SPOILER ALERT: Dexter Morgan's odyssey


I had a binge weekend of watching Dexter Season 5 which has been sitting on my shelf for months.  The first couple of episodes were slow and I was dreading getting through the season.  What kept me going is Julia Stiles.  Her presence piqued my curiosity not just because of all the rumors about her breaking up Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter's relationship.  I actually like her as an actress and the sharp, strong characters she plays remind me a lot of my dear friend, CT.  The season got better and gained the kind of momentum that had me watching episode after episode until the frightening conclusion which I was a little disappointed about but that's another story...

This brought about the questions: was this better than the last season?  Which is the best season? Et cetera et cetera...  So I decided to figure out the seasons I liked best in chronological order and in doing so I was forced to think about the character of Dexter himself and of his evolution as a human being.

I warn you yet again, this contains spoilers if you haven't seen up to the end of Season 5...

My favorite season has to be the first one.  Unlike the others, it is a somewhat complete picture (meaning if you stopped watching at 1, you would be sated).  Dexter claims from the beginning that he "is not there," meaning he merely mimics human emotion and routine.  He is not capable of lust or want of love or friendship.  He chose his girlfriend, Rita, because she was convenient.  She had young kids and was coming out of a relationship so abusive she couldn't bear to be touched sexually.  He chose her based on these specifics.  People would think, "Wow, what a guy.  He does so much for her and the kids.  He has a kind heart."  He claims to have not much loyalty to his adopted sister, Deb, and his adopted father, Harry.  He only knew he was adopted and that he has had rage issues all his life.  Harry used this rage to fuel the vigilante justice Dexter wields.  When Rita wants intimacy, he is afraid and gives in.  When the villain of the season- the Ice Truck Killer- proves to be his blood brother, he kills him to save his adopted sister who he has known all his life.  But he laments severing that blood tie and wonders what his life is all about.

I'll keep going chronologically to prove my analysis of the character although my preferences are not in that order.

The second season made Dexter's whole spiel of not wanting any physical intimacy bunk.  He meets Lila West and experiences pure lust.  They not only have hot sex but she understands what he is and accepts him for it.  Unfortunately, Dexter is used to being the craziest one in the room so he thinks he is in control of all situations.  He does not anticipate that anyone can be more deranged, i.e. Lila.  Lila is a sociopath while Dexter is not.  Dexter feels no remorse killing people who he thinks are deserving to die.  He understands the concepts of right and wrong and is very principled about his theory on vengeance, which disproves that he's "not there."  Lila feels nothing and- much like Marla Singer- she is a tourist at all of these affliction anonymous meetings.  She only feels when she realizes what Dexter is and sets her sights on him.  While she wants a long term commitment, Dexter is appalled at her lack of morals and wants nothing more to do with her.  

After the turmoil of Season 2, Dexter wants to keep his relationship with Rita strong and claims not to want anything more.  Despite what the Season 1 Dexter says, he still craves some sort of intimacy.  He's been burned by Lila's passionate devotion and Rita's sweet reassuring.  He needs someone who understands and accepts him for what he is with none of those nasty wanting to possess him strings attached.  He needs a friend and finds one in Miguel Prado, the Assistant District Attorney, in Season 3.  Their friendship evolves from beer buddies to Miguel watching Dexter kill a man.  This friendship is rewarding for Dexter in the beginning.  He bore an awful secret on his back for years, one which he could only talk about with his adopted father and he desperately needed someone to relate to.  He finds solace in his friendship with Miguel until Miguel violates Dexter's trust. He copies Dexter's style, a serious violation of the secret Dexter shared so carefully with him.

In Season 4, Dexter is adjusting to the role of "family man."  He's not only married Rita and adopted her two young children but fathered a child with her himself.  He seems only interested in maintaining an image and not in actually bonding with the children.  He continues on his vigilante escapades and only puts in enough of an appearance to satisfy Rita.  But Rita isn't sated.  Her perception is keener than ever, noticing that he has always been a bit of an absentee lover.  While he has always done the "right" thing in regard to her and her children, there is a large part of his life that is secret from her which was acceptable before they were married but not afterward.  His pursuit of the Trinity Killer has been indiscreet and she is emotionally divorcing herself from him.  Meanwhile, Dexter joins Trinity's church charity to meet the killer, Arthur.  Through his brief friendship with Arthur, Dexter is exposed to another serial killer wounded from his past family trauma.  Like Dexter, Arthur is highly intelligent and premeditates his killings to the T.  Because he did not know the identity of the Ice Truck Killer until the end and thus could not study him but he figured out who Trinity was early.  While he was befriending him, Dexter was also learning what made Trinity tick.  Dexter was impressed with not only what Trinity went through but also how Trinity skated so long as a "normal" member of society and admired him for that.

In Season 5, Rita has been killed by Trinity, leaving Dexter a single father of three.  While he took Rita for granted in life, Dexter is shaken to the core by his involvement in her death.  He is absent of feeling and is greatly disturbed.  He is only able to find solace in a young girl who was victim to unspeakable violence that he found accidentally.  He helps her avenge her and other victim's wrongdoings by teaching his practices and personally overseeing and killing those involved.  This season is focused on the fact that Dexter is in fact not alone.  He sees his 10 month old son in a pool of his mother's blood and fears he will grow up to be like dad.  Dexter's sister, Deb, confesses to feeling no remorse in the demise of evil men.  Dexter confesses that their father said, "Some men aren't meant to be born."  Then there is Lumen, the pretty young victim fueled by revenge...  Dexter wants so eagerly to categorize her with himself, as an avenger of those bad men who is destined to kill her remaining days.

To put it simply, I like 1,4,5,2,3 in that order.

My final analysis is that all of Dexter's conjectures about how he is different from others because of a lack of feeling and want of others' companionship is void.  He is not an island.  He may have thought so through most of his life but seasons have proved otherwise.  He says he has no interest in physical relations yet has hot sex with Lila.  He says he's a loner and yet he eagerly befriends Miguel and wants to teach him the ways of being a vigilante serial killer.  He carefully observes similarities between himself and Trinity looking for commonality.  He is capable of parental love not only of his own child but Rita's children from a previous marriage.  He wants so badly to connect with the equally scorned Lumen, teach her everything he knows and keep her as his partner in crime.

I haven't seen Season 6 so this is a partial theory but I believe that Dexter is not what he introduces himself to be.  He is there and he desperately wants someone to connect with be it a lover or a friend.  

Peter Sellers once said something along the lines that the reason he was such a good actor/comedian is because there was no "Peter Sellers."  He was merely emulating what he thought people wanted of him.  Dexter will have you believe this to be true of him but as you watch the show, you will realize that while his concept of morality is skewed he is still moral.  While he is an island in his own way, he's desperate for any connection to prove otherwise.


238 views and 1 response

  • Jan 29 2012, 10:39 AM
    Dana responded:
    I agree with your analysis. That is how it draws in viewers...it's always the "will Dexter..." question that keeps you moving through. How will he be human in spite of his inhuman tendencies and claims.