Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dexter: Bloody business

Spoilers for “Dexter” coming up just as soon as I eat some toast...

“Stay away from Rita. Stay away from me."
"Or what?"
"Or you will see the monster."

Damn. But the big question is, which monster will Lila (and we) see?

There was the monster we met in season one, the neat and tidy one, as Dexter described himself at the time. The monster slavishly followed The Code of Harry, was meticulous about his targets and his methods, a danger to those who “deserved” it (c.f. William Munny) and a seeming prince to those who didn’t.

That monster appears to have died along with its brother, the Ice Truck Killer. The monster we met at the start of this year was a scared, clumsy creature, who tried to be the neat and tidy monster but never quite pulled it off.

After Dexter went to NA and fell under Lila’s sway, the monster was replaced by a seemingly smarter, more benign one, one who didn’t feel compelled to kill, who could channel his aggression and talents in more positive ways.

That was, of course, a mirage. New Dexter was, in some ways, an even bigger monster, selfish, arrogant and amoral. The stunt last week where he temporarily framed the innocent stepfather in order to snare Doakes was a complete repudiation of The Code, the first step down a slippery slope towards Dexter hurting whomever was necessary, whenever it was convenient to him. That monster got cocky and inadvertently put Lundy on his trail.

And now that Dexter’s seen Lila for who she truly is? What kind of monster is he now? Based on his apparent willingness to kill Lila for being an inconvenience to him (and, in fairness, a potential threat to Rita), the return of the familiar urge to kill but also the panic and sloppiness with which he left Santos Jimenez’s body alone in his Everglades shack (which may or may not come back to bite him), it feels like the current incarnation of Dexter combines all the monsters of the past. He’s bloodthirsty and amoral, calculated at times and clumsy at others. This Dexter is very bad news -- for Lila and for everyone else around him.

We’re nearing the home stretch of season two. I’ve occasionally complained about the silliness of these stories where Dexter narrowly evades discovery by Lundy or the other cops, because of course we know Dexter won’t get caught, because otherwise there’s no show. But there’s a different kind of suspense at work here. We know Dexter will stay free, but which Dexter will he be?

Besides Dexter’s ongoing identity crisis (which even he doesn’t appreciate the depths of, because he’s not on the outside looking in as we are), episode eight had some other vedddy interesting things going on.

We all assumed after last week that Dexter’s unmasking and subsequent head butt in front of Doakes would backfire – that, unfettered by the rule of law and more aware than ever of what Dexter really is, Doakes would become relentless in pursuit. For a little while here, that seemed not to be the case. Doakes seemed at peace when he first met with Laguerta, and it wasn’t until Lundy mentioned the faulty blood evidence in the Rodrigo case that Doakes finally decided to go after Dexter.

So here’s the question: is there any way Doakes isn’t, even briefly, wrongfully accused of being the Butcher? He has a history of obsessive, violent behavior and that mind-warping Special Forces background. He walked out on Lundy in mid-interview, and now may be in possession of Dexter’s damning blood smear collection. (Assuming he doesn’t do something smart like put it back where he found it and place an anonymous 911 call.) And, of course, he knows too much about Dexter to be allowed to remain free, if not alive. (It’s like how, in the early days of “Smallville,” the Kryptonite Freak of the Weaks always died so that the writers could keep Clark’s powers a secret.)

Doakes’ only hope is that Lundy is as smart as he’s seemed up until now. Dexter made the right move in falling on his sword and blaming the Rodrigo screw-up on overwork and distraction, but he was still producing Albert Brooks in “Broadcast News” levels of flop sweat during that interview, and while Doakes has a history of violence, he doesn’t really fit the profile of a meticulous, twisted killer like the Butcher. Once again, we have knowledge that the characters don't, and it could be completely reasonable that Lundy would just interpret Dexter as being nervous for having screwed up a case through inattention. But I hope this storyline doesn't get resolved by the writers selling out Lundy as not nearly as clever as he's seemed to this point.

