Monday, November 17, 2008

Dexter, "The Damage a Man Can Do": Life almost (but thankfully doesn't) imitate art

Spoilers for last night's "Dexter" coming up just as soon as I get some, uh, treats out of my cereal box...

First thing's first: rarely have I been as horrified by an act of fictional violence as I was by watching Miguel Prado plunge a knife into Billy Fleeter, because I knew it almost wound up not being fictional. When the scene was filmed, Jimmy Smits accidentally grabbed a real knife instead of a prop one and stabbed stuntman/actor Jeff Chase with it, and was lucky that he hit the small plastic plate covering Chase's heart. Even knowing that Chase survived relatively unscathed wasn't enough to prevent some massive cringing as I watched it.

(Also, because this story came out very early in the season, it completely spoiled the fact that Prado would wind up joining Dexter in the plastic-wrapped killing ritual. C'est la vie.)

There are still some major foundational problems here -- the Bay Harbor Butcher issue still hovers over every one of Miguel and Dexter's interactions, Deb is turning into one of those gullible "Heroes" characters who believes whatever story she's been most recently told -- but Michael C. Hall and Smits continue to do wonderful work. Dexter's excitement at finding what he thinks is a true kindred spirit (as opposed to Lila, who was just nuts) and Miguel's excitement at getting to dispense some first-hand justice were so well-played that I almost was able to ignore the fact that Miguel should be smart enough to connect the dots and realize he's dealing with a much scarier individual than even he thinks.

Also, the final scene with Ellen Wolf suggested that there's more to her history with Prado than either has admitted so far. The look on her face didn't say, "God, what is this hypocritical sonuvabitch doing at my front door?" It said, "Is this another booty call?"

And in terms of guesses for our serial killer, I'm assuming it's the head tree-trimmer -- not only because his underling was so terrified of him, but because, unless my eye is way off, he's being played by Jesse Borrego, who isn't quite a Hey, It's That Guy!, but still falls under the Most Recognizable Guest Star theory.

What did everybody else think?

49 comments:

Chris Littmann said...

Is next week the finale? Also, I'm glad that as it turned out Anton (sp?) and Quinn weren't the skinner. I felt like they were going that way early, and would've felt uneasy about putting Deb in that spot again.

Funny thing, I'd also read that bit about the knife on set of Dexter and had forgotten because it'd been so long, but that was definitely the scene. Is next week the finale, the penultimate or do we have a lot more left than I thought?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Chris, this was only episode 8. We have 4 or 5 episodes left. (I always forget whether Showtime does 12 or 13-episode seasons for "Dexter.")

Bobman said...

Curse your "most recognizable guest star" theory, now when I watch procedurals I'm always trying to figure out if I recognize an ancillary character or if they just SEEM familiar.


Also, Dexter is a 12-episode season. So four left.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sorry, Bobman. I can't help but share this affliction with the rest of you.

Keep in mind that some shows are aware that people like me believe in the theory, so they either play against it, or else fill each episode with enough equally-recognizable guests that it's hard to pick just one.

belinda said...

Maybe my favourite episode of the season so far. I'm thinking Smits and Hall could easily get Emmy nods just from that chilling exchange of expressions after the stabbing. Was it fantastic? Was it fear? Was it guilt? Wow.

And at least the Skinner case is finally getting a little more interesting (though, that is relative - I've gone from being completely disinterested in anything not Dexter related on the show to being now slightly intrigued to see where this case is going to go), and what might be a compelling connection now from Miguel to the DA woman. I'm still not sure whether to think of Miguel as a kindred soul to Dexter (in which case, perhaps the wide eyed child thing is an act, and he's planning to pounce on Dexter) or he is way in over his head.

Anyway, finally getting some of them chills down my spine this season thanks to this episode.

mrsb said...

The way Prado acted after stabbing Fleeter creeped me out more than any Dexter moment ever has.

He seemed just a leetle too into it. I see some real crazy in his future.

dez said...

And in terms of guesses for our serial killer, I'm assuming it's the head tree-trimmer

Was he the same one Deb interrogated early in the season? Because he caught my eye then, but the writers effectively led me in different directions since. He definitely creeped me out when Deb was speaking to him at the precinct, and I couldn't believe she didn't pick up on his weirdness. Oh, wait, I'm talking about Deb....

