Top 15 Kills Celebrating 15 Years of ‘Dexter’ (Part 3 of 3)

Part 3 of Dexter's Top 15 kills, by Nick Henderson!

Showtime (edited by DexterDaily)

We have reached the final chapter of my Dexter countdown! What better way to celebrate the 15 year journey of everybody’s favorite Serial Killer, Dexter Morgan, than with a look back at his most memorable kills? For me, these are the “moments” that define the character and make his story so wickedly compelling for the audience.

These last five choices in particular resonate with me the most because they paint the most vivid picture of who Dexter is and speak to the undeniable truth that has been plain-as-day since the pilot aired in 2006: That despite his strong desire to be human and to live a “normal” life, it simply cannot happen. Even the most human experiences and concepts (grief, friendship, purpose, etc) are irrevocably tainted by the demon that has followed him since childhood. Let’s take a look…

With part 3, I am delving into the my top 5. If you missed part 2, you can find it here. Of course, this article contains SPOILERS for all 9 seasons of Dexter so proceed with caution if you haven’t watched the show or are not 100% caught up. Let’s get started:

5.) Miguel Prado

Season 3, Episode 11 - I Had a Dream


In season 3, Dexter finds himself considering the possibility of having an actual friend - someone who sees him and accepts him for who he is with unflinching loyalty. That friend of course is Miguel Prado, the ADA of Miami and brother to one of Dexter’s unintended victims. As one might imagine, this secret goes unsaid as their friendship blossoms but it also serves as the one truth that dooms their relationship from the start.

After meticulously earning Dexter’s trust, Miguel betrays him by using his teachings to commit an unjust murder; A murder that is without question, outside of Harry’s code. This of course leads Dexter to abandon the notion of friendship all together by putting Miguel on his table. It’s a smaller, more personal story that I think is often overlooked by fans because it immediately followed one of one of the most intense, high-stakes seasons of the entire series. But the more intimate kills are the ones that stayed with me as a fan because they frequently underscore the tragic nature of the character.

Lying on the table, Miguel tries desperately to appeal to the flickering remains of their friendship but to no avail. Dexter has already accepted that friendship is another human luxury that is incompatible with his life as a killer - a lesson that is reinforced again and again throughout the series as those closest to him are killed, repelled, or otherwise negatively impacted by his truth.

But the moment that sealed the deal and made this one of my favorite moments of the entire show is when Miguel pleads with Dexter as a “brother” - a poor choice of words that prompts Dexter to reveal that he not only killed his own brother… but he killed Miguel’s as well. With the truth out in the open, Jimmy Smits delivers a powerful performance by flipping the switch between human and enraged killer as seamlessly as Michael C. Hall. As Miguel’s true nature explodes to the surface, Dexter slides a garrote wire around his neck and pulls it tight - brutally and effortlessly ending the life of someone he once called a friend. As a viewer, I felt like my journey throughout the season mirrored Dexter’s - I had liked Miguel as a character almost instantly and I felt that betrayal when the walls started to crumble. It’s why I low-key think Miguel is one of greatest villains of the entire series.

4.) Matt Caldwell
New Blood, Episode 1 - Cold Snap

Marcos Siega

It’s no secret that I adored ‘Dexter: New Blood’ - blemishes and all - and despite having one of the lowest body counts of the show, the season delivered some unforgettable kills and some of the best character development of the series. I’m not here to defend or argue with anyone about the ending but the major reason that it worked so well for me is that the kills in this season all felt like an inevitable culmination of the character’s arc - Something I personally felt robbed of in the original series finale.

Matt Caldwell’s death is not only the inciting incident of the season, it is perhaps the single most important kill of the entire show. He arrives in Iron Lake just as Harrison has found his way back to Dexter and thrown his compartmentalized world into disarray. After a decade of self-imposed abstinence as penance for Deb’s death, Dexter finally relapses. It’s an incredibly important moment for the character but it is an even bigger moment for the audience who is no longer being left to imagine how this might play out off screen. The original ending robbed us of that inevitability; Essentially leaving the story and the character incomplete.

