Monday, November 24, 2008

Dexter, "About Last Night": I feel so... used

Spoilers for last night's "Dexter" coming up just as soon as I quiz a vice cop...

Now where is this all going?

We're only nine episodes into the season, and yet "About Last Night" had the definite feeling of penultimateness. The Skinner was identified, and though he slipped away from Deb and Quinn, Anton was saved. Dexter realized that Miguel Prado was far more dangerous than he had realized -- and then, on top of that, realized that perhaps Miguel was more dangerous all along, and had simply been manipulating him into giving serial killer lessons. These two developments in the season-long story arcs would ordinarily come right before the finale, but we've got three episodes left to go, and that suggests a bunch of additional twists in the Dexter/Prado story, if not also in the Skinner subplot. I still think the season has to end with Miguel Saran-wrapped to a table, but getting him there may not be as easy (or predictable) as I had first assumed.

And the idea that Miguel was a monster all along -- if not a killer -- solves a lot of my problems with the recent progression of that story. If, as I had speculated before, Miguel had been using his brother Oscar as an avenging angel, and that he turned to Dexter as both a replacement and an attempt to get hands-on training in the art of homicidal vigilantism, then his lack of curiosity about Dexter past, and about the high probability that he's the Bay Harbor Butcher, makes much more sense.

Very, very interesting, and Michael C. Hall and Jimmy Smits continue to rock it.

What did everybody else think?


KrisMrsBBradley said...

I loved watching Dexter tear apart his office, even though it was only in his head. The most emotion he's ever shown on the show, and it was a thing to behold.

Best episode of the season so far. I can't wait to see what Dexter's plans are for Prado. And what Prado's plans are for Dexter!

Anonymous said...

I dunno. I was still hoping to at least hear Miguel say the words "Bay Harbor Butcher." Wouldn't telling Dex he thought he was the Butcher and didn't care be one way to gain his trust back? And you'd think that Doakes would have been worth a mention considering that Maria lost another close friend. I agree this one seemed like it should have been closer to the finale, so I'm curious to see where it goes. Maybe the skinner is also taking orders from Prado? But I feel like too many of the beats are too similar to last season--Dexter finds someone he can trust with his secret, person turns out to be crazy and kills an innocent, Dex's code allows him to kill said person.

Anonymous said...

All I'll say is this, after last week, I finally remembered to stop watching the previews. Man, who cuts these stupid Showtime previews?

Anyway, enjoyed this week's episode, although I found myself fast-forwarding through the Deb-LaGuerta heart-to-heart. Don't care!

You're right about the penultimate-ness of this episode. That's why I asked last week whether we were getting close to the finale. Stuff was progressing quicker than expected, so maybe they've got a trick in their bag I didn't see coming, which would be great, because I thought up until last week, things had really gone along at a weird, easy-to-not-care pace.

Mrglass said...

I have been sooooo not with Alan on this season. I love it, it got better and better, and this episode was one of the best ever. Not to mention, one of the funniest! Dexter is again one of my favorite shows.

Anonymous said...

Aw, yeah. Chills dude.

It did feel like a penultimate episode, but hey, all the better to see how everything unfolds in 3 episodes instead of just one.

I hardly think Miguel ending up in the saran wrap to be a good ending, since that is becoming pretty repetitive (Brian and Lilah), so what I'm hoping for is something unexpected. Might this be the first time we'd see Dexter in the saran wrap? Goosebumps, man.

I'm still waiting to see what the Skinner has to do with the main storyline, and with that non taped interaction between Miguel and the Skinner just now, I'm starting to see it. And I think and hope it'll be awesome.

LaGuerta - I've felt that her character has been the least interesting and the least defined throughout the entire series, and the latest development this season has added not too much. She's flip-flopped from being bitchy boss to flirty slut to emotional wreck to nice boss to emotional wreck again. I'm still not entirely sure the purpose of her character in the show, which is a shame.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that we're heading for a Skinner ex machina, making George King Lila with less nudity.

Anonymous said...

I never really thought this was a great show, but there's a lot of promise with where this season is going. I've almost joined my roommate in giving up the show because neither of us can stand the Deb character and how overacted she is. The character seems to have a switch between being a completely moronic civilian/cop and a brilliant detective, and it's flipped however the writers see fit to move the plot along. Michael C. Hall is really hitting it out of the park, so I've kept watching. Hopefully the story will deliver.

Antid Oto said...

I continue to love the Dexter/Miguel storyline, but I agree with Anonymous: Deb is becoming close to unbearable. Last night's episode was the worst yet for her and the entire Skinner storyline. Either she's the dumbest police officer in the entire country or the writers just aren't very interested in that part of the show. Was there any explanation for why they couldn't just try following George King when they let him go? If they can get a warrant to search his house, surely they can get a warrant to put a GPS tracker in his truck, no? It was just all so stupid and uninteresting. We knew they'd find Anton, and the way they did it, by scaring the pants off of that other poor guy, seemed needlessly complicated and mean.

Anonymous said...

I agree that not tailing King made zero sense UNLESS they believed by tailing him he would never reveal Anton's location and thereby put him in jeopardy to either bleed/starve to death. They established he was a very cool customer and smart enough to know immediately he was being followed.