As it is, I'm having a hard time scrubbing my brain of the scene where Lundy spanked Deb and Deb got off on it. I'm not saying a healthy sexual relationship can't have a little bit of rough-housing, but we've been beat over the head with the idea that Lundy is a Harry surrogate for Deb. Lundy even proceeds the smack with a comment about their age difference that's really a veiled father-daughter suggestion. The guy is a profiler whose speciality (other than picking the right music) is figuring out how people think and why they do what they do. Even if his intentions with Deb are entirely pure, I don't think it's a coincidence that he's playing into her Elektra complex.

Some other thoughts:
  • The final scene of last week's episode implied that Dexter had made the connection between Lila smashing the landlord's lightbulb to get her own fixed and Lila burning her apartment to get him back, and yet here when he first contemplates the possibility, he thinks, "I can't imagine why." Maybe Michael C. Hall played that earlier scene a little too well, you know?
  • Another familiar face from cop shows past, with Bruce Weitz (perp-biting Mick Belker from "Hill Street Blues") as Lenny Asher, Rodrigo's pack rat neighbor.
  • I'm glad the writers haven't felt compelled to delve into Angel's personal life again this year, because I like him much better when I'm not being force-fed boring material unrelated to Dexter or Deb. A nice moment where he produces the case file and Deb realizes he's been busting balls the entire time.
  • "That's how Hitler walked." Sad as I am to lose C.S. Lee from "Chuck," Masuka's awfully funny by himself.
  • Also funny: Deb's reaction to Dexter accusing her of sleeping her way to the top, followed by her comparison of Lila to a vampire.
What did everybody else think? Predictions on where all of this is going now?


Anonymous said...

In the second "Dexter" book, Doakes is taken out in a way that puts him out of commission for a while but makes him hate Dexter even more. It would be interesting to see if they put him through the same situation this season.

I'm a little disappointed by the fact that they're making Lila so nutso that there's no question about Dexter going back to Rita some time in the near future. It would have been more dramatic if he had to decide between two extremely different but equally compelling women.

As for Deb, I'm kind of hoping the writers are setting up a situation in which she has to decide between her love for Lundy (and, in a sense, her father) and her loyalty to Dexter... the same way Dex had to decide between Deb and his biological brother last season. It would be interesting to see if Deb could accept Dexter for who he is, once she found out what that really means.

Chris Littmann said...

Completely ignoring that first comment because I'm getting the second (and third) Dexter books for Christmas -- also we know the show is only based on the first book, and it's just gone off on its own from then.

Aannnyway. Wow that was fun. I have no idea where they go from here, I'm just enjoying the ride.

At this point, there's absolutely no way Dexter and Doakes can co-exist in the same fictional universe a whole lot longer. I kept thinking that we were going to get simultaneous reveals -- not only Doakes finding the blood samples, but maybe Deb figuring something out. I always thought the story would go that Deb would be the first to figure it out, then bury it despite her growing interest in Lundy. Obviously, that's not the way it's going to go.

Anonymous said...

What kind of monster is he now?

I thought this episode meant to emphasize Dexter's self-preservatory instinct. Doakes and Lundy have been threatening, but it is only when Jimenez truly draws blood that Dexter "relapses." This relapse was of course prefigured in what he was willing to do to the stepdad last week and the copycat the week before that, All that was truly new was Dexter's acknowledgement that he is willing to put himself at risk to save Rita/Astor/Cody -- he did that last season too, with Paul, but he didn't quite realize why at the time.

Here's where the unreliable narrator aspect of the show can be bothersome. Over the last few episodes Dexter's rationalizations (unlike his motivations) have gotten a bit murky for me: Dexter's killing of the copycat and of Jimenez seem to lie along a clear continuum (the slippery slope you note, Alan), but voiceover Dexter saw the former as a therapeutic high point and the latter as a therapeutic failure. Now is that because voiceover Dexter is deluded and, let's face it, a little pompous in his pronouncements, or is it because voiceover Dexter was written a little bit inconsistently by different writers?

Also, was it necessary to have Doakes point out his dad used to be a butcher, of all things?


Anonymous said...

I love this show. Probably my favorite show on TV right now. But I am really disappointed in the direction they took the Lila character. I thought adding a complex, but "normal" character to the show really added another layer to the show. Disappointed that she just turned out to be another psycho that waited to reveal herself i.e. last years Ice truck killer.