Now… I could write an essay about why ‘Cold Snap’ is one of the best episodes of the series but in the interest of staying on track, I will fast forward to the dramatic conclusion. Dexter, having finally handed control back to his Dark Passenger, stands in an impromptu kill room over his first victim in over a decade. The scene that unfolds serves as a triumphant return for the character and symbolizes a long awaited apology to fans who felt this dynamic was lacking in season 8 (seriously… there’s a reason that there isn’t a single kill from season 8 on this list).

I love this scene because it plays to the strengths of the character in that dark and playful way that enamored audiences in the very beginning. After nearly an entire episode of internal silence, the devil on Dexter’s shoulder is finally speaking again and the impact of that creative decision is undeniable. In fact, watching this scene for the first time in a crowded theater filled with cast, crew, and fans alike reinforced just how important and impactful this moment was. Michael C. Hall seems revitalized after such a long time away from the character and that reclaimed enthusiasm gives this scene (and the show) new life. He really leans into the role of someone who has given in completely to their darker urges and drops any pretense of wanting to be better. Instead, he lets his dark passenger take the wheel and kickstarts the events that will finally be his undoing.

On the table, Dexter teases and torments Matt for his childish antics and reckless behavior and then cringes when Matt tries to blame his father for his indiscretions (an irony that hopefully isn’t lost on the audience). When the moment of truth arrives, Dexter delivers the killing blow in classic Dexter form. When the deed is done, the scene settles and Dexter accepts that there is no point in resisting any longer. That relinquishment of power extends well beyond his desire to kill and ultimately leads him to throw caution to the wind by reconnecting with his long lost son. Finding a more potent scene dramatically and symbolically in the series would be a tall order which is why this will forever be one of my favorite scenes in the series.

3.) Bathroom Redneck
Season 5, Episode 1 - My Bad


Breaking into my top 3 is a moment that hit with shocking efficiency when it first aired but lingered in my mind for years after. It is without question one of the most raw and effective dramatic moments of the show and it is a major reason why season 5, episode 1 is possibly my favorite episode. It had a lot to live up to following the shocking events of the Season 4 finale but notably, it also coincided with the departure of long-time showrunner, Clyde Phillips. Despite this awkward transition period for the show (a period that one might argue it never found its way out of), Dexter’s struggle with regret and grief, two concepts he has never grappled with or understood, was undeniably powerful.

Clearly rattled by Rita’s murder, Dexter spends much of this episode in a state of semi-catatonia with Harry’s inner voice nowhere to be found. With the Feds pressuring him for an interview, Dexter is forced to break the news to his step-kids (a task he is woefully unprepared for) and deal with the awful responsibility of planning a funeral service. It is clearly a lot for any person to take on but Dexter’s unique world-view makes this scenario especially precarious. As the pressure builds, Dexter decides to run and it becomes clear that he is dangerously close to having a meltdown.

On his way out of town on his boat, Dexter stops at a decrepit and seemingly abandoned gas station where the stage is set for a gruesome and unplanned kill. An unruly redneck is busy tearing the place apart to find a key to the restroom. Unfortunately, the man’s rude behavior proves to be the final straw and Dexter’s bottled-up rage bubbles to the surface. In fact, you can see the exact moment that Dexter snaps before he decides to follow the man into the restroom.

In the room, Dexter finds the key tethered to a gnarly looking metal anchorhead and, in a moment of feigned resistance, tries one last time to talk about his feelings rather than giving in to his “usual means of conflict resolution.” Of course, the decision has already been made and the man clearly isn’t interested in serving as Dexter’s impromptu therapist. Dexter opens the anchorhead, effectively daring the man to make the first move. As the man lunges, Dexter lets his killer instinct take the wheel. He violently tackles the man through the poorly constructed bathroom stalls and then pins him to the floor where he mercilessly pummels the man to death with the pronged anchorhead.

Forgive me for such a lengthy setup but the context that surrounds this kill and the events that lead up to it are incredibly important. The appeal of this show is in how it manages to make keen observations about aspects of the human condition through the lens of a heinous serial killer. Never has that been more apparent than it was in season 5. Michel C. Hall’s performance and the dramatic writing on display in this particular moment are just off-the-charts good. After the kill, Dexter stumbles to the bathroom mirror where Harry finally reappears to offer support in his moment of need. Harry tells him “that’s the first human thing I’ve seen you do since she died” and the crushing reality of that statement is undeniable. Harry holds Dexter as he falls to the floor where he is finally overcome with genuine, human emotion. Dexter let’s out a raw and heartbreaking scream; A reaction that has been building internally since the moment he found Rita in the bathtub.