It would have been nice for them to include that tidbit in the show...or perhaps it was just poor writing and oversight. Regardless, I still loved the episode and the home stretch looks very promising.

Antid Oto said...

I agree that not tailing King made zero sense UNLESS they believed by tailing him he would never reveal Anton's location and thereby put him in jeopardy to either bleed/starve to death. They established he was a very cool customer and smart enough to know immediately he was being followed.

Not to be too picky about it, but they also established that they were trying to keep him away from Anton as long as possible. If he knew he was being followed and therefore didn't go back to Anton, so much the better from their point of view.

tabernacle said...

I hope you're feeling better, Alan, health-wise.

I hope I'm not confirming you're theory that we zig when you zag, but I was a little disappointed in the episode (and I do agree it feels penultimate-y). If there's a twist, it's that Prado got that King trimmer guy to go after Dex (when the camera was turned off). Beyond that, Prado did indeed kill Wolf (and sure, we predicted a whole range of things, and we were wrong about the booty call--surely--but still: points for having set it up well (i.e., it certainly didn't come out of nowhere, as some developments do in other shows), points deducted for predictability.

And what else can there be? Some explanatory details about how, exactly, Miguel learned of Dexter? Surely that's not enough to create suspense. Dunno. I'm sorry I can't get more excited about it. I do wonder if this satisfies UAM. Are you out there, man?

erin said...

Ooh, I like where this is all going. I wasn't expecting Smits to be so good at being so evil. Absolutely loved the Dexter SMASH! sequence. I was trying to think back to when Dexter felt something, and I guess he was right--this was the first extreme emotion he's felt (although he must have been pretty pissed about the molester stalking Astrid, but maybe that doesn't register on his "real emotion" range because he doesn't get that he actually cares about other people, like Rita and the kids and his sister.)

Glad they kept Anton alive, but i didn't get the whole lack of follow-through after they released him. That seemed trumped up. And while I was on the fence about LaGuerta's character throughout the seasons (she's definitely the weakest link character-wise on the cast), I do feel like they've tried to rehab her, and every friend they've used to make her more human ends up dead. Bummer.

Boricua in Texas said...

I can't stop thinking that maybe Prado is going to sic the skinner on Dexter in return for letting him walk.

Bobman said...

I feel like this story can't possibly end with Prado in Saran Wrap, just because it's been too overused, but on the same token, he can't end up alive, either. So essentially the next three episodes are "how will Prado be killed off?"

I originally thought they might try to just have him get caught, but then he could easily spill the beans about Dexter at any time. Maybe he could get "caught", but evade authorities and run away, and Dexter just has to live with the fact that there is a man out there, somewhere, who knows his secret?

Anonymous said...

Amen to the commenters above who note the police should have just followed the Skinner, who went directly to the place where Anton was located. No warrant would have been needed, and it could have been done under the radar. I don't think that occurred to the writers otherwise there would have been a throwaway line deposing of this plothole.

Anonymous said...

If he knew he was being followed and therefore didn't go back to Anton, so much the better from their point of view.

Unless he gave them the slip, which is plausible, given they had a hard time locating him.

I noticed some parallels between King's backstory and that of Dr. Danco in the second "Dexter" novel, in which case, I think I know where this Dexter/Prado thing may be going. Even if I'm wrong, I still think it will be something seriously well-acted and interesting :-)

I agree that this felt like a penultimate ep, so I'm triply excited that there's three eps left to resolve all the threads (and it's got to beat the hell out of "True Blood"'s rushed finale, bah).

and sure, we predicted a whole range of things, and we were wrong about the booty call--surely

Yeah, he killed her this time, but that doesn't mean he didn't previously go over there for some booty, considering how Ellen didn't seem surprised to see Miguel when she answered the door.

I would love to see this end with Dexter on Miguel's table, with Deb rescuing Dexter and catching on that not all is as it seems with her brother. How she handles that knowledge could make for compelling television in the next two seasons--you know, if they stop writing her as oscillating between competence and stupidity.

Anonymous said...

I was also dumbstruck that they didn't tail King. I thought perhaps I just watch too much Law & Order, but it was just the most obvious move. Either he leads the police to Anton, or they buy Anton more time while they look for him

How is it that Deb was surprised that Anton got nabbed? Didn't he blatantly offer to be her bait? What good is bait without someone to watch if it's taken?

Why am I supposed to care about the Skinner storyline, again?

I think that the Miguel / Dex storyline got more interesting, but overall, I felt this was a *blah* episode. I believe that Miguel repeated the statements he made to Rita to Dexter on purpose. Dexter made Miguel feel vulnerable - he wanted Dexter to know that he's not just along for the ride. That was a nice touch.

Is anyone else distracted by how much makeup Smits is wearing?

Anonymous said...

The best episode of this weak third season - so far.

Prado was just too creepy to work as a buddy for Dexter - he'll be much better in the role of villain and nemesis.

And now we have a nice dose of mystery injected into the series.

There's a very good chance that Prado is more than he appears.

