All 8 seasons of Dexter ranked worst to best

Critically acclaimed thriller series Dexter is one of my favorites of all time, but I'd be lying if I said every season is amazing.

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan in Dexter (Season 1, episode 1) - Photo: Courtesy of Showtime - Photo ID: DEX_101_PLT_1133
Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan in Dexter (Season 1, episode 1) - Photo: Courtesy of Showtime - Photo ID: DEX_101_PLT_1133 /

Popular crime thriller Dexter ran for eight seasons between 2006 and 2013, becoming a major staple for Showtime. Michael C. Hall portrayed the titular character, a secret serial killer who targets bad guys. Growing up, Dexter discovered his dark impulses (later to be dubbed his "Dark Passenger") and was mentored by his adoptive father Harry (James Remar), who showed him "the code." Years later, Dexter has a successful job working as a Blood Splatter Analysis at the Miami Metro Police Department, working closely with his adoptive sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), a detective.

Throughout the seasons, we learn more about Dexter's childhood trauma as he relives memories and pieces together their connections to his adult life. Though on the surface Dexter seems like a nice, stable guy with a sweet family, he lives a totally separate life that only a few see. Each season, he tackles a new set of criminals to take down and narrowly escapes getting caught for his own crimes. Dexter is one of my favorite shows, but the quality of the seasons is not exactly consistent. The early seasons are definitely the strongest, though there are great moments in each of them.

Looking back, I hold fond feelings for Dexter, even if I don't agree with all the show's choices. Without further ado, I break down each season and rank them from worst to best below. Let's see if you agree with my take!

8. Season 8

Scott Buck, Yvonne Strahovski, Aimee Garcia, Desmond Harrington, Julie Benz, Jaime Murray, Sara Colleton, Michael C. Hall, Clyde Phillips, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas, Erik King, Lauren Velez
Showtime's "Dexter" - Comic-Con International 2013 / Albert L. Ortega/GettyImages

If you've seen Dexter, you probably aren't surprised to learn I'm ranking the final season as the worst. Now, I will say, I don't hate the show's ending as much as others do. Is it the best way to end the show? No, but I've seen worse! (Looking at you, Game of Thrones.)

Season 8 follows a new serial killer nicknamed “The Brain Surgeon” who Dexter goes after. After killing LaGuerta in season 7 to save Dexter, Deb is in a terrible place, doing drugs and drinking and driving. She's left Miami Metro over her guilt. Dexter is similarly going through it, but everything changes when a psychopathic expert named Evelyn Vogel is recruited by Miami Metro. She reveals to Dexter that not only did she know Harry, but she also helped him come up with the code.

The final season ends with Deb being shot and facing complications during surgery that lead to her having a stroke and becoming brain dead. Dexter decides to pull the plug from her life support, killing her. The last we see of Dexter, he fakes his own death and moves to Oregon, taking on a brand-new identity.

I really don't mind an ambiguous ending like this, but I also understand the common critique that it's a "cop-out." In truth, the ending is pretty underwhelming. As for the rest of the season, it's pretty messy, and I don't find the mystery or action to be as good as previous seasons. When finishing Dexter, I'm left feeling like it should've ended sooner.

7. Season 6

Dexter season 6 follows the Doomsday Killers, a.k.a. James Gellar and Travis Marshall, a duo acting out on religious motives. Throughout the episodes, Dexter struggles to figure out the identities of the new serial killers in town, all while juggling single fatherhood. After blackmailing Matthews, LaGuerta becomes the new Captain, while Deb is promoted to LaGuerta's former position as Lieutenant.

But things aren't totally smooth for Deb, unsurprisingly. When her relationship with Quinn gets more serious, he proposes to her and she turns him down, ending their relationship. Quinn gets pretty sloppy after this, turning to alcohol and aggression which gets in the way of his work.

Elsewhere in the season, Dexter reconnects with Arthur Miller's son Jonah, while Deb realizes through therapy that she might have romantic feelings for Dexter. The season ends on an intense note, when Deb goes to find Dexter, only to walk in on him killing Travis.

Though the guest actors in season 6 like Colin Hanks are a strong point, the storyline itself feels a bit stale. The Doomsday Killers aren't particularly interesting, and it seems like the writers just didn't know where to take the story here.

