Debra and Dexter arriving on a murder scene

‘Dexter’ Racked Up an Impressive Body Count but This One Death Really Stung

The Showtime original series Dexter ran for eight seasons before being revived as a limited series called Dexter: New Blood in 2021. A run that long means viewers saw a lot of violence from protagonist Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a vigilante murderer whose specialty is hiding in plain sight.

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Dexter premiered on October 1, 2006, and wrapped up its original run on September 22, 2013. The eighth season was not particularly popular among fans, especially because Dexter’s sister Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) spends the season in a downward spiral that, unfortunately for her, doesn’t end until she hits rock bottom. By the end of the series, Debra meets a rather inauspicious demise, but how … and who done it?

Debra has it rough in season 8

To be fair, Debra has a lot to contend with this season. She has finally witnessed her brother’s murderous side and, as a law enforcement officer, is racked with guilt for not spotting his “Dark Passenger” sooner. She’s also still dealing with killing Captain María LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez) at the end of season 7, so she quits her job at Miami Metro and becomes a private investigator. She heavily abuses drugs and alcohol and devolves into a pathetic character that’s a far cry from her usual jocular detective.

Meanwhile, Dexter and the rest of the Metro team are hunting a serial killer called the “Brain Surgeon,” whose schtick is to take a melon ball-sized chunk of his victim’s brains as a souvenir. The department brings in a psychopath expert named Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), who we learn helped Dexter’s father Harry (James Remar) create the killer’s code of conduct he follows to this day.

Deb and Dexter really go through hell this season, especially when she learned that their father killed himself. She attempts to kill herself and Dexter by driving off a bridge, but later goes back to save her drowning brother. Even in her extreme pain and anger, the love she feels for her brother is strong. Although Dexter has a hard time distinguishing his true feelings, he feels genuine love for his sister as well, which is what makes the series finale so devastating to watch.

The series finale: “Remember the Monsters?”

Nearly 3 million viewers tuned in to watch the last episode of the original series, making it the most-watched show in Showtime’s history. At the end of episode 11, Debra is shot by Oliver Saxon (Darri Ingólfsson), and it’s largely Dexter’s fault for not tying him up better. Deb is rushed to the hospital for surgery, and she seems to be doing better but then has a major setback. She develops a huge blood clot that leaves her permanently brain dead, forcing Dexter to make a horrible decision about his sister’s life.

Dexter lowers Deb's sheet-wrapped body into the water

Ultimately, it’s Dexter who pulls the plug on Debra’s life support machine, finally whispering, “I love you” as she draws her last breath. This is the only murder for which Dexter feels legitimate guilt and sorrow. Wrapping her corpse in a white sheet, he takes her out to the gulf to dump the body at sea. Then, knowing that his girlfriend Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) is safely on the way to Argentina with Harrison, he turns his boat into the oncoming hurricane pressing down on Miami, seeming ready to die at sea.

The series ends with Dexter, having faked his own death, living in Oregon under a fake name. He’s given up blood spatter analysis for lumberjack work, but that’s not all he’s given up. He also refuses to give into his Dark Passenger anymore, leaving the murder business behind in Miami along with his old identity.

Deb is gone … but not forever

Debra fans got their day! The actress reprises her character in Dexter: New Blood, playing a ghostly version of herself who keeps Dexter company now that his Dark Passenger’s voice is no longer filling his head. More good news: all seasons of Dexter are currently streaming on Paramount+ with Showtime.

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Beverly Jenkins
Beverly Jenkins (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She writes about pop culture, entertainment, and web memes, and has published a book or a funny day-to-day desk calendar about web humor every year for a decade. When not writing, she's listening to audiobooks or watching streaming movies under a pile of her very loved (spoiled) pets.