He used Dexter. But when did it start, and why was he using him? Did he really want (or need) lessons in serial killing? Or was he already a pro, pretending to be a novice, who manipulated another pro into doing his dirty work?

Was all the buddy-buddy & gratitude talk early on sincere, or just Prado working his way into Dexter's life?

Did Prado actually just stumble across Dexter killing Freebo that night? Or did he set the entire scenario in motion and follow Dexter to the murder site in order to begin his game?

We know that he was manipulating Dexter at least from the time when he gave him the shirt with the fake blood. But was that really the start?

Was he setting up Dexter for a frame from the start? Prado has already gotten him to dispose of two of his enemies (my bet is that he knew the victims better than we think), and has already gotten Dexter to do something extraordinary: not only admit that he's a serial killer, but to actually demonstrate his methods and ritual.

Did Prado want to know this in order to learn how to kill? Or was he gathering details & methods as evidence to be used later?

Dexter, as patsy, could allow Prado virtual carte blanche to kill whoever he wants to kill. Prado could then easily cover his own tracks by pinning his killing spree on Dexter - after he's killed Dexter too, of course.

I see, in upcoming episodes, two serial killers circling each other - each planning to kill the other, each pretending to still be friends to keep the other quiet about their own involvement.

The skinner will be involved, but just how isn't clear. Prado might use him as an agent to kill Dexter. Or, he could put Dexter on the skinner's trail, planning to kill Dexter during Dexter's ritual slaying of the skinner (a law enforcement officer shooting a lunatic with a big knife) - and then hang his own murders on dead Dexter.

Or the skinner might wind up killing Prado. It's even possible that Dexter could somehow arrange for that fate...

As for why the cops didn't tail the skinner, it was sloppy writing not to include an explanation. In the real world, chances are he would have just stayed away from his victim until Anton died from infection, blood loss and/or thirst. Why take chances of returning to the scene of the crime when the cops would be virtually certain to follow him once they release him. And he probably would have been alert to, and spotted, any attempted tail. The writers, though, needed to explain the lack of a GPS tracker, which would have been more discreet than an auto tail.

Unknown said...

I am thinking that Miguel has known for a while now that Dexter is the one who killed his brother. I also think its obvious that Miguel is now working with the skinner.

Anonymous said...

It sucks that Smits is probably gonna leave after this season. I really enjoy his character and his chemistry with Dexter.

Anonymous said...

Like many others, I thought this episode was captivating when examining the new relationship between Dexter and Miguel, but dropped off considerably when any other character was hogging the screen and keeping me away from them. I’ve said it before in previous seasons, I don’t see how any of the other characters can compete with a serial killer / family man when it comes to what interests a viewing audience, and that problem continues.

I do wish that they gave us a little more time with Dexter and Miguel being in the “honeymoon phase” of their friendship instead if it turning so adversarial so quickly. I understand why they took so many episodes to show the slow progression Miguel would need to allow someone like Dexter to actually let him “in”. Even using all those episodes to do so I found times in the early season where I had doubts about why Miguel was trying so hard in the first place. As I wrote last week, episode 8 justified a lot of the behavior and story once the real Miguel finally came out.

But now I wish they would allow us to “enjoy” their newfound “Dark Bromance”, at least for a full episode or three, as it would emphasize how rare and special such a thing is to these people and why each of the should treasure and try to protect it more. But since they chose to collapse it so quickly this episode, I actually found myself siding soundly with Miguel in all the points he was making and thinking that Dexter was being a huge hypocrite and baby by how he was acting just because he didn’t get his way.

First, we need to find a value of the importance of a Dark friendship, particularly to Dexter. We saw how ecstatic it made him this episode, waking up and finding the sun shining brighter, his life feeling fuller than he could imagine. He does all the things that would remind normal people of why they should be happy – kiss the wife-to-be, make lunches for his kids, dress for work at a good job – but why his heart sings is because he has Miguel in his life, and got to “hang out” with him the night before as his true self. Dexter doesn’t even come close to feeling that way with Rita, Aster, or Cody, which distinctly demonstrates that he values a friendship in the Dark world more highly than almost anything in his fake life (and breaks my heart for Rita and the kids in many ways). Watching Dexter and Miguel together that very next morning “hugging it out” and being so connected was such a joy, as sick as what their friendship is based on may be. I hated seeing it crumble so quickly.

We’ve also seen evidence of this value of having a Dark companion before in Dexter. He ALMOST – within a hair of a second – chose Rudy / Brian, a brother he just met but was revealed to be as dark as Dexter himself, over Deb, a sister he grew up with for all the time that mattered and direct sibling to the man who shaped Dexter the most, just because the lure of having someone that he didn’t need to pretend with was so strong to Dexter. He also pretty easily dumped Rita and the kids just for the CHANCE of having this unmasked feeling with Lila. We can conclude that Dexter does indeed crave such a companion above almost all other things, and has a chance of having this connection with Miguel. That is why I think Dexter is behaving completely in the wrong in regards to Miguel and how he is handling their “first fight”.

