Showtime's "Dexter" panel at San Diego Comic-Con was particularly emotional for fans as the cast and producers took the stage to say goodbye to the show. "Dexter" is currently in its eighth and final season, and cast members old and new discussed what it's like leaving the show behind.
The large panel included Jennifer Carpenter (Debra Morgan), Aimee Garcia (Jamie Batista), Desmond Harrington (Joey Quinn), Yvonne Strahovsky (Hannah McKay), David Zayas (Angel Batista) Lauren Velez (Maria LaGuerta), and of course Dexter Morgan himself, Michael C. Hall.
The panel also included some more surprising guests: Julie Benz, who played Rita Bennett during the show's first four seasons, and Erik King, who portrayed James Doakes during the first two.
"Dexter" wrapped up shooting last week, and the cast agrees that it hasn't yet settled in. "I don't think it's a feeling that any of us have really processed yet," says executive producer Sara Colleton. "Come August I think it will be a big emotional blowback for us, but right now we're still sort of frozen."
"Our conscious minds are aware that it's over," Hall agrees. "Our bodies five months from now will start knocking at the door wondering why we're not doing 'Dexter' again. I think there's probably some unconscious part of it that hasn't quite accepted it yet."
"It's such a great show and such an honor for me to have been a part of it," says Benz, whose presence elicited extra cheers from fans. "It's ending on a high note, and that's what you want in television, but still it's hard."
"Honestly, it just became like a family," Harrington adds. "I love these people more than -- they are my family."
The panel opened with a tearjerking video featuring the cast. "We're going out the way we intended to go out," Carpenter says in the film. "It feels right." Hall adds in the video that everything in the show's final season feels appropriately like an ending."Whatever you do, know that Masuka loves you," C.S. Lee, who portrays Vince Masuka in the show and wasn't present at the panel, says. It closes with Hall thanking fans for making him feel better about "Dexter"'s portrayal of "arguably justifiable serial murder."
Another video looked at some of the greatest kills in "Dexter" history and examined the aspects of Dexter's psyche that have been explored in the show over its eight season run. John Lithgow, who played a series favorite villain during Season 4, sent a video along to fans as well. "Hello Dexter Morgan fans," he says, echoing an infamous line from the show's fourth season. "Not a day goes by when someone doesn't recognize me as a psychopath, and I have you to thank for that."
Cast members had plenty of praise for Hall and his portrayal of the title character. "Michael's work ethic is unbelievable," Harrington says. "Michael C. Hall: thank you," King adds. "Those scenes in the cabin [when Doakes was imprisoned by Dexter]? Amazing, and largely due to you, Michael."
Others discussed what it was like leading up to their characters' deaths.
"It was hard knowing it was going to be the last one, but it wasn't hard doing the work. I loved doing the work," Velez says of her character Maria LaGuerta.
"I think because it was so sudden I actually had to go through a mourning process," Benz says of Rita, whose death at the end of season 4 shocked fans more than any other. "I wasn't prepared for it."
King, whose character Doakes was endlessly suspicious of Dexter, said his death needed to happen. "We couldn't go eight years going, 'I'm watching you!'" he says. "It gave me a chance to prepare."
Deb's storyline has been particularly traumatic for the last few seasons, and some fans suspect she may well die by the end. Carpenter dodged a question from one fan about her character's fate, but did address her character's tumultuous arc. "I feel like a stunt car driver," she says. "It's been scary and complicated and I really appreciate the challenge. I love that I get scripts and don't know what the hell to do with them. Or, used to get scripts," she corrects.
The actors were tight-lipped about the remaining episodes of Season 8, but Strahovsky made one possible slip. Intending to speculate about her character Hannah's motivation when she returns this season, she instead revealed that that motivation is likely revenge. "What can I say? I'm in this position always where I can't say anything," she says. "I'm blushing now."
Hall received the most questions from the crowd during the fan Q&A. One asked whether Hall considers Dexter a hero or a villain. "I've always been on Dexter's side," he responds ominously.
Yet another asked whether the contradictions between Dexter's actions and his internal monologue -- the character believes he's a monster, but frequently acts selflessly -- indicate that Dexter is an unreliable narrator or that he's "becoming the mask" of a normal member of society that he forces himself to wear. "I feel like your question articulated the answer pretty well to be honest," Hall responds. "I always was interested in the notion that his voiceover is maybe not the bottom line in terms of what he believes."
What does Hall do for stress relief off-set? "I do everything that Dexter does, but then I just tickle the person," Hall says.
Will there ever be a spin-off starring Dexter's son, Harrison? "Yeah, in 25 years there's going to be a new series called 'Harrison,' and Dexter will have died, and I'm going to be his dead internalized father," Hall jokes.
Perhaps most importantly, will Hall move on to another show after "Dexter?" "I learned after 'Six Feet Under,' when I originally thought I wouldn't do another show, to never say never," he says. "So I don't know. Maybe?"
The eighth and final season of "Dexter" is airing now.