The Moth Chase

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

The Sins of the Father Will be Borne by His Sons…and Daughters

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Again Dexter is playing around with this father theme, developing a very Old Testament type of idea that the sons will pay for the sins of the father…that sin is passed down generationally.  But as we saw last night, it’s not Arthur’s son who pays for his sins, but rather it’s his daughter.  Dexter convinces Jonah to help put an end to Trinity’s sins, whereas Christine can’t avoid carrying her father’s torch as she seeks so desperately to secure his love.  She’s right – Arthur’s kids who have to live with him aren’t nearly so loyal to him as she, but I had to wonder last night what it was that made her so loyal to a man who manipulates her so?

The idea that she’s like an abused puppy who can only feel fulfilled by the love of her abuser just doesn’t seem to work with Christine, and I’m waiting for the show to fill out her obsession with her dad just a little more for me.  The sibling rivalry with the established, new family just doesn’t cut it.  Arthur’s got to have some hook in her that keeps her hanging in with him that runs a little deeper than mere abandonment issues, and I’m hoping the next episode will give a little more insight into what that might be.

So the show last night played around with the idea of ‘Lost Boys’ (the title of the episode alluding not only to poor Scott, but also to Dexter’s and Arthur’s own childhood losses of innocence).  But I began to wonder more about the Lost Girls.  What toll has a life of secrecy taken on Christine?  What innocence does she need to regain after watching her father mid-kill cycle?  And what kind of father leaves his 5 year old daughter in the car while he murders a woman?

Unlike Dexter, Christine has always remembered that childhood trauma and sought ways to live with it…to integrate it into her own sense of self.  In a very real sense, the sins of her father are a part of her own identity, mixed up with love and desperation and hope and God knows what else into an inevitable time bomb that explodes in Lundy’s death.

Last night seemed to be less about Dexter to me and more about childhood trauma in general – Dex’s, Arthur’s, Christine’s and now Scott’s.  What will his reaction be to his days in the cellar?  What rituals will he need to enact to purge the pain of being momentarily buried in cement (with one of the best lines of the night, Dexter was right to note that burying a child in cement just isn’t very Christian).

But what will happen next?  The previews (always done so brilliantly on Dexter!) indicated some shocking twists right up till the very end.  Will Arthur take revenge and take Cody?  Is Elliot coming back to make Rita’s life difficult?  Angel and Maria were kept in a holding pattern this week, but the endurance of that story makes me think it will come to matter in the closing episodes.

And perhaps what is piquing my interest most of all – Dexter hasn’t killed in ages!  Where has his need to kill gone?  Is it gone?  This isn’t about an uncontrollable desire to murder anymore – it’s about a personal vendetta or, more so, a desire to protect the innocent.  That’s always been an element of Dexter’s killing, but as he gets further and further from his last kill without an obvious compulsion to kill in general but only to take down Arthur, that raw monster dark-passenger Dexter we know (and oddly love) is fading away to be replaced with some caped crusader, protector of the helpless type superhero father-figure.  When Dexter picked up Harrison to soothe his crying and gave him a quick kiss on the thigh – that was the most real moment I’ve seen in what is usually a playfully over the top, almost parody-like show.  That’s what real parents do and it was lovely.  I believed for the first time that a switch has been flipped in Dexter’s brain – that we have new possibility for humanity in him…that maybe the sins of the father that we’re really dealing with here are Harry’s and that once Dex manages to kill off his own father, the next season might have to take us into his post-killing life.

Can’t wait to hear what you thought!

Dear Natalie,

I was taken by the exact same emphasis – Dexter has really taken the traumatized child theme to heart. Not only do we see Dexter return to the scene of his own trauma by installing his safe room in a cargo unit, we are subjected to the ever-creepier Arthur Mitchell’s own take on repetition compulsion – down to making Scott wear 1960s style pajamas and play with a rather sad train set in an abandoned bomb shelter. Perhaps it was all a bit head-bangingly symbolic, but the revelation that Arthur kills “himself” in a 10-year old boy by burying him alive in cement to protect his innocence was pretty damn chilling and only served to reinforce Trinity as one of the scariest, most psychologically disturbed characters we’ve seen so far.

