Dexter delivered one of the most beloved killers in character history. One part vigilante, one part psycho, and one part stand-up guy, Dexter stabbed his way into the hearts of TV audiences when he was adapted from Jeff Lindsay’s book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter. The center of the series, Dexter (Michael C. Hall), is an anti-hero who faces off against a full gamut of rogues. Throughout its eight-season run, Dexter crashed into a variety of killers. Some friends, some foes, they were almost all destined to meet their makers after being strapped to Dexter’s table in a room wall-papered with plastic.
Though Dexter’s newest target has not yet been revealed in Dexter: New Blood, we can only hope they’ll hold a candle to the villains of the series’ initial run. In the spirit of reflection, it’s time to eulogize and lionize the greatest life-takers in Dexter history, thus far.
10. Lumen Ann Pierce (Season 5)
In the underrated fifth season of the series, Dexter finds himself helping Lumen Ann Pierce (Julia Stiles) hunt down and kill the men responsible for her torture. Dexter meets her while already on the scent of a killer, finding her captive in the man’s home. Lumen’s tale is different from the other murderous friends and foes in Dexter’s orbit; she has an endgame.
Lumen’s story is a rape-revenge tale buried within a mid season of Dexter’s run. She’s not a psychopath or serial killer in the way others on this list are, she’s a traumatized woman bent on vengeance. Lumen is just one of countless possible images of a survivor of assault. She forms new relationships, experiences happiness, has sex, has moments of fear and stress, and has an insatiable urge to murder her captors. Her feminine intuition is played against Dexter’s need for empirical evidence in a way that makes them delicious counterparts. When Lumen finally gets her kill, she leaves her life of knives and plastic wrap behind. Lumen is a special killer because her killing story ends, but her life doesn’t.
9. Jordan Chase aka Eugene and the Barrel Girl Gang (Season 5)
It’s hard to ignore the gaggle of buttheads responsible for the torture and murder of multiple women, including Lumen. Among them, Boyd Fowler, Dan the Dentist, and Jordan Chase (Jonny Lee Miller). Chase is squeaking by at number nine because, despite his multiple kills and compelling version of manipulation, the dude is an absolute wanker.
Formerly Eugene, he changed his name after a glow-up and got a new gig as a motivational speaker. A master of psychological warfare, Jordan never touches the victims himself, just encourages his gang from the sidelines. That extends to him manipulating crowds, and subtly messing with Dexter by forcing him to reveal the details of his wife’s death to a crowd.
Jordan is a menacing killer able to manipulate most anyone on his radar, but he did most of it over the phone while wearing a ridiculous headset that made him look like a total dork.
8. Nurse Mary (Season 1)
Blink and you might miss the work of this lucrative killer. Nurse Mary (Denise Crosby) fancied herself an angel of death, bringing mercy to her patients by taking their pain away. But behind the mask of a merciful angel is a woman who collects a scrapbook of obituaries as trophies: a serial killer.
Dexter is turned onto the nurse by his adopted father and man who trained him in the Code, Harry Morgan (James Remar), who notices the nurse is slowly poisoning him with increasing doses of morphine. Nurse Mary is a spooky psycho armed with a syringe and bedside manner. Her targeting of Harry makes her a perfect first kill for the budding serial killer in Dexter. Turning her own tools on her, Dexter attacks the nurse with a syringe, an item that would soon become one of his signature kill tools. She witnessed Dexter’s first and incredibly messy kill, but as he says, “those who witnessed my early stumbles never had a chance to tell.”
7. Travis Marshall aka Doomsday (Season 6)
Travis Marshall (Colin Hanks) gets a bit of a bad rap, having been the conduit of one of the most painfully obvious twists in TV history. That Marshall was hallucinating his professor was just as evident as the reveal that the sixty-seventh patient on Shutter Island was Teddy Daniels, but that didn’t ruin the movie any more than this ruined the season.
