Doppelgängers in 106: “Return to Sender” & 107: “Circle of Friends”

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The Ice Truck Killer continues to make his presence known as he dives and revives the body of Valerie Castillo, returning her to Dexter’s table within the tin can of a trailer on Jorge Castillo’s salvage lot, and putting Dexter under fire. Between Sergeant Doakes being “onto” Dexter and the boy witness who threatens to expose Dexter’s identity, Dexter feels the “noose tightening.” As Miami Metro closes in on Neil Perry, who they suspect to be the Ice Truck Killer, Dexter hopes that his “playmate” is not as ostentatious as this man. Dexter seeks connection with one of his “colleagues” in a final encounter with Jeremy Downs, revealing that he is truly “alone” in this world.

Ice-Cold

The first major presence of the Ice Truck Killer is in the first scene of 106: “Return to Sender;” it seems as though he has dived into the ocean to retrieve the body of Valerie Castillo and laid it out, ritualistically, on a picnic table in the same tin can, in which Dexter killed her and her husband the night before. Dexter, of course, nearly has a panic attack when he realizes that the crime scene he is called to is his own crime scene. ITK wants to make his presence known – it’s as if “big brother” is watching.

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Vince Masuka is impressed with the set up: “If she was killed here, which I doubt, whoever did it was a pro.” Given the circumstances, Dexter is not “tak[ing] this as a compliment” (106), and when Masuka notices the needle mark in her neck, he is quick to knock out Vince’s idea, for fear that the M99 in Valerie’s system will be discovered – which it is, since Vince is such a good forensic analyst and ordered a toxin screening. It seems as though ITK is testing Dexter to see how much provocation and heat he can take from within the police department – M99 is strictly controlled and can only be obtained by certain people. Even though Dexter’s name does not appear on the list, his alias does, “which will lead back to [him]” (106).

Soon, Neil Perry comes into the crosshairs as who they believe to be the Ice Truck Killer. The evidence that Miami Metro finds, from the wood-paneled station wagon to the taxidermy-fest in his tin box of a home, and the dead body of his mother, partially chopped up beneath the patio, certainly points in his direction, as does the moving violations that place him at two of the ITK’s crime scenes. He even has possession of photos that were never released to the public, which Batista believes he took himself. Once he is brought in for questioning, Neil Perry recounts what he “did” with the bodies; Dexter, all the while, is disappointed with his ostentatious show and prays that the man sitting in the confession room is not the man whose designs have been so intriguing thus far. LaGuerta later points out that “fascination with serial killers is an American pastime” (107), which will eventually prove to be what Neil Perry’s case is. When listing all the reasons to Deb why Neil Perry is not their guy, she asks: “How would you know?” (107). Of course Dexter cannot answer this for several reasons.

When Deb and Batista discover the hooker chained up, gagged, and bloody in Neil Perry’s motel room, Neil Perry sings a children’s lullaby (“Now the Day Is Over”) in a rather demonic tone. I’m picking up on some Mommy/Oedipal issues here, given the fact that he killed his own mother, so this may have something to do with it. There’s no telling why he sings this other than to scare the hell out of the woman who is chained up, or to seal his own fate. All we know is that it’s creepy as hell.

Dexter asks to see Neil Perry while he is held in Miami Metro to ask him questions and finally meet his “playmate” before he is incarcerated forever. Upon entering the room, and asking Dexter: “Who the fuck are you?,” Dexter’s suspicions are confirmed: Neil Perry is not the Ice Truck Killer.

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“The Storm’s on Its Way”

The young boy, Oscar, found in the trunk of a car on the salvage yard, is taken in as a witness, which poses a threat to Dexter’s cover: “the noose is tightening … this is how it ends – in the hands of a seven-year-old?” (106). Given the fact that the Ice Truck Killer knows Dexter so intimately, he holds the power and Dexter’s “neat little world of lies is [starting to] crumbl[e] all around [him]” (106). Dexter stresses that he “can’t tell a soul, especially not Deb” (106). He “realize[s] now that [his] days are numbered, so [he] better make the most of them” (106).