This moment hits me harder than any other moment in the show and despite being a rather unconventional kill - it lacks the ritualistic nature and meticulous preparation - there is something incredibly grounded and human about it. It's at this moment that he realizes his family keeps him connected to humanity and it’s ultimately what convinces him to face the tragedy head on and return to Miami. As divisive as season 5 is to fans, it means a lot to me personally because I often struggle with a fear of impending tragedy and grief. Watching Dexter learn to grapple with these inevitable, life-changing moments, always fills me with a sense of relief and hope… as strange as that sounds. But it is why this scene means so much to me and why it is not just one of my favorite kills but also one of my favorite TV moments period.

2.) Kurt Caldwell
New Blood, Episode 9 - The Family Business


Aside from serving as the victory lap that Dexter fans deserved, ‘New Blood’ also blessed us with two of the most well realized kill scenes in the entire series. The season benefited from a drastic change in scenery but Showtime also gave it the budget and support it needed to really shine from a production standpoint. In a lot of ways, ‘New Blood’ feels like the big budget film that so many popular shows get at the end of their lifespan but stretched across an entire 10-episode season of television.

With Dexter Morgan’s story finally coming to an end, it is quite clear that the creators wanted to deliver one of the biggest set piece moments of the show. While Dexter’s final hours played out in the controversial finale, Kurt Caldwell’s demise played out in the penultimate episode with the circumstances of his own sordid history laid bare for Dexter and Harrison to see. After coming (mostly) clean to Harrison after a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the woods of Iron Lake, Harrison helps Dexter lure Kurt into a trap so that he can deliver his own brand of vigilante justice.

The significance of this scene cannot be understated as it not only serves as Dexter’s final ritualized kill but also the window through which Harrison finally comes to understand his father and the reason why he was abandoned in Miami. But the circumstances leading to this kill room are nothing short of awe-inspiring. When the two first find their way into Kurt’s hidden underground bunker, they find a hideous museum filled with his taxidermied victims lining the walls. As they make their way deeper into the house of horrors, motion activated lights flicker to life and gradually reveal just how deep the rabbit hole goes. It’s a chilling and incredibly effective scene. Despite Deb’s desperate pleas, Dexter finally admits the full truth to Harrison and seals his fate… but not before dispatching one last victim.

It’s such a special scene because it is used so effectively to illustrate the differences between father and son. Despite already crossing a line and becoming an accomplice, Harrison asks questions and demonstrates his need to understand the nature of what he is involved in. Dexter resigns himself to telling the truth and admits that he has killed hundreds of victims before giving Harrison one last chance to remove himself from the equation… He refuses. The bloodlust is clearly there for Harrison but it comes from a completely different place. For him, it’s about finding justice and doing what’s fair. For Dexter, it’s about satisfying a need and nothing more.

Laying on the table, Kurt finally recognizes Dexter for what he truly is and the two father-figures square off - essentially fighting a battle of words with Harrison’s soul as the prize. It’s a battle Dexter is confident he has already won but the reality is that Harrison is teetering dangerously on the edge. As Dexter plunges the knife into Kurt, the blood pools and eventually drips onto the floor via the drain on the operating table; Triggering another dormant memory of his mother’s murder. As Dexter casually starts to dismember Kurt, he is lost in the moment; Oblivious to how troubled Harrison is by the ghastly visual.

As a viewer, and willing accomplice to Dexter’s crimes throughout the show, this moment was a turning point for me; A turning point that I personally feel was essential in a show that has glorified serial murder since day 1. The post-kill process was finally shown with a disturbing level of detail that we haven’t seen before and it was a wake-up call for me as much as it was for Harrison. It’s a scene that was masterfully executed and fun to watch but one that served as an important reminder of the horrific nature of the character and prepared me for the emotional conclusion that followed. It is a conclusion that didn’t land for a lot of people but it did for me and I attribute that success largely to the brilliance of this scene.

