July 10, 2013 by Susan Miller
Susan: Okay, first things first. Did we learn in this episode that Dexter was made into a serial killer rather than being born one?
Steven: I think that we did! This entire time we have taken the Dark Passenger for a given. We have trusted that Harry did what he did out of some sense of understanding and duty. And then as soon as Dexter mentions how he was affected by his father’s death–“I was so alone”–she responds with, “Really? Shoot! That’s not serial killer-y at all!” Or something like that…
This, I think, is a super complicated matter. I’m going to dive into it and when I resurface hopefully it won’t be directly beneath the diving board.
For me, Dexter has always been the story of an addict. I think–from my limited understanding–that this show hits the nail on the head that others never have. Even Breaking Bad and The Wire, which take direct shots at addiction, never get so deeply under the skin of the addict–the addict’s problem. It is an age-old question in certain circles: what came first, the drug or the need for the drug. Or, to put it country simple (as Burroughs would say): Is the addict born or is he made? “But Steven,” you say. “Psychopaths and addicts are two different things.” Okay, you got me–congratulations. Dexter is not performing a nearly-mythical ritual of cutting and crushing a soft rock, dissolving it into solution, dropping in a bit of cotton, and shooting himself up in the vein. However, he is stabbing his victims in the heart–after much ritual. The readying ritual is enough, in fact, to completely calm his demon, and the kill is the perfect release.
So what does Dr. Vogel’s new information tell us? Does it tell us Dexter was not doomed to kill even once? I think so! And here we come back to addiction. What is its nature? Is it something inherently free-will-depriving? Or is it like the careful ritual that precedes the thing itself: only as powerful and the power we assign it ourselves?
I may not be a serial killer. I should clarify, I am definitely not a serial killer. I also may not be a heroin addict, but I have experience with sin. The desire to sin, the anxiety and guilt that precedes and follows, and I have at times felt overwhelmed. In fact, I have felt fated to it, helpless to the inevitability of failure. Deep down, I think that is what the story of Dexter is really about. Being told–by family or doctors or society–that you will fail and that the key is to figure out a safe and useful way to sin. But it is not inevitable. The thought that it is unavoidable is a sin itself–acedia, which kept its meaning of “sloth” but lost the primary sense of “despair” or “discouragement.”
I always forget how much I like blogging about Dexter. It is one of those shows that sends me on tangent after tangent throughout the episode until it comes to a startling and sickening end each season, leaving me to question my entire being and how my mind and soul fit into this material world. What will win out, hope or despair? For Dexter to win, he will have to stop killing on his own, and for good, and turn to some form of hope. It is the great paradox that the one who does not believe he can be free, never will be. With hope, like faith, the belief must come first.
Susan: What I was struck by with this episode is how obvious it’s been all along. Dexter has never been a psychopath, because psychopaths can’t experience empathy. That’s a given. But from the very first episode of the show, we’ve learned and accepted that Dexter cares for Deb. How can this be? Because Dexter was made into a serial killer by some ill-advised, scared, and in Vogel’s case, potentially evil adults. We’ve known since season 2 that Harry was not a good man (affairs, suicide, rogue cop, etc.) Now we meet the true creator of the code and she’s as icy and misguided as they come. The whole business with her telling Dexter that he’s perfect is creepy and manipulative and wrong – so horribly wrong. The whole reason Dexter can’t connect with people isn’t because he’s a psychopath, it’s because his soul has been ravaged by this serial killer “treatment.” Each murder seals him off a little more. It’s terrifying to imagine that Dexter could’ve been a normal person if Harry had taken him to a real doctor or a priest instead of a weirdo experimental lady. It’s like Deb warns him later in the episode – “Do you really want to play the What If game?” The writers are making us play, and it can only end tragically.
Unfortunately, Dexter has to come to this realization on his own, and I’m worried about him because Vogel is such a persuasive devil. Deb used to be a tiny voice of reason in Dexter’s world, but now Vogel is the only one talking. Is Deb in a position to be the real hero here? She’s making herself into Dexter, and she’s already said that she’s just like him now. As the stronger, more morally grounded (because she’s killed less) Morgan, will Dexter wake up when Deb confesses to her sins? Will that be the incident that finally helps him break free?
What do you think about the melon-baller (AKA The Brain Surgeon) and Vogel? Are they in cahoots? Is she lying about the brain pieces ending up on her doorstep? I smell a rat.
