‘Dexter’ Is What Criminologists Call a ‘Mission-Oriented’ Serial Killer

Serial killers can add an extra layer of suspense and horror to popular media. Some works like to explore the minds of those who decide to take lives. One such show is Dexter, where the main character captures serial killers and murders them. 

The reboot sought to rewrite the original ending of the franchise. In doing so, the series gained a renewed interest from old and new fans. Fascination with the antihero has led to some people contemplating how Dexter fits the role of a mission-oriented serial killer. 

Michael C. Hall as Dexter in 'Dexter: New Blood' Episode 9. Dexter is wearing a heavy coat and a winter hat.
Michael C. Hall as Dexter in ‘Dexter: New Blood’ | Seacia Pavao/Showtime

Viewers had different responses to the ‘Dexter’ reboot

Last year, Dexter made a return in a reboot series titled Dexter: New Blood. The mini-series contained 10 episodes, and some of the original actors reprised their roles. One change to the original show was that Dexter faked his death and lived as a lumberjack. 

The reboot made callbacks to previous seasons while continuing Dexter’s story in a new town. The final episode concluded with Harrison fatally shooting Dexter. The show led to mixed reactions among audiences, especially in the last half. 

Many fans felt displeased with the conclusion due to some pacing issues. They believe the buildup started well, but the story became rushed by the end. Dexter’s fate also confused people, but others were fine with how things played out. 

Several critics had positive reviews for the reboot. They felt that it was a logical continuation and conclusion of Dexter’s arc. Still, the finale had the lowest rating in the franchise after it aired. 

Dexter is a mission-oriented serial killer

Dexter follows a man of the same name as he helps solve murders in Miami. The character is a forensic technician and specializes in analyzing blood splatter patterns. However, the viewers learn that Dexter is more than a member of the police department. 

Outside of his day job, Dexter kills other murderers who managed to escape the justice system. His vigilantism and sociopathic tendencies allow crime experts to classify him as a mission-oriented killer. Criminologist David Wilson provided his reasoning in a video by Vanity Fair.

“Dexter fits a type of serial killer called the ‘mission-oriented serial killer.’ He’s a serial killer who’s on a mission to rid the world of other serial killers, and that’s very typical of a number of actual serial killers criminologically,” Wilson explained. “He establishes very quickly that there’s some kind of moral hierarchy in the phenomenon of serial murder.” 

Wilson further states how Dexter is organized and has a “very elaborate MO.” The character is not common among serial killers since he goes after murderers. Mission-oriented killers have different reasons for doing what they do. 

What makes someone a mission-oriented serial killer?

According to the Office of Justice Programs, mission-oriented is one of the four types of serial killers. People of this category typically have a goal in mind when they go after others. They identify a group of individuals and aim to eliminate them. 

Usually, a mission-oriented serial killer justifies their actions. While Dexter sees murderers as immoral, many use homophobia or misogyny to target LGBTQ folks or women. In multiple cases, people go after prostitutes or racial minorities. 

Some people might think of Jack the Ripper as a real-life example of a mission-oriented serial killer. He went after several women, but no one knew the exact reason why. One of the most well-known mission-oriented killers is Joseph Paul Franklin. 

FOX19 NOW reports that he went after individuals who were black, biracial, or Jewish. Franklin’s motivation was white supremacy, and his goal was to begin a race war. One prosecutor deemed him “the worst serial killer” in their career.

RELATED: ‘Dexter: New Blood’: How the Cast Reacted to the End of the Show