SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't watched last night's "Dexter" finale on Showtime and don't want to know what happened, stop reading NOW.
OK, now that those people are gone...
Last night's explosive "Dexter" dispatched two characters to the great beyond and freed Dexter (Michael C. Hall) to continue his murderous ways. (Admittedly, I thought it was a bit of a cop-out to have Lila kill Doakes, allowing Dexter off the hook a little too easily.)
I spoke with "Dexter" executive producers Clyde Phillips and Sara Colleton about the finale last week. Phillips, one of the show's writers, was on the writers' guild picket line in New York.
Q: At what point did you decide Sgt. Doakes (Erik King) had to die?
Sara Colleton: It was very hard for us to come to terms with that, but we realized from the first episode of the first season when Dexter says, 'Why, in a building full of cops, is Doakes the only one who gets the creeps from me?' We knew Doakes would not give up. They were on a collision course from the beginning.
Clyde Phillps: The character always had a shelf life because of the collision course. Somebody had to give and Dexter wasn't going to lose.
SC: We wanted to make Doakes a a really worthy opponent. That teased the audience. With a third year of Doakes being on Dexter's case, it would be sort of redundant and would diminish both their characters' intelligence in some ways.
Q: How did Erik King, the actor who played Doakes, take it?
CP: He could not have been more professonal, more of a gentleman. He could see the direction the story was going and once we told him, he was a gentleman. We told him we could tell the cast or he could and he chose to and he did it with grace and elegance. We have done some panels since he knew this and he would be on stage and completely part of the team and he was not giving anything away.
SC: It's a real hole in our hearts, really.
When did he find out he'd be out of a job?
CP: Episode seven of the second season.
SC: Every actor gets their script and they're reading the tea leaves.
CP: When we stabbed Angel Batista in a carjacking [in season one], the actor came to us and said, 'Are you getting rid of me?' That fear always lives in an actor's heart. It's a way of life for the actor.
Q: Was it a matter of getting away from the Coyote and Road Runner dynamic that would have grown tiresome if it had continued? It's a little like Vic Mackey on "The Shield."
CP: The Coyote and Road Runner is a good way of putting it. It takes away from the integrity of the storytelling and what we're asking our actor to do.
SC: Everything on our show is about how it reveals character, and you really wanted to see how if we took it to the maximum level, how Doakes came up in the moment. The scenes with Doakes and Dexter in the cabin took us to a whole new level of complexity in the relationship and revealing the meeting of two minds. That is much more interesting to explore than having just another year of more of the same.
Q: Did you expect viewers to despise Lila (Jaime Murray) as much as they did?
SC: It was interesting. As soon as she does that very manipulatibe thing, setting up to lure Dexter away from Rita and the kid's school ceremony, we knew at the close of that episode, every woman in the audience would go, "BITCH!"
CP: We're actually pleased the audience has gotten on board, really. I think part of it is that they're protective of Dexter.
SC: And yet you understand how someone who, in some ways, is an innocent as Dexter is -- there is an innocence there about human relationships -- how he got lulled and lured into this. He learned a great deal from Lila. He comes out of it a more knowing human being.
Q: Did you really go to France to film Lila walking the streets of Paris before Dexter killed her?
SC: Yes, we took a skeleton crew.
Q: Was there a theme to seasons one and two and if so, what will be the theme for season three?
SC: Clyde can't talk about that because of the writers' strike, but before the strike happened, we were talking about it, sitting around with the writers talking about what we want to explore. We have very strong ideas of where we want to go with Dexter. We've had two years of an interior journey. The first year he explored 'Where did I come from? Who am I?" At the end of the second year, he's newly revitalized, he's examined Harry's code and he's newly confident about who he is in the world. It allows us a great platform to start out our third year.
Q: When would you normally begin writing again and when does the writers' strike need to end by for "Dexter" to go into production as usual?
CP: Orindarily we assemble the writers and sit around and think and talk and explore in late February and then we usually start production the end of May or beginning of June. So right now we're on a natural hiatus anyway.
SC: We want this to all be settled and over after the new year. We can all hope for a holiday miracle.
CP: I'm at ABC today. Last week it was HBO. Whoopi Goldberg [from ABC's "The View"] sent down some hot chocolate.
SC: Was it good or just powdered?
CP: I don't know, I didn't have any.
SC: You have to understand that in Los Angeles, the agencies send over cold drinks and water, scones and cookie baskets. The poor writers in New York freeze their butts off and don't have any of that.
Q: Do you have any vision for how long "Dexter" can run and how it might end? Are those conversations the writers have?
SC: I don't think we feel there is. There's so much more we want to go discover with this character. I think when we hit the wall at the end of a season, the well inside you feels dry, but now we're all just filled with ideas and things we want to do. I can't put a number of years on it. I'll know it when we get there.
CP: We have a theme in the writers' room: Never hold an idea back. Whatever your best theme is, give it up right away. And sometimes we do feel, how are we ever going to surpass that? But we did in season two and we have every confidence we can continue.
SC: Hopefully we never start recycling. We always want to grow, but always in character, not an arbitrary zig-zag the way some character do and you go, "Oh, my God!"
CP: Which is why we had to make the decision about Sgt. Doakes. We had to stay aggressive and on top of it rather than repeat ourselves.
Q: Does Dexter have to die in the end?
SC: Who knows? We're not there yet.
CP: We don't know if he's on death row or on a desert island...
SC: Or just continuing his job.