The Moth Chase

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

Trauma is an Opportunity

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Dear Kathryn,

Oh my goodness! So much in this episode!!  Let’s start with this idea that trauma can be an opportunity – a do-over button for re-inventing oneself.  I guess there’s some truth in that.  At least, Dexter is showing it to be the case.  Dealing with the trauma of Rita’s death is certainly helping him to re-narrate the path that Harry set for him after his initial mother-death trauma.  Once the self is violently broken, there might just be some freedom in how we seek to put ourselves back together.  And so the idea that trauma can, at least, be turned into an opportunity sounds hopeful…until we think about the guy who is saying it!

Jordan Chase is f’ing creepy and my hunch is that any healing process that has him at the helm is not going to repair the self in the healthiest of ways.  More frightening to me, though, continues to be the idea that he might intentionally inflict trauma for the purpose of observation, playing with the victims and, maybe, extending some traumatic experience of his own perpetrated by the mysterious Emily Birch.  In a season where violence against women has so shockingly come to the fore in new ways, it would be an intriguing spin to have a woman guilty of starting that cycle…intriguing, and  potentially infuriating – I’m curious to see if they can pull it off.

Now that Jordan knows – I have to say I’m also intrigued to see what psychological games he will manage to play on both Dex and Lumen.  How long will a cycle of violence get perpetuated?  And who will have the courage to break it? If Lumen seeks further vengeance, how will her own psyche be further damaged?  Can violence end?

These questions are what makes Harry’s appearances in this episode absolutely, gasp-inducingly amazing!  I know it’s not really Harry, and he’s always Dexter’s own moral musings…but for him to say he’s proud of Dex, admit his own error (!!!), and finally see the possibility for something better in Dexter – this is huge!  For all the ways these apparitions have let Dexter questions his father’s rule, he’s never questioned it this deeply – he’s never questioned its necessity.  With three episodes left to go, is Dexter going to be able to beat the killing habit?

On this front, I – like apparition-Harry – find his beating up of that wanker Barry to be quite hopeful.  First, I loved The Ballad of Mack the Knife playing in the background – amazing!  But second, it seemed to me to be a strangely normal display of violence…sure, he pressed up against the edges of his crazy, but there was a weird balance to the event.  Dexter didn’t take the beating further than anything Barry had done to Olivia.  In fact, he did precisely what Barry did to Olivia.  And he didn’t seem to tip anywhere close to the kill.  To be honest, I didn’t think Dexter had that type of control.

We never get to the other narratives – but for me, that’ s not because I don’t find them interesting.  In fact, I’ve loved the smaller plots this season.  Watching Maria unravel out of a self-interest that now needs to account for two has been painful to watch.  The scene between her and Deb was powerful.  And I’m rooting for Deb and Quinn – their situation is so complex in that he was actually doing the right thing, hunting Dex down.  And now his loyalties are so divided, there isn’t really a right thing that can be done.  It feels like it could be strangely appropriate if Liddy were Dexter’s downfall.  All this running and hiding and killing – to be brought down almost accidentally!  That could actually be a satisfying ending, I think.

Trying not to picture Vince’s balls in a vice – in either the hot or not hot way!

xoxo,
Natalie

—-

Dear Natalie,

I could not believe last night! I’ve skimmed a few other blogs and there seems to be a general sense that the whole Astor plot was a decline from the action of the last few episodes. In terms of plotting, I agree. Astor and Olivia were not the most fully-fleshed characters. But come on people! The whole point of that little tangent was the conversation with Harry and his  incredible, enormous confession that Dexter may not be a homicidal maniac down to his core. We’ve talked about whether or not Harry was a twisted manipulator not to even try to help Dexter recover from the trauma of his youth, but I never thought the show would acknowledge this as a serious problem. They have toyed with the ideas by showing Harrison in therapy, talking about Lumen’s own process (or lack of process) in healing, and even by introducing Chase’s notion of trauma as liberating. But to out and out admit that Dexter’s whole life was determined by Harry’s assumption that he had no real shred of humanity in him pretty much calls into question all of Dex’s own assumptions and the code he has been living by. What he wants most is not to avoid being caught, but to be a great father. And that is a huge shift. When I try to think about all the ways this season could end (especially if this is the last season), this seems hugely significant for the options on the table.

You are right, of course, that this isn’t really Harry, but really Dex coming to terms with his own possibilities of healing. Although my jaw literally dropped when Harry said that, I did think it was beautifully suiting that this came out in the same episode as Chase’s “trauma is an opportunity” speech. Dex is with Jordan trying to work through his own trauma in the same way he always does – hunting a victim for his table. No new revelations come through that pursuit. It is only in his personal relationships, which are so messy and always complicate his “night job”, that this new possibility emerges. Maybe, really, out of Rita’s death and that new trauma will come the opportunity for Dex to move on.

If he doesn’t get busted by Liddy or Deb or Quinn, that is! Or if Chase doesn’t hunt him down first (and um, of all the absolutely creepy things about Jordan Chase, isn’t the “I saw one drop of blood and immediately knew that Dexter Morgan was in league with Lumen Pierce taking down my killing posse” omniscience bordering on the satanic?! How did he put that together?!). I haven’t found anything absolutely definitive to suggest if this is really the last season, but presuming that it is, I am starting to work with two theories: 1) Dex is caught by Liddy, Quinn, and/or Deb (though I am not sure what I think the consequences of this will be); 2) Dex narrowly avoids being caught and even reaches a place where he realizes he doesn’t have to kill anymore, only to have unleashed a killing machine in Lumen who will be ungovernable by the code. Or maybe they will go with the new happy family route, which won’t totally satisfy me, but I am kind of warming up to the idea. Maybe only because they have introduced the idea that Dex might have the possibility to leave his serial killer life behind, in which case Lumen really is his piercing light of salvation.

Since you were bold enough to try and venture to the other plots, I will join you briefly. I agree, there is a lot of good material in Maria’s unraveling and Deb’s suspension. When I say I just don’t care that much, it isn’t because I dislike the characters. But I do still have a hard time getting into those stories, because they necessarily have to be short-changed because of time. I would love to see more – in fact, I could imagine a whole show just about the police crew that I would faithfully watch and write about – but squeezing it in around the edges of a Dexter plot that is utterly consuming is neither satisfying nor compelling. Plots that obviously connect to the main one – like the truly creepy Liddy (he takes the cake from Chase for me so far) and Quinn and Deb triangle – are great and don’t need attention except for the way they are slowly building to integration into the main story. Maybe it will all integrate, but with only three episodes I don’t quite see it, and I’d rather devote all my emotional energy to the main story this time.

That said, it is a long way from the couch to the bedroom, but I am betting Angel makes the trip.

Kathryn

Written by themothchase

November 22, 2010 at 2:57 pm

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