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The 7 Best And 7 Worst Dexter Episodes

For eight wild seasons, we follow Dexter Morgan into dark, disturbing territory on Showtime's "Dexter." A serial killer who dispatches evildoers who've slipped through the legal system, Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) vigilante activities go further and further off the rails as the story winds on. In time, they even lead to the death of his sister Deb, his own faked death, and his self-imposed exile to the Pacific Northwest.

"Dexter" put out some seriously mind-blowing episodes over the course of its run. But with almost 100 installments to its name, it also produced quite a few stinkers that dropped straight to the bottom of the pile, much like one of Dex's body dumps. In an effort to get to the bottom of this show's bloody, brilliant appeal, we turned to IMDb. These are the seven best and seven worst "Dexter" episodes, according to their ratings, from the Trinity Killer arc to the series' infamously controversial finale.

Best: The Getaway (Season 4, Episode 12)

The finale of Season 4 remains a shocking hour of television, featuring one of the most tragic deaths in the entire series. Season 4 follows Dexter's pursuit of the Trinity Killer, aka Arthur Mitchell, a church deacon who uses building sites in ritualized murders. Initially, law enforcement only believes him to have committed three murders: A young woman killed in her bathtub, a mother coerced into suicide, and a father of two boys, beaten to death with a hammer. But in this episode, they discover a fourth victim in a young boy who was kidnapped and buried alive under the fresh concrete of church housing. 

As if that's not enough, Dexter's mishandling of Arthur Mitchell earlier in the season — he saved him when he could have let him kill himself — leads to Trinity murdering Dexter's wife Rita, leaving baby Harrison in her blood. While Arthur does end up on Dexter's slab, the price isn't worth it. This is also the episode where Deb discovers that Dexter is the Ice Truck Killer's brother, which leads to her uncovering her brother's real identity. It's no wonder this is considered one of the best episodes of the show.

Worst: Nebraska (Season 6, Episode 7)

One of the things that makes "Dexter" so powerful is Dexter Morgan's ongoing relationship with his dead father, Harry. But in "Nebraska," Dexter goes off the rails and abandons Harry's code. Harry is replaced with Dexter's brother Brian Moser, the Ice Truck Killer, who encourages Dexter's worst impulses. Thus, Dexter steals, engages in a gas station tryst with a stranger, and murders folks who categorically don't fit the code. It's uncomfortable to watch, and not in a good way. 

Worse, Dexter discovers the Trinity Killer's daughter, Rebecca, killed herself in a bathtub, and his wife Sally has been found bludgeoned to death. As these are two of the four ritual murders in Trinity's cycle, Dexter thinks that the Trinity Killer's son, Jonah, has taken up his father's mantle. So, Dexter drives from Florida to Nebraska to confront Jonah and kill him. But when he finds out that Rebecca actually did kill herself because of her mother's abuse and Jonah beat his mother to death in retaliation, Dexter lets Jonah live. 

This strange decision on Dexter's part is one of the reasons this is considered one of the worst "Dexter" episodes around. Add in the convoluted Travis Marshall plot, the entrance of Masuka's creepy Dexter-obsessed intern Louis Greene, and Deb's odd relationship drama with Quinn, and this installment is a true flop.

Best: Born Free (Season 1, Episode 12)

Season 1 of "Dexter" closes with a string of horrifying reveals and events. In "Born Free," Deb has been kidnapped by the Ice Truck Killer, Brian Moser, who also happens to be her fiancé, under the name Rudy Cooper. Dexter finds out that Brian is his brother, and that Brian didn't get adopted alongside him because Harry Morgan believed Brian would grow up to be dangerously disturbed by his memory of their mother's dismemberment.

This turns out to be true: Brian has spent a great deal of his life institutionalized, before learning to hide his issues and start a career in medicine. Not only is this an incredibly tense episode, as Brian offers Deb to Dexter on a slab, it's also key to Dexter's character development: He chooses his adopted sister over his blood brother. The episode ends with Dexter giving the Ice Truck Killer a dose of his own medicine. Dexter's identity and connection to Brian Moser remains a secret for four more seasons. This episode represents Dexter at his most confident, something that sadly doesn't last for long.