To put it in proper context, one has to drop his notion of right and wrong and judge what is going on more from a “Dark Passenger” perspective. If we were to dwell on the actual facts judged from OUR perspective, then nothing Miguel or Dexter does would pass muster. But from “their” perspective, I have to agree strongly with Miguel’s arguments. Why is Dexter so offended that Miguel chose Ellen Wolf to die? Even though Ellen was innocent in Dexter’s code, Dexter already acknowledges that Darks have different codes. He instantly recognized that The Skinner’s code was based on Respect, and advised Deb to give deference to it in order to get “in” with him. Why can’t Dexter at least acknowledge Miguel’s code too? It may not be as “clean” as Dexter’s own, but it seems within reach of it at least, and perhaps still shape-able too. Miguel is in his “adolescence” stage with the thrills of killing – he did his second kill WITHIN HOURS of his first! It’s like an adolescent discovering sex for the first time, and not being able to get enough of it – and also making the rash, thoughtless mistakes such a strong lust would lead one to make just to have more of that sensation. And we know Miguel isn’t faking his adolescence since he blindly followed Dexter’s fake advice about disposing bodies, showing he really hasn’t done this before. Dexter should see this and be more understanding.

So shouldn’t Dexter value the potential friendship with Miguel more, and see Ellen as an “early mistake”? Ellen’s death is tragic, it is true, but Dexter himself was VERY close to sacrificing Deb and did temporarily give up Rita, all because of his own darkness’ desires to be free, so why should such a “minor character” in Dexter’s life be the trigger that gets him indignant? “Too many people are affected when the innocent die,” Dexter says to himself in Voice Over, but couldn’t this be said about ANYONE who dies prematurely, even the black-and-white cases the show tries to provide? (Like I’ve said many times, the writers would do themselves good to allow at least as shade of gray in some of Dexter’s victims to remind us how truly awful Dexter’s acts are).

Why is Dexter being so punitive the very first time Miguel doesn’t do as he says? Digging up and revealing the body, and thus exposing Miguel terribly, is a just answer? Isn’t this closer to Dexter blackmailing Miguel into “behaving” as Dexter wants - something Miguel had the chance to do to Dexter earlier on after the Vacation Boat kill, but did not do so? Miguel was right on when he called Dexter out on the BS claim that these killings were about “serving justice” and pointing out straight away that he knows it’s not really about that with Dexter too (“We don’t have to pretend with each other….”). Is this passive-aggressive move by Dexter really about showing Miguel the way of the Code, or an act of an emotionally troubled child not getting his way, and trying to bend everyone on the Dark playground to play by his rules, rules he himself has questioned many times before? Maybe the reason Dexter doesn’t have many true friends isn’t because he is emotionally dead, but emotionally immature to the degree that he just can’t play well with others. Miguel is the closest thing Dexter has ever encountered to being some lifetime companion, and is still young enough in his Dark development that he may be molded successfully in the near future. I find Dexter more at fault why this relationship is heading for trouble.

One last parallel that makes me think Dexter is acting hypocritically. In a memorable sequence, we see Dexter losing his shit and tearing up his office (if only in his mind), because Miguel lied to him and used him. But…isn’t this exactly what he does to Rita every day? The most striking example of this is when Dexter finds out that Miguel used the same canned lines to Rita “being very wise” and how she could “save his life” that he used with Dexter himself, and Dexter uses this as a springboard to his turning on Miguel. But… isn’t this mimicking technique the very thing Dexter did when composing his marriage proposal to Rita? For those who don’t remember, back in episode 3 or 4, Dexter watches Fiona (the crazy chick who smashed a guy’s head in and pretended it was her longtime boyfriend) describe her love for the victim, claiming he “made her real”. Dexter then uses many of the very same lines on Rita at the end of the episode to propose to her. He does so because, lacking emotion, he finds it hard to verbalize to Rita a reason they should get married. So he copies one. Miguel, who also now admits having deadened feelings, displays the same behavior… yet it sets Dexter off into a rage.

As for the cow blood on the shirt, Dexter needs to remember the chronology. Before the shared murder, Dexter and Miguel were growing close, but still had a lot of their guards up because neither was willing to put their cards on the table quite yet. The fake blood is a part of that “pre-friendship” phase, where Miguel wanted trust, but was still weary. I could see why that act could be forgiven, as Miguel was SURE about Dexter at that point and how far their trust could go, so he protected himself a bit, the same way Dexter did when he vehemently denied killing the Vacation Boat guy. After the shared murder, the shirt, to me, becomes meaningless in comparison to what mutual experience they now share without reservation. Again, I find myself siding with Miguel and finding Dexter’s behavior to be hypocritical and overblown.

erin said...

UAM--thank you for your comment!! Between you and Alan, my Dexter watching is just so much more rich and interesting.

I think the writers are taking this in the direction of Miguel being the bad guy, but i really do wish Dexter had a friend, because we've seen a lot of him being "fake Dexter" and murdering Dexter, but not of him being real Dexter. And he and Miguel have such great chemistry, it's too bad they can't stretch it out a bit. But I'd never thought of Dex being a petty baby about not sharing his toys. Although if Miguel gets caught, Dex's ass is on the line too. So I think it's more self-preservation than anything. I'm assuming Miguel will end up on Dex's table at some point, but I'd love to see the alternative. Again, even if he is such a cold-blooded killer, I love seeing a happy Dex!