1.) Travis Marshall (The Doomsday Killer)
Season 6, Episode 12 - This is the Way the World Ends


It is somewhat shocking to me that a kill from one of my least favorite seasons of the show remains atop this list. Despite capping off a clumsy, inconsistent, and largely disappointing season of Dexter, the Travis Marshall kill is without question one of the most skillfully written set pieces of the show. It somehow manages to refocus on the central theme after drifting away from it in favor of delivering cheap twists (Geller is dead), unpopular developments (Deb loves Dexter?!), and failed experiments (Ghost Brian). Despite all that, the moment Travis opens his eyes and finds himself on Dexter’s table in the abandoned church, the show is back to firing on all cylinders.

Despite being an odd casting choice for a major villain, there is no denying the chemistry shared between Colin Hanks and Michael C. Hall at this moment. Travis awakens before a statue of Jesus and for the briefest moment, thinks he has awoken in heaven. That moment is quickly dashed when Dexter steps into frame and proceeds to deliver the most chilling and dramatic kill-room performance of his entire run. For me, it elevated, and in a lot of ways, saved the season that preceded it - As they say, “a rising tide lifts all ships.”

Having saved his young son from becoming a sacrificial lamb, Dexter is awash with purpose. He is no longer swayed by the need to suppress his darkness and has instead found peace with it; Knowing that his son might be dead had it not been his willingness to embrace his killer instincts once more. As Travis preaches his evil doctrine in the face of death, Dexter navigates the philosophical discourse with confidence and ruthlessness; Easily stripping away every thread of confidence until Travis is left burdened with doubt. More impressively, he does so with a surprising amount of respect for actual people of faith - Pointing out that true believers would never use their faith to justify murder.

I was going to cherry pick some of my favorite lines from this scene as evidence of its impeccable writing but ended up basically transcribing the entire scene… Seriously, the dialogue between these two gives me chills:

Dexter: “I’ve known people who believe in god. They would never use their faith as a convenient excuse to kill ten people. You used god. It’s not the other way around.”

Travis: “You are a shining example of how putrid man has become.”

Dexter: “I am a father… a son… a serial killer.”

Travis: “You’re gonna burn in hell.”

Dexter: “No. I think I belong right here. Because maybe there is a place for me in this world. Just as I am. Light cannot exist without darkness. Each has its purpose. And if there's a purpose to my darkness, maybe it's to bring some balance to the world. Because let's face it, the world is going to be a better place without you.

Travis: “The world is going to end. And when it does, I will be by God's side.”

Dexter: “You sure about that?”

Travis: “Yes”

Dexter: “Good for you.”

Travis: “You’re wrong… about everything… because you don’t believe in god! But I have faith. I trust in God's plan.”

Dexter: “Really? Then it must be God's plan that you’re on my table. You think it’s God's will that I’m about to kill you? GOD HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS. You are wrapped in plastic because I want to kill you.

But the moment this scene sealed the deal and forever became my favorite moment in the series is when Deb enters the church.


Oblivious to the “storm of fuck” she is about to unleash upon her life, she turns the corner just in time to see Dexter plunge the knife into Travis. It is without question the second most shocking moment in the show’s history (topped only by Rita’s death) but it made all the more satisfying thanks to the poetic irony of Dexter’s final line before a dramatic cut to black:


Dexter: “Maybe this is EXACTLY how it’s supposed to be. Maybe everything is exactly as it should be.”

[Deb walks in just as Dexter stabs Travis… she gasps]

Dexter: [Surprised] “Oh god.”

There you have it. This list was focused on the kills because they embody the heart and soul of this show that I have followed since 2006. But the beautiful irony of it all is that these kill scenes are what have always kept this character, this person without feelings or empathy, grounded and real. While I have always felt Dexter was a tragic character, his journey now feels complete. Through so many of these moments, the writers found a way to allow him to grow as a human being while never forgetting or shying away from the fact that he will always be a slave to his darker nature. It’s tragic, it’s dark, it’s imperfect, but if you ask me, it’s a story I will never grow tired of…

Cheers! To 15 years of Dexter!

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