Susan said...

I'm also disappointed in the turn that Lila took. I was really enjoying the complexity of her relationship with Dexter, as someone who "understood" him in a way no one else had. However... perhaps someone that truly understands Dexter has to be somewhat nuts herself.

This episode had almost a suspense-thriller aspect to me, as opposed to the usual character-study feel. The scene where we went between everyone snooping in other people's house's: Lila in Rita's, Doakes in Dexter's; Dexter at Jimenez's - was extremely tense and beautifully done.

Doakes doesn't strike me as so stupid as to gather evidence from Dexter's illegally and try to use it against him. I'm not sure where he's going with this, but I'm guessing that he's putting the blood right back where he found it.

This show's strength is how it plays with our sympathies. I hate Doakes for targeting Dexter... but he's the only one who sees Dexter for who he is, the only one who's actually right. I want Dexter to get back with Rita... but I know that she and her family are much better off if he's not in their lives. As for Deb and Lundy, they're playing it so tighly on the line between relationship love and father-daughter love that I don't know whether I'm rooting for them or bothered by them.

Chris Littmann said...

Alan, not to threadjack, but any thoughts on Brotherhood to this point? Maybe it's because I'm not thinking of Sopranos the whole time I watch it anymore, but I'm enjoying Season 2 more than the first.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Lundy will ever totally figure it out or not, but I'm fairly sure he'll be dead long before anyone has to decide between Lundy catching Dexter and Lundy being dimmer than he seems. Also, how can they not have Doakes be a suspect? If they come up with some other place for his storyline this season to logically lead up to, especially after "my dad was a butcher; maybe...", I'll be really impressed.

Loved Angel in this episode.

I'm confused about the women. I guess it does come down to that same question--which Dexter will come out on top? The first season set Dexter and Rita's relationship up as something convenient to Dexter because it seemed normal on the outside, but didn't require him to have a real relationship, because of Rita being equally unable to participate, sexually and emotionally, because of the abuse in her past. None of those things seem to be an issue anymore. These relationships--the ones between Rita, Dexter and Lila--are pretty normal, even though all three people are damaged far beyond the normal amount. Sex clearly isn't an issue anymore for any of them, and and the fidelity issues are all too common. Does Dexter care about these women and children? Is he still just playing a part? I guess maybe he's not sure anymore, after everything that happened with his brother and sister and then with NA. And that's the question.

Anonymous said...

What a great episode -- so much going on...

I sort of think Doakes will become a suspect for the Bay Harbor Butcher. His "revelation" to Laguerda that his dad was a butcher was way too obvious -- but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. He has a very public dispute with Dexter, that he has comeout of looking very bad (and suspended). It's not a stretch for the police to think he would frame Dexter. He's not the profile of someone meticulous, as stated, but I think the circumstantial evidence will point to Doakes (as well as Dexter).

I also think Lundy will have a heart attack while having sex with Deb. Dexter won't have to kill him...LOL.

I am also disappointed that Lila is such a nutbag -- I liked that some one "understood" Dexter, and that she too was complicated. But she's a bit too complicated, and dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I also think Lundy will have a heart attack while having sex with Deb. Dexter won't have to kill him...LOL.

LOL, I thought the same thing. Didn't he allude to have bad arteries or some similar health prob last ep?

Some other thoughts:The final scene of last week's episode implied that Dexter had made the connection between Lila smashing the landlord's lightbulb to get her own fixed and Lila burning her apartment to get him back, and yet here when he first contemplates the possibility, he thinks, "I can't imagine why."

As you say in your post, we the audience know more about what's going on than the characters, including Dexter. Although Dexter has become "freer" in his interactions with others, he's still naive about true emotional connections and motives. He still sees people in black and white (non-murderers, etc. = good, murderers & such = bad). Unraveling an emotional complexity is beyond his reach for now, so of course he can't imagine why Lila (who has been "good" for him up to this point) would deliberately burn her own loft down just to get Dexter to rescue her. I don't think he understood her motivation even after she explained it to him because he can't *feel* it. If Rudy were around, he would have taught Dexter about these things and especially how better to fake affect.