Anonymous said...

Miguel, who also now admits having deadened feelings, displays the same behavior… yet it sets Dexter off into a rage.

I think Dexter is pissed because he was beginning to show his real self to Miguel, and thought Miguel was being as honest in kind. Of course he would be angered (the only emotion he seems to be able to truly feel) to find out he'd been used, especially when he's the one usually in control (Dexter is the predator, not the prey). Plus, as you noted, Dexter does seem immature in many ways (otherwise, he wouldn't need Harry in his head giving him continued guidance), so his tantrum fits. What he does after he calms down should be quite fun to watch (I hope!).

Anonymous said...

UAM, you fail to grasp the essential nature of the Dexter character. He's a serial killer with a conscience.

Whether that makes sense in real life or not, on the show, that's who he is. That's what separates him from other serial killers, who we are supposed to see as the real bad guys.

Dexter's "code" means that, for him, in his own perverse way, there is a real difference between good & evil. The killing of innocents is evil, while the killing of the guilty is acceptable - even laudable.

To look at it another way, for "Dexter", there is a difference between killing and murder. In his own eyes, Dexter is a killer, but not a murderer. He is a killer who kills murderers.

The fact that Dexter enjoys the killings doesn't, in his view, change the fact that he is operating in a way that, for him, is honorable and just.

Although he recognizes that the world would see him as a monster, from his own viewpoint, within his own system of good & evil, he sees himself as one of the good guys - "taking out the garbage", as he puts it.

Remember the scene from last season, in which he walks into a police storage room, where the recovered bodies of his victims are displayed, and seeing all those bodies, thinks to himself how many more innocent lives he has saved by eliminating these killers.

Remember the final fantasy shot in the first season where crowds are cheering him.

In his own eyes, Dexter is a quiet hero. Albeit, a misunderstood one who must keep his acts secret, because society would not understand - but a hero nonetheless.

He has a very clear perception of who is good and who is evil. Killing itself, in his view, is not murder. It is who you kill that determines the good or evil of the act.

In Prado, he thought he had found, at last, someone who shared his values and his lifestyle. Someone who actually recognized and applauded his "contribution" to society.

By killing an innocent, Prado crossed the line in Dexter's eyes, moving from a fellow hero/killer to a murderer - the kind of person Dexter is determined to eliminate.

The fact that Dexter did not immediately kill Prado, that he instead chose to simply chastise him, teach him, by exposing his deeds, says a lot about how much he valued their supposed friendship. He was willing to look the other way on this one evil deed, in hope of bringing his friend back into the fold.

The reason Dexter flew into a rage when he learned that Prado had been conning him was that Dexter had assumed that he had finally met a real friend. Now, he understood that he was simply being manipulated by a ruthless enemy.

Prado didn't share Dexter's values or recognize his service to society, as he had led him to believe. He wasn't a fellow "good guy" killer. He was just another murderer who had lied to Dexter, who had faked their friendship in order to get his way.

In fact, in Dexter's eyes, he was even worse than the usual murderers Dexter puts down, since he had manipulated Dexter's trust in him (something Dexter doesn't give easily) to commit his crimes.

And when faced with his "sins", the "sinner" was unrepentant, and made it clear that he intended to continue in his murderous ways - virtually daring Dexter to stop him. (Which added disrespect to the equation as well.) In fact, he denied the existence of the "sin" itself, denying a distinction between killing and murder - a distinction which defines the essential character of Dexter.

The stage is set for a final confrontation.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Anonymous, I think you give Dexter too much credit. The Code of Harry is a result of social conditioning by Harry. But even though Dexter has commented from time to time that he serves a public good, it's clear that he doesn't really care about that. The episode last year with the car salesman made it explicit that Dexter isn't doing this to save potential victims, but to feed his own hunger for killing. He just chooses victims who fall within the Code because that's what his foster father drilled into him.

Anonymous said...

Nah, I'm with Anonymous on this. It's quite clear that aside from sating his need to kill, Dexter also gets a certain satisfaction at weeding out the evil from society. In many of his voice-overs he expresses his pleasure in killing yet another scumbag who the system couldn't catch.

And I think Anonymous is also right that Dexter views himself as sort of a hero, aside from the examples (s)he mentioned, I would also add that whole "Dark Crusader" bit of a season ago as evidence of this.

tabernacle said...

@Hunter13, @Anonymous: The more fundamental aspect, I still think, is Dexter's urge to kill--an (amoral) hunger that has nothing to do with good or evil. Layered on _top_ of that is Harry's code, which, in effect, says, What the hell, if you're gonna kill might as well be bad guys, and also don't get caught. The "morality" isn't organic: it doesn't come from Dexter, it doesn't originate in him. The urge to kill does. We all love him, but dude's no hero.

Harrison said...

I couldn't stand Deb yelling, "Anton! Anton!" Her voice was so annoying there, and it just made her character seem weak.