Dexter feels a certain guilt about keeping his sister out of the loop – there are enough flashbacks to shed light on how she was excluded from bonding time with Harry, and how bitter she was at times about her father adopting Dexter. Her resentment shines through when Debra still goes ahead with a startlingly keen profile of a copycat killer, which she believes is responsible for Valerie Castillo’s murder. Of course that “copycat” is Dexter, which reintroduces his worries of being a “fraud” – not just as a brother, friend, and boyfriend, but as a killer as well. We feel the “noose’ tightening, too, as Debra lists off all qualities of the copycat killer that fit Dexter to a “T:” “this killer feels a connection to the Ice Truck Killer, excited by what he’s doing … cut on the cheek, while not fatal, appears to be a signature of sorts. Because of the lack of evidence collected at the crime scene, the suspect may be familiar with law enforcement or forensics procedure” (106). Dexter cuts her off at this point, filling in her deft sketch with “stock” details that also describe himself: “middle-aged white male, alone … a little textbook, don’t you think?” (106).

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The closer Debra gets to revealing Dexter’s truth, the more he fears his fate. In his dream of Harry, his father says: “Storm’s on its way, son. Better get inside” (106). We see the storm is raining blood, a rather startling and nightmarish image. Dexter’s fears of Debra finding out his truth become progressively clearer, yet the nightmare suggests that Dexter is related to the Ice Truck Killer – or at least suggests that perhaps Debra has her own hidden truths or that she is the Ice Truck Killer. Of course, Dexter knows that Deb is not capable of such design (not as an insult to her intelligence, rather support for her integrity); however, ITK’s shadow lurks in his dream. Dexter comments on how nothing ever shakes him from his sleep: “When I sleep, every part of me sleeps” (106), which compels him to get rid of his serial killing evidence. When he is throwing everything, wrapped in trash bags and duct tape, into the ocean, he cannot throw his trophies out. When examining them one last time, he discovers that ITK has etched a smiley face into one of his blood slides, which makes Dexter realize that ITK isn’t out to get him – rather, he’s just testing him.

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Not only is the ITK threatening to expose Dexter, but Doakes is constantly breathing down Dexter’s neck, reminding him that “[he’s] watching you” (107). He even comments that he’s “submitting [Dexter’s] ass for psychiatric evaluation” (107). We are shaken up when we see Sergeant Doakes running after Jeremy Downs just as Dexter was about to corner him and kill him – this is perhaps the closest call we have seen thus far in Dexter protecting (or failing to protect) his identity.

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Dexter is spared, however, by planting Jorge Castillo’s blood on a knife (which he plants at the crime scene) and socks, which they picked up from his home – and also by the fact that Oscar describes the man who saved him as Jesus Christ.

Connection

What is peculiar is the fact that Dexter, for the first time, is feeling “remorse, doubt, [and] regret” (106) about the trouble he is bringing into Rita’s home and the potential heartbreak there will be for both them and Rita. He fears being a disappointment to them, further pointing to the fact that he is a sociopath, and not a psychopath as later seasons will lead us to believe. (One of the main reasons why I say this is that Dexter seeks connections with other and confided in his father, traits that are not attributed to psychopaths). As is the theme of this season, Dexter is changing, and he wonders: “What is happening to me?” (106).

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At the beginning of 107: “Circle of Friends,” we learn that there are roughly fifty serial killers active in the United States. Although they “don’t get together at conventions, share trade secrets, or exchange Christmas cards,” Dexter wonders what it is like for the others when they kill (107). He does find out when Jeremy Downs, the boy from 102: “Crocodile” who stole his wallet, has killed yet another person. He let him go because he killed “with a purpose;” however, this kill only served to see if he would feel something “different” than the “nothing” he feels every single day. Jeremy reports that he just felt worse after killing. Once again, Dexter tells Jeremy that he should only kill people who “deserve to die” (107). Dexter tells Jeremy to “pretend the feelings are there for the world and for the people around you. Who knows? Maybe one day they will be” (107).