I knew something was off about Lila all along, so in that sense, I feel vindicated that she freaked out on Dexter, but I do agree that it would probably have been more interesting if she was simply intense instead of slightly insane. Now it's easy for Dex to choose Rita over Lila (or is he really choosing Cody, whom he seems to identify with--the kid they used for child Dex and Cody kind of look alike, IMHO?). Rita is safe and she fits in with Harry's Code, which was keeping Dex under the radar--well, most people's radar, not Doakes'--and more "in control," vs. the wildness that's come with his affair with Lila.

New Dexter is more Id, like Lila, leading to his sloppiness and arrogance. Old Dexter had Harry as SuperEgo, keeping his Dark Passenger in check (as much as that is possible, which we are seeing is difficult for Dex once he takes his usual controls offline). I think we're going to wind up with Old Dexter at the end of the season, and maybe see New Dexter try to reassert some "freedom" the next. New Dexter is scarier monster than Old Dexter, and I think Dexter will realize this and go back to the safe way of living his life (and taking others' lives).

Unknown said...

I agree with BigTed. I've been disappointed by the way Lila has turned into a needy, psycho girlfriend. This seems like such a change from her earlier behavior (I never got the idea that she was trying to seduce Dexter even when she was parading around in front of him partially or completely undressed) and makes her a much less interesting character.

SJ said...

Please please please refrain from mentioning the books people! I just finished the reading the first one and I don't want the others spoiled for me!

In any case, the "we don't keep records of who checked out evidence" was a lame cop-out. What kind of police station would not keep records of this? I know, it's a TV show, but still!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to echo the sentiment of the other posters and express my disappointment about how Lila turned out. I think many of us were hoping for a deeper character who understands Dexter to an extent that would reveal itself further later. It would have added more to Dexter's journey this season. I wanted a fellow serial killer or something in that vein, but got a batshit crazy girlfriend instead.

On another note, I think it's too convenient to set Dexter and Rita up for reconciliation for it to actually come to pass. If it does, I have a feeling it will happen in a very twisted way. Perhaps Rita will be the only one at the end of this season that finds out who Dexter really is, but accepts him anyway contrary to what we've been led to believe AND what Dexter was hoping to find in Lila.

Doakes is just another bag of problems filling up more and more with each episode that will have to be "dealt with." If you check out the Showtime website, they have a preview of where it's going. I think eventually, that guy's going down for good and the only question is whether it's Dexter that does the deed. Perhaps as the last hoorah for the so-called "New Dexter." A thrill kill before the journey back to old Dexter is over.

I'd like to offer a critique of this episode though. It took a long time for it to get going and then packed all the important plot advancements at the end. Don't get me wrong, it was good and all, just slow to start. Maybe that was the point. I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Television is often a dumping grounds for repeated, universal themes packaged in slightly different boxes, recycled and reused until the audience has become numb to them. One of the most used (if not THE most) is the importance of family and friends in one’s life, and how the love and support these groups provide us are often taken for granted. It is only when these support structures are taken away do we see and appreciate how these elements are what provide both structure and fulfillment in life.

It is hard to argue with the Family and Friends theme in general. It’s just that the theme has been done so awfully so many times on television, in such predictable and uninspired ways, that we as viewers tend to mock these “very special episodes”. Special as in “Special Olympics” we cynically say to ourselves. If forced upon us and done poorly, it is more painful than sitting through a bad comedian who doesn’t realize he is not funny.

The Bionic Woman and her kid sister seem to need to hug and have “an understanding” each episode- no matter how unearned it is each week. “Reaper” and “Chuck” can’t seem to get enough of having two people in love, but both shows are content to take the coward’s path of not allowing them to examine their love in the context of the complexities of real life. Instead, we must suffer through longing stares and frustratingly unexpressed feelings endlessly looped. The whole CW network seems to be built exclusively on this theme, none of them providing an inspired take, but rather as ‘different’ as Burger King and McDonalds.

This episode of Dexter, to me, was their “Very Special Episode of Dexter” show. But leave it to the daring of the writers coupled with its undoubtedly unique perspective to produce a very subtle and devastatingly powerful way to examine this theme. In fact, it was done so skillfully that I didn’t realize it was their purpose until that normally sappy topic – Family and Friends are Everything – had already affected my emotions and led me to that very simple truth naturally. To have such a sentiment, a previous nerve that had been deadened by the relentless pounding from bad television, stimulated and firing in my mind unexpectedly was very satisfying.