The introduction of the child into the kill cycle also allowed Dexter another chance to work out some of his own pathologies. I agree that we are watching him move more deeply and more thoroughly into his role as father (he even  makes an explicit reference to this fact when “Harry” observes how upset he is by Scott’s kidnapping). Although Arthur has not turned out to be the role model Dexter initially hoped for, Dexter’s vexed relationship with him is doing more than anything else has so far to show Dexter how much is own family means to him and to allow  his own native emotional expressions to come to the fore. Like you, I am not sure where this is leading, and I sort of like how subtly and slowly it has been developing – but I do feel like we are watching a new Dex and I am excited to see what it all means.

But the real revelation on the traumatized children front is the emotionally wounded, father-protecting Christine. I am right there with you on the need for more context. I have to admit, however, that I am not sure the show is going to give it to us. There is something text-book stereotypical in her pathological behavior – she witnessed a horrible event in her past which knit her to her father in some twisted way and now she acting out despite her tough-as-nails reporter persona. There are a lot of mysteries around Christine that I am not sure will be solved: like how old is she? She barely seems old enough to have been left on  her own before Arthur settled down with his second family. Who and where is her mother? Right now it feels like a shock tactic – guess who killed Lundy?! guess why?! – and it fits a bit too neatly into the traumatized incident explains all anti-social behavior (I realized my father is a serial killer so I killed the investigator who was after him). I love this season so much I am willing to forgive them this plot device – and I am holding out hope for more shocking revelations that tie it all together – but if I am really honest, I am a little disappointed with the Christine storyline.

I do wonder, however, if maybe the degree to which Christine’s story presses the credibility of the childhood trauma explains all paradigm is a clue that Dexter really is on the verge of a new self-understanding. Maybe, as each season has suggested so far, he too is not as determined by his childhood traumas as he has always believed. Which brings us back to the possibility of a new, at least slightly more integrated, Dexter to come…

Other observations: I am really enjoying the fun, sly way the show is playing with the trope of cheating/sneaking around by adding Angel and Deb sneaking around behind Quinn’s back as they investigate Christine. And speaking of Angel, I agree, he and Maria aren’t done yet. I just hope they both make it through the season alive. Also, did you notice the strange time-lapse sun-rise sequence? I don’t remember Dexter ever doing something like that and it totally jumped out at me. Can’t say I know what they were up to, unless it is a visual clue to back up the whole “a new day dawns for Dexter” motif.

I can’t believe the season is almost done. I haven’t wanted something to end less in a long time.


Read the entire Dexter conversation from start to finish.

Written by themothchase

November 30, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Dexter

Tagged with , ,

7 Responses

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  1. Excellent post and intriguing thoughts. My only comment would be a reminder that Dex did just kill that photographer — so it has not been ages. His desire to murder Trinity is driving him now so I’m not sure where you see that lacking?


    November 30, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    • He did, yes – but that was quite a few episodes ago. Unlike the first season, in which Dexter killed almost every episode, we’ve gone three full episodes in a row without a kill now…which leads me to interpret his desire to kill Arthur in a new light – not as animal-instinct compulsion, but as a more reasoned desire to protect innocents. Thanks for your comment! You remind us that Dex’s last kill was his first innocent and, perhaps, then, what propels him on this path of innocence-protection…a fact I missed until your response!


      November 30, 2009 at 2:39 pm

  2. First off, intriguing take, both Natalie & K, on the innocence-lost motif. And I am totally with you all on the heavy handed dependence on trauma as an easy, one-off explanation for all sociopathic behavior being a little too simple for this show, especially when taking into account the absolutely unconventional, incomparable first season.

