The end is near for "Dexter" -- not just for Season Six, which has its finale on Sunday, December 18, but also for the series itself, now that Showtime has announced plans to wrap things up two years from now. That gives Michael C. Hall -- who has earned five straight Emmy nominations for his portrayal of the titular serial killer -- an opportunity to help decide how his character's last moments on screen will play out. Like most people who find success with a single, long-running role, Hall is now associated with Dexter to a degree that can't be altogether comfortable.
But while there are obvious differences -- Hall is not, in fact, a troubled forensics analyst who moonlights as a vigilante, doling out justice in fatal portions -- there are a few real similarities, too. Like Dexter, Hall is unusually intelligent and thoughtful, likes to keep to himself, and knows his way around an embalming table (he played an undertaker on HBO's "Six Feet Under"). The Huffington Post spoke to the Golden Globe winner about this season's religious theme, his feelings about his alter-ego and his thoughts on how the show should end.
Why was this season finally the time to make religion such a central theme?
I think each season has had its thematic element. Initially, Dexter was, 'What happened to me?' and then, 'Who am I?' and I think [religion represents] a fundamental step in the stages of development. Given what's happening in the world, I like that we show a broad spectrum of what religion can be, with Brother Sam [a born-again minister played by Mos Def] being an example of someone who has used religious belief to facilitate a rehabilitation and has come into a place of love instead of hate. Whereas on the other side of the spectrum, we have these Doomsday Killers [played by Colin Hanks and Edward James Olmos] who are using scripture as a basis for their heinous acts. That seems timely. And I think that for Dexter, the god of his world has been the code, and if there's any executor of God's vengeance in that sense, it's been him. To open himself to the idea of a broader sense of what God might be, I think is interesting and compelling.
The audience recently learned that Gellar [Olmos] has been dead all along. Was that twist planned from the beginning, or did it come up as the writing went on?
There are certainly story lines over the course of the season that weren't quite anticipated, or morphed. But in that case, we knew all along that he was a figment of Travis' imagination.
So if we watch all the episodes again, frame by frame, will we see hints at it?
There are a couple of things I can think of. There is the time they're in the diner together and the waitress never acknowledges Gellar. There's a time that they're out at that nightclub and he's sitting there, basically 30 years older than anyone else in the place, with his picture on a newspaper, on a newspaper stand right across. So there are little things here and there -- the fact that you basically don't see him interact with anyone else -- that on a second viewing you'd probably pick up on.
There seems to be a Season Eight end-game, and I've read that the show will begin to build toward an ending over the next two years. How do you write a multi-season ending like that?
I think we're at a point where we can start telling the story with at least a general sense of an end in sight. I'm sure as we move towards it, things will change, but we can start having a more concrete conversation about how things would go down.
How closely do you feel you are attached to the character in the public eye?
As far as the public eye goes, I suppose that goes with the territory. People, when they come up to me on the street, if there's a question I get more than any other, it's 'Are you Dexter?' And I go, "Oh man, you're sending me into a metaphysical quandary. Am I Dexter? No! He's just words on a page, and I'm an actor." But I don't know -- I'm thankful that that's the question, because you want to tell a story that compels people to lean forward and pay attention. But I never get confused or feel like I'm losing my mind or think I'm him and have a thought and say, "Oh no, that's a Dexter thought." At the same time, I think only when the show is really put to bed will I begin to appreciate the degree to which I've been living with it the whole time.
Do you think Dexter has to die at the end of the series?
It seems like a reasonable thing to think, that things won't end well for the character. But there are no rules. I don't think there's anything we're obliged to say. As far as a general ending for the show, that doesn't seem out of the question.
You don't even have to wrap it up with a nice bow -- you could just have him do a kill and then suddenly it ends.
I don't know if it's possible to conclude something that people have been spending this much time with in a way that is satisfying to everyone, and if that's your focus, it's going to be hard. You're going to be in trouble.
It'd be fun to annoy people.
Yeah, maybe he'll walk out and get hit by a bus. Beep! The End.
How protective do you feel of the character, if you're given a line or an action that you don't think Dexter would do?
I think I just operate from the sense of, 'Can I believe this to be true?' From the get-go with this character, it's sometimes a challenge to wrap your mind around how something could be true for him. How could this guy get married? But if I can't find my way to a sense of it being true, sometimes that results in a conversation about, 'We can get here, but maybe there's a different way to do it,' or maybe there's a different focus motivating Dexter to make this choice. So yeah, I feel like that's a huge part of my job at this point.
Do you ever feel protective in the sense of, "Wow, the public won't like it if he does this or that"?
I try not to be in any way occupied with that. I leave it to other people. And I am interested in the idea of pushing the envelope in terms of the audience's willingness to accept certain behavior, but from the beginning there's a consideration. Dexter has played fast and loose with the rules of the code. There was a time he actually killed someone who he discovered later wasn't actually a killer, even though he was a reprehensible person, but he has kept doing in people who were doing in people. All bets would be off if that weren't the case. There have been times where I've thought, 'Why can't he just fly off the handle and go on a killing spree?' And he did that at the top of Season Five. Rita died and the next thing you knew, he was killing a guy who looked at him funny. We've done that; if that was the first episode of the show, I don't think people would have been on board, but they were willing to sort of say, 'Well, you know, poor guy.'
You don't usually sympathize with a murderer.
I think people can argue as to whether or not it's the right thing. That's part of the fun of it. But I think the character is presented in a way where audiences relish being given the opportunity with him. We all have our dark side, we all have our secrets we keep. We all have something that we're managing, even if it's not as formidable as what Dexter manages.