Travis Marshall, of course, believed himself to be the student of Professor James Gellar (Edward James Olmos), a man forcing him to assist in brutal killings and the staging of hellish stunts (like strapping body parts to the top of horses and sending them screeching through the streets of Miami). Under the tutelage of the professor, Marshall was attempting to bring on the apocalypse using tableaus from the Book of Revelation. In reality, Marshall had murdered the prof, stashing him in a freezer, and was working alone alongside an apparition, not unlike Dexter’s version of Harry Morgan (yes, I know it was obvious, we are all impressed that you figured it out). Maybe not as well remembered as Dexter’s other foes, since he turned out to be a dweeb with violent tendencies, the dude staged the Angel of Death kill, the type of sick shit we wouldn’t see on TV again until Hannibal.
6. George King aka The Skinner (Season 3)
While George King (Jesse Borrego) ultimately died by Dexter’s hand, he was mostly a foe for Debra Morgan. King slinked into Dexter’s life after a colossal clusterf*** caused by Dexter frantically murdering a man associated with a drug dealer he was hunting named Freebo (Mike Erwin). On the loose, Freebo is being hunted by Dexter (as he could identify him), the police (for obvious reasons), by D.A. Miguel Prado (who believes Freebo killed his son), and by The Skinner (who was owed money for heroin). King’s the type of dude to send a gnarly shiver up and down your spine with his smug smile of enormous teeth. His M.O.? Stalking his victims from above while trimming their trees then tormenting them by peeling away their skin.
King was one of the nastiest of the nasty, torturing and killing men, women, and children with no regard. But he really stepped in it when he was enlisted by Dexter’s frienemy, Prado, and therefore had a run-in with the Bay Harbor Butcher himself, one he didn’t come out of with all his skin intact. Shoot for the ‘King,’ you best not miss, shoot for The Dark Defender, and you’ll probably end up dropped from the ceiling of a warehouse.
5. Oliver Saxon aka Daniel Vogel aka The Brain Surgeon (Season 8)
Many attempted to be Dexter’s ultimate counterpart. The series started with it being his biological sibling, he spent time clunking heads with his adopted sibling, and the series ended with his de facto sibling, Oliver Saxon (Darri Ingólfsson). Saxon was the son of Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), the woman responsible for creating the code that Harry taught Dexter, thus acting as a surrogate mother of sorts. Vogel’s biological son, Daniel (who changed his name to Oliver), was the killer that got away; the one she was unable to rescue with all of her attempts at understanding psychopaths.
Saxon was unassuming, looking like Julian Cookies in a freshly pressed pair of khaki slacks, scooping out brain fragments of strangers to mail them to his mother. Saxon wasn’t just a stellar villain for his ability to switch from stabbing someone with a scalpel to side parting his freshly cut hair; he also shot the bullet that brought the series to a close by shredding one of the last pieces of Dexter’s humanity.
4. Ray Speltzer aka The Minotaur Slayer (Season 7)
Okay, stick with me on this one. Ray Speltzer (Matt Gerald) wasn’t a long-running foe for Dexter and is barely memorable after his brief two-episode run. He’s mostly a throwaway murderer used to bridge the gap between Dexter and Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) in getting her to grasp the morality behind Dexter’s life of killing killers. Easily described as one of the more buff brutes of the Dexter foes, he’s nowhere near as colossal as Little Chino, thus slotting him in the Smediums of Dexter villains. But Speltzer is one of the absolute greatest because buried in that two-episode arc is a torture-porn-adjacent slasher that reflects the horror greats of its time. Reminiscent of 2000s flicks like The Collector, Saw, and Hostel, Speltzer donned a black mask with bullhorns during his kills, which involved him chasing his victims through a house of torture. Speltzer’s kill weapon of choice was an axe he enlisted after his victims sprinted through a maze. An absolute banger.
3. Brian Moser aka Rudy Cooper aka The Ice Truck Killer (Season 1)
What would the tone of Dexter even be without the image of body parts wrapped up and placed in terrifying tableaus? Dexter rarely flinches at the sight of blood (other than to maybe revere it), choosing to see it as a means to the end of placing killers on his table. But things were different when clues started haunting Dexter at both work and home. For Dext, the invasive placements of doll heads and fingertips were a playful game of cat and mouse, a mystery he longed to solve to find the partner he never had.