Dexter appears to have unleashed a monster in Miguel because he's already heading for his next victim, it seems. I'm becoming convinced that Miguel had Oscar do his dirty work (the way he is using Dexter now), and now that he's got a taste for blood, nobody is safe (especially Dexter). Quite a chilling development!

Antid Oto said...

Deb was also Heroes-level stupid in that it didn't occur to her for over 24 hours that Anton might be missing because the Skinner got him, even though they'd had multiple discussions about using him as 'bait' and she offered, and he turned down, police protection right before she left him. Only she wasn't Heroes-stupid in the service of plot, really, because I can't see that anything would have been lost by having her figure it out right away, other than another annoying glimpse into Debra's insecurity.

At some point they're going to have to make the Skinner at least a little relevant to Dexter in order for anyone at all to care about him. And the Bay Harbor Butcher thing continues to be a problem. But yeah, watching Jimmy Smits and Michael C. Hall together was great.

Anonymous said...

Good point on the Deb character. If anybod should be paranoid about what's happening with their lovers, it should be her.

I'm not sure why the series seems to be ignoring so much of the backstory of the series instead of embracing it as they did in previous seasons.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight: you review Knight Rider but you don't review True Blood? Uh, whats the criteria?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Let me get this straight: you review Knight Rider but you don't review True Blood? Uh, whats the criteria?

Uh, whatever I want it to be -- which is, whatever I actually enjoy watching and/or writing about.

And I haven't written about "Knight Rider" since that show's very first episode, which means it got just as much coverage on the blog as "True Blood."

Hatfield said...

"Alan, why are you such a jerky jerkface to (insert my favorite show here), but you just LOVE (insert show I deem to be beneath contempt here)? I hate you!"

People, this blog is a bonus, and we're lucky to have it. Take what you can get and be happy.

That is all.

dez said...

^What hatfield said. Plus, it's not like there's a dearth of other places one can go for one's "favorite show that Alan doesn't cover." He's *one* man--he can't watch *everything* :-)

(That's my job, judging by how much crap I watch, heh heh.)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Okay, that'll be enough of that. Time to remind everyone of the two basic rules of What's Alan Watching?

1)No spoilers (this extends to discussion of previews, news stories, reports on other sites, rumors, etc.)

2)Be nice to each other (this would extend to not discussing other poster's reproductive habits)

Undercover Asian Man said...

How can anyone watch this episode and not mention "inconspicuous" Miguel showing up as the Unibomber. A true LOL moment.

It's strange that it takes Miguel committing the murder to bring back the chills of realizing what Dexter actually does is so horrible in real life. I continue to think that the show is doing itself a disservice by making the victims so black-and-white awful that you feel they "deserve it" every time. Have a few of them plead shamelessly and do something somewhat gray like take care of a sick mother or teach children, and still allow Dexter to be blind to such considerations. If they are going to go two more seasons, Dexter will be so soft by the time we are through that he'll be winning "Dad of the Year" trophies and be that annoying huggy-touchy-feely guy in the office.

tdf said...

I saw that last scene as Miguel going to kill Ellen Wolf, as if killing the big guy had been training for it all along.

I wonder if next week will feature Dex having to investigate Wolf's house as a crime scene.

I'm also glad that it doesn't look like the skinner is one of the supporting characters, as that really would have been too obvious.

Marquis said...

Alan I wonder if the disconnect you were having with this season was in part due to the fact that in the back of your mind you knew where the Prado thing was going?

Alan Sepinwall said...

No, Marquis, because I was having problems with the first four episodes (which I got on a review screener) well before the Smits/Jeff Chase story came out.

Undercover Asian Man said...

In regards to the "elephant in the room" - The Bay Harbor Butcher connection that Miguel is not mentioning - it was my thinking that Miguel actually realized it this episode when he said to Dexter "I wasn't going to bring it up before, but I'm guessing.... you've been doing this for awhile. Freebo wasn't your first.... how many Dex?" and then quickly backed off when Dexter gave him a split second look of judgment (again, the acting is impeccable). Miguel then quickly launches into his monologue about his own "Dark Passenger" and how connecting with it is more important than anything to him.