That aside, this was a great episode. I haven't been very impressed by much of this season so far (particularly with Dexter's imaginary conversations with his father, as opposed to the more traditional flashbacks. I want to learn more about Dexter's past!), but this one was well done. Everyone with half a brain knew that Miguel killed Ellen, but the way it unfolded was interesting - the writers didn't immediately confirm it by having Miguel confess, but Dexter had to do some sleuthing to figure it out.

The Dexter-Miguel relationship is getting interesting. I predict that Miguel will end up one of Dexter's victims, but how he will get on the table will be an interesting development. Even though Miguel betrayed Dexter, it will be hard for Dexter to do the deed.

I can't wait for more!

Anonymous said...

I think if Dexter is mistaken for some kind of hero, some kind of “killer with a conscience”, then the show has lost its way. It probably is too easy to see him that way because the show does sugarcoat a lot of Dexter’s actions by showing his victims to be complete scum that the viewer wants dead, at least in a fantasy way. But I’m sure quite a few of his victims had mothers who survived them, or girlfriends, or kids, or siblings, all who are (too) conveniently left off-camera. It’s probably more excruciating for a family to not know what happened to their son or brother, never having closure by seeing a body, even if they know their relative isn’t the best citizen around. So Dexter might stem some future suffering by the hands of the murderer he murders himself, but it is never as cost-free as an above-the-board arrest and incarceration would be to all concerned.

I also need to question where Dexter’s conscience was when he was actively framing and imprisoning Doakes to take the fall as the BHB. The parallels between Doakes and Ellen Wolf are quite striking. Both are public servants who serve above and beyond the call of duty. As I wrote a lot about in Season 2, if we look at Doakes outside of the lens of Dexter’s story, we would see a guy who served his country as a Special Forces operative, who, apparently, gave up a lot of his soul by performing hard acts on behalf that country. He spent his own personal time tracking someone who his police instincts alerted him to be a dangerous killer in Dexter, to protect and to serve the public. Ellen Wolf, perhaps driven by a hippy mentality, sought to give proper legal representation to all those who couldn’t afford it, but in doing so did more to protect the wicked than Doakes ever came close to doing. Both were interfering with two different administrators of Dark Justice, both as colleagues working within the system both killers also participated in. So how did the framing (and most likely murder) of Doakes, a completely innocent and honorable man, pass Dexter’s internal Code logic, while Ellen’s death was unforgivable? From the perspective of those who believe in “Dark Justice with a conscience”, doesn’t Ellen rank much higher than Doakes in who “deserves” to die for the sin of “interference”, even if neither quite reach Dexter’s threshold for dark action (but, apparently, reach Miguel’s)? Again, more fuel for why I think Dexter is acting hypocritically towards Miguel.

What made Season 2 so interesting was that very question of how much Harry’s Code really means to Dexter – would he value it over his own self-preservation? It was a bit of a cop-out that Dexter did not have to answer that question with finality using his own hand, because that question was what drove the whole story. But it sure looked like he was going to choose himself over his Code if not for the lottery-like ending of having fate do all the dirty work for him in regards to Doakes. He planted all the evidence, and imprisoned Doakes. Even if Dexter did not directly kill Doakes, he was undoubtedly an accomplice to his murder, and Doakes’ sisters and mother, who Deb met personally, still suffer with the stigma of the BHB being their beloved brother to this day. “Too many people are affected when the innocent die,” indeed. Dexter was just as much a part of this as Lila, if not undeniably more so.

Here is an interesting thing to think about and perhaps a great outline for Season 4 of Dexter. What if a newly elected Miami Mayor or Florida Governor, who ran and got elected on a platform of ending crime, was extremely successful in doing so? So the Miami PD enters a ‘golden age’ where their funding explodes, new cops are hired at a record rate, and murder and other capital crimes plunge throughout the state (don’t laugh, this type of transformation happened in New York, as outlined in the book “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell). Partially due to this, the real-estate market explodes, and Rita has a prosperous new business that provides them wealth, and she can’t possibly move away from. Aster and Cody, a bit older, now have strong friendship ties in school and wouldn’t consider leaving without a compelling reason. Everyone is ecstatic – except for Dexter! How would Dexter’s Dark Passenger handle these “starvation conditions”? Would he stick to his Code, limiting his kills to the same criteria as before, picking and choosing the one victim a year the new crime-reduction wave might sends him? Or does the urge to kill, to feed, overtake such considerations, as he moves from multiple-mass-murderers who escaped the law, to attempted murders who did not succeed, to Drug Dealers, then on to petty thieves and drug users as the “food supply” dries up?

Dexter can stick to his Code easily when the hunting ground seems endless and he can be picky and be satiated only hunting “Grade H” (Harry) meat. But I can’t help but think that if push came to shove, and Grade H meat runs out fast, and Dexter had to choose between killing lesser criminals or complete abstinence, his nature would easily override his artificial code, whatever way he justifies it in his mind, and he would continue to kill. Dexter gambles relentlessly with the psyches of Deb, Rita, Aster, Cody, and now Baby Dex by feeding his compulsion to kill at the risk of their sanity daily. If he really had such a conscience, and conscious control over his administering of justice, why doesn’t he stop? Because he can’t. That’s why I side with Miguel’s assertion that what Dexter does is not about justice at all, and any pretense to that notion is pretending for society’s sake.