Jeremy takes Dexter’s advice to heart, but not in the way Dexter intended: he kills himself. In seeking connection, Dexter indirectly ends Jeremy Downs’ life, and discovers that he wishes he could have been a “Harry” to the boy. All of these pseudo-paternal connections Dexter establishes with different characters only serve to deepen the void he seeks to fill, and the fear that he will fail to maintain the charade he has kept up for so long continually haunts him.

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Despite Dexter’s close calls, Rita is surprisingly blind to Dexter’s truth. Rita “always knew [Paul’s darkness] was there … I guess I just didn’t think I deserved better, until I met you” (107). Well of course Dexter is better. He has standards … When Dexter says that he has a “dark side” to test the waters, Rita laughs him off; Dexter clarifies to say that he doesn’t hurt “innocent people” (107), which Rita does not pick up on, and thankfully so. Paul is not an innocent man, and when Rita wishes “he would go away forever,” we hear Dexter, in his head, say: “He can do that” (107). It seems as though he plans to kill Paul Bennett; however, the rules in Harry’s Code have yet to be spelled out to us. It is not yet clear whether Paul fits the bill, but we will find out soon enough.

Debra also seeks connection. We hear her tell Rudy Cooper, the prosthetics doctor that fixed up Tony Tucci, that she was “jealous” of how Dexter and Harry always spent time together. She admits to becoming a cop in order to get more attention, which didn’t really work. Rudy, in turn, explains that his mother got into a car accident when he was young and lost both her legs. He “just wanted to put her back together, you know like Humpty Dumpty … just the pieces weren’t around” (107). If Freud were still alive, he would be having a field day with this show.

Doppelgängers

Just as the Ice Truck Killer and Dexter seem to be doppelgängers, Debra potentially appears as one in Dexter’s dream of her. Although Debra is not a killer, she is deadly.

Paul arrives to Rita’s home bearing good tidings and donuts, which echoes how Dexter brings a full box to work every single day – the two are wolves in sheep’s clothing; the difference lies in the fact that Dexter’s disguise is well-practiced, allowing him to live on, undetected.

When Rudy Cooper describes prosthetics as “living art,” I could not help but remember how Dexter called Tony Tucci’s blood on the sheets a “Jackson Pollock.” Two men with a morbid sense of beauty and serenity.

Neil Perry claims: “I hate blood,” which seems to echo the occupations of both Dexter and the Ice Truck Killer.

Dexter: A Comedy

106: “Return to Sender”

Debra’s dinnertime conversation with Sergeant Doakes’ family.

Doakes’ Sister: “First words out of my baby brother’s mouth were ‘Got milk, motherfucker?’”

[Click here to watch!]

Dexter uses Patrick Bateman as his alias. Oh man!

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107: “Circle of Friends”

Doakes: “You getting a goddamn hard-on there, Morgan?”

Angel Batista: “This is where Neil Perry lives.”

Debra Morgan: “And seven inbred cousins by the look of it.”

[Debra asks to run Masuka’s fingerprints to see if he’s guilty of any crimes after he expresses a deep interest in Neil Perry’s taxidermy collection.]

Vince Masuka: “No need for that. I’ll give you some warm DNA right now.”

Rita Bennett: “Fucking bastard.”

Dexter: “Only you could make those words cute.”

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: 10

Dexterity is extremely high because of the allusion to Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. Dexter’s alias is Patrick Bateman, the serial killing protagonist (who wears a raincoat to protect himself from blood spatter) of the novel.

Entertainment: 7

Xtremity: 8

DEX-Factor: 8.3

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