Steven: I concur. When she made that big deal about the door being open so that Dexter had to come in and discover the DVD, I kept thinking, “Brilliant! Psychotic, but brilliant!” My thoughts are this: if Vogel is evil enough to make serial killers, how much further is she capable of going? (Yes, I know we shouldn’t call people evil… but I mean, come on. See also: this.
Susan: You know who’s not evil? Angel Batista. I loved the random scene of him in his PJ’s, watching a Spanish soap opera while Jamie yelled at him for ruining her date with Quinn. I’m so glad Batista didn’t retire.
Steven: Me too! Although Jamie is getting on my nerves. I feel like they’ve refused to develop her as a character–just like Quinn. They are the people they were when we first met them. And now they’ve been jammed up together to create a little filler in each episode. My thinking is if Jamie is going to be cute but super unaware she should still be dating serial killer wannabes. At least that made her dynamic.
I also loved that there was a Spanish soap in the background. It was such a nice parallel, except that in a Spanish soap opera, the pretty Latina (is that the proper term?) is also waving a gun.
What do we think about this season’s Deb-Dexter love-hate fest? Are they going to finally push it into real creepy-land? We haven’t even talked about Oedipus Dex and Mother Vogel…
Susan: What drives me crazy about Jamie is how un-curious (is there a word like that?) she is. She practically lives with Dexter and is essentially raising Harrison. Why does she never ask where he is all the time? Why has she not snooped around his house? A man was killed in the living room last season while she was in the other room and she never thinks to question her boss’ extracurricular activities? Seriously? It’s infuriating. If someone is going to be that dumb, they deserve to be paired up with Quinn and die in a thoroughly comic way like falling down an elevator shaft or tripping on a rug and having oranges fall on your cracked skull. The show has been trying to slip bits of humor back in this season – I hope Quinn and Jamie benefit from a darkly comic end.
I really think that the incest story has been largely dropped and buried and set on fire, though I did get nervous when Deb said she wanted to “do the opposite” of hate Dexter. Icky. As for Oedipus Dex and Mother Vogel… she might as well have a forked tongue. I swear by the end of the season she’ll be in all red, carrying around a trident. The devil imagery with those two is overt and creeptastic.
Speaking of creepy, what do you think about Deb’s new boss? Is he crooked? I think we’re spending way too much time with him for him not to be a bad guy, but then again, this show did introduce a weird arson subplot last season for absolutely no reason at all, so who knows. Maybe they just needed some filler.
Steven: Well, Deb has always been attracted to one of two kinds of men–bad boys and father figures–of which Dexter is somehow both. I think the new boss will either drag Deb further down, or he will possibly be instrumental in getting her to come clean completely about all of this. There is still hope for Deb! I mean, she’ll have to go to prison for a long, long time, but her soul is still salvageable. I wonder if Dexter’s isn’t totaled.
I did a little word sleuthing: the surname Vogel is German for “bird.” Probably not too illuminating, unless you make the leap from bird to angel to fallen angel. (Tangentially related at best.) However, the term “vogal” or “vogle” is a variation of “vug” a word of Cornish origin that means “a cavity in a rock; or a cavern.” This would refer to the missing portion of the brain. This connection reinforces my prediction that Vogel is the melon-baller. Either she knows this connection to her name, the real killer has made the connection–less likely–or the writers are pointing back to Vogel for our own foreshadowy benefit. (Hooray for the OED!)
If it is Vogel, do you think she’s been working alone and/or will she want Dexter to join her?
Susan: Well after your OED analysis, is there anything left to question? 🙂 I don’t think Vogel is working alone and I do think she’s trying to recruit Dexter. Part of me wonders if this is something she’s done before, with lots of different clients. Cozy up to them, tell them they’re perfect, and then have them help her kill people to satisfy her own dark passenger. I hate the idea of Dexter being used, but karmically, he’s had it coming.
Steven: I don’t know if “used” is the right word. Did Sid “use” Nancy? Did Jane “use” Jesse? I think that there’s plenty of co-dependence going on here, and if Dexter drops his code entirely…well…it hasn’t exactly been the best of codes, now has it?
Hey, when’s the last time Masuka had a plot line all to himself?
Susan: I used to think that if Masuka got a plot line all to himself, it would signify that the show had finally run out of story. But after this week, I have much more faith in the writers. I can’t believe they actually made Dexter into a sympathetic victim. I honestly didn’t think that was possible after all the years of terror he’s reigned on Deb and Miami Metro and Rita and his children. So bravo, writers. I guess you can still surprise me.
Next week: Vogel gets creepier, Deb gets darker, and Dexter aligns himself with the wrong team.
In blood we trust.