Top 10 Dexter Villains

In a golden age of TV antiheroes like Tony Soprano and Walter White, Showtime’s Dexter got (mostly) sane audiences to quite literally sympathize and root for a serial killer.  Despite the series’ abysmal finale, the show itself was always creative and filled with interesting characters.

So in honor of the forthcoming spinoff (which will hopefully right the wrongs of the previous finale), we thought it would be fun to look back on the series overall and count down the top 10 villains that Dexter Morgan ever faced!

Note:  We’re defining a “villain” as any character that Dexter personally battled with for more than just a single episode (with one exception).

Honorable Mentions
These 5 characters were all great in their own ways, but for various reasons didn’t quite make the list:

Dexter 11
L to R, Top to Bottom: Carlos Guerrero, Jorge Orozco, Stan Liddy, James Doakes, Louis Greene

Carlos Guerreo (portrayed by Rudolf Martin)
One of the most feared drug kingpins in Miami, Guerrero was more of a villain to Doakes and LaGuerta than Dexter himself, which is why he doesn’t make the list.  But there is still that fascinating moment when Dexter runs into him at the restaurant and ponders the idea of taking out someone like him and the effect it would have on the world.  We later saw him take on the Koshka Brotherhood, but even that was more a personal vendetta rather than him trying to break down a criminal organization.

Jorge Orozco aka George Washington King aka “The Skinner” (portrayed by Jesse Borrego)
You have to admire the Skinner’s absolute devotion and determination to get his money from Freebo, a plot thread that starts in the first episode, and still motivates him in the season finale.  His methods are among the most brutal and memorable of all the killers Dexter faced, but he doesn’t make the list for the simple reason that he’s really more of a henchman than the mastermind in Season 3.

Detective Stan Liddy (portrayed by Peter Weller)
Former Robocop star Peter Weller played the quintessential nihilistic corrupt cop in this supporting Season 5 role.  His existence was an interesting and enlightening look into Quinn’s past, and he genuinely proved to be a threat to Dexter via the surveillance.  He’s a great character that utilized just enough.  And the only reason he doesn’t make the list is because there’s just so many other iconic characters.

Sergeant James Doakes (portrayed by Erik King)
The dynamic between Dexter and Doakes remains the greatest rivalry in the entire series, and following Doakes’ death in Season 2, it was never quite the same again.  As Dexter often described, Doakes was the only cop smart enough to actually see right through him.  It made for some amazing scenes.  Doakes is definitely the number one nemesis Dexter ever had, but he can’t be on this list for the simple reason that he’s not a villain.  He was just a detective doing his job, and he was too good at it for Dexter’s benefit.

Louis Greene (portrayed by Josh Cooke)
More of an annoying, entitled little twerp than an actual villain, Louis was funny in how ridiculous he was at times.  Let’s not forget his infamous “It’s not cheating if you pay for it” line.  He was someone who tried to mess with Dexter, having no idea what he was getting into, and kinda got what was coming.

The List:

10. Oliver Saxon aka “The Brain Surgeon” (portrayed by Darri Ingolfsson)
Dexter 10Admittedly, the final season was riddled with issues that ranged from pacing to that last episode we don’t speak of.  And as a result, Oliver Saxon doesn’t get the attention of a character as interesting as his deserves.  There’s a fascinating dynamic that sees him jealous as Dr. Vogel’s real son, given that she seems to prefer her “adopted” son Dexter.

Given her MO, there’s definitely an entire messed up backstory to his childhood that we never really get, and it’s kind of a shame that a character with so much potential is wasted on a final season that was so filled with issues.

9. Jordan Chase (portrayed by Jonny Lee Miller)
Dexter 9
Much like Charles Manson, Jordan and his god complex relish in absolute control while never getting his hands literally dirty.  The scary thing about him is that his temperament and tendencies aren’t that far fetched for someone rich and powerful who gets off on dominating others.  He’s also probably the most high profile person Dexter’s ever gone after.  Ultimately, though it’s his own arrogance and underestimation of Dexter and Lumen that leads to his demise.

8. Dr. Emmett Meridian (portrayed by Tony Goldwyn)
Dexter 8
This is our one exception when it comes to the “must be in more than one episode” qualifier.  Dr. Meridian may only appear in the series once, but he’s such a deviously interesting character that we couldn’t leave him off.

Not just for the fact that his therapy sessions with Dexter prove to actually be cathartic for him (especially when he admits to being a serial killer).  He’s also probably the most narcissistic of anyone here because of the high he gets from preying on vulnerable patients and turning them to suicide.  There’s an almost Hannibal Lecter (albeit more subtle) quality to Dr. Meridian that makes his single episode one of the most memorable.

7. Santos Jimenez (portrayed by Tony Amendola)
Dexter 7
Another character who’s not it many episodes, Santos Jimenez is the character that had the most influence on Dexter of anyone else on this list.  One could even say he helped create the Bay Harbor Butcher given that he chopped Laura Moser up with a chainsaw in front of both Dexter and Brian (who we’ll get to).

