‘Dexter’: Rita’s Death Was a Total Shock to Julie Benz: ‘I Found Out an Hour Before’

Fans of the Showtime drama Dexter were used to characters dying. A TV show about a serial killer who brings other serial killers to justice is bound to have a high body count, after all. But of all the murders, one was particularly shocking to viewers. When Rita died, people did not see it coming. 

It turns out that fans weren’t the only ones blindsided by the plot twist. Julie Benz, the actress who played Rita, didn’t find out what was coming until the final hour. 

The dark world of ‘Dexter’

Julie Benz
Julie Benz | Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

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As Deadline explains, Dexter was a series that told the story of Dexter Morgan, a blood-spatter expert working with the Miami Police Department. But he had a dark secret. Although Dexter’s day job was capturing killers, in his off hours he was a serial killer. 

Viewers found this deeply conflicted character fascinating, and the series ran from 2006 to 2013. The enthusiasm for the show has remained so high that Showtime is bringing it back for a ten-series run that is tentatively scheduled to air this fall. 

One of the compelling things about Dexter was that although he was capable of startling violence, he was also capable of forming genuine connections with other people. One of his most meaningful relationships was with Rita Bennett.

The love story of Rita and Dexter

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According to Screen Rant, Rita was introduced in the first episode of the series. She was s a single mom, and she and Dexter were just starting to get to know each other. Because viewers already knew that he was a serial killer, seeing this very human side of him demonstrated just how complex his life was. 

Over the next four seasons, the couple drew closer as Rita came to trust and love Dexter. Of course, Dexter struggled to feel normal emotions, but as they got married and had a son together, he did seem to learn to love her and even become a slightly better person when they were together. 

Many viewers found their unusual relationship oddly touching and even humanizing for the prolific killer, which is what made her fate even more shocking. 

‘Dexter’: Rita’s shocking death

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At the end of season four, Dexter and Rita were planning to finally go on their delayed honeymoon when another serial killer Dexter knew, called The Trinity Killer (played by John Lithgow), murdered her in a gruesome bathtub scene. The audience was stunned, and it turns out that they weren’t the only ones. Mental Floss reports that Benz didn’t know what was coming either. 

“I found out an hour before they put out the script,” Benz explained. “Then I only found out an hour before we shot the scene how I was going to die—they wouldn’t tell me or anybody. It was the last scene of the season, so my family—the crew, who I spent five years with from the pilot forward—was very emotional and upset because they couldn’t believe it.”

Fortunately, she had a little time to pull herself together, and by the time they were ready to film the episode, she even tried to lighten the mood on set. 

“I at least had a couple of days to process it, so I brought in a Styrofoam tombstone and I floated in the bathtub that said R.I.P. just to make a joke. I needed some kind of levity! Saying goodbye to my character, my job and people I love, was just too heavy.”

Fans of Dexter had a hard time getting over Rita’s death. It seems the actress who played her also struggled to let her go.