    Regarding the lack of killing, the subdued dark passenger, in my mind, it is the very fact that Dexter killed the innocent photographer that is driving him to put Trinity down. To me, the lack of killing can be explained not only by his focus but by his admitted mistake. He needs this kill because, well, this is the correct kill. And he has morphed/grown into a new dawn of Dexter, as the sunrise sequence does allude to. He is now a dad, and, yes, the final scene with Dexter holding his child was extremely touching and new. Once again proving that the show will always give you something new. So, in all, Dexter needs to focus and get this kill right, not only to make up for, if that is even possible, his mistake, but for the future of his child.

    And finally, I would just like to point out how dope this episode was. I do find the Christine thing to be full of wholes, especially regarding her former familial unit. Like, what the F happened to her family? I mean, I am sure Trinity had something to do with it, but what? Besides that, this episode was mind-meltingly intense. No doubt, my favorite episode of the season.

    Final question: will Dexter ever find out about Rita and Elliot?


    November 30, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    • Thanks for the comment, Evan! I agree that Dexter needs to focus and get this kill right…although I’m not sure ‘getting it right’ will result in a kill, at least not of Arthur. I’m wondering if instead it will be Harry who gets the axe. And yes, I’m sure Dex will find out about Rita and Elliot, but can’t even begin to imagine what sort of emotional response that will illicit. I can’t wait to see!


      November 30, 2009 at 6:02 pm

  3. With a nudge from your insights here, I do see this Trinity process as a new path for Dexter — primarily his increasing awareness of his human-ness vs Trinity’s tortured psychosis. The urgency and drive to take Trinity down is all-consuming; as it must be for Dexter to fully embrace who he truly is and complete this particular process. I personally don’t miss the weekly kill as this storyline is much more compelling and takes us to a much deeper level and understanding of Dexter’s own psyche — far more interesting I think!


    November 30, 2009 at 7:27 pm

  4. When Dexter picked up his little boy and kiss his boo-boo (lol) i became teary eyed knowing he loves him and wants to keep him safe,he said to him i will not let any one hurt you again,even me,(something like that) that means he can not get caught, so he may have to stop killing,and for him to even think like that he is becoming human and normal. i just love this show,i hate to see it come to and end but we all evolve

    Donna Herman

    November 30, 2009 at 10:57 pm

  5. I’m a first-time visitor to The Moth Chase–I’m glad I stumbled across another site devoted to “nerds” talking about TV! If you’re interested, I contribute to a similar endeavor over at The Brown Tweed Society.

    Re: Dexter Season 4, I’ve also been fascinated with Dexter’s character development this season. A slightly different take from what I’m seeing here is that Dex’s arc could be a continuation of his move to abandon The Code of Harry, or at least adapt it to suit his evolving circumstances. When the Code stopped being the absolute Truth that defined his life, Dexter was forced to find new sources of structure and meaning. This has even meant the discovery of reward and fulfillment in things other than killing (e.g., his family).

    Another sign of Dexter’s increasing humanity is that we’re seeing more emotion, both positive and negative, from him this season. In prior seasons, we saw cold, murderous calculation and sometimes laughable attempts to fake emotions and sympathy in social settings…and that’s about it. This season, we’re seeing that genuine love for his family (mixed with the continuing but less frequent desire to escape their scrutiny, of course). Importantly, we also saw blind rage when he pulled Arthur Mitchell off Jonah and nearly killed him in the kitchen.

    All this leads me to wonder if we’re going to see Dexter again kill in violation of Harry’s code, as he did when he murdered the innocent photographer. Perhaps in a blind rage this time–perhaps Elliot the neighbor will suffer the consequences after Masuka tells Dexter about the kiss he saw?

    I don’t normally get caught up in guessing games, but I’m so swept up in this season’s plotting that I can’t help myself. Earlier this week, I wrote more over at The Brown Tweed Society:

    Thanks, and I’ll certainly keep reading The Moth Chase. I saw insights in this post that would never have occurred to me!

    A. Lowhorn

    December 2, 2009 at 12:59 pm

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