The opening scene should have clued me in to what the episode was going to target thematically. The struggle for Dexter’s approval between Deb and Lila at his house was, on the surface, just a great comedic moment. Catfights are always fun, especially those that include a mocking accent perfectly done and “leech” accusations. But beyond the sheer spectacle of extended claws, the underlying reason of why these two women naturally hate each other adds urgency to their fight.

Deb has always been a source of annoyance to Dexter. She is loud, messy, nosey, grabby with the newspaper, and drinks directly from the orange juice bottle. But she is also the only family that Dexter has, and has time and again acted as the emotional surrogate for her brother, filling in the blanks for him when his lack of empathy is apparent – championing Rita, pointing out his fatherly role to Aster and Cody, advising him on how to deal with his workmates, and, most importantly, having the emotions to instinctively know that Lila is BIG trouble for Dexter – a big blind spot that Dexter cannot see himself. Though she is a crude person, we know Deb has Dexter’s best interest in mind and now shows she is willing to openly fight to keep Dexter’s soul, even if it means uncomfortable hostility towards his new girlfriend. Dexter insistence that wants to be “Switzerland” and not choose sides when there IS a right and wrong choice here, will lead to Dexter’s emotional downfall at the end.

Cody’s dragon-zombie toy, and Lila’s comments on how Cody is using it to emotionally manipulate Dexter, was of course very obvious attempt by Lila to contain Dexter. Even Dexter’s undeveloped emotional tracking knew it was ludicrous to assign such motives to a child. Unfortunately, but true to his character, Dexter cannot take in this clue to the next level and make some conclusions about Lila. He is still a child himself when it comes to the world of interpreting emotions and their true meaning.

Even more reminders of how emotionally clueless poor Dexter still is, even with his recent development – He shows up at Rita’s house with doughnuts like he always did, to play with the kids and help them out, completely unaware of how inappropriate and hurtful this is to Rita. He doesn’t realize the depth of emotional devastation it was and is for Rita to learn of his sexual betrayal, how strange it is for him to show up at her house while she is in mourning about it, as he lacks even the simple capacity to see it as such. Instead, Dexter acts like a dog who got yelled at for dirtying the carpet – hours later, to him, all is forgiven and he can go back to nuzzling and playing with the owner. Rita pointing this out to him and asking him to stay away, drawing a confused look from Dexter, is the perfect example of how a character that has no emotions is so good at drawing emotion out of the audience. It finally (!) dawns on him that he is no longer a part of the Rita-Aster-Cody family. For once, we are glad Dexter lacks feelings, for as simple watchers of the scene, the pain of this loss is hard to bear.

The cut to the FBI investigation, and the focus internally within the Miami PD is surprisingly a further source of the definition and importance of friends and family. It is here that the actor David Zayas as Batista needs to be commended – in many ways, this was his stand out episode, and he provides some of the strongest emotional depth. Batista leads the charge in closing ranks against the accusation that the BHB might be one of their own, refusing to believe such a thing could be true with such passion normally reserved for blood relatives. He is outraged, defiant, hurt, personally offended. We see that the Miami PD is itself a family unit, one that comes together and protects its own when an outsider tries to interfere, and hurts if any of its members are hurt.

Batista and Masuka both have this stance, and try to convey it to Dexter, but again Dexter’s lack of emotional understanding fails him. Instead of standing with them, if even for a short while, Dexter immediately crumbles to Lundy’s request. In this way, Dexter subtlety rejects acknowledging that his fellow officers are a part of his extended family, unlike how they feel about him. Dexter does this not out of spite, but out of simply not understanding why such units (who face dangers and rely on each other) normally form such tight bonds. Dexter doesn’t know how to form them at all, and thus misses out on belonging to this surrogate family, a support system that would benefit him greatly. He is a member of this workplace family, but does not even know about it or participate in it willingly.

