Straddling Two Worlds in 102: “Crocodile” & 103: “Popping Cherry”

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“There are no secrets in life, just hidden truths that lie beneath the surface’” (102). As we wade deeper into Dexter’s world, we learn more about his past, the Code, and Dexter’s constant struggle to keep up appearances. Despite the overwhelming feeling that he is an outsider, Dexter reveals that Harry “taught [him] that none of us are who we appear to be on the outside … but we must maintain appearances to survive” (103). Although this was meant to comfort Dexter, it only makes him feel more distant. His mask makes him a perpetual liar, and perhaps one day it will all catch up with him. Playing Pinocchio cannot be as easy as Dexter makes it seem. “Score: 1 for the little wooden boy” (103).

Ice Cold

The Ice Truck Killer (ITK) leaves clues “like pieces of a puzzle” for Dexter, and as he claims: “I like puzzles” (102). What Dexter failed to notice with the chopped up Barbie was the fact that it had different colored nail polish on each of its fingers. With the cold-blooded killer on his mind, Dexter is much like I am when I become engrossed in a TV series (like this one): the red ribbons tied to his bedroom air conditioning unit echo the ones that were so deftly tied to the limbs of the dismembered Barbie. It seems as though just when Dexter’s interest hints at waning, the Ice Truck Killer throws him another bone. The fingertips found in the back of the truck are polished to match the Barbie’s. The clues that ITK leaves him are delicious, like a “trail of breadcrumbs” (102).

Dexter is familiar with the Ice Truck Killer’s work; he knows that the ITK has “thought all this through … I know I would” (102), and his diligence is “working” to “impress” Dexter (102). His presence is a constant, and Dexter is reminded each time the Barbie is placed, moved, or removed that the Ice Truck Killer knows who he is, and is leading Dexter to discover what he has in store next.

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The fingertips are discovered as belonging to Sherry Taylor, which we later learn is “Cherry,” one of the girls that Debra worked with on Calle Ocho while in Vice. We later find her body parts stacked up in the goal on the ice of the Miami Blades, sans fingertips. Despite the excitement of the moment, Dexter admits that “there’s something about standing in a big, cool hall [that] I find very relaxing” (103). His reaction nearly echoes the calm he feels after completing a kill; perhaps the Ice Truck Killer feels that same calm. This kind of kinship is what is drawing the two serial killers together.

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A surveillance tape places the night watchman, Tony Tucci, as the killer; however, Debra notices that he is taking direction from the Ice Truck Killer, who is likely pointing a gun at him from off-camera and directing his every move. Since we know that the Ice Truck Killer has been placing clues for Dexter to find all along, we can feel confident in trusting Dexter, and Debra by extension, that Tony Tucci is not the Ice Truck Killer. This is the first time that we learn that Dexter will not always play by the rules and will hope to leave Miami Metro in the dust, or at least lead them astray.

It is revealed that the bodies are preserved with liquid nitrogen, which Angel Batista says “you’d have to be a lab rat just to mess around with” (103). He said this intending to highlight how Tony Tucci was not smart enough to use the stuff; however, it forces us to recall how both Dexter and Masuka are lab rats, which is yet another close and uncomfortable connection between Dexter and the Ice Truck Killer.

Vengeance v. Justice

Guerrero killed Ricky Simmons and his wife, Kara Simmons, which irks Doakes not only because Simmons was a cop, but because he had an ongoing affair with Kara. All of Miami Metro wants justice, which also happens to be revenge. Dexter’s mentality echoes that of the cops: “[It’s] not about vengeance: it’s about retaliation – balancing the books” (102).

A flashback reveals that a close friend of Harry’s, also a cop, was killed. The perpetrator was let off for insufficient evidence, which seems to get the gears in Harry’s head turning. It appears as though this is the inciting moment of Harry’s plan to create the Code and to shape Dexter into what we see today. “Life’s not fair, Dexter” (102), and Harry wants Dexter to try to settle the score. “The world can always be set right again” (102). We see this seed of thought sprout into life when Harry is in his hospital bed and the nurse is drugging him. This is the first woman who Dexter kills, for “When [Harry’s] gone, [he] wont’ be able to stop [Dexter] from being who [he] [is]. Sooner or later, [he’ll] need to do it” (103).

