Two days later, we’re still shaking. The season 4 finale of Dexter delivered a few jaw-dropping jolts — and one shocking death. We asked Golden Globe nominee Michael C. Hall, a.k.a. America’s favorite serial killer, Dexter Morgan, for his thoughts on the big twist and beyond. Let’s issue a SPOILER ALERT and cut right to it.
EW: What was your first reaction when you learned that Rita [Julie Benz] would be killed in the finale?
MH: I knew what was going to happen probably three or four weeks before it happened. As far as the how, that was much closer to the day of. I thought it was brilliant. I was really proud of the writers, and the network, for not backing away from so bold a step. It really propels us forward in a way that we wouldn’t have enjoyed otherwise. And what it could mean for the character is really wide open.
EW: This twist does open all sorts of possibilities. Will Dexter raise his son as a single dad? And just as he was showing signs of real humanity, does he now turn even darker?
MH: Does he shut the door on that? Is he like, “Well, it bit me in the a–. My father was right”? And if that’s the conclusion, what does that mean? I don’t necessarily mean to say that that will be the conclusion. It remains to be seen. It’s a difficult thing to wrap your imagination and mind around a trauma that severe. I don’t know what it’s going to do to the guy.
EW: What was it like to film the bathroom scene in which Dexter discovers Rita in the tub with Harrison nearby?
MH: It was tough. The fact is when you watch it, it’s sort of lyrical slo-mo, but the actual shooting of it was much more frantic and to the point. Coming in, seeing this baby in the blood, turning my head, seeing Rita there, realizing what’s happened, picking up the baby, leaving the room — it happened much more quickly than [how] the scene plays. But it was horrifying. It’s the kind of thing that only in its aftermath can you begin to deal with. In one way or another, Dexter will be reeling from it for a long time to come. But Julie in that tub was just heartbreaking — and the baby on the floor. It was very somber. And also very secretive. Some of the people on set had just gotten pages. So I think everyone was quietly in a private way processing what we were shooting, what this meant for the show, what this meant for Julie.
EW: Executive producer Clyde Phillips said that Julie was “greatly disappointed” to learn the fate of her character. Did you and Julie talk about that?
MH: We talked about her sadness at leaving, but when it came to the scenes, we knew we had a story to tell and we also didn’t want to do anything to telegraph it — not that you possibly could. I think it was beyond Dexter’s imagination that such a thing could happen. The last scene we shot together was the scene where Dexter tells Rita that he wants to believe that he can be his own master and be a master of his compulsion, so it felt like an appropriate way to say goodbye to that relationship…. [Julie] was really sacrificing her job for the story telling vitality of the show. I must say, my first reaction [to the big twist] was about Julie: “What is our family going to be like without her?” From a story telling standpoint it was a really bold idea, but as far as losing her as a member of ensemble, it was a blow for all of us.
EW: In that last conversation between Dexter and Rita, Dexter seemed as human as we’ve seen him.
MH: Had this season not ended the way it ended, there’s almost a sense that Dexter is entertaining the thought that maybe he’s going to get this out of his system. That if he kills Trinity, who’s left to kill? I think he’s entertaining the notion that maybe he’s done. [But] with this season ending the way it ends — and Dexter experiencing this appetite for vengeance that he can’t satiate — all bets are off on that front.
EW: What sticks out to you about the scene in which Dexter finally kills Trinity?
MH: It’s a scene that John [Lithgow] and I pretty much knew was coming. We definitely didn’t want the scene in any way to telegraph what Dexter would ultimately discover. We certainly wanted it to be unique among the kills. On the one hand Dexter is killing the most formidable target he’s ever come against, and there’s a sense of victory and pride that goes along with that. And yet while there’s a real repulsion to the Trinity Killer, there’s a simultaneous attraction and appetite for connection that goes throughout their relationship and maybe comes to a head when Dexter tries to get some counsel from him that he can’t receive from anyone else about how to move forward with his life. And just the twisted, everything-turned-on-its-head nature of that kind of plea in the midst of a scene where he’s going to take a hammer claw to the guy’s head was delicious. We tried to navigate all those twists and turns, and have the malice definitely there but not give short shrift to the real appetite for connection and counsel that was alive in Dexter. And of course for John it was the way he played what is revealed to be a double meaning through a lot of what he’s saying to Dexter was really fun for him, and obviously tremendously effective in his hands.
EW: What did you like most about the Trinity-Dexter relationship?
MH: Certainly the Trinity killer storyline went a long way in creating a sense of intrigue. He was without question the most formidable foe or target that Dexter had ever encountered, so that vitalized Dexter’s fundamental need to kill… I loved the levels of it — the subtextual levels, the fact that Dexter was presenting himself as something other than who he actually is, with the full knowledge that the Trinity Killer was doing the same, and yet there were still so many secrets for Dexter to uncover about Trinity. There were always things to be learned and these layers of intrigue beneath the surface. John and I had such a great time playing those scenes. He’s just so incredibly talented, nuanced in his work, intelligent, and he brings such a genuine sense of play to the table. I think he had a blast doing the show and really infected all of us with a sense of play and enthusiasm.
EW: Looking back at the season, what was your favorite scene?
MH: That’s a tough one… but that Thanksgiving episode was like the worst Thanksgiving ever captured on film. And it went horribly wrong [so] quickly. Obviously the son’s finger was broken and the daughter had hit on Dexter and the mother had been okay with it. A lot of seeds were planted. When we sat at that table and he said, “Shut up, c—,” to his wife — I mean, within thirty seconds I’ve got him on the floor with a knife saying, “I should have f—ing killed you when I had the chance!” That was a lot of fun. As far as the giddy laughter goes, it was probably higher that day than ever. We were just like, “This is so insane!” We had a really good time that day.
EW: How many more seasons of Dexter can there be?
MH: We’re definitely going to do one more — beyond that, I don’t know. This show is as popular as it’s ever been and I’m sure there’s a desire on the network’s part to keep that ball rolling, but I take these things one episode at a time…. This thing can’t go on indefinitely, and yet it’s gone on in ways that I never could have imagined, so I would like to believe that it can continue.
To read Michael Ausiello’s interview with Clyde Phillips about the finale, click here.
Photo credit: Showtime