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Has 'Dexter' Gone On Too Long?

Whatever shortcomings the series has, there's always enough mystery to keep us coming back

The cast of Dexter
Jim Fiscus/SHOWTIME
August 15, 2013 3:00 PM ET

Now that we're just past the midpoint of Dexter's eighth and final season, we're going to say something that may be unpopular in some crowds: everyone's favorite serial killer still has some gas left in his tank.

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That's right. We're still enjoying Dexter, despite a few bumps in the road. We suffered through "the Rita years," laughed at Dexter's many close calls and painstakingly watched as the Travis Marshall case unfolded. We accepted those punches, always rolling right back to our screens for the following week's episode.

You see, whatever shortcomings Dexter has acquired over the past several years, there's always just enough intrigue and mystery to keep us coming back for more. The reason? The continued presence of the core cast. Keeping Dexter, Debra, Masuka, Batista and Harry Morgan together for eight seasons has helped the series maintain a level of familiarity that makes watching it feel like eating a warm bowl of soup. The creative teams' ability to incorporate guest stars and add new, interesting characters has also helped to keep the show fresh without stretching the core narrative too far (unlike True Blood, for example).

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Aside from Julie Benz's multi-season arc as Rita Bennett, most guest stars have actually enriched the show. Season three gave fans a dapper, cunning Jimmy Smits, while the fourth season introduced John Lithgow's Arthur Mitchell character – one of television's best season-long guest-arcs ever. Season five added appearances by Julia Stiles (though many fans reviled the Lumen character) and Oscar nominee Peter Weller. And while most Dexterites would like to forget the Colin Hanks-anchored sixth season (which holds the series' lowest Metacritic score), it also gave us Mos Def's excellent half-season arc as Brother Sam.

One quick web search reveals Dexter's presence on plenty of "Shows That Went On Too Long" lists, but let's think about that in terms of programs that deserve a place on those lists.

True Blood, currently in its sixth season (and already renewed for a seventh) is already three seasons past its prime. How I Met Your Mother is headed towards its ninth and final season, but not before dragging out the reveal of the actual mother for too long. Glee took all the novelty and joy of its first season-and-a-half and turned it into a top-100-hit-making show far too heavy on messaging and equally too light on story. And The Office just completely forgot how to be funny after Steve Carell left.

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So what's keeping Dexter off our plastic-wrapped killing table? We still find it fun. Sure, it's not what it was during its first two seasons (or even during Lithgow's amazing run), but its cleverly written and has a core cast of characters we care for. That's more than we can say for most shows.

Are we ready for it all to end on September 22? Sure. Dexter had its run and we're happy that the showrunners are concluding the story on their terms. But are we savoring these last few episodes before the final knife falls? You bet your ass we are.

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