Tick, Tick, Tick…
Wow, that opening was amazing! I had to watch it three times. “We are born primal…It’s engraved in our souls…We’ve fallen from nature’s grace. But we will be delivered.” Such theological, language deployed by JC (why do I always clue into these christological references so late? Every season!), a messiah type figure offering salvation to the masses – Jordan Chase might be a raping, murdering madman, but he sure is good at reflecting psychologically, theologically and culturally on that madness (a lesson to us academics, perhaps?). When he tells Dexter he’s been working on a theory for how the primal self deals with tragedy, I started to wonder what had “shattered” his own “primal self”. And more terrifying, what experiments had he been conducting on shattering primal selves in order to study them. It sounds like he’s a lot like Dexter, actually – some trauma leading him to repeat it himself again and again. But possessing the social skills Dexter lacks, he is able to pull others into his twisted game. Which leaves me wondering how much of a good thing it is that Dexter has finally managed to branch out into having a partner.
Dexter brought up last night what we’ve been wondering for a while – how will he get around killing Lumen? He recognizes his own pattern of opening up to someone only to need to wipe them out in the end. But in a way, it also seems like he’s allowing Lumen to play Rita’s role – especially the role from their earlier, awkward, sexless relationship from season one. There are glimmers of attraction, but they don’t act on it. Rather, they are both trying to heal the trauma of the other – just like with Rita.
Here he starts from the beginning with honesty, though, even telling her his whole story last night. What I found particularly interesting in that moment was how he re-narrated his childhood trauma using Jordan Chase’s own language (oh my – that scene where he pulled Dex up on stage was terrible to watch!). This might be why I think Jordan is the mastermind behind the slayed women most of all – each season we have the ultra villain who nevertheless manages to teach Dexter something about himself. And while Dexter gets tempted to keep them alive to learn more, it seems he might not this season with Jordan – because he’s got Lumen instead.
But like you said last week – where does that end? If this season closes on a happy domestic scene of them finishing up dinner and then putting Harrison to bed so that Dexter can go out and kill someone as Lumen opens the laptop to do a little research on their next victim, I won’t find that satisfying. But I’m not quite sure why I won’t.
The alternative – that they’re both going to get caught by that creepy guy working for Quinn – is less satisfying, though, I think. That guy really freaks me out. He’s so gross. But it also seems like Quinn is wanting to lose the trail on Dexter now. And, to be honest, that feels unsatisfying too. I just can’t figure out where this season is going…and I love it for that!
As ever, Deb is amazing! I loved the moment where her and Dexter connected (unbeknownst to her) over the emptiness that fills you up when you kill someone. I wondered if that’s a common feeling, or if it is something more unique that these half siblings share. I imagine it’s somewhere between the two. But Deb’s acknowledgment that maybe she does need counseling, and the department’s insistence on it, reminds us of the different ways we can handle loss – and my constant sense that a little counseling actually does go a long way, despite everyone’s resistance to it on this show.
The question that’s lingering this morning is what to make of these self-help seminars. They are an easy punching bag in tv shows and movies (Six Feet Under, Magnolia…) – their glitz and glamor reminds us that the ‘healer’ is after fame and fortune more than helping others. And yet for some people they are helpful. But what happens when you whip up hundreds of people into finding their primal selves? On the one hand, I tend to think there’s something good about the fact that we’re cultured out of our most basic, animal instincts? That certainly seems to be true for Jordan and, we need to remember, Dexter. But on the other hand, do the rest of us non-psychotic members of the humdrum middle class maybe need to get in touch with our primal instincts? That seems to be something you and I have been gesturing towards all last season as we celebrated moments of the influx of desire breaking up the small death of middle class, consumerist existence. How is what we want to celebrate different than what Jordan Chase is trying to get people to celebrate? Why does what he promotes both ring so true, and freak me out so much?