It implies to me that Miguel does heavily suspect the BHB-Dexter connection, and instead of being repulsed, further feels he's got the "right one" in Dexter to help Miguel address his own Dark Passenger issues.

If Miguel was a "normal" person and ADA, he wouldn't have had this instinctual connection that drew him to Dexter and would be phoning Laguerta immediately and having Dexter arrested. Miguel's choice to either not allow himself to consciously connect the dots about the BHB OR his knowledge of it but both being excited by the realization and not willing to risk alienating his potential mentor by confronting him with it (I think the latter) explains a lot about why Miguel has been practically stalking Dexter this season. It didn't make sense to me that a "normal" would be so determined to form a bond with Dexter since the first time they met, and I couldn't believe why this friendship was being so forced other than questionable writing. But with the slow unmasking of who Miguel really is, and his emergence from his cocoon, it now makes sense.

Miguel has had a Dark Passenger since his earliest memories, but did not have a Harry to shape (misshape?) him. So he chooses a path of District Attorney to help him deal with it in some small way, but he knows it is a small pittance to what his Dark Passenger is demanding of him from within - to punish those who hurt people like his father did so often, not by jail time, but by throwing them down the stairs and feeling power over their broken bodies.

We've seen how the clan of Dark Passengers interact when they encounter each other - Rudy in Season One when he finds Dexter. It is like an endangered species who are forced to wear masks and pretend for their whole lives to be "normal" just to survive being hunted FINALLY allowed to be themselves, and this feeling to them is irresistible. They are not only drawn to each other in an almost erotic way, but also treasure their ability to let their Passengers roam free together at the expense of everything else, including careers, wives/girlfriends, even bending The Code just for the chance to find another of one's kind. You can see it best in Miguel's desperate pleading to Dexter on the bridge to help Miguel finally understand his own Dark Passenger. Here is a man who is considered a dominating, powerful figure in the "real world" begging like a little boy to another who practically has no "normal" status to compare, yet is the unquestioned master in the world that now matters to both of them the most.

It is strangely human. Humans go to great length for companionship, going insane if denied the chance and staying in forced isolation for so long. Though one might never suspect it, we see now that Dark Passengers are really no different, they want to understand and be understood, but just play under different rules because their numbers are so few.

Under these considerations, the BHB elephant is actually accounted for. Miguel is not guided by any Code. He doesn't care that an innocent man like Doakes took the fall for the BHB murders. Miguel himself puts innocent men away with trumped up charges and planted evidence, because his own Code is much looser and more punitive. The BHB is practically an idol to Miguel, as the BHB was known to target the worst scumbags around and do what Miguel only fantasized about doing. To realize that the BHB is not only still alive and active, but is the person Miguel's Dark Passenger instantly and instinctively recognized as the key to understanding the turmoil within that has been churning for so many years.

Miguel is going to do anything he can to preserve this key, this leader of the pride of Dark Passengers, even if it means laying down his own life to protect the nobility of their kind and preserve the alpha male of the species. Confronting and seeking mere "human justice" for Dexter for being the BHB is the last thing on Miguel's mind.

Alan Sepinwall said...

UAM, I don't think Miguel would be putting Dexter in jail if he realized he was the BHB. I just think he would be more scared of the guy. It's one thing to think you're around a guy who's killed a few people before you met him, and another to think you're around one of the biggest mass murderers of all time -- as well as someone who apparently set up a co-worker to take the fall for his crimes when the heat got too close.

Miguel's crazy, sure, but if he understood who Dexter really was, his sense of self-preservation would have kicked in, because he'd recognize that sooner or later, he'll wind up as the next Doakes.

Anonymous said...

Im with the other anonymous Alan. Although i wont ask why u do or do not review certain shows, unless u really hated the first few eps of true blood, since then its been by far the best new show. I have a feeling u get to everything eventually anyways

Alan Sepinwall said...

I've seen six or seven episodes of True Blood. It's done very little for me.

Antid Oto said...

asian man: And what justifies Dexter not wondering whether Miguel suspects him? Dexter's no idiot and the dots aren't that hard to connect with all Miguel knows.

Hatfield said...