A bit of an aside: what do people think Harry’s new constant appearances in Dexter’s mind mean overall? Is it really Harry’s ghost visiting? Or Harry’s Code manifested as a person in Dexter’s mind? Or not even really Harry but a different part of Dexter (his conscience, his humanity, his fear) that just shows up as Harry? Or even a bit of Dexter’s insanity compartmentalized as Harry? It interests me because in earlier seasons, Harry was always shown as factual flashbacks, a recall of history, but now when he appears he interacts and even teases Dexter as a sort of spirit character, one capable of talking to Dexter about new topics that “real Harry” never covered. Can we trust that what Dexter sees as Harry now is the same Harry as seen in the factual recall sequences as before, or is something more nefarious going on within Dexter’s mind, as “New Harry” seems more cruel and spiteful towards Dexter than Old Harry ever was. Thoughts?

tabernacle said...

UAM: As always, love your posts.

Great point with the thought-experiment: indeed, if the food supply began to run low, we might just see our protagonist go caricature-Punisher and feed on someone for running a red light.

I have no clear answer regarding Fugue!Harry. Some options, not necessarily mutually exclusive: (1) It's simply a stylistic choice, springing from some Note that said: flashbacks are boring (I changed one of Shawn Ryan/David mamet's words). Dexter has no (corporeal) character with whom he can exchange dialogue, so it's either Fugue!Harry or voiceover. I sense (haven't zeroed in on the specifics yet) that the VO is used in a very particular way in this show--maybe someone can lay out an id/ego/superego thing with real-Dex, VO-Dex, and Fugue!Harry--dunno. So (2) is that Fugue!Harry is (also) Dexter, which can be (a) Dexter talking to Dexter, with no distinctions; or (b) (a certain part of) Dexter talking to a (nother) part of Dexter. I really don't think it can be reduced to (3) Fugue!Harry is the Code Embodied, but if there are any takers willing to try to argue that, by all means.

In the end--and unfortunately--I sense nothing deeper than a sounding board: a contrary voice that the writers use, a straw horse to knock down on the way to whatever action Dexter was going to undertake anyway, so that Fugue!Harry is just a thinly-drawn naysayer rather than anything more transcendental.

Anonymous said...

^I think Imaginary Harry is the Code internalized and filtered through the belief Dexter has that his full monstrosity is responsible for Harry's death (hence, Imaginary Harry being more "cruel"). I'd like to think the "visits" represent more, but it seems a much more ordinary occurrence. I wouldn't doubt there are many among us who have internal conversations with friends, family, or whoever represents the opposing viewpoint we're rationalizing against, just as Dexter is doing. I'm open to being convinced otherwise, of course.

Anonymous said...

UAM wrote >> I think if Dexter is mistaken for some kind of hero, some kind of “killer with a conscience”, then the show has lost its way.

The show is what it is. I think you are making the mistake of trying to compare the character in the books with the character on the show. They are not the same character. The show (like any movie based on a book) has to be judged on its own, stand-alone merits. And on the show, Dexter is definitely a "killer with a conscience".

Not only does he demonstrate that regularly, but he said it himself, when Doakes said to him "You have a conscience". He said, rather indignantly, "Of course I have a conscience!" (albeit "a small one").

UAM wrote >> So Dexter might stem some future suffering by the hands of the murderer he murders himself, but it is never as cost-free as an above-the-board arrest and incarceration would be to all concerned.

It's made clear on the show that the murderers Dexter eliminates are beyond the reach of the law. For the most part, he kills those who either have successfully avoided the law, or those who have been through the justice system and defeated it, and who are about to return to their murderous ways. The show wants us to believe that the choice is that either Dexter kills them or they continue to murder innocents. (Granted, the writers aren't perfect at maintaining this standard, but that is the basic gist of the show's message: Dexter is performing a public service, in spite of his sadistic enjoyment of same.)

UAM wrote >> So how did the framing (and most likely murder) of Doakes, a completely innocent and honorable man, pass Dexter’s internal Code logic, while Ellen’s death was unforgivable?

First, it wasn't "unforgivable". Dexter not only gave Prado a second chance to mend his ways, he actually cleaned up the crime to make sure no evidence was left to incriminate his friend. What was unforgivable was that cemetery full of future graves that Dexter saw in his "Harry" vision. He had taught Prado to kill (or so he thought), and was thus responsible (albeit indirectly) for all those innocent deaths to come.

As for Doakes and Ellen: Dexter's code only seems to deal with killing. For a man used to instantly dispatching his enemies with a blade, Dexter took an eternity trying to come up with a non-lethal way to deal with Doakes. He even seriously considered turning himself in, rather than kill an innocent man. But that would amount to suicide. And the first rule of Harry's code is "Don't get caught". He finally found a way to avoid killing Doakes without committing suicide, by framing him, and was pursuing that option when crazy Lila snuffed him. Granted, it involved sending Doakes to prison forever, but as I mentioned, the code only seems to cover killing.

