The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Hello Dexter Morgan

with 2 comments

Hey Kathryn

Ok, I swear that about half way through this episode I started plotting out my note to you thinking I would write all about how Christ(ine) was going to sacrifice her life for her father, the Trinity.  I was so proud of how smart and prescient my comments would be, and then she had to go and shoot herself before the episode was through – damn it!  But if they’re going to be so theologically obvious with their character naming (maybe there’s another daughter named Sophia lurking somewhere so we can round out a Holy Spirit figure too), how are they going to follow through on these religious references? Will the shocking twist endings they keep promising involve some version of a resurrection for our Christ(ine) Christ-figure?  Not, of course, in the literal sense, but maybe as some lingering evidence or even the trace of evidence that’s she keeps hidden with her death…she died knowing they had the wrong guy, so will Arthur get away?  Will her sacrifice truly be for him as somehow it keeps Dex from being able to finish a season at his own Eucharistic, sorry I mean sacrificial, table?  I kind of hope so!

Once again, I think Deb was amazing in this episode.  Her refusal to forgive Christine was acted with brilliant complexity of emotion, immediately followed by an attempt to save her and a whole hodge podge of emotions around Christine’s death, Lundy’s name erasing and God knows what else.  And her call to Dexter calling him back into responsibility to one of his many faces – blood tech, husband, father, serial killer, Kyle Butler extortionist – illustrated perfectly how easy it is to forget that important info Dex gave us in the very first episode of the whole series: that the one person in his life he managed to love, or come close to loving, without forcing it was Deb.  For all the ways he’s sought to create bonds with others – Lila, Miguel, Rita, etc. – Deb’s the one with whom he’s most naturally affectionate and bonded.  It’s a lovely sibling narrative that too often gets overlooked in this show.

Which leads us to the many faces of Dexter.  The scene at the mirror was lovely.  And the opening lines to the episode in which Dexter’s voice-over pondered all the sides to all our lives – the public, the private and the secret – was such an interesting musing.  I’m often intrigued by the ways in which we mark space between public and private identity…that way of understanding space and self is a 19th century invention that has created a contemporary culture in which we think it’s the private that is real: we think what we share with our most intimates is our most authentic self, our most true self.  But that model still has us sharing something of ourselves with others – still has the true self experienced in community.  Dexter pushed that with this episode by claiming that no one ever – not even in our more private lives – has access to that true me; that the true me is the me I intentionally hide, the secret me.  It’s a bold claim, and not one I’m willing to follow.  I think our true selves exist somewhere between the public, the private and the secret – my hope is that as Dexter starts to integrate those mirror images, he’ll begin to find the same.

So the Rita/Elliot storyline.  For all the obvious, she wants freedom vs. she wants her man to want her gendered clichés, I was still endeared to Dexter’s path of acting out some of his own feelings and then being surprised that those were what Rita wanted.  But I also found myself frustrated at how much Rita got off the hook.  In the end, Dexter’s warped feelings meant that Rita didn’t get to be a culpable, moral agent.  So what happens to the desire that Rita obviously felt?  Is that just solved now by her man punching out the guy next door with a caveman type, ‘stay away from my woman’ grunt?  Rita gets tossed about too much as a pawn for storytelling about Dexter’s emotions.  She’s the weak link in this cast for that reason, and I’m kind of bummed that the one interesting story she was getting for herself – conflicted lust for the neighbour – had to get used to tell Dex’s story and then dropped so quickly.

Ok, I’ll leave Battista and Maria’s wedding for you to talk about (if you want to), but just say that I do think it’s going to come back to bite them on their asses, and that this might make for an interesting story.  And Dex’s first kill in weeks, Stan, just seemed a little flat to me…and perhaps intentionally so.  No time to chat at the table and relish the moment, Dex just had to get it over with.  And for all our musings about what’s going to happen with Harry this season, we’ve got one episode left – what do you think? Is Dex going to leave his code forever?  Will he finally fade away?  What’s going to happen with Deb and the CI files…and how on earth are they going to fit everything in that needs to get fit it!?!