Worst: A Little Reflection (Season 8, Episode 6)

It will surprise absolutely nobody, except perhaps the most die-hard (pun intended) fan of the show, that the worst episodes of "Dexter" are almost all from the final season. In this entry of that least-loved run of episodes, a new character is introduced: Zach Hamilton, a would-be serial killer who murdered his father's mistress and plans to kill his father next. Dexter stops him and straps him to his table. But, as in "Nebraska," Dexter spares the boy and decides to teach him Harry's code. This choice makes no sense in the show's broader arc, unless it's attempting to set up Zach to be Dexter 2.0. But since Zach is ultimately killed by the Brain Surgeon, fans are left to wonder why the Zach subplot needed to exist at all, other than to show Dexter is still slipping from Harry's code. 

"A Little Reflection" also throws in a number of clashing narrative arcs. First, Masuka's daughter (from his sperm bank donations) shows up to meet him. Second, Deb's life continues to disintegrate in the wake of her murdering LaGuerta. Third, a new neighbor named Cassie tries and fails to date Dexter. The only redeeming thing about this episode is that we see the Brain Surgeon for the first time, even though we don't find out it's him for a few more episodes.

Best: Are You ... ? (Season 7, Episode 1)

The first episode of Season 7 is a doozy that marks the beginning of the end — not just for Dexter himself, but also for his sister Deb, and Lieutenant Maria LaGuerta. Season 6 ends with Deb discovering Dexter standing over Travis Marshall's body, about to stab him. Season 7 picks up in exactly that same moment, as Dexter tries to explain away the grisly tableau by saying he snapped from the trauma of losing Rita and is taking it out on Travis, the Doomsday Killer. Deb doesn't believe him, but helps him set a fire to cover up their involvement in Marshall's death anyway. 

Eagle-eyed LaGuerta has been mildly suspicious of Dexter for some time, thanks to her friend Sergeant Doakes. Her Spidey-sense goes haywire when she finds a blood slide at the scene of the crime matching the Bay Harbor Butcher's MO. By the end of the episode, Deb finds Dexter's blood slides. She asks him point blank, "Are you a serial killer?" Dexter admits that he is. This is a vital moment in both Deb and Dexter's narrative arcs, one that shapes new tragedies on the way.

Worst: Dress Code (Season 8, Episode 7)

You'd think that if you were an escaped and most-wanted serial killer with a well-known face, you'd stay away from the place you were apprehended. If you must go back, you'd probably change your appearance for protection. That's just common sense, right? Well, here lies one of many problems with "Dress Code:" Hannah McKay is back and still wanted by the police, yet she's done absolutely nothing to disguise herself. She doesn't even bother to change her hair color! It's a distractingly stupid detail, among several others that make this convoluted episode terrible.

Deb's drama with her private investigator firm gets deep into soap opera territory, as it's clear her boss Elway is in love with her and acting like a jealous boyfriend. Meanwhile, Deb's ex Quinn is pulling away from his girlfriend Jamie, who is also Angel's sister and Dexter's nanny. This web of relationships is uncomfortably tangled, and only getting worse. Moreover, the situation with Dexter's protégé Zach also comes to a strange head when Dexter's new neighbor Cassie is found bludgeoned to death, and Dex suspects Zach.

Best: Hello, Dexter Morgan (Season 4, Episode 11)

The penultimate episode of Season 4 is a nailbiter, as Arthur Mitchell quietly discovers who Kyle Butler actually is: A Miami Metro PD blood spatter analyst named Dexter Morgan. 

Because Kyle Butler never called the cops after finding the boy Arthur left in one of his church's houses, Arthur rightfully suspects he might not be who he says he is. Thus, Arthur seeks out other Kyle Butlers in town, with murderous results. Eventually, the Trinity Killer languorously strolls through Miami Metro, even stopping to admire the murder board chronicling all his crimes, before coming face-to-face with Dexter and calling him by his true name.