But what makes him even more threatening is the fact that he’s ready to shoot Dexter just for eyeballing him all night in the bar.  Always a savage hitman, his instincts never faded with age.

6. Lila Tournay (portrayed by Jaime Murray)
Dexter 6
Like any toxic relationship, Dexter’s affair with Lila ended with fire and bloodshed.  As far as villains go, she definitely got the better of him for a while.  Manipulating him into leaving Rita and prioritizing her above all else.  For anyone who’s been in a relationship with a gaslighter, Lila hits pretty close to home.

But what makes her memorable is the just how far she’s willing to go and the lines she’s willing to cross: including framing Angel for sexual assault and even kidnapping Dexter’s stepkids.  She’s a formidable villain that gets the better of Dexter because he allows the little head to take over the big head, so to speak.

5. Isaak Sirko (portrayed by Ray Stevenson)
Dexter 5
Dexter had faced other killers in the past, but none were quite as daring and confident as Koshka Brotherhood member Isaak Sirko, a man who views killing as just part of his job description.  While his vendetta against Dexter was personal, the two of them formed a really fun and interesting mutual respect for each other.

And when they finally combined forces they proved to be pretty unstoppable.  Isaak was a man of class, elegance, but most importantly principle.  What made him such a formidable foe wasn’t his power and strength, but his resolve and calculated nature.

4. Miguel Prado (portrayed by Jimmy Smits)
Dexter 4
Speaking of men of class and principle, but with a dose of anger problems, we have District Attorney Miguel Prado.  After quickly bonding with Dexter, the two find a shared desire for making sure murderers are removed from the streets.

Seeing Dexter try to teach Miguel the code (especially when he accidentally dressed like the Unabomber) is a lot of fun, but it’s an early demonstration of why Dexter really needs to work alone.  It always just takes one person to ruin something, and that’s very much what Miguel winds up doing.

Which makes things all the more creepy when we find that Miguel was playing Dexter all along, even giving him a shirt stained with cow blood to trick him.  Miguel was always a psychopath, and all Dexter did was teach him how to be better at it…

3. Travis Marshall aka “The Doomsday Killer” (portrayed by Colin Hanks)
Dexter 3Season 6 went heavy into religious/spiritual themes, complimented by a self-righteous villain who was trying to bring about the apocalypse.  Given the iconic status of some of these other villains, Travis may seem like something of a dark horse.  But he’s much more formidable and fascinating than he gets credit for.

Unlike many others here, Travis isn’t motivated by money, power, or a compulsion to kill.  He’s not selfish, nor is he even very manipulative.  Rather, he’s a religious zealot who absolutely believes in what he’s doing.  To him, committing these appalling acts is an absolute necessity that God is charging him to do.  Even doing something as terrible as attempting to sacrifice a toddler is a noble thing he must do, like Abraham was willing to do in Genesis.

To Travis he’s the hero of his own story, and he’s painted Dexter as the antichrist (which he very easily fits).  The very best and most compelling villains are the ones who think they’re the hero, and that’s very much Travis Marshall!

2. Arthur Mitchell aka “The Trinity Killer” (portrayed by John Lithgow)
Dexter 2
The top 2 spots were always going to include these two killers, but the debate was who should get #1 and #2.  Arthur Mitchell absolutely dominates the fourth season and goes through a whole range of terrifying and even sympathetic at times.

But at the same time, he also has a hyper-rational sense of reason that’s kept him out of prison for 30 years.  Initially Dexter tries to learn from him and ironically learns exactly what NOT to do.  Arthur occupies a very strange place where you’re simultaneously disgusted by what he’s done, but also feel sorry for the little boy inside that’s been unhappy for decades.

There’s also no conversation about Trinity without acknowledging the absolutely amazing performance by John Lithgow.  The character only has the immense range that he does because of Lithgow.  His towering physicality makes Trinity intimidating, but he blends it with a sense of childlike wonder.  He’s a man who’s clearly tortured by his past and kills to assuage his own agony.

1. Brian Moser aka “The Ice Truck Killer” (portrayed by Christian Camargo)
Dexter 1
As previously mentioned, Trinity and Dexter’s own brother were always going to be the top two spots.  But what solidifies Brian Moser’s status at the top is the fact that he molds an entire long con all around Dexter himself.

Not only does he discover who Dexter truly is early on, but he stages elaborate clues for Dexter to follow, all to recruit him to be his brother once again.  Despite his grisly murders, you can’t really doubt his sincerity and motives.  He was old enough to vividly remember what happened to their mother, and all he wanted was his brother to reunite with him, since they were the only ones that understood.

There was also a grisly elegance to the way he’d drain a body of blood and leave it clean, almost sleek pieces.  Perhaps in some other universe, Dexter joined him and the two of them became an unstoppable killing duo!

When it comes to Dexter villains, Brian was the closest thing he had to an archnemesis, and without a doubt the only one who actually understood him and what made him tic.

Which Dexter villain is your favorite?  What do you hope to see in Dexter: New Blood?  Let us know in the comments!

Also, if you’re a fan of 80’s horror, see how you can be a part of the upcoming In Search of Darkness Part III documentary by following this link!

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