Ranking Every Season of Dexter

The show that was untouchable until it wasn’t

So I finally watched Dexter: New Blood.

It took some convincing.

You see, I thought Dexter was one of the best shows on television. I probably would have put it in my personal top five until…the later seasons. For reasons I will get into later on, I didn’t even finish the final season. I found it literally unwatchable and one of the biggest falls from grace in television history.

When I found out that Dexter was coming back but would be totally different while being kinda the same — I was skeptical.

But I watched it, binged the whole thing in two days.

And now I am finally here to rank every season of this at-times-genius, at-times-ridiculous show.

9. Season Eight

There are 106 episodes of Dexter between the original run and the revival and I’ve seen about 100 of them.

I could not bring myself to hit play on the last few episodes of the final season. They had taken everything that I (and most fans) loved about the show and deliberately worked to undermine it all.

Deb’s strength and resiliency? Gone. Dexter’s strategic calculating? Gone. Ghost dad’s moral compass? You guessed it.

Committing to the ridiculous premise that Dexter could only truly love another serial killer?

Michael C. Hall looks better in flannel than linen shirts?

Nothing about this season was the show I loved. I will never watch those final episodes.

8. Season Seven

My well-constructed analysis: This season was kinda boring.

The show was getting stale and the writer’s room decided it was best to break the mold a little.

Let Deb in on the Dark Passenger. Let LaGuerta get closer and closer to catching the Bay Harbor Butcher. Let Dexter fall in love…for real.

However, as you’ll see later on, one of my favorite things about Dexter was the villain of the season — their intent, their motivations, their execution. The seasons with the best villains are my favorite seasons and since this is my ranking, this season lands here.

It was a deliberate choice to make Ukrainian crime syndicate Isaak Sirko pretty tame compared to the show’s previous bad guys to make way for the personal plotlines, but the show did a good job in earlier years of balancing the two — with the ultimate example being the season that will top this list.

7. Season Three

This season suffers from the same fate.

Not much happens. Although Jimmy Smitts is great, his Miguel Prado is forgettable. The most important personal growth moments for Dexter happen only at the beginning or the end of the season.

Sandwiched in between two of the best seasons (and very much missing Erik King as SGT Doakes), this just falls short when it comes to the excellent writing and development of the early years.

6. Season Five

It must have been damn near impossible to follow up the fourth season (spoilers for this list) because that’s where the show hit its peak.

And if we’re thinking of this entire series as peaks and valleys, this was going to be an unavoidable valley. There’s really nothing I dislike about it. In fact, I applaud the new showrunners for keeping it afloat.

I mean, could you imagine following up The Godfather? That would be impossible.

5. Dexter: New Blood

Dexter: New Blood deserves to be right smack in the middle of this list. It’s doing a lot of things right, but is still dragged down by the horrible decision-making of the original run’s later seasons. It has to dig itself out of that hole while still being sustainable as its own thing.

It’s using all of the original elements that make us nostalgic: ghost dad is now ghost sister (I guess ghost dad couldn’t age — that wouldn’t make any sense), the police officer dangerously close to finding out the truth is now his girlfriend, and why not throw in a little Bautista for good measure?

It tries hard and it does a good enough job of bringing me back to what once was while still being entertaining.

4. Season Six

I told you I’m a sucker for a good killer of the week — and I think the Doomsday Killer(s) rank(s) among the best. I’m surprised to see that many disagree with me online as I found this duo both intellectual and extravagantly violent, a really interesting combination.

Dexter is a show about morality. Who is good? What is bad? How do we make sense of the grey area? Religion is a really interesting vehicle for those conversations, so putting Dexter face-to-face with someone else performing their own moral-high-ground murders was a great idea.

It has also a great supporting cast with Edward James Olmos and Colin Hanks pairing well as the academic mentor and naive mentee, with a brief arc with the underrated (as an actor) Mos Def.

3. Season One

This was where it all started and they knew what it was right out of the gate. So many shows stumble to find their footing in the early efforts, but Dexter was not one of those shows. It probably helped to have a clear source material in the novel (should I read the novel?), but that doesn’t guarantee success. They were well equipped with witty writing, a superb cast, strong themes, and all the twists and turns from the very beginning.

This season pairs with Season Two like an excellent double feature.

2. Season Two

“Stop grinning like a f — -ing psycho and get back to work!”

What would this show have been in the early years without Erik King as SGT James Doaks?

I had the opportunity to meet him once, a friend of mine was working with him on a play. “He’s a really nice guy, but just don’t bring up Dexter, okay? It would be a lot nicer to congratulate him on this show,” she told me.

When I went to shake his hand, I said, “It’s really great to meet you — I loved you on Dexter.”

I couldn’t help myself!

He made this show and if it wasn’t for the masterpiece that was Season Four — the Doakes show would top this list.

1. Season Four

When I was a kid, John Lithgow was Lord Farquaad in Shrek. He was the dad in Harry and the Hendersons. He was the charming mentor who helped me write my first novels in the kids’ PC game Books By You!.

It wasn’t until I got older, of course, that I learned he was the shadow in Blow Out, the James McAvoy prototype in Raising Cain, and the darkest of villains, The Trinity Killer, in Dexter’s fourth season.

It ruined my childhood.

But that dichotomy was what Dexter was so good at: good vs. evil, right and wrong, moral dilemmas, family man or serial killer?

Add that into the fact that this season was the most suspenseful, tugged at the deepest emotions, contained our protagonist’s biggest personal single season arc, and included one of the most iconic images in the show’s history — it’s hard to deny its greatness. Most would place it at the top of their list, as well.

I might even go as far as to say that it’s one of the best seasons of television period.

Credit for all photos: Showtime

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