For the sake of the children
After the first numb stumblings of grief and the heavy weight of guilt threatened to undo all the work of integration Dexter had been doing, I suppose it is only reasonable that things slowed down a bit this week. What was most fascinating to me was the way this episode played with the darkness that threatens to engulf Dexter. In many ways, this week felt like an abrupt retreat from the abyss. The FBI interrogation, which seemed like it might drag on for weeks, was neatly dismissed when we all remembered that Dexter had the perfect alibi for Rita’s death: he was part of the SWAT team raiding Arthur Mitchell’s house. No longer a suspect, he can concentrate his energies on raising his kids and getting control of his cravings by stalking new prey. Over and over again we heard the refrain “for the sake of the kids” and in his own way Dexter was really trying to be the loving father and substitute for Rita. I loved the pancake scene – the small gestures of normalacy, the little moments of pleasure in the midst of grief, and then the way one tiny detail, the repetition of one ingrained habit, can undo everything. It is a testament to the creepy, over the top nature of the show that I actually worried that Astor would find some gory message from Trinity hidden in the dishes (it was clear something wasn’t going to go well there). But how much more fitting that it was just a ritual of daily life that brought up that wave of grief and rage.
Perhaps because it was so touching to watch Dexter trying to push himself to deeper levels of normal for the sake of his children, I was really disappointed when Astor and Cody took off. Not just disappointed because it is sad to watch the family fall apart, but because it seemed like too easy a way out for plotting. Sure, it was going to be a stretch watching Dexter as a single-father of three creep off at night to kill people (though one of my favorite moments was when he took Harrison to the rental van to do his blood analysis. Having just spent the weekend carting my son around in order to have some semblance of an adult life, it was a lovely touch). But by carting the older kids off so quickly, we barely started to explore this area before it was over. We went from Dexter on the edge of sanity, a potential suspect of investigation, killing people with is bare hands, to Dexter basically where he has always been, on the hunt.
Then again, that final image was pretty bleak and desolate, not even taking pleasure or solace from finding new prey. Is this where the show is headed – Dexter losing grips even on the thing that used to keep him sane (i.e., killing)? I would be interested in that arc and it would add a nice tension to the noose tightening around his neck as Quinn gets closer and closer to exposing him. Speaking of which, doesn’t it just feel too convenient that Deb and Quinn have started up their weird affair just as Quinn starts to suspect Dexter? His feelings for Deb will clearly be the thing that keeps him at bay or at least gives him pause and that just seems too predictable.
And what about the rest of the Miami Metro crew? What do we make of these strange cultish murders? Are they going to get woven into the Dexter story anytime soon and how?
I can’t wait to hear what you thought – of this week or of the premier last week. Glad to have you back!
Glad to be back! I share so many of your questions – these murders are so freaky and sort of random, I too wonder how they will tie in. Quinn and Deb hooking up actually makes sense to me – they’ve shared a tension from his arrival. But yes, I wonder how that will impact Q’s hunt of Dexter, as I’m also intrigued at how quickly he’s picking up the scent. I see a connection between these two storylines too, in the way they echo the first season – the ritualized, dismantled bodies are more like Ice-truck killer than Trinity, as is Deb’s being drawn to the guy who has the potential to undo Dex. And we’ve got this play with the idea of who Dexter was before Rita, and who he’s going to become after Rita going on to. I think we’re going to see a lot running around these themes almost like a second (or third or fourth) incarnation of Dex’s dark passenger.
In fact, speaking of his dark passenger – an image that of course refers to his darker side, but also sometimes has had gestures toward Harry in it – I’m totally intrigued by Harry this season. Is it just me, or does Harry feel way more on the kids’ side that he has in previous seasons? Usually he’s trying to stop Dexter from making regular human ties to others. He continually expressed disapproval of Dexter’s turn to the family life. But now Dexter seems to be defending the pursuit of his own violent desires to a Harry who seems to think the oxygen masks should go on the kids first. For all the ways that Harry represents Dexter’s conscience or psyche or some internal barometer, this new expression of how “the Law” can help Dex is fascinating. As you said last week, Harry now seems to appear in correlation to Dexter’s human connections. And whether that is in denial or support of those connections seems to indicate a shift in Dexter’s own shadow self. But if last season that meant Dexter wanted family but feared the implications of it, this season it seems to mean that Dexter wants escape from his family, but now fears the implications of that.
I guess I depart from you over frustration at carting the kids off, though. I understand what you’re saying about wanting to see Dexter have to juggle the kids and work and killing. But I think we would have tired of that quickly. It did feel like a quick send-off, but Cody also kept it emotionally loaded enough (and Astor too) that I don’t think it’s the last we’ll see of them. What is interesting to me is that the kids are now separated from the lineage of Dexter and Rita – living with Paul’s parents. I’m not sure what that will mean, but it feels significant to me. And even more so, this move allows the focus – as you say – on the relationship between Dexter and Harrison…which I think is where the real creepy, cool stuff is going to happen. And, I think, the disturbing stuff – at least, the stuff that is going to really mess with our sense of innocence and childhood, perhaps even more so than Dexter’s own narrative has yet done.
When it comes to that final scene of Dexter in the pond surrounded by barreled up women – ugh, I don’t even know where to begin. But the blondness of the woman – her similarity to Rita – is surely sparking something more personal and intimate than Dexter’s usual slays. It’s this ongoing shift in the motivations for Dexter’s killings that really gets me, too. In the beginning he killed to curb an impulse that seemed natural – or at least, traumatically ingrained into him. As time has gone on they’ve become more personal – more a part of his own psychic and emotional journey. I think we’re going to see these two – curbing nature and personal journey – really come together this season as the desire to control such impulses gets seriously linked to a sense of family commitment.
Stray thoughts – I loved that weird pregnancy test thing Dex used to tell if the blood was human, almost as much as I loved the super-cheesy, super-awesome pulsing of the blood on the truck floor, calling to Dexter as if from within his own heartbeat. I love that we have a financial situation brewing between Angel and Maria! Like you, I want to see those two make it. But I also want to see a bit of the struggle that is likely to come from a rush wedding. And I loved seeing the differing reactions and assumptions of Quinn and Deb responding to the issue as Angel attempted to understand what was going on. And oh my goodness, that “take it” tape played by creepy animal/lady-killer dude…ack!