Wondering how much Dexter spends on plastic each year…
As you said to me in an email this morning, this was one of the best episodes this whole season. Finally, the show has the momentum that makes it completely addictive, at least in its main plot. I knew things weren’t going to go to plan as Dexter and Lumen set up the kill room, but I wasn’t entirely sure how it would all end. Then, of course, as soon as Lumen stepped out of the hotel room I knew Cole would see her. And the moment she locked herself back in the hotel room I knew Cole would come crashing through that connecting door. Nonetheless, I was completely beside myself in utter terror, contorting my body and trying to squirm as far away from the TV as I could, yet unable to stop watching. I haven’t had a moment like that with Dexter in a while and it was fantastic, just as far as scary storytelling goes. It was the same sensation I had (though even more intense) watching Boyd and Dex circle around each other in the ambulance and hospital. It definitely has to do with the new twist: the (former) victim is in on the kills and the killers are (kind of) aware they are being stalked by another killer. There were moments of this with Trinity near the end, but this season is even more full of them which is kind of fantastic!
The sense of hunt and hunter ties directly into the message of Jordan Chase and his program of unleashing the primal. I agree completely – JC is the mastermind of the sadistic killing group. My own theory would be that he gathers a band of men, mostly lonely loser types like Boyd Fowler, and teaches them to unleash their primal instincts on helpless captive women. Boyd listens to his tapes because he genuinely is learning from his master, with private lessons of the most twisted and horrific hands on manner. Whether or not Cole was an exception to the loser rule or has just been in the program the longest, I am not sure. I would guess that he is the link between Chase and the other band of blood brothers, since it appears that all of them, besides Chase knew each other when they are younger. Maybe Cole recruited his old buddies one by one into the secret club.
I am fascinated in this idea that Chase is working out his own trauma – repairing his own shattered self because if that is the case we have another Trinity, as you mention: another man who, like Dex, works through is own trauma through psychotic killing. Though interestingly when Lumen recounts the horrors done to her, she is not clear whether or not Chase actually inflicted physical violence on her himself. She describes him as the watch man, inflicting psychological torture by threatening her with the end of her life. In no way do I think this makes him more innocent than the others – if anything I think it makes him more perversely culpable. Like these women really are experiments in some twisted lab he is running – he gathers the predators and the prey and unleashes the latter on the former to see what happens, all the while inflicting his own torture to continue to try and shatter the women under his control.
I was also completely stunned by Chase’s rhetoric and video montage. And I also thought of Tom Cruise in Magnolia. I so conflated the two for a moment that I was shocked to discover there were women in Chase’s audience. Then I remembered that Chase isn’t actually selling misogynistic violence against women, but a more generic “unleash your primal self” rhetoric that most people are likely to apply to more quotidian matters like asking for a raise or getting the confidence to keep looking for work, or breaking out of abusive relationship patterns. The fact that Chase and his real life counterparts can so easily pack a hotel ballroom is a reminder how much the intensity of desire can be suppressed by alienated labor and the daily grind of middle class life. What fascinates me the most is the need to ground these repressed desires in nature. We look to primal animal behavior as an explanation of what we “really” are, as though the vast eons of evolutionary work and cultural acquisition could be easily stripped away to reveal our true selves – at heart, not much different than a lion taking down a gazelle. I’m no expert on evolutionary biology, psychology or culture, but the little I know suggests that no matter how far we go back we will find humans differentiated from these primal animal urges – through the use of language, the ability to self-reflect, the manipulation of technology, among other things. Even the stories we tell about “primal urges” are our own inventions, not some natural truth we can arrive it by peeling back the layers of civilization. Interestingly, Chase might know this if he is indeed experimenting with the shattered self – how it is made and how it is made whole again. It is not a process of unleashing, but of carefully cultivating, through intense coaching, rhetoric, and practice. It would be incredibly cool if Dexter’s interactions with Chase led to his reflections on his own making and potentially unmaking, even though I am pretty confident Jordan will end up on the table.
I am not sure though that Dexter won’t finally be exposed. Creepy blackmailing PI is so hot on the trail (and I agree, he makes my skin crawl). Do you think that Deb’s confession of her own satisfaction in healing was supposed to set the stage for her confrontation with Dexter’s true self? That would be an ending to remember, but perhaps not to recover from.
Again, neither of us have much to say about Angel and Maria or the rest of the office. I wonder if it was such a great episode because the policy drama was on the back burner this week?
Here’s hoping Owen is enjoying his trip around the world!