Reproductive habits? Dang, now I wish I had seen what was said. But sorry if my mocking of that person made things get ugly; I just didn't think they really appreciated the nature of this blog.

As for True Blood, I love it for two reasons:

1.) It's completely out of control

2.) That opening sequence. I really, really love the credits.

Oh yeah, Dexter. I just wish there were some way for Miguel not to get dead, but I guess that's impossible--his continued presence would turn the show into some strange buddy cop drama. It's a shame though, every character who has great interplay with Dex has to go. Think next season they can find an excuse to hire Ian McShane?

That First Andrew said...

Am I the only one who was surprised that neither Dexter nor Prado seemed to care that by holding off on killing Fleeter, another innocent person (relatively, since they were likely in debt to the same bookie) died.

Yes, every single b-story is sucking the life out of the show. It is a common complaint, but it is more and more pronounced when LaGuerta is eating up screentime. She is useless. Ditch her and get more face time for masuka, who is at least funny.

And seriously, Deb, ask a god damn follow up question once in your life.

SJ said...

I am loving Jimmy Smits in the role. The first 2-3 episodes weren't doing anything for me, but now I am really excited. Smits deserves an Emmy nod.

Chris Littmann said...

Wow, we're only that far into the season? I just assumed by the pacing and certain things that feel inevitable, we'd have maybe two eps left. Maybe there's a twist I'm not seeing.

T said...

The detail that elevated this for me--and I don't know whether it was in the script or whether JS added it himself--was that, after sinking in the knife, Miguel frakking LEANED INTO IT, putting his whole weight behind it. Yowsa. That is one angry guy. The gesture was like the polar opposite of (the TV and movie convention of) dropping the gun right away to show the person's reluctance to kill/ensuing abhorrence of what they've just done. (And regarding the real-life stuntman incident, I'm doubly sorry on Alan's behalf: the leaning-in couldn't have helped.)

I agree that the very last bit of scene, with Prado and Wolf, is great in all the possibilities it contains. The three most obvious to me are: (1) booty call; (2) Miguel is going to kill her; (3) --gasp-- Miguel has been undercover all this time, setting Dexter up [??]. Yeah, that last one doesn't really hold up to much scrutiny, unless Miguel was undercover AND went/is nuts, unbeknownst to Wolf and whoever else was in on it.

Anonymous said...

I am starting to think that this show is going to leave Debra more scarred than any other character. I hope, for her sake, that Anton isn't the latest victim of the skinner. Eventually, she's going to have to find out about Dexter (I think), and that would just be too much to handle.

And I'm sorry, I didn't want to point this out, but "first thing's first?" You don't need an apostrophe there. It's not possessive.

Jeff W. said...

And I'm sorry, I didn't want to point this out, but "first thing's first?" You don't need an apostrophe there. It's not possessive.

Apostrophe's correct: first thing is first. Alan takes criticism well, but the man can write.

If the only two exits for Miguel from this season are dead or in jail, I'm guessing the latter, with Dexter counting on his loyalty to not cut a deal.

DonBoy said...

I'm lucky enough not to have heard that knife story before, but I must say, wouldn't it be safer to have all the knives on set be fake?

Undercover Asian Man said...

Alan: “UAM, I don't think Miguel would be putting Dexter in jail if he realized he was the BHB. I just think he would be more scared of the guy. It's one thing to think you're around a guy who's killed a few people before you met him, and another to think you're around one of the biggest mass murderers of all time -- as well as someone who apparently set up a co-worker to take the fall for his crimes when the heat got too close.”

There seems to be some kind of disconnect between what you are seeing in Miguel and what I am seeing, at least after this episode. You still seem to be framing Miguel as a regular dude who should have regular reactions when this episode crystallizes the fact that he isn't close to being one and the real Miguel is finally here.

I did agree with you before last night. What really troubled me about the early part of the season is that I felt very much as you did about the believability of Miguel's interaction with Dexter. I too thought Miguel was just from "normal" stock, if a little hot blooded, but in no way would be so instantly understanding when he first caught Dexter coming out of Freebo's girlfriend's house. Even if Miguel was heading there to do the deed himself, he still should have been shocked / worried to death / scared that he just ran into a murderer unexpectedly. In fact, I probably felt more strongly about this than you do, since you seem to be allowing "normal Miguel" to be understanding of a few murders, where I didn't think a normal man could even understand a single one. It shouldn't take a BHB-level killer to instill fear, a guy who has done one is more than enough for me.