6. Season 5

I swear, every time I do a Dexter rewatch, I have to take a break after the fourth season. The events of the season 4 finale are so heartbreaking that it pains me to keep continuing on with the show as if nothing happened! And though I wouldn't say the show takes a turn in quality after the fourth season, everything just feels different.

Season 5 opens up with the fallout of Rita's death, with Dexter feeling a tremendous amount of guilt for putting her in a fatal position. Astor and Cody, understandably, struggle to understand why someone would murder their mother, and they eventually decide to move in with their grandparents in Orlando.

Quinn finds Rita's death suspicious given it went against the Trinity Killer's MO, plus he becomes concerned with the way Dexter seems unfazed by everything. Quinn pursues his hunch and almost confirms that the one lead they have, Kyle Butler, is actually Dexter, but his investigation is interrupted and he gets suspended for targeting Dex.

Miami Metro investigates "The Santa Muerte Killer," while Dexter also goes after a serial killer, a man named Boyd Fowler. After killing him, Dex finds a woman named Lumen who is being held captive. He decides to help her and forms a close connection with her, realizing she might have a Dark Passenger in her, too.

However, it turns out that Lumen isn't like Dexter, she just wanted revenge. The sixth season ends on a surprisingly happy note, all things considered. Family and friends celebrate Harrison's birthday, while Dex and Quinn are able to put their differences aside. All of that said, Dexter still feels isolated, knowing he is not like other people.

Season 5 is an intriguing exploration of Dexter's grief and his continuous strive for human connection — even if it's unconventional.

5. Season 7

Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Yvonne Strahovski
Showtime's "Dexter" Panel - Comic-Con International 2012 / Albert L. Ortega/GettyImages

Fortunately, the seventh season of Dexter improves from the sixth, a really solid installment that takes risks after a lull in the story. In season 7, Dexter gets so close to getting caught, leaving fans on the edge of their seat trying to figure out how he'll get out of it yet again. Of course, he does, though it's through shocking actions.

This is also when Hannah McKay is introduced, as Dex is going after the head of a Ukrainian mob named Isaak Sirko.

The season picks up right after the events of the season 6 finale, with Deb helping Dexter cover up the murder of Travis. After going through his apartment, Deb confronts Dexter, who finally confesses to being a serial killer. LaGuerta becomes suspicious of Dex after finding a blood slide left at the scene of Travis' murder, and she soon comes to the conclusion that the Bay Harbor Butcher must still be alive.

Despite Deb knowing Dexter's big secret, that doesn't stop him from killing. Meanwhile, LaGuerta continues finding connections that could link Dex to the Bay Harbor Butcher. Eventually, LaGuerta has enough to arrest Dexter, but he's already two steps ahead of her and makes it seem like she's framing him.

With more and more potential evidence piling up against him, however, Dexter's only choice is to kill LaGuerta. Deb shows up to find Dexter getting ready to kill LaGuerta, and when she comes out of unconsciousness she urges Deb to shoot her brother. Deb can't bring herself to do it, and instead shoots and kills LaGuerta.

The seventh season of Dexter is unpredictable and gripping, leaning into the show's strengths while throwing us for a loop with suspenseful moments. After all these years, there's still more story to tell.

4. Season 3

James Remar, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Stars, Julie Benz
Showtime's TCA Press Tour and Stars Party / Eric Charbonneau/GettyImages

As Dexter and Rita's romance gets more serious, Dexter decides to propose in season 3 after learning that Rita is pregnant. Their relationship is going very well, to the point where Dexter feels some normalcy in his life. But, as you'd expect, that doesn't last. Not when he's off killing people in secret.

Season 3 sees Dexter confiding in another person on his big secret, however, when he meets District Attorney Miguel Prado. After killing the wrong guy in self-defense when going after a drug dealer killer, Dexter finds himself in a compromising position. Especially when the man's brother comes to town, Miguel, trying to figure out what happened.

Dexter and Miguel form a close bond through their mutual desire to take down bad guys for good. As they work together, they become very good friends, with Dexter even asking Miguel to be his Best Man, and Rita becoming very close with Miguel's wife Sylvia. However, the good times have an expiration date. Dex discovers that Miguel has killed without him and has become reckless. The only way to get out of their twisted relationship is to kill Miguel.