It was clear to viewers that Doakes would have to die. The fact that the writers felt it necessary to have a third party do the deed proves that they wish to maintain Dexter as a "righteous" serial killer (despite the obvious contradiction inherent in that idea).

Prado didn't just frame Ellen. He murdered her. In fact, according to the dialog, he apparently beat her, strangled her, and stabbed her several times... evidence of his personal grudge. He had none of the hesitation that Dexter had when faced with the prospect of killing an innocent.

For that matter, Doakes did not appear to be all that innocent. The incident where Doakes chased down and killed an apparently unarmed man (on the bridge) appeared to be little more than a revenge murder. And his past appears to have been dotted with dark-op killings. He justified them by saying that he was working for the government, but Doakes was still a multiple killer.

Ellen, on the other hand, had killed no one. She had, as Dexter said, only done her job. The job of a defense attorney, as defined by law, is to free their client. Period. Unlike prosecutors, who are legally bound to seek justice, a defense attorney's job is simply to present the best possible defense for his client. If no defense attorney could be found, the accused would have to be set free - since one can't have a trial unless the accused has legal representation. A defense attorney is no more responsible for the subsequent acts of those he represents than a prosecuting attorney would be if he accidentally sent an innocent man to prison who was killed there.

If the attorney were cheating, if he were inventing fake evidence to free the guilty, then he might fit on Dexter's hit list. But simply presenting a good case for each of their clients is exactly what we, as a society, pay them to do, as part of our legal system. It is the job of the prosecutor to convict. And if the evidence is there, a good prosecutor does just that.

UAM wrote >> If he really had such a conscience, and conscious control over his administering of justice, why doesn’t he stop? Because he can’t. That’s why I side with Miguel’s assertion that what Dexter does is not about justice at all, and any pretense to that notion is pretending for society’s sake.

You are correct about him being unable to stop. That is why Harry invented the Code to begin with. He knew his foster son wouldn't be able to resist the urge to kill. So he channeled that inevitable destruction into paths that he saw as socially beneficial. He created a conscience in Dexter that would guarantee that those he killed "deserved" to be killed, and that eliminating them from society would improve, rather than damage, the social structure.

Dexter doesn't need to "pretend for society's sake" about his code. Society doesn't know what he is doing. The only time he talks about what he is doing is either to his doomed victims, or to other serial killers (such as his brother) who hold no such societal values. He knows that he is addicted to killing - he is simply determined not to kill the innocent, which is, in its own perverse way, supposed to be admirable.

Whether you like it or not, Dexter, as written for TV, has a conscience. In fact, he can be downright self-righteous at times.

Recall the very first killing shown on the show - when he slays the choirmaster who has been murdering children. We see Dexter angrier than we have seen since, raging at the man about his young victims. The guy says he can't help himself. Dexter replies that he understands, because he can't help himself either. "But", he says, "But I could never do that. Not like you. Never. Ever. Kids." The man looks at him in confusion and asks: "Why?" To which Dexter responds: "I have standards."

That is our introduction to Dexter: a killer with standards. A serial killer with a conscience.

If you fail to grasp that fact, you don't understand the TV character.

Whether or not Dexter could always live up to his own standards is beside the point. How many normal people live their entire life without doing something that flies in the face of their own conscience (especially when faced with a desperate situation or a particularly strong temptation)? No doubt, you could place Dexter in a situation where he would "sin", according to his own standards, but that does not change the fact that those standards and that conscience exist, and play a key role in his life. As some people like to say, "we are all sinners".

As for the new "Harry ghost", I also noted that he seems crueler than the original foster father. My hunch is that he's just a figment of Dexter's imagination, a personification of the guilt and anxiety Dexter feels whenever he bends one of Harry's rules. And it's interesting to note that this "ghost" is usually right. Whenever Dexter sees him, it's usually warning him of a genuine danger, being brought about because of Dexter's deviation from "the code".

Anonymous said...

One other thing to note about the "ghost Harry".

He isn't the first ghost on the show.

We have also seen a "ghost" of Rudy, his dead brother, on more than one occasion. With conversations ensuing.

Dexter doesn't react as if he had really seen a ghost, so we can probably safely assume that he realizes these apparitions are just daydreams.

Anonymous said...

Just FYI, I never have and don't intend on reading the Dexter books, so I don't know anything about them. I only know of the television show version of Dexter.

Just finished watching tonight's new episode, still digesting it...

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous: Doakes's shooting of the man was NOT a cut and dried revenge kill. Doakes recognized him as a coconspirator in some sort of genocide during an operation he was a part of. The man was a former general, or military officer, or official who had committed high crimes and escaped justice. Doakes instantly recognized him and, probably remembering how vicious he was, was quick to pull the trigger.

Or don't you remember the season one dialogue that explains this? Or the federal government intervening?

Doakes never fit Dexter's code. He came close-he had killed people, but only people who deserved to die-the other black ops guy who pulled a gun on him and the military guy he recognized. Or don't you remember Dexter letting the kid go in the first season because he killed the man who raped him? Being a killer isn't enough to fit Dexter's code, it has to be unjustifiable.