I remember turning off the TV back then and wondering if the Dexter writers had forgotten how to write. The next two episodes after that magnified the problem for me. How could a "normal" like Miguel be so nonplussed by such heinous activity, so understanding, so forgiving? None if it rang true, and I was really disappointed. Everything you say about how one should be absolutely petrified by encountering one of the biggest mass murderers of all time is right on.

It was this episode that turned it around for me and finally made some sense of what was going on. Even until the very last act, when Miguel plunged the knife deep and emerged with a look of pure ecstasy, I was still not sure if he was just a interested sicko amateur or truly a member of the Dark fraternity who NEEDS to kill as part of his being. It is the latter that is necessary to not only explain all the implausibility of earlier episodes, but also explain why Miguel would be more interested in learning to kill from the killer than he is scarred of being killed himself. The part that convinced me that Miguel was "for real" was when he reached for the victim's ring while in a trance-like state, compelled to claim a trophy just like Dexter's slides without conscious thought, and Dexter immediately recognizing the drive to do so and stopping him. Just a few actions and reactions with a word or two mixed in, but so powerful in meaning. It was like they were speaking another language that both fully understood in shorthand, just like long-married couples communicate wordlessly. Truly a bone chilling sequence that I encourage you to watch again.

Alan: “Miguel's crazy, sure, but if he understood who Dexter really was, his sense of self-preservation would have kicked in, because he'd recognize that sooner or later, he'll wind up as the next Doakes.”

Again, a "normal" would think "Holy Shit!" and think about self-preservation and his wife and kids and dying at the hands of this murderer. It takes someone from the Dark clan to see this as an opportunity instead of a threat to all one holds dear. I'm convinced now that Miguel's Dark is for real and that is why he doesn't see the situation as you or I would.

I don’t see why he’d think he’d be the next Doakes if Dexter hasn’t already killed him instead of allowing Miguel to tag along and learn the process. Miguel knows that if Dexter wanted him dead, he’d probably be dead already.


Antid Oto: “asian man: And what justifies Dexter not wondering whether Miguel suspects him? Dexter's no idiot and the dots aren't that hard to connect with all Miguel knows.”

I don't see how this matters to Dexter now that he sees Miguel as one of his own kind. Besides having Miguel's bloody shirt from the Freebo murder as a "Mutual Assured Destruction" guarantee against Miguel, he now has an honest-to-god SHARED MURDER with him. What does Dexter have to fear about Miguel knowing or not knowing about him and the BHB, and thus why should he worry at all? They are completely in it together now, so why should Dexter even care if Miguel knows? Should he fear that Miguel is going to blackmail him, when Miguel could have done so with the Freebo murder alone, but never attempted to do so? Remember, Miguel could have try to force Dexter into killing Ellen if he wanted to go the blackmail route. With Dexter witnessing Miguel's act of plunging the knife, and the recognition in his eyes about how it made him feel, I think Dexter knows that Miguel is more interested in learning how to be Dark than he is fearful that Miguel is going to act as a law man or blackmailer. Until this episode, Dexter always kept his own “plausible denialability” up with Miguel, but now with a shared murder, they both are exposed to each other fully – “friendship” in the Dark Passenger world. I wouldn't be surprised if the two men talked about the BHB openly in the next few episodes now that they "see" each other clearly.

Before I sound too much like the ultimate Dexter apologist, I will say that I've found this season to be the weakest so far, and without this important turn-around in Miguel in this episode, I would have been very down on the series this year.

T said...

One thing that gives me pause is using otherness as sufficient reason; UAM, you seem to be giving the writers a pass on [what you perceive(d) to be] a gap/mistep in character motivation (simply) based on the positing of a new category of person (and therefore new type of logic). I'm not saying the show doesn't do the same to an extent, but it feels to me like a non-answer that Begs The Question--you reduce it to something that still, in turn, requires explanation, leaving us no better off. We still have to understand the logical sequence for a non-Normal.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I see coming:

Now that he has a taste of blood, Prado will turn out to be a raving loon who goes on a killing spree that horrifies even Dexter, killing off those who don't fit Dexter's code. Dexter will have to be careful trying to stop him, because Prado knows Dexter's secret and could reveal it. Prado will ultimately end up on Dexter's table, surrounded by photos of the innocent people he killed during his spree.