Can’t wait to fly up to New York and watch the final episode with you!  What a perfect way to end the season.

ox,
Natalie

Dear Natalie,

There was a lot I really loved about this episode: Dexter’s musings about his multiple identities, Deb’s performance (as you point out, it was amazing. I have always loved Deb, but this season has taken her complexity to new heights), the flip-flop cat and mouse game Arthur and Dexter are playing. All that said, overall the episode felt a little flat to me – like filler waiting for the shocking, unexpected surprise twist they keep promising in the conclusion. I guess I had hoped they would stock this episode with its own surprises so that the tension/anticipation built to the breaking point for next week. The main plot line – Dexter must find a substitute Trinity, kill him, and then plant evidence to convict him (at least in the mind of the police) – was a bit of a let down. Maybe it is because it all felt a bit pointless to begin with. I understand why he had to do it – it is part of his mojo to take the killer down himself (and he has done this before, misleading evidence, etc. so he can get to the kill before the police do). In this case, the stakes of a personal kill are even higher: after this much emotional investment, a ritual serial killer like Dexter won’t be satisfied if justice is done anywhere but on his table. But it felt like he was spinning his wheels, buying time for the big finale. As you point out, even the kill was routine and rushed, without passion, connection, or the usual release.

Trying to figure out what Christine would do as she faces the consequences of her own sacrificial action and the rejection of her father was the best part of the episode. And as you point out, they are all over the theological map with the names and the trinitarian tropes. I’m not sure her shooting herself was not some kind of follow through on her christological role, however. She still offers herself up (in despair and abandonment – my god, my god why have you forsaken me?) and dies protecting her father even as she is betrayed by him. I wonder then, if in some way Dexter can’t be a holy spirit figure – the spirit that comes after the father and son have done their grisly work on the cross, attempting to bring ongoing order to a still chaotic world. Then again, while I can’t imagine they are unaware of what they are doing, I am not sure I think they know what they are doing, at least on some deeper, super subtle theological level.

I was just as disappointed by the Rita development as you were. It really seemed like she was going to become a character of her own, and now she is just back to the sad girl defined by the men in her life and there to play the shrill when Dexter needs to be reminded of his family commitments. Dexter’s generally nonplussed response to her infidelity and the complete lack of commentary on his part about the entire situation pretty much summed it up: not much is happening here and it doesn’t matter anyway.

Whereas his relationship with Deb matters all the more. I agree completely that there was something perfect about the way that her need for him led to his unveiling – because he is genuinely moved by him at some level, he leaves the chase and becomes the prey. Which brings me to predictions for the conclusion: Deb is going to walk in on Dexter in the middle of a kill (of Trinity?), or find his kill cargo container, or some other such proof of his secret life. I think they will leave us hanging with this as the season concludes. I am sure Trinity will die and I am beginning to think Dex will get to do it, but I wonder if it will come at the cost of his own exposure. If killing Trinity is the death of the father for Dexter, to be discovered in the act would be the opening of a whole new world of chaos as he becomes a law onto himself. Even though I didn’t buy it this episode, the whole season has dealt with Dexter’s integration issues and I wonder if they aren’t going to pull the rug out from under our feet.

Which brings me to my final point: private, public, secret selves. Like you, I think whatever is “real” about us lives in the conjuncture of all of these selves. That said, I am a big believer in the secret mystery of the self, unknowable to anyone else and perhaps even to ourselves. This show plays with this all the time, and not just with Dexter. Think of Christine – at her death Deb thinks she understands her, thinks she can basically read her motives, thinks that the secret self has been revealed. But we know that she hasn’t scratched the surface of the truth. Not only does Christine die taking tangible secrets to the grave (the real name of her father), but no compilation of motives or psychological explanations fully explain what drove her. The same is true of Dexter even more so. The real Dexter Morgan is more than sum of all the competing motivations that drive him, and that is his real secret self.

I can’t wait to watch the finale with you as well!

see you soon!
K

Read the entire Dexter conversation from start to finish.

Written by themothchase

December 7, 2009 at 10:56 am

2 Responses

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  1. “if killing Trinity is the death of the father …” Did you notice in the final scene of ep 11, when Arthur is face to face with Dexter, Dexter looks like a very small, very intimidated CHILD? He’s clearly (in reality) much shorter than John Lithgow but the shot was definitely and significantly structured to place Dexter in the subordinate, child/son role facing the father figure of Arthur Mitchell.

    lara

    December 7, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    • Thanks for pointing that out, Lara – I forgot to mention it but, yes, you’re absolutely right about the way they staged that shot. Poor Dexter just looked tiny! (Natalie)

      themothchase

      December 8, 2009 at 9:21 am


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