Appearances v. Reality

Dexter has found a career that suits his life style: “blood is [his] life” (102), and so appearances mesh up with Dexter’s reality better than anyone else is in tune with (except Sergeant Doakes, of course). Our protagonist’s obsession with blood carries over into his career, and when he testifies that he has worked in Blood Spatter Analysis for twelve years and has worked on 2,103 cases, he is spot-on and precise, as he is with his other work. He does hold back at times, though, so as to avoid suspicion (we see him claim to not be sure if the ice truck is the exact one that he chased, although he clearly recognizes it). Being a lab rat allows him that wiggle room to “get his freak on,” as some would say. We see Dexter take Luminol to his face and a black light to reveal where Simmons’ blood spattered on his face, which calls to mind Lady MacBeth as she goes crazy and tries to wash the invisible blood from her hands. Perhaps she knew that traces of blood remained on the skin, despite its invisibility. Regardless, Dexter knows about the blood on his hands … and face. His mission is to keep just beneath the surface to avoid detection, which is becoming more and more difficult given the excitement that the Ice Truck Killer’s work provides: Dexter often “feel[s] like a kid at his own surprise party” (102).

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Doakes and Simmons’ brother and gang go to “blow off some steam” in clown masks. They hide who they really are behind the creepy countenances to make it seem as though Doakes went after Guerrero’s family. It is because Doakes showed his face at Guerrero’s daughter’s confirmation that he will be pinned with suspicion. Of course it was not Doakes’ idea to vandalize one of Guerrero’s top lieutenants’ houses; however, his men will think otherwise.

Dexter’s voice-over serves as a mediator between appearances and reality. Dexter tells Rita that “blood is [my] job;” however, we hear “blood is my life” (102). Both are true, but we understand the complexities of Dexter’s mask. After we witness a guard, who we understand to be an agent of Guererro, killing Cervantes, we hear Dexter singing a lullaby to Astor and Cody, providing the ending of this scene with an eerie overtone. This overtone rests like a blanket over the entirety of the series, but when in close proximity to Rita’s children, we do remember that Dexter is a serial killer that could pose a threat to her innocent family. We see masks, one for each of Rita’s children, which echo Dexter’s own. These serve to remind us that we all have them, even kids. Despite what Dexter is capable of (“I can kill a man, dismember his body, and be home in time for Letterman”), his mask allows Rita to believe that she “found the only one good, truly decent man left on the planet” (102).

As the crocodile, Dexter is always on his “best behavior” (102) for fear of being watched; he makes his same keen observation while in the court-house. In this environment, Dexter blends because for once, he is not the only one with big secrets to hide. Because “blending in” is Dexter’s normal mode, he does not hesitate to use his sixth sense for sniffing out other serial killers: he “see[s] opportunity” (102).

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[Credit: Google Images]

In the court-house, he picks out Matt Chambers who displays “crocodile tears;” his insincere play of emotions does not fool Dexter. It takes [a serial killer] to know [a serial killer]. Claiming that he did not kill Alexander Price, Dexter detects his “invisible mask of sympathy, even empathy … right-thinking people don’t stand a chance” (102) at detecting his falsehood. Of course he is let off: Dexter states that he “may’ve found a way to beat the system, but so have I” (102). We see Dexter engaging in his confession-eliciting methods to confirm Chambers’ guilt. This is the first time that we see Dexter directly engage with a prospective victim and he adopts a new persona (a divorcee/new Miami resident). We even see him bag a shot glass with Chambers’ fingerprint to confirm his guilt. Harry’s Code demands that Dexter “be sure” of the guilt, “and I am” (102). For the first time, we see Dexter stabbing a victim in the heart and depositing the garbage bag-wrapped pieces into the trunk of his car. After three ritualized kills, we have nearly seen all of Dexter’s ritual.

We are given an exclusive look into the aboriginal serial-killing Dexter: messy plastic wrap over everything, a plastic suit and boots, a struggle with the nurse to get her down. We see the original knives and the blood spilled before the kill in the struggle. He was “honing” his craft. Compared to the refined ritual we see Dexter perform now, we understand that Dexter was not born a perfectionist. He learned.

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Much like Dexter, who believes he is “above” the system, those he goes after “think they’ve beat the system” (103). This mentality leads him to Jeremy Downs, a nineteen-year-old boy, and “young virtuoso” as Dexter calls him. He was put away for four years for committing manslaughter (which we later find out is because the man raped him). Dexter follows the boy, believing that he will attempt to ritualize his kills, just as he has done. Of course, Jeremy and the boy believed to be Jeremy’s next victim spot him and run off, smashing Dexter’s window and stealing his wallet. When Dexter comes after him, he discovers that Jeremy is just “taking out the trash,” like he does. Instead of taking him out, he lets him go with words of advice: “Did he deserve to die?” “Yeah.” “Remember that. It could save your life one day.” Dexter emerges as a near father-figure to Jeremy, which is slightly different from how he acts around Astor and Cody. This is on a deeper, more emotional level – a true attempt to connect to someone else who likely cannot connect the way a “normal” human being can. This does not mean it is a failed attempt. Perhaps it is the start of something greater.