As Dexter helps to clean Lila’s apartment, and notices the multiple sources for the start of the fire, many (including Alan) have noted that it seemed strange that Dexter wonders to himself: “Is it possible she started that fire on purpose? I can’t imagine why.” The fire marks, along with the magically fixed light bulb at the end of end of the last episode, seemed to be dead on clues. But I think Dexter missing what we see as obvious is very true to his emotional deadness. He cannot imagine such emotionally complex scenarios as someone who makes love to him but is a danger. Dexter has in fact missed all the clues – Lila’s inappropriate nudity and seduction early on, her subtle put-downs of Rita, her willingness to commit petty crimes like stealing, her constant lying to others, her attempt to separate him from Cody, and much more. There was a thread earlier on about how Dexter’s emotional progression has been to fast and untrue to the character. I think the fact that, when facing an emotionally manipulative master like Lila, Dexter is practically helpless to decipher what is really going on is very true to his character. It takes a sledgehammer like finding the unmistakable note in Jimenez’s wallet to allow him to connect the obvious dots for himself, as he had already rejected Deb’s interpretation of Lila’s capacity for deceit.

This points out how dangerous it is for Dexter to not have someone he can truly trust in, like family and friends. He is so easy to dominate emotionally that a relative newcomer like Lila can have him rejecting those who have been loyal to him for much longer – Rita, Deb, even the kids. That is the tragedy underlying the Lila storyline – how different could Dexter have become if he didn’t happen to run into this emotional predator, but instead trusted in someone who really cared for him? He HAD made remarkable progress, so much so that I was rooting for him to stay with Lila. But now he seems convinced that ALL emotional lessons are like that of Lila’s – deceptive, harmful, and a danger to himself. Truly sad.

Deb tells Dexter that she is going to date Lundy, and Dexter tries to play “Lila games” with Deb by implying that by doing so, she is trying to sleep her way to the top. Or if Deb doesn’t fall for Dexter thinking that, then OTHERS will think she is sleeping her way there. On the surface, it seems like sibling bantering, but I think it plays much deeper. It is Dexter’s newly learned way of trying to keep Deb, but he clumsily uses Lila’s techniques and only drives her away. Beyond the banter, it is a conclusive sign to Dexter that Deb has chosen Lundy, his enemy, over Dexter himself. He knows Deb is not knowingly making such a divisive choice, as she does not know what dating Lundy will mean to him. Nevertheless, the effect is very much like the Rita scene where she explicitly tells Dexter to stay away. Dexter loses his sister here, and while it does not impact him right away (nothing does), we see the results of it at the end. His formerly two strongest pillars have been taken away.

One of the emotionally strongest moments of the show and perhaps of the series occurs when Lundy, Batista, and Deb are running the license plate through the computer and are close to finding out the truth. When the name of Charlie Lewis comes up, seemingly exonerating the Miami PD, Batista’s mix of joy, smugness, and relief are palatable, a genuine release of tension and a reward for Batista for believing in his family of police officers. “I told you he wasn’t a cop!” But as they learn more, and realize that it IS in fact an inside job, the devastation of both Deb and Batista is gut wrenching. Again, David Zayas deserves high praise for his acting here. Jennifer Carpenter does well, but something about Batista’s reaction sparked a dark realization in me. Perhaps it is because Zayas got the best line (“I’m going to go tell it to a bottle of scotch”), perhaps it was the long shot of him walking away personally destroyed by such a simple revelation. Whatever it was, the actor was brilliant.

One of the cheats a show like “Dexter” indulges in is how it sanitizes Dexter’s killings so we never turn on him. We never learn of the victims’ kids, or if the victim had genuine friends, or a dog who relied on him, or if he was a good neighbor, or any other shades of gray. I understand the reasons why the writers must do so, but I do think it is a small injustice. Dexter’s dark urges should be shown realistically on occasion so we do not forget what we are dealing with. “Dexter” (the show) might be accused of doing too much to lessen the impact of what serial killing really means, and why it is sometimes too easy to unconditionally like Dexter when we should actually feel much more mixed. If we were to see just one full killing, where the screams, the suffering, the pain, the gruesomeness if it all are real, or we did not have such a black-and-white case victim, we would never forget that Dexter is a monster who can destroy lives as easily as he inadvertedly saves them. But of course not even pay cable would do this.