This is also the episode in which Deb discovers Quinn's girlfriend, the journalist Christine Hill, is actually Trinity's estranged daughter, and the one who killed Deb's boss and lover, Special Agent Frank Lundy. It's one of the most tense episodes of the series, and that's why it's one of the best.

Worst: Make Your Own Kind of Music (Season 8, Episode 9)

The introduction of Charlotte Rampling as Dr. Evelyn Vogel in the show's final season undoes much of what we thought we knew about Dexter and Harry Morgan. We find out that Dr. Vogel knew Harry, and was the one who helped him develop the code that shapes Dexter, making Dr. Vogel Dexter's spiritual mother. But after the Brain Surgeon continues leaving trophies on her doorstep and Zach is found murdered with a clump of hair in his hands, this episode reveals that the Brain Surgeon is actually Dr. Vogel's son, who murdered his boarding school classmates and faked his own death. We go on to learn that under the pseudonym Oliver Saxon, the Brain Surgeon dated Cassie and ultimately murdered her. 

When Dexter pulls a fast one on Dr. Vogel and goes to try and trap the Brain Surgeon, Saxon gets away. By the end of the episode, we learn that Dr. Vogel might've been working with Saxon all along, a double cross that doesn't make sense. "Make Your Own Kind of Music" also introduces a bounty hunter, Clayton, who is after Hannah and becomes a prominent character in these final episodes. This is a bizarre choice, since we already have a cast full of characters whose stories are soon ending. This is one of the show's weakest episodes, when it should be one of the strongest.

Best: Hungry Man (Season 4, Episode 9)

John Lithgow's tour-de-force performance as the Trinity Killer hits several high notes in this episode. In order to figure out just how such a prolific serial killer could also be an exceptional family man, Dexter stalks Arthur Mitchell. In the process, Dexter finds out that Arthur is violent and abusive toward his family behind closed doors. Dexter begins to regret saving Arthur when he tried to kill himself, thinking the police were onto him. Little does Dexter know, he'll regret a whole lot more before this season is up. 

"Hungry Man" features a key Thanksgiving dinner where Rita ends up kissing their neighbor, Elliot, which turns into its own drama. While Rita is kissing Elliot, Dexter is pretending to be Kyle Butler at Arthur Mitchell's house. He gets into a confrontation with Arthur as he tries to protect the Mitchells after Arthur breaks his son's fingers for damaging his car. It's a harrowing, tightly-written episode that hints at the devastation this season's finale will bring.

Worst: Monkey in a Box (Season 8, Episode 11)

The penultimate episode of "Dexter" is a shocker, but not in the good, horror movie-ish way it should be. Calling back to the show's popular Trinity Killer arc, Dexter attempts to double cross Oliver Saxon by pretending to be on his side. It almost works: He gets Saxon on his table, ready to be sliced and discarded. But what does Dexter do instead of killing the man he's been hunting this entire season? He leaves him alive and calls Deb to arrest him instead, because he feels this chapter of his life is over. He wants to start fresh with Hannah and Harrison. 

Bounty hunter Clayton shows up in this key moment. Saxon stabs him and steals his gun, then shoots Deb square in the stomach. If it were done better, this could have been a very Rita-like "Dexter" moment, in which Dex is so busy with his own dark desires, he gets a woman he loves killed. But since Clayton is a new character and Oliver Saxon has had some truly strange character development, this terrible twist of fate feels forced. Moreover, it's a terrible way to end the story of Debra Morgan, one of the show's most fascinating and three-dimensional characters. All in all, it's a travesty.

Best: Resistance Is Futile (Season 2, Episode 9)

From the very beginning, the one person who suspects Dexter Morgan is hiding a terrible secret under his personable veneer is Sergeant James Doakes. By Episode 9 of Season 2, Doakes finally figures it all out: Dexter Morgan is the serial killer known as the Bay Harbor Butcher. But, like almost everyone who figures out the truth about Dexter, Doakes leaves just enough evidence behind for Dexter to spin.

In this case, Dexter's trophy blood slides in the trunk of Doakes' car makes room for Miami Metro to suspect Doakes.

While Doakes proves to be one of the most brilliant characters on the show, being the first to ID Dexter, this hour marks the beginning of Doakes' untimely end. The tension between Dexter and Doakes is extraordinary by this point, and the plot twists are orchestrated for maximum effect. 

Worst: Goodbye Miami (Season 8, Episode 10)

The Vogel and Saxon drama continues in this episode, as Dr. Vogel tries to rein in her psychopathic son. The traumas that turned Daniel Vogel/Oliver Saxon into the Brain Surgeon are revealed, which should be interesting. But they aren't — in fact, they land oddly when counterbalanced by Dexter planning to move to Argentina with Hannah and Harrison. Things get especially weird when Hannah (who still looks exactly the same as her wanted poster) is forced to take Harrison to the emergency room, and gets recognized by the receptionist. Yes, this increases the tension, but in an annoying way that makes you shake your head and scoff, rather than feel nervous for Dexter and his family. 

In the meantime, the Deb-and-Quinn drama continues as Quinn breaks up with Jamie, who verbally assaults Deb right in the middle of Miami Metro. It's embarrassing to watch. One of the only truly surprising developments of this episode is that Hannah McKay begins to have doubts about Dexter's ability to actually move on with her, despite how much love they share. It's still not enough to redeem "Goodbye Miami," though.

Best: Surprise, Motherf**ker! (Season 7, Episode 12)

Sergeant Doakes may die at the end of Season 2, but his ghost remains very much present — especially once Maria LaGuerta's suspicions about Dexter start to bear fruit suggesting Dexter is one of America's most prolific serial killers. Doakes dies with people believing he was the Bay Harbor Butcher, and LaGuerta sees a much-desired opportunity to clear Doakes' name in catching him, especially when Dexter goes after Hector Estrada, another key player in his mother's murder. 

Dexter knows that he can't kill LaGuerta — she doesn't fit his code. So, Dexter concocts an elaborate plan to lure LaGuerta to the shipping container where his mom was murdered in order to frame Estrada for LaGuerta's murder. In this heart-pounding finale, Deb figures out Dexter's plan and arrives just in time for LaGuerta to wake from the sedative. She begs Deb to kill Dexter, or arrest him. But since Deb's feelings for Dexter have been revealed to be much more complicated than a sister's simple love for her adopted brother, she instead saves Dexter and murders innocent LaGuerta in cold blood. 

Dexter is safe once again ... or is he? Dexter's murderous girlfriend Hannah McKay, who knows everything about his extracurricular activities, manages to escape incarceration in this episode. In time, the dark, blood-splattered secrets she hides come to the fore.

Worst: Remember the Monsters? (Season 8, Episode 12)

This series finale is truly infamous, consistently listed as one of the worst endings of all time. Instead of being able to say a proper goodbye to "Dexter," we spend this last hour watching Deb die. After trying to kill Deb once more in the hospital, Saxon is arrested, and Dexter proceeds to kill him in the police station with a pen. This move would be pretty cool, had Dexter not messed up so completely by not killing Saxon when he had him on the table.

Dexter sends Hannah McKay (who still hasn't changed her look even a little!) off with his son to Buenos Aires, where he insists he will meet them. All the while, a huge hurricane approaches Miami, prompting Dexter to take Deb off life support and dump her body where he used to unload his kills before riding into the storm. Um, what?! Absolutely none of this makes sense. While Hannah and Harrison make it to Buenos Aires, the last we see of Dexter finds him living as a lumberjack in Oregon. It's a dreadful and unsatisfying ending for everyone's favorite antihero. But then again, should serial killers get happy endings?