The Moth Chase

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

Dexter’s Thanksgiving Special

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Dear N,

What an amazing episode last night! This season is turning into one of my favorite yet. What with all the holiday hoopla to come, you don’t get that many Thanksgiving themed shows, and I loved that Dexter took on Turkey Day with a further exploration of family togetherness, and all the dysfunction and trauma that it can breed. Trinity/Arthur has creeped me out plenty in this season so far, but the intimate violence within his own home scared me almost more than anything else this season. The slight lingering shot of the locks on Rebecca’s doors and windows, the lack of footage from the back part of the house (even though we see Dexter peering down hallways), and most of all the carefully maintained smiles and warm body posture of the Mitchell women masking a terror that was palpable in its stilted expression. Was there anything quite as disturbing as Sally basically offering Dexter her daughter (“I don’t know what you’ve done with Rebecca or what you plan to do, just please don’t tell Arthur”)? Unless it was Arthur staring his son in the eyes as he breaks his little finger.

What was most revealing to me, was how much this episode let us see Dexter’s own investment and involvement with the Mitchell family. We’ve known all along that he is fascinated with Arthur and with Arthur’s ability to maintain seemingly real emotional bonds despite his serial killing proclivities. And we’ve watched him, against the Code and the promptings of his Harry consciousness, delay killing Arthur to study him and learn from him. But what became clearer to me than it had been, was how much longing and displacement there is on Dexter’s part to be part of the Mitchell clan. We’ve known that Arthur functions as a father-figure for Dex, but to hear him admit as much to Jonah last night (“you’re not the only one with father-issues”) really solidified it for me. As did watching Dexter’s own family undergo struggles and permutations in his absence that he is oblivious to because he feels a need to protect the Mitchells. He doesn’t need to be there for their Thanksgiving feast, save to protect Jonah. There is even something interestingly symbolic about the fact that his motives for killing Trinity have always been a bit personal, but are shifting from his family of origin (now that Trinity is not Deb’s shooter) to the Mitchell family (he can save them by killing Arthur).

Of course, if the huge stunner at the end of the episode and the “next week on Dexter” previews tell us anything, Deb’s shooter might still be connected to Trinity through bonds of family. I have to admit, my mind is reeling with imagined possibilities with the revelation that Christine is Arthur’s daughter. Perhaps from an earlier marriage – does Arthur have multiple families? does he ultimately kill them off? Does she know who her father really is? Does she do his bidding – killing Frank Lundy to protect him? Or is she a red herring to some other diabolical twist yet to be revealed?! It all seems a bit implausible and over-the-top, but I am totally intrigued and cannot wait to learn more!!

Other note: Rita. Coquetish as it was, I really believed Rita’s stunned confusion and rejection of Elliot’s outright come on. There is no doubt she’s been flirting with him and probably harboring a variety of unexplored desires, but there is a definite line between the flirting you can write off in your own mind, and the external manifestation of desire that would cause you to cross a line you couldn’t uncross. Rita’s flustered confusion and her exuberant return to Dexter’s arms seemed pitch perfect for her character. But the wide-eyed glance at Elliot as she embraces Dexter promises more to come. The overwhelming feeling of safety and relief that you have just avoided a potential catastrophe or passed some great moral test is just phase one in the “will you have an affair” dilemma (just ask Anna Karenina). If Elliot is persistent and Dexter is still absent, the shock of the idea will wear off and in a more dangerous way than before it will seem easier to walk down that path precisely because Rita has the conviction that she is strong enough to avoid it.

One final thought: if Christine isn’t Deb and Lundy’s shooter, do you want to put money down on another Mitchell who might have done it? They’re all about the right height.


Hey Kathryn,

Oh, I know – what a great episode!  The Thanksgiving theme allowed for lots of playful close-up shots on giant glinting knives wielded in the hands of killers into the backs of birds; a further play on the opening credits reminding us how brutal some of our day to day, most ordinary activities can be.  And so the parallels between Trinity’s home and Dexter’s were perfectly played out with their own little departures from each other – both men stand at the head of their table poised to carve, but with Trinity’s son refusing to admit gratitude for him while Dexter’s kid shouts out his own father-thankfulness from another table unprovoked.  And of course, the two wives at the opposite ends of the table – Trinity’s filled with plastic-mask-faced fear over a potential indiscretion not even her own, and Dexter’s having just performed her own transgression but having no sense that such an action might put her in danger…which of course, it doesn’t.  Because Dexter’s violence is of such a different type than Arthur’s.

What I found particularly interesting about these scenes, though, was how with both men placed at the heads of their tables like that, they were placed in Dexter’s usual ritual killing position, not Arthur’s.  And so while we’ve thought Arthur was the successful family man from whom Dexter could learn a thing or two over the course of this season, we got the narrative and visual clues last night that in fact Dexter’s got this family thing down way better than Arthur ever will.  Be it kill room or dining room, Dexter’s got his table set and, for the most part, got the right people at it.

Which I why I also find it interesting that Elliot would have snuck onto this family table only a few episodes after Dexter experienced another error in judgment at his kill table.  It’s bound to happen – kill enough people by a strict code, you’re going to have one aberration or slip-up in the code and take out the wrong guy.  There’s always the exception that proves the rule; the trace hidden in the discernible truth.  And so this scene of domestic perfection around a Thanksgiving table echoes that kill room error – rather than the aberration being Dexter this time, as with previous seasons, it’s the guy honing in on Rita.  The seeming suburban perfection (which Rita even professed to desire explicitly last night) is cracked by the presence of this attempted adulterer.  Hmm, murder, adultery – what other deadly sins graced that meal, I wonder?

Oh yes, so much creepiness in the Mitchell household – I too am torn between the mother offering her daughter and Arthur breaking his son’s finger as to which was creepier.  But what captivated me was that in the end, it was a desire to protect Jonah that kept Dexter at that Mitchell family fiasco.  With their shared Daddy issues, was Dexter identifying more with Jonah in that moment than he was with Trinity?  What made Dexter form another bond on genuine care and concern outside of his own family unit?

The final scene where Dex just looses his crap on Arthur then was fascinating!  We’ve never seen Dexter lose control like that in public in front of others – it was crazy and we were reminded just how dangerous he is.  Was he playing out some of his own father-frustration?  And is this leading to his eventual inability to kill Arthur?  I mean, if he did kill him, they’d know it was him after a display like that, right?

So yes, my mind is spinning too on how Christine fits into all this.  I’ve been wondering for a while if she was the shooter and I’d put my money on her over one of the other Mitchell clan.  I’m also wondering if they’re going to start drawing some parallels between her and Dex – both have these absent fathers who it seems trained them to kill in particular ways.  Will these two make some sort of connection?

Wow – there’s so much more to say, but I should probably get to my real job!  I can’t believe we only have three more episodes to go!  Oh, and it needs to be said – three cheers for Angel and Maria.  I sure hope they manage to make this work; threat of buses and all, not to mention threat of job loss…I love those two crazy kids and would be very happy to find them find happiness for themselves!

Happy Monday.

Written by themothchase

November 23, 2009 at 8:32 am

One Response

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  1. I can’t believe I missed the kill-room parallels, nice.

    I see Dexter’s investment in the Mitchell family as, ironically, a product of his identification with Arthur. He’s spent weeks thinking “this is me 20 years” and so sees them as something that he could have. Watching Arthur destroy it could be watching his own worst fears play out thus needed to be stopped, even at the cost of the code.


    November 25, 2009 at 1:23 pm

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