SPOILERS for both Dexter and Breaking Bad – please don’t read on if you’re watching either series and aren’t up to date.
Both Dexter and Breaking Bad are coming to a close. These two shows seem to have been on for roughly the same amount of time, and as I’m in the UK, the episodes I’m seeing of the final seasons are at the same point in the seasons, and I watch them both on Monday nights.
This isn’t doing Dexter any favours at all, unfortunately. Last night I said to my husband that if you’d told me 4 years ago I would be more excited about the end of Breaking Bad than about Dexter, I would have scoffed in your face.
Here in the UK, Breaking Bad was shown on (satellite only) TV channel FX, although it was advertised on Sky One. At the time, they were still showing re-runs of Malcolm in the Middle, and the advertising for BB showed Bryan Cranston, standing in the desert, wearing pants and holding a gun – it said nothing about his cancer or that he became a meth cook. Having only seen him as Hal, we were intrigued by it. The first season was short, due to the writer’s strike, but we were impressed. Bits of it were gore-filled, something which put off a lot of people, but the acting was solid, and we were looking forward to more.
Dexter was also being shown on FX, having failed to gain a following on any terrestrial channels in the UK. We were continually telling people how good it was, but, like BB, the gore put a lot of people off. I believe that at the time the first season of BB was on FX, we’d just finished watching the third season of Dexter on FX – in fact, knowing how their programming schedules work, they probably advertised it as taking over the same time slot as Dexter, to encourage you to watch another series now the last one had finished. Season 3 of Dexter is the one with Jimmy Smits, and is pretty darn good – watching Breaking Bad straight after that, I think I’m right in saying that I didn’t think BB was a patch on Dexter.
Then season 4 of Dexter was shown, and in my opinion, this is where peaked, and has never recovered since. The finale of season 4 was emotional, unexpected, and a real heart in the throat moment.
At a similar time, we realised Breaking Bad had moved to an offshoot of Channel Five called Fiver, and was being shown every night of the Christmas holidays, at about midnight. To show a series about a meth cook over the holidays, at a ridiculous time, as well as showing it nightly for a fortnight, I believe is one of the most extraordinary decisions ever made. The only reason we managed to watch it is because we had just upgraded to Sky Plus, so we managed to record it all and watch it at our leisure. It was still really good, but due to the weird scheduling, and Season 4 of Dexter just finishing, again, we weren’t particularly excited.
Then it disappeared for a while – we didn’t even realise it was still on in America. Dexter continued to be shown, but cracks started to appear. Sure, it was still great, and the end of season 6 was still a fantastic cliff hanger, but it just wasn’t quite as good as the Trinity season.
We subscribed to Netflix, and realised that the first two seasons of Breaking Bad were on there, so we decided to revisit it. Somehow, it was even better the second time, and when season three was added we voraciously watched it, and waited for season 4.
Netflix aren’t as stupid as Fiver – they realised that this was the only place in the UK to watch Breaking Bad, so they added season 4, and bought the rights to show season 5 as it was being shown in the US. It became, for some people, the sole reason to subscribe to Netflix, and other people who had Netflix but hadn’t watched BB yet discovered it through word of mouth.
Now, it’s everywhere, and you’re probably sick of hearing about Breaking Bad if you don’t watch it. I’m not here to implore you to watch it if you don’t – that’s entirely up to you, you’ll have watched it already if you wanted to.
Meanwhile, Dexter is still limping along. Season 7 was a major disappointment after the cliffhanger of season 6. Debra found out about Dexter, and… well, nothing happened really. We imagined a cat and mouse scenario with Debra chasing her own brother, and the ramifications of this. Then that season ended, Debra shot La Guerta, and instead of shock it was all a bit ‘meh’.
Season 8 has done literally nothing to amend my disappointment with this show. There were so many problems with episode 9, I can’t remember them all, but Hannah moving into Debra’s house was the last straw. There is literally no way that the Debra Morgan I thought I knew would allow someone who tried to poison her live in her house, let alone eat something they cooked for her.
Someone I know who has watched every other episode of Dexter has given up watching this season, even though it’s the final series and there’s only two episodes left. She says that there’s no way she’s watching one of her favourite shows limp to the finale, and would rather remember it when it was good. That’s a hell of a damning review.
Meanwhile, in Breaking Bad, all bets are off. With two episodes left to go, Walt watched his brother-in-law get shot, gave up his ex-partner to the Nazi meth cooks (sorry, I don’t know their names), had 10 million dollars stolen from him, nearly got stabbed by his wife, kidnapped his infant daughter, and then ran away with one barrel of money. That wasn’t even everything that happened. Whereas in Dexter, which also has two left in the series, the main protagonist decided to move to South America with his girlfriend, so he looked at some pictures of architecture in Argentina on his laptop, while his son played in the sand with his sister.
As Dexter limps, Breaking Bad is careering around all over the place at top speed; no character is safe, even the main ones, and we’re being reassured by everyone involved in the making of the show that the ending won’t disappoint. There will be no riding off into the sunset with your loved ones in that show at least.