Of course, the man leaving the clues, the Ice Truck Killer, was really Brian Moser (Christian Camargo), Dexter’s biological brother who was older than Dexter when the two witnessed the brutal murder of their mother in the shipping yard. Harry Morgan believed Dexter to be young enough to recover from the incident, but both Brian and Dexter were traumatized, both of them turning into serial killers.
Moser opened the series strongly, creating stunning and grotesque messages that tickled the fancy of our favorite killer. Moser was twisted enough to drain the blood from his victims (leaving bloodless crime scenes to tantalize the blood spatter expert, how devious) as a means of leaving stark and personal hints for Dexter, like Joker teasing the Bat. Moser might have been left behind in season one, only later appearing as an apparition, but his work as the Ice Truck Killer left an indelible blood-red stain.
2. Arthur Mitchell aka The Trinity Killer (Season 4)
There are few performances as memorable in Dexter as that of John Lithgow as Trinity. Trinity is set up to be Dexter’s foil and a primary antagonist for the Miami Police Department, Special Agent Lundy (Keith Carradine), and Deb Morgan. Lundy believes Trinity to be one of the most lucrative serial killers in the states, a man who has repeated a cycle of three kills on multiple occasions since 1979.
Trinity isn’t just an exceptional villain for his bone-chilling attacks on those he slots into his victim archetypes, it’s in his ability to don a metaphorical mask. Dexter, like Lundy, hunts Trinity under the assumption that he’s a lone-wolf killer, passing through states undetected and unnoticed. It’s this apparent duality that made the performance from Lithgow so haunting; his ability to play Arthur Mitchell, the warm family man with a smile and a prayer, and Trinity, a violent murderer prone to crying on his victims.
When Dexter discovered that Trinity was a family man, he wanted to learn from him. He was compelled to understand how to wear the mask of a “normal” husband and father while maintaining a blood-spilling hobby. What he learned was that Trinity was a monster in all aspects of his life, an abusive and violent man towards his family.
Where Moser tried to convince Dexter that they belonged together as partners, Trinity tried to convince Dexter that they were the same, and that Dexter could never shed his propensity to kill. The most frightening of all of Trinity’s moves was taking his death at Dexter’s hands in stride, never letting up how many steps ahead he might have been. Unflinching (figuratively), he bled on Dexter’s table, taking the secret that he’d beaten Dexter to the punch to his grave. Before his death, Trinity left a blood-soaked home for Dexter to return to, a scene that was one of the most jarring final moments the show ever put on screen.
- Hannah McKay (Season 7 and Season 8)
Why are you booing me? You know I’m right. Sure, Trinity is the memorable fan favorite, and there’s no denying the colossal impact the killer had on the series and its fandom. But out in the open in the back half of the beloved series’ run is a literal Poison Ivy-like anti-hero. Towering, beautiful, and a woman who spends her life around plants, Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski) blended her day job caring for flowers with her nasty little poisoning habit.
There’s a lot to say about the woman who stumbled into Dexter’s life and ended up not as his foil, but the human with whom he finally found a connection. But long before she would take Dexter’s son to Argentina, Hannah was the version of everything Dexter was supposed to hunt, and his love for her made him question his very ethos as a result. Hannah didn’t slip through the legal cracks like the killers Dexter was used to chasing; Hannah served her time for her stint in a Natural Born Killers kind of life with Wayne Randall (Daniel Buran). Hannah doesn’t kill for satisfaction in the way Dexter does but for convenience (though she might call it “self-defense”). Get in her way, and this would-be Bat-villain will mix up a batch of poison extracted from her blooming friends and take you right out.
With the return of our dearest serial killer, and only minor glimpses into the type of killer he’ll set his sights on for the Dexter: New Blood revival, it seemed a bloody good exercise to revisit his greatest villains. Dexter has delivered us some of the greatest killers on screen, killers always worth revisiting. Yes, I compared The Dark Defender’s greatest villains to Joker and Poison Ivy, and I’ll sleep tight knowing it was apt.
Dexter: New Blood is now streaming on Showtime, with new episodes every Sunday. Click below to get caught up now: