughter this late in the game is too silly to matter. Such a waste of valuable final season time (and of Friday Night Lights actress Dora Madison Burge).
22. When fugitive Hannah McKay returned to Miami to pay Dexter a visit.
Hannah’s send-off at the end of Season 7 was perfect: Dexter couldn’t deny his feelings for her, but he ultimately chose Deb and turned Hannah in. And yet, the series couldn’t resist bringing Hannah back for a subplot that has now taken up a huge part of the final season. Turned out, Hannah wanted Dexter to help kill her husband — but then she ended up doing it herself. And now we have a Hannah problem.
23. When Dexter got yet another protégé.
Can Dexter teach someone else The Code? That might’ve been more interesting if it weren’t something the show already explored with Miguel Prado and Lumen. Zach Hamilton’s brief stint on Dexter happened in the middle of Season 8, and given how quickly Zach was killed, it felt an awful lot like the show spinning its wheels. The writers knew this was the final season when they wrote it, so why all the stalling?
24. When Debra and Quinn got back together.
On the one hand, who cares at this point? On the other, it would have been nice to see Deb end the series on top, not in the arms of another ghost of relationships past. She had clearly moved on from Quinn in Season 8, even if he was still pining after her. Her sudden change of heart wasn’t earned at all — it was just an easy way to add a little tension to Deb getting shot at the end of the penultimate episode.
25. When Dexter and Hannah started moving toward a happy ending.
Serial killers in love — how poetic! And wouldn’t you know it, just being around Hannah makes Dexter want to kill less. It’s such a contrived and easy ending that it feels like bad fan fic. In fact, it’s symptomatic of the writers’ confusion over the character of Dexter, who started out as a sociopath and became a “lovable” anti-hero. Might as well have him ride off into the sunset, however implausible that is.