The final scene in this last episode is meant to foreshadow that turn of events (although it's possible they were faking us out, of course, at least about what he was doing at the attorney's door).

As for Prado's bloody shirt... It will provide Dexter with the evidence he'll use to convince people that Prado killed Freebo (after he's dead, of course).

Anonymous said...

What I found disturbing was Dexter's reaction to Prado's transformation.

Instead of being horrified that a seemingly normal, respected member of society has become a blood-thirsty serial killer like himself, he instead talks (to himself) about Prado "leaving his cocoon", as if the transformation from man to monster were an improvement.

In the past, Dexter has seemed to realize that his own murderous instincts were evil, but tried to channel his irresistable urges into the most socially responsible direction (under the circumstances).

Now, the character seems to see the desire to slaughter not as an unavoidable evil, but as a gift, something to admire...

It seems a major change from the earlier episodes, where he appeared conflicted, seemed to be repulsed by his own irresitable instincts...

Anonymous said...

"Apostrophe's correct: first thing is first. Alan takes criticism well, but the man can write."

Could go both ways: First thing is first--> thing's, or First things (are) first. Thus, no apostrophe.

Undercover Asian Man said...

T said...
"One thing that gives me pause is using otherness as sufficient reason; UAM, you seem to be giving the writers a pass on [what you perceive(d) to be] a gap/mistep in character motivation (simply) based on the positing of a new category of person (and therefore new type of logic). I'm not saying the show doesn't do the same to an extent, but it feels to me like a non-answer that Begs The Question--you reduce it to something that still, in turn, requires explanation, leaving us no better off. We still have to understand the logical sequence for a non-Normal."


Well I may be guilty, but believe me, I was the most cynical and hateful of how eager Miguel seemed to be to tag along with Dexter and be an accomplice to murder. I didn't buy it either. It was ruining the series for me because there DIDN’T seem to be a logical reason why Miguel was going so far so fast. I never considered that he might have been a closeted serial killer (I was guessing more of a behind-the-scenes puppet master), and was shocked by the readiness and pleasure he took in direct murder by his own hands. His emergence is sort of a special case - a guy who hasn’t let his Dark Passenger rule until he hit middle age, a "virgin" of sorts – and why I’m now interested in the series again.

And I do think we have a logical progression of what a “Dark Passenger” (non-normal) type is like based on the show itself, and am a little surprised you disagree with me here. The whole show is about profiling them in one way or another. We even have a type of progression:

Rudy -> Dark with no code, hyper intelligent

Major Bad Guys ->(the Skinner, Copy Cat BHB guy (Season 2), the smarmy car sales man who sold Dexter his new car, Harry’s nurse etc.) à usually one or two episode baddies that have multiple kills of strangers under their belts and are motivated to kill by their very being, counts as part of the Dark clan that Dexter cannibalizes.

Run of the mill baddy -> usually get a cameo, they did stuff like killed their wife (Boat Vacation guy from a few episodes back, Fleeter, the crazy chick who killed the guy and pretended to be his girlfriend to Quinn, etc.), people who kill because of opportunity (greed, mistress, jealousy, etc.) but otherwise would not kill again because of an inner need. Not Dark members, just nutballs that Dexter has targeted as food.

Lila -> Groupie, Lady MacBeth type but can’t pull the trigger herself. If this were True Blood, Lila would be the human chick hanging out at Fangtasia begging for attention, and would be considered a mere diversion to others in the clan.

Dexter -> unique with a Code who hunts his own kind. Perhaps he should be given a different designation since he has been trained to only hunt his own kind, and is unique in that way.

I really think the show has done a very good job profiling what these different types of people are like, and what motivates them and how strong their need is to kill. I understand your criticism of what I wrote, but do think I have a foundation for speculation and prediction based on past history (and did not make up Miguel’s or Dexter’s motivations from nothing) based on the show itself.