Dexter: A Christ Figure

As Dexter is setting up Chambers’ kill room, he ponders the existence of a higher being: “If God is in the details, and if I believed in God, then he’s in this room with me. I just wish he’d brought an extension cord” (102). The “doctor-as-God” motif appears in various works of literature, all pointing to the fact that the doctors are mere agents of God attempting to transcend to a higher realm and suppress one’s own humanity. Here, we have Dexter, “serial killer-as-God” doing much the same thing. He claims to have no humanity and lack emotion; however, we see him as just a man with something different about him. He serves as each victim’s judgment and each kill room is a personal purgatory (he chooses an old, boarded-up liquor store in which to kill Chambers). Dexter seems to be an intermediary for God. As appalling as this may sound to any of you, it is what it is. If you’re reading this, then Dexter obviously has not offended you. Those who would be in objection to this observation have likely already abandoned (or burned) their copy of it.

Harry repeatedly stressed to Dexter: “When you take a man’s life, you’re not just killing them. You’re snuffing out all the things he’ll ever become. As a cop, I only fire my weapon to save a life. That’s a code I live by. Killing must serve a purpose. Otherwise, it’s just plain murder” (103). We see Dexter pull up to Rita’s house in a red convertible with “Christo Sal[vi]” painted on the hood, along with a portrait of Jesus. If you have been reluctant to accept Dexter as a righteous killer, now is your time to hop on board. Christ has come (literally: the car; figuratively: Dexter) and parked in Rita’s driveway. “Without the Code of Harry,” Dexter “would’ve committed a senseless murder in [his] youth” (103).

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If you are still reluctant to see Dexter as a Christ Figure, you can see him as the Ultimate Law Enforcement. He does catch the scum that slips through the cracks. Dexter comments that “the system does work from time to time.” Because his “foster father understood [he] had special needs” (103), Dexter was formed into the serial killer he is today. Ironically enough, the “system” only served to create a serial killer, not stop one.

“Harry taught [Dexter] that death isn’t the end; it’s the beginning of a chain reaction that will catch you if you’re not careful” (103). Dexter’s statement has the potential to be religious in content; however, since he is the “Judge” in this scenario, his spiritual vision likely differs from your own.

The Jungle

The theme of superiors taking credit for the grunt’s work emerges: Sergeant Doakes hates “lab rats” (like Masuka and Dexter); however, they are the ones that make cops look good; Maria LaGuerta takes credit for Debra’s ingenuity, claiming that she encourages such creative thought. Despite the fact that Dexter feels that he is an animal in a (somewhat) humane society, we see that there are animals of all different shapes in every realm of society; it’s just a matter of perspective that makes Dexter different from Doakes or LaGuerta.

Even more interesting is the way that LaGuerta handles Debra. It’s hard enough for women in the work place when competing with men, but to compete with each other? LaGuerta clearly has it out for Debra, and wants in with Dexter. Furthermore, LaGuerta is out to further her political career; Captain Matthews observes that she “loves her press conferences” (103), which we see she is quick to hold, especially when starting the manhunt for Tony Tucci.

As previously stated in the treatment to 101, there is a 20% solve rate for murder in Miami. Dexter purposely lurks here, as do other killers. On the other hand, “everybody moves to Miami to die, which means we have more junk than any city in America” and Dexter’s “idea of hunting” (103) involves taking out a different kind of trash: men like Mike Donovan, Jamie Jaworowski, and Chambers. Animals like them, animals like Dexter, all act based on instinct. Dexter treats these men as prey, and his reflexes are animal-like, too. At the market, the man who sold Jeremy his knife asks Dexter “So, what’s your hunt, trophies or meat?” Coincidentally, he hunts both.