For me, Batista and Deb’s reaction upon learning the BHB is one of their own is the first time Dexter’s past actions have finally been shown to have harmed innocent victims we truly care about. Deb and Batista don’t even know just HOW close the BHB is to them, and already they are crushed by what they have learned. It finally gave me some of that missing emotional impact any killer would leave in his wake. Even if the victims all deserved to be killed, we finally get to see the true implications of what a serial killer means to those in Dexter’s world – complete fear and rejection of who he is and what he does, and devastation to those who might even know such a person. If it makes Dexter less lovable, it makes the show much more real and meaningful, and is an exchange I will gladly take.

It also points out the stakes of this game between Dexter and the FBI. Blood or Surrogate, his families will be obliterated with the discovery of Dexter as the BHB. Deb, Batista, Rita, Laguerta – even Masuka, characters we all like, will all suffer gravely if Dexter loses this game and is shown to be the BHB. Again, it points out the value of family, the ties that bind everyone and how important it is to protect it. The unbearable intensity of the search for the BHB just got higher.

With Rita telling Dexter to stay away, Deb choosing to date Lundy over Dexter’s objections, and Dexter’s mounting suspicion regarding Lila, it is no wonder that he experiences a complete collapse, where any and all progress he had made towards regaining his humanity when he had Rita and thought Lila was just a caring sponsor vanished instantly. He goes straight back to killing, with little preparation or thought about how obviously this victim (Jimenez) will point back to him. “Recovery simply isn’t an option. When I let my guard down, I open myself up for attack, or capture. I need to embrace who I am, who I’ve always been.” “It’s like I’ve been living underwater, holding my breath, and now I can finally breath. So how come it is so suffocating in here?”

When he finally finds the note in Jimenez’s wallet, and his subconscious suspicion of Lila becomes hard reality, his transformation to despair is complete. Dexter always believed he was alone in the world, but he was wrong. He might have gotten together with Rita under the false pretenses of cover, but time and her children have changed him. He was distant with Deb for a lot of Season One, but the instant he chose her over his brother, he made a choice to not be alone anymore, even if he doesn’t recognize it yet. And his experiences with Lila are not the proof that he is incapable of human emotions, though Dexter believes that to be so, but that Dexter can be a victim as easily as he can be the killer. But, right now, Dexter believes he is alone – he calls Rita “my ex-girlfriend who hates me”, Deb with her feelings for Lundy, is closer to solving the BHB case than ever, and must be distanced, and Lila is now the enemy. Without even his Code, for the first time Dexter is truly alone in the world, at a time where he needs support and guidance more than ever.

The changing face of the Monster that Alan describes is a direct result of this. The more support Dexter has had from true family and friends, the more he reached his potential humanity, to the point where he even lost the urge to kill for a short while. But as he lost those pillars one-by-one, and the more Lila’s words as a concerned sponsor slowly turned into the poison of an obsessive predator, his strict discipline that has kept him safe and functioning have slowly eroded away. He has become a monster so sloppy and uncontrolled that he now is within reach of his captors. His final confrontation with Lila was markedly more frightening than anything seen previously, as the complete deadness of the soul within the Monster was on full display. It is a Dexter we have never known.

There seems to be no way out for Dexter unless he can find a way to get his support system back in place, and finally acknowledge that he does not want to be alone in the world, that he needs the support of his family and friends to save himself. Only a show as good as “Dexter” can take this normally sappy theme and re-present it in such a unique and powerful way. Yes, even the most seemingly inhuman of serial killers need love to function productively in this world, the true love from family and friends. A nice reminder as we sit for dinner this Thanksgiving with those we might take for granted ourselves.

Some people wrote me some very nice comments in the last thread. Thank you. Hope I haven’t tired everyone out with this one. But I love this show

Anonymous said...

As much as I enjoy Alan's commentaries on this show, undercover asian man always makes me go back and watch it again with a new perspective. Wonderful writing, wonderful insights, UAM. So when are you starting your own blog already?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Seriously, UAM. When it comes to blogging this show, there's a part of me that just says, "Why bother? Undercover Asian Man's just going to do a much more thorough analysis in the comments."