So to me, the story is what would happen if someone unique like Dexter met a guy who had a Dark Passenger all his life without knowing it, and has now been triggered to kill by the death of his brother, and wants a mentor. Now that Dexter is thrust into the role of Harry for Miguel, how does each of them handle it? Is it better for Miguel that Dexter fully understands the darkness (like Harry never could), or is it more dangerous and Dexter will lose control quickly? Can Dexter transfer his Code to Miguel, or do killers have a different nature vs nurture ratio that is unpredictable? Will Miguel be the next Dexter or the next Rudy?

I understand another criticism – how many friggin Dark Passengers are out there?!? Dexter seems to run into them every few months. So either they are very common, or they attract one another, or someone who works in the Miami PD naturally encounters a ton of them. Or it’s a writer’s conceit that we must forgive in order to have good stories.

I could be reading into things too much in an attempt to elevate this material to the previous two seasons, but I have really been harsh to Dexter (in my own head) this season and was not in a mood to be forgiving. This last episode turned it around for me, and I’m hooked again. I hope the writers don’t disappoint, or expose me as an over-thinking fool.

T said...

UAM: Very interesting stuff. I can see what you mean about Miguel. He's had his "Death in Venice" moment, maybe. This take on him is definitely consistent with what we've seen (i.e., it could actually be the case or be what the show wants us to believe at this moment); I see nothing to contradict it. I would be interested to know what you think would have happened had Miguel not run into Dexter that night of bloody shirt. Was Miguel going to break from his cocoon (!) around this time anyway, or was a catalyst, Dexter, needed? (I think you answered this already, though: Miguel's brother's death was the catalyst.)

I know what you mean regarding the seeming abundance of serial killers. Some sort of anthropic-like principle? We are able to ask the question because, of all shows, we are watching one _about_ serial killers? Nah. Either it's a conceit or the sensible explanation is going to be mind-blowingly great.

So, going beyond mere consistency with the evidence to date, what has Miguel's progression been? Am I restating this right? Late bloomer whose brother's death awakens him, and then running into Dexter is just a coincidence? I know that ideally we would do away with all coincidences.

I love the depth you go into with this; it's always fun to try to figure this stuff out in this way. Soon we'll know for sure, so we should get in as much fun speculation as possible before it's too late. =)

LoopyChew said...

The bit with the knife sounds familiar, but I don't know if that's my mind playing tricks on me or if I'm actually properly recognizing it. Either way, I wasn't spoiled because I didn't make the connection.

This was probably the best episode of the season so far, and I've been liking this season a lot. I'm still surprised Miguel hasn't actually mentioned the BHB, but I don't doubt he senses or recognizes it.

The moment Anton didn't show up for breakfast I figured something had happened to him, simply because Deb didn't. Pity the dramatic conventions.

Probably the greatest moment to me was Angel's apology phone call. I was drinking soda at the time and it went through my nose. In a series where people can take or leave these side plots, I'll happily take them. (And some of them look like they'll be tying together, too, so who's to say this one won't?)

Anonymous said...

Undercover Asian Man,

I really appreciated your posts. You pointed out a lot of stuff that I've missed.

Sonia said...

When Miguel stabbed that man and he a Dexter locked eyes...damn...that was major creepy and intense...

Clivia said...

I enjoy the Dexter comments here on very much. I wanted to point out the symbolism of Miguel just before the murder. He stands in front of a filagree that could double as a stained glass window. In black, with the light just catching his zipper pull, he looks Clerical. Then the intensity with which he plunges in the knife is ecstatic. No wonder he runs off to get laid. I also loved that Dexter refused him the ring, but instead gave a ring to Rita. Dexter moves forward in both his relationships and they balance in an interesting way. But when will he be alone?

Jill said...

I'm really surprised that no one, not even the hyper-insightful UAM, has even mentioned the journey that Dexter seems to be taking towards something akin to humanity, and how Miguel (and the ever-present Harry visitations) may be some kind of turning point.

I don't see this series going on forever. For one thing, Miami Metro is starting to look awfully inept. The ice truck killer "committed suicide." The BHB "died in an explosion." Now there's the skinner. Not to mention how many people who have committed crimes in the past end up dead anyway.