The third season ends with Dexter nearly getting killed by the big serial killer of the season who Miami Metro is following, "The Skinner." Of course, Dex is able to get the upper hand and kills him, just in time to attend his wedding to Rita. These episodes are super thrilling and the season ends on a satisfying note.

3. Season 2

Now we're really getting to the best of the best when it comes to Dexter. The second season takes place shortly after the season 1 finale, with Deb trying to process nearly getting killed by her fiancé, the "Ice Truck Killer." Meanwhile, Dexter struggles with the fact that he murdered his brother, but he can't talk to anybody about it.

Rita grows more suspicious that Dexter set up her ex-husband Paul, who gets killed in prison. This leads to Dex coming up with a lie that he's a drug addict, something Sgt. James Doakes catches wind of when he starts following him. During a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, Dexter meets a woman named Lila Tournay who becomes a big part of his life.

Season 2 is also when the "Bay Harbor Butcher" is introduced after police find bodies Dexter threw into the ocean. FBI Special Agent Lundy comes to Miami to try to help crack the case and strikes up a romance with Deb. For the first time in the show, Dexter is actively being hunted, even if law enforcement doesn't know who they are going after.

There's so much thrilling action, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and (at least for me) yelling at the TV when Dexter does something wrong in season 2. By the end of the season, Dexter knows he has to kill Doakes, but Lila is actually the one to do it. The dynamic between Dex and Lila is very entertaining, and the finale this season is incredibly gripping.

2. Season 4

Jennifer Carpenter, Michael C. Hall
Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter Present "Dexter" New Season / Fotonoticias/GettyImages

This season hurts so badly, but that's because I'm so invested in the characters at this point! The more I rewatch Dexter, the more angry I get with him — especially during season 4. If you know this show, you'll remember this season as the "Trinity Killer" season, and the one in which Rita is tragically murdered.

This time around, Dexter becomes obsessed with the serial killer Miami Metro is investigating, who he discovers is a man named Arthur Mitchell, played by the awesome John Lithgow.

When Dexter realizes Arthur lives a double life, just like him, he becomes intrigued. Could he find inspiration through a friendship with Arthur? But the more he spends time with Arthur, the deeper he gets, and he misses out on opportunities to murder him. Eventually, Arthur figures out what's going on, and he goes after the person Dex loves: Rita.

The fourth season is a quintessential crime thriller story that'll leave you guessing each episode. It's unpredictable, exciting, and unfortunately, very heartbreaking. Everything is changed for Dexter after Rita's death, but will it make him give up killing? Nope.

1. Season 1

Where it all started! Of course, the first season of Dexter is the absolute best. There's no question about it. Introducing us to the very complicated, always unpredictable, surprisingly funny, and even somehow relatable at times Dexter, there's so much to love about the start of this show.

We get to meet a collection of characters in the first season who are interesting, exciting, and easy to root for. Not only is there Dexter, but there's also his sister Deb, who's understandably a fan-favorite, along with the other employees at Miami Metro like LaGuerta, Batista, and Masuka. Dexter is also in the early stages of his relationship with Rita in the first season, who is such a gem. No one could dislike Rita.

Dexter is still learning to lead a normal life (something he struggles with throughout the series) as he becomes invested in the "Ice Truck Killer," the season's main serial killer. But instead of letting Miami Metro catch the killer, Dex takes it upon himself to lead an investigation of his own so he can be the one to kill him. Along the way, he discovers the killer is actually Deb's fiancé Brian — and his brother he didn't even know he had.

Yeah, it's a lot! Dexter, fortunately, ends up on top, but at what cost? Deb is nearly killed and has to deal with that trauma for life, and Doakes becomes extremely suspicious of him. The first season is a fantastic way to set up the show and it's no surprise it became an overnight success when it first premiered in 2006.

If you're a fan of Dexter, the story doesn't end with these eight seasons! Showtime brought back the series in 2023 with a continuation called Dexter: New Blood. I was definitely skeptical going into the new series, but although it's not as strong as the original, it's still pretty good. I thoroughly enjoyed the 10 episodes and recommend it to anyone who was disappointed by the season 8 finale.

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