Humanity

Dexter not only calls himself a monster (and Rita does, too, in so many words “you’re a cookie monster” (102), but now he is compared to a crocodile: lying in wait for his prey, always there, floating just at the surface. As the “outsider looking in” (102), Dexter feels like an outcast in every sense. Rita and Debra provide the light in his life (and Debra literally does so, opening the curtains in his dark and dreary apartment) and provide him with opportunities to approach life from the outside and touch it. In fact, Debra gets the closest to Dexter; not only is she his sister, but she’s the only one to enter his apartment (save the Ice Truck Killer). Perhaps it is because they are family, but she’s the only one he lets in without actually “letting her in,” of course for fear of her seeing how “vulnerable [he’s] not” (102). Much like the box of donuts at the end of the day, and his freezer, Dexter is “empty inside.” Dexter says: “I see their pain. On some level, I understand their pain. I just can’t feel their pain” (102), and “grief … makes me uncomfortable” for “I just don’t’ understand all that emotion” (103). He “feel[s] I’m missing some essential piece of the human puzzle” (103); however, he seems to be a really good at faking these emotions.

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Sometimes he is so deft that he goes so far as to reach out to another human on a deeper level. Dexter “tried to act human” when approaching Jeremy Downs, “like it’s [his] job to save lives” (103). This is, in fact, what he is doing. He is saving lives by killing those bound to take others’.

The foundation of relationships depends upon sharing personal experiences and emotions. Lucky for Dexter, his relationship with his sister is based on work. Their “brother-sister stuff” (102) coincidentally is work – Miami Metro is their brother-sister stuff. If they didn’t have work in common, Dexter wouldn’t be so lucky for explaining his hobbies could get a little … choppy. Dexter clearly wants human connection, despite its risks. He wants to “take everything [with Rita] one step at a time” (102), so as to not scare her off. From the outside, Debra sees their relationship as an “ideal one,” for she has yet to find a guy she can trust or a “healthy relationship” (102).

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Despite Dexter’s endeavor to approach humanity, “the willful taking of life represents the ultimate disconnect from humanity. It leaves you an outsider, forever looking in, searching for company to keep” (103).

Walk the Line

In such close proximity to the opening sequence, Dexter’s bite into the Red Delicious apple, and the subsequent fade to red, reminds us of the sequence with the blood orange: we cannot see Dexter do anything without our minds coloring his actions as animalistic.

Because we know of Dexter’s hobby, watching Dexter remove a splinter from Astor’s finger proves to be a creepy encounter. He is precise, sneaky, and accurate when doing so. His lineup of splinter-removing tools are all laid out on a towel, just as he lays out his knives. Astor is on the counter, just as his victims are laid out on tables, and all that remains of either is a single drop of blood.

At the end of “Popping Cherry,” we see that Astor and Cody have set up the lemonade stand they were discussing. They are squeezing the lemons themselves, which should remind us of Dexter’s manhandling of the blood orange in the opening sequence, an act perceived as a hostile aggression by Dexter, but an innocent action by the children.

Observations

Dexter says: “It’s a typical day in the neighborhood” (102). Is this a Spider-Man reference? A common man with slightly different biology taking out the trash. Sounds pretty similar to me.

When Harry is dying in his hospital bed and speaking to Dexter “in code,” we realize that she is clearly out of the loop, as she should be. She asks: “What lessons? What’re you talking about?” Of course, we hear Harry tell Dexter; “If you feel like you’re slipping, lean on your sister. She’ll keep you connected” (103). This seems interesting, considering that Debra seems to run to him with almost everything – work advice, dating advice, good news, bad news, etc.

Dexter: A Comedy

102: “Crocodile”

Dexter: “Another beautiful Miami day: mutilated corpses with a chance of afternoon showers.”

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[Image Credit: adiso]

[At the scene where the ice truck was found.]

Debra: “Hunches telling you anything?”

Dexter: “Ice cold.”

[After Angel Batista jokes that Masuka is hitting on Dexter instead of Debra.]

Masuka: “Vince Masuka only swings one way.”

Debra: “Yeah, from vine to vine.”

[At a crime scene where Dexter has his string-to-blood spatter set up.]

Angel Batista: “You must’ve been a motherfucker at cat’s cradle.”

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103: “Popping Cherry”

Rita: “I can’t help it, I kill things.”

Dexter: “That must be awful.”

And of course … it’s more of a visual comedy than anything. Teenage Dexter. The Michael C. Hall one.

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Overview

And now to put a “number” on this episode. Dexterity (neat-handedness, puns, trickery, clever sayings, placements, etc.) will judge all of the small things that I pick up on. The higher the score, the more fun I had picking apart the episode for hidden clues. Entertainment (how much I laughed and enjoyed the episode) will judge how excited I was on average throughout the episode, as well as after it for the upcoming episodes. Xtremity (how dramatic, but also how believable the episode was, edge-of-the-seat, white knuckles, the “holy shit” factor) will judge just how jaw-dropping the episode was.

Dexterity: 9

Entertainment: 8

Xtremity: 7

DEX-Factor:    8

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