I'm finding the Harry visitations to be particularly creepy, because they so strongly resonate of an abusive kind of relationship: "You can't have friends." "No one takes care of you like I do." I realize that Harry is in Dexter's imagination, but coming from a background in psychology, I'm feeling that Dexter is wrapped in a shell that Harry built around him for his own ends.

My problem with this entire series, as much as I think it's the best thing on television, is with the whole premise that Harry adopted this kid who kills animals and tries to mold him into a "constructive killer" instead of getting the poor kid some help. Harry created in Dexter the Harry that he wanted to be and never could -- and then was appalled by what he created. Now it seems that Dexter is creating, or at least fostering, his own monster -- and may yet become appalled.

Miguel reminds us of what a highly disciplined killer Dexter is because of the Code. Miguel is all fire, Dexter is all ice. Miguel is all id, Dexter is, in his weird, psychopathic way, all superego -- all conscience.

I'm just seeing this season as part of Dexter's journey towards humanity, which is where I hope he ends up whenever they decide to end this series. There's little of the charming psychopath about Dexter this season. As he starts to let glimmers of humanity show through even as he loosens the code -- his protection of Rita's kids; his trying on of an obsessed stalker's words to try to emulate a real feeling; it seems he's trying on humanity like a suit of clothes.

Even more interesting, though, than the Miguel/Dexter dynamic this season are some of the side plots. Deb is wound tighter than ever, and I simply love the Angel/Barbara subplot. I like the two of them so much and with the Dexter/Miguel situation being so disturbing, and Rita becoming a royal pain in the ass, it's a necessary relief.

Have I mentioned how much I love this show? :)

dez said...

I'm just seeing this season as part of Dexter's journey towards humanity, which is where I hope he ends up whenever they decide to end this series.

Not me. I hope he stays a sociopath to the very end. Dexter at his core is a killer. If Harry hadn't given him the Code, he'd be killing whoever caught his fancy. Just because he targets other killers doesn't make him any less a murderer (and a bit of a savage one, considering he likes to chop up the bodies).

Anonymous said...

Good grief, Undercover Asian Man, can you use the term "Dark Passenger" a few more times?

Obviously, you've been reading the books. But keep in mind that the Dexter of the TV series is quite a different character than the Dexter of the novels.

One difference is that there's little "Dark Passenger" talk on the show, because they have de-emphasized (if not entirely eliminated) the idea of Dexter as a split personality. Unlike the books, his urges aren't personified in the series as a separate personality that takes him over.

Another obvious difference is that they have played down his sadism. You don't see the TV Dexter cutting off fingers one by one, like he does in the books. The dismemberment in the TV version is saved for the corpses.

Anonymous said...

Excuse my non-native-language English.
Dexter kills evil people in order to release his urge so he won't get crazy and hurt innocent people. That's why Harry's code looks understandable to me---and that's why Prado's reasons to kill are not as appealing.
Prado seems more like he would kill for personal reasons, such as dislike someone, or revenge.
If you would let me take a guess, I think Prado is going to be more and more addicted to and experienced in killing, and one day he will put Dexter on that plastic-wrapped table and try to kill Dexter.
Of cause Dexter will get away, or there would be no season4 and 5. But I think Dexter will experience that trip sooner or later, only I hope he would survive.

erin said...

I thought the scariest part was during the shopping trip when Dex said he was building Miguel a "starter kit". Yowza.

But Unabomber or not, Smits is still tasty dressed in all the black!

Love the UAM's comments, but I worry that the Dexter writers won't be nearly as thoughtful or interesting as he is in these last 4 episodes!

@T--I didn't even notice how Miguel laid into the knife after he killed the guy. So intense. The entire kill scene between the two men was just incredible. Miguel's completely blanked out, entranced face was just so fantastically creepy (as was his "Fantastic!" exclamation).

I'm hooked, Dexter, you got me.

Mike said...

Am I the only one who was surprised that neither Dexter nor Prado seemed to care that by holding off on killing Fleeter, another innocent person (relatively, since they were likely in debt to the same bookie) died.

You are not alone. When Dexter met Miguel on the pier, I was sure Miguel was going to say "See? That's what happens when you let bad guys live."

Now let me ask one. Assuming Miguel was at Ellen's house for a booty call, how horrifying is it that she's the first one hw wanted Dexter to kill?