The Moth Chase

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

Dexter’s Washed in the Blood

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Dexter and Rita in therapy

Dear Natalie,

I really like where this season is going, even if it is kind of creeping me out. Starting with the magnificent opening scene with Arthur Mitchell/Trinity Killer leading his unspecified Christian congregation in a rousing verion of “Washed in the Blood.” One doesn’t have to be a theologian to see the overlapping layers of irony in that choice of hymn, especially given that the “previously on” focused intimately on Trinity’s brutal bludgeoning kill and the episode featured Dexter’s recreation of it: both sequences ending with copious amounts of blood (or fake blood) spattered on both men.

Even more creepy is the developing theme of Trinity as family-man mentor for an increasingly overwhelmed and confused family-man Dexter. The whole season so far has emphasized Dexter’s relationship to his new family, playing with, highlighting, and challenging various middle class nuclear family tropes. By making Trinity a family man, the show effectively ended the somewhat tedious repetition of the lone wolf vs. social blender dichotomy. How much better – and more complicated – to watch a flabbergasted Dexter unable to kill Trinty until he learns more about him, and from him. Did you notice that we didn’t get a single Harry flashback or Harry projection this episode? Trinity is definitely offering Dexter insight into a different kind of code, that is both intriguing and potentially horrifying. I mean, after all, Trinity got his start as a ritualistic serial killer not from trauma inflicted upon him, but from killing his entire family, one after the other. No doubt we will learn some dark secrets about Trinity’s family (his repeated insistence that the man whose head he is bashing in with a hammer in place of his father “made him do it” speaks of some kind of abuse, real or imagined in his past).

But what really intrigued me was Dexter and Rita’s counseling sessions. Though they didn’t do much to warm my heart for Rita, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She wants what she takes to be normal patterns of intimacy – a husband who doesn’t hide a secret life from her, normal conversation at the end of day – and Dexter can’t even fake it well enough to come up with a non-controversial topic of conversation. It was the first time I’ve really believed that Dexter’s inter-personal awkwardness was taking a toll on their relationship, and that seemed really real to me. Once again, watching Dexter sitting on that couch trying to figure out what was expected of him, and then, even more so, trying to figure out what he might actually want or need, was the best possible insight into the struggles of normal human intimacy, even for those of us without Dark Passengers. There is something so honest about that terrifying truth: how to be really vulnerable with someone else, all the while realizing that there are just some parts of ourselves that will always remain a mystery to anyone else, and even to ourselves. Perhaps this is what makes Dexter seem so much more real to me than even Rita does. Rita wants a storybook – the idea of intimacy, honesty and sharing (and cutting her some slack, I don’t blame her – being married to man like Dexter would be emotionally exhausting). Dexter is trying to figure out what human intimacy really is and how, even given his severe limitations, he might partake of it.

Which is what makes the whole “you carry your family with you” motif so interesting and so chilling. Dexter and Trinity both have litterly been washed in the blood of their family members: what kind of salvation or damnation might that bring?

Can’t wait to hear what you thought!


Hey Kathryn,

I’m with you, you don’t need to be a theologian to see the irony of that hymn.  But on the other hand, I often wonder in television episodes like this if they are as compelling to folks who don’t go to church or make their professional lives as theologians.  If you don’t anticipate singing “Washed in the Blood” with your own congregation some time soon, can it really impact you as much as it did me?  It’s always been a bit of a creepy hymn that I’ve nevertheless loved.  Certainly, thanks to Trinity and Dex, I’ll love it in an even more complicated way now.

I too am loving this storyline of Dexter seeking some sort of mentorship in Trinity – and that they bonded over something akin to a habitat build (again, my church had its habitat build just a month ago and I couldn’t help but wonder…what lurks in the lives of my own co-congregants?)  What intrigues me is that while we see so many parallels between Dexter and Trinity – family trauma (because I’m going to part from you here and say I’m not convinced yet that trauma is missing from Trinity’s early life), successful professional lives, varying degrees of success at family and, of course, ritualistic killing – the real difference, it seems, is not that Trinity is better at it, but that he’s got religion.  Sure, Dexter has his humanistic code that functions like religion, and certainly his Harry apparitions function like a God-figure at times.  But he doesn’t have your standard, participate in the life of a community who worships, serves and eats potluck together.  And yet he’s the one whose rituals ensure the killing of the supposedly deserving, while Trinity is willing to slaughter innocents (in perhaps the most chillingly God-like turn of all, as the center of Christian faith includes the slaughter of the most innocent one, as some theologies have it, by and for his father).

Unlike you, though, I’m not totally convinced that Trinity killed his family.  It’s definitely likely, but not certain.  It makes me wonder what his involvement was in those original killings – was it, like Dex, a traumatized observer who then hunted down the killer of his mother…perhaps, his own father? Did he accidentally kill his sister in the bathtub?  Or was it something else?  Whatever it is, I don’t think it will be simple as three straight-up murders.  And of course, the bathtub scene at the end left me wondering – does Trinity’s wife know what he does? How open and vulnerable is he with her, really?

Which leads me to Rita.  For all the ways she’s annoyed the piss out of me so far this season, like you I did feel for her last night.  And as she handed Dexter the padlock, I actually found that I genuinely liked her again.  And I found myself hoping for their marriage; that they’d be able to work things out and Dexter (with that fabulous final cheeky grin to the camera) would find the work/life balance that he – and we all – seek so desperately!

And so let me flag one more theme for our continued conversation.  While this work/life balance theme is playing out so beautifully between Dexter and his hopeful mentor, Trinity, we’re seeing it as a theme throughout the lives of all the other characters too.  For Deb, it’s inextricable – her work and her lost love are the same right now as she searches down Lundy’s killer (and worryingly and accidentally, searches down Dex at the same time).  For Quinn, it’s an attempt to balance this great chemistry with the reporter (who seems to wear fancy underwear more than she wears anything else, it seems) with the fact that he needs to guard his work from her.  And then there’s poor Maria and Angel, who have had to give up their love for their work.  We haven’t said much about these two, but I’m going to miss their affair – I really liked them as a couple and I just wish poor Maria could find what she’s looking for with love. First Doakes, then Miguel (both ending up dead), and now Angel…at least we can hope that he’ll make it through his relationship with her alive, I guess.

Looking forward to next week!

Written by themothchase

November 2, 2009 at 9:51 am

Posted in Dexter

Tagged with , ,

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