The Moth Chase

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

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned

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Hey Kathryn,

What a great episode last night!  I don’t even know what to do with Lithgow’s weird and wonderful performance.  Are we to think he’s had a real ecstatic sort of religious experience of conversion and, dare I say it, been born-again? Or is this an act because he realizes Dexter is on to him?  Does he really believe in a God who judges his actions? Does he really believe in the power of confession?

This episode was saturated with religious language, clearly.  It makes me wonder if they’re just playing with it, or if there is a careful pattern to the usage.  First, Dexter muses about his desire for certainty being met in Trinity – sure, he’s thinking about the certainty of guilt deserving a ride on his own ritual table rather than existential angst about the existence of the Divine…but those two are sort of related for Dexter.  And then there’s all Arthur’s religiously soaked altruism.  Dexter – sorry, Kyle – convinces Trinity – sorry, Arthur – to let him tag along on the ride to Tampa by forcing Arthur to live up to his own desire to have a generous spirit; his own desire to perform actions that will please God.  Dexter further wonders if Arthur is the one who has a soul while he, Dexter, does not…which Dexter interestingly relates to the question of whether or not he is human at the end of the episode.  And while Arthur tries to live within God’s point system, Dexter is sure that they both transcend such moralism.

In the end, Arthur has this deep need to confess his mistakes – I noted, he didn’t call them sins – in order to ‘go into the light unburdened,’ but after Dex saves him he decides that God must have had another plan.  And perhaps it’s worth noting one more time the echo of traditional Christian narratives – Dexter’s voiceover says, “I’ve killed an innocent man and I’ve saved a guilty one. I won’t make that mistake again.”  In essence, it is the slaying of the innocent one that leads Dex to this Triune father figure, God-figure, religious instructor type guy…not unlike Christian narratives of the slaying of the innocent Christ leading believers to the Triune God, the Father God, the God who teaches us the ways of life.

It was interesting to me that Dexter is trying to disrupt the police hunt for Trinity.  We go back and forth in this show between understanding his killing activity as catching those who fall through the cracks of the justice system and understanding it as a way of curbing a natural impulse.  And while he says, “I just have to stab something,” we’ve learned from this show that there’s always someone worthy of being stabbed in Miami.  Dexter, in fact, actually wants to kill Trinity – aches for it.  He doesn’t want to risk him entering the justice system and not falling through its cracks.  He wants him for his own.  This kill is to be much more personal for Dexter and, as such, much more interesting.

I was pleased to see my initial hunch played out – that Trinity, like Dex, had some early childhood trauma that set him on this strange path…that he didn’t kill his sister, but rather, like Dexter, was implicated in a somewhat innocent way in her tragic death, as he also was in his mother’s, and which led to his killing of an abusive father.  It makes Trinity more interesting, more complex and, as those of us who love Dexter clearly love to love our messed up serial killers, more sympathetic.

Loose ends – so who did shoot Deb? Any thoughts? They’ve dropped Antoine completely…was it him?  What is going to happen with Maria and Angel? Do we care (btw, I do – I really like them as a couple and am happy that arc hasn’t been dropped).  And what is going to happen with Rita and Elliot?  And on a more personal note, what on earth does it say about me that I like this new, “I was a dress over the head party girl,” conflicted-about-her-sexy-neighbour Rita?  Do I just like my fictional women to be badly behaved?  Or is it that I long for female characters who are more morally complex, not to mention more complex in their desires, than we usually get.

Can’t wait to hear what you thought!

Dear Natalie,

I agree – an overall great episode. I also loved the layers of religious language and meaning and think the show is finally getting a bit more explicit about some of the deep themes that guide the show. Especially this question about what makes one human, which has always been part of the series for me, but is really coming to the fore. On the surface, the religious elements of last night were mostly about Arthur: Arthur praying over his own coffin, Arthur struggling with is own conscience in allowing Dexter/Kyle to come with him, Arthur espousing and then practicing the catharsis of confession, Arthur admitting that he seems to believe in some sort of point system where he can earn good deeds to atone for the life of violence he has perpetrated. But as you point out, Dexter, who is disdainful of and distant from this whole “religious” life, actually taps into the kinds of questions that religion is often trying to address: what is the point of morality? do we have souls? what makes us humans? And you are totally right that there are all kinds of things going on with the Trinity/Father God complex.

Which brings me to the big question: why does Dexter delay killing Trinity and your question why does he seem intent on not letting him get caught? I guess my real question is: will he be able to bring himself to kill Trinity, the more he understands him, especially the more he learns from him and feels connected to him in some sort of replacement for Harry sort of way? Other folks on other discussion boards have hoped that this season won’t end like the others before it, with Trinity on Dexter’s table (like Lyla, Miguel, and the Ice Truck Killer before him). I don’t have a strong theory yet on how else it could end, but I am intrigued by the idea that in the end Dexter will not be able to kill Trinity. Or I suppose something else could happen to make that impossible.

I don’t know if I think Arthur is on to Dexter. I guess I haven’t really seen enough clues or indications that he is, so if that turns out to be the case, I think I might feel a bit cheated. Unless I’m missing something. I know Arthur goes out of his way to use Kyle’s name a lot, which could be a clue to us that he knows it is a fake name. But that is about all I’m getting so far.

I am very intrigued to see where the Rita/Elliot plot goes. Like you, I like watching Rita not have all her ducks in a row. There is something about her actually having desires that complicate her life, instead of just trying to cram things into the cookie-cutter version of suburbia she has longed for for so long that is so refreshing. It is interesting to think about why that is, especially since I usually have a low tolerance for this “unhappy housewife cliche.” Given the preview for next week, it seems like the second half of this season is going to explore more carefully the dark recesses and unvoiced desires of middle class families and I am interested to see what it does to Dexter to realize Arthur is not the ideal family man he has been hoping to learn from.

For the record, I never thought Maria and Angel were totally done and I am very glad to see them strike up a clandestine affair. I am cheering for them all the way!

OK, back to the couch to nurse this nasty cold. I can hardly wait for next week!

Written by themothchase

November 16, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Posted in Dexter

Tagged with , ,

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