The Spectrum of Good and Evil in 204: “See Through” & 205: “The Dark Defender”

Between the Bay Harbor Butcher case and the Miami climate, the heat is rising for Dexter. A breakthrough in the case regarding algae threatens to pinpoint Dexter in the investigation for the infamous Bay Harbor Butcher. An altercation with a former special ops ranger reveals Sergeant Doakes to be a deadly killer, but a man of morality and loyalty. Dexter and Lila’s relationship flourishes, whereas Debra’s mistrust of her new beau, Gabriel Bosque, leads them to ruin. The Dark Defender idea emerges and begins to change Dexter’s perspective on who he is and what he wants.

Everyone Has Their Addictions

Now that Dexter is attending Narcotics Anonymous and has teamed up with sponsor Lila Tournay, whose name (if derived from Delilah, means “temptress or treacherous lover”), the audiences becomes especially attuned to the underpinnings of the season involving addiction and compulsions, which further characterize the main players. While some habits are easier to break than others (for example, smoking is far easier to quit than serial killing), Dexter says his addiction is “it’s just part of who I am.” Although Dexter’s life is largely centered on killing and his rituals, we find that other characters’ addictions largely guide how they navigate the world as well: Debra’s workaholic nature forces her to think and act in ways that stem back to her job. Her father was a cop, her brother works for Miami Metro, as does she, and even her social endeavors are orders from Special Agent Lundy in order to “better balance” her life (which solidifies their relationship as a father-daughter one). Even Paul Bennett’s addiction to heroin characterized him and his relationship with everyone and everything in his life. His addiction ultimately led to his death.

Lila Tournay.

Whereas Rita’s addiction to cigarettes is debatably just as serious as Dexter and Debra’s addictions, for they all lead to death in one way or another, Dexter and Debra’s addictions characterize them more fully than Rita’s smoking. This habit is more of a response to her environment. Debra, arguably, immerses herself in her occupation and exercise in order to dodge the effects of her late fiancée and Ice-Truck killer Brian Moser, alias Rudy Cooper (the song, rapped in Spanish, while Deb is working out in the gym compliments this perfectly: it speaks of determination and concentration in solving cases and problems. The detective metaphor may have been coincidental). Neither Rita nor Deb take criticisms lightly when people advise them against giving into their habits: they are functioning the only way they know will ensure survival.

In a way, Dexter is a workaholic in his own right. His job involves blood spatter and police work; his vocation is serial killing; and he uses the resources of his job to successfully carry out his rituals. In a way, this man never rests until his head hits the pillow at night, although that is changing with the impending break in the Bay Harbor Butcher case, atypical of Dexter and what he believes to be his “psychopathic” ways.


The Good v. Bad Continuum and Quest for Identity

Lila emphasizes that it is imperative for Dexter to discover who he is and then come to accept it, for that is the only way to cope and overcome his “addiction.” Lila contents to Dexter: “whatever you think you are, you don’t have to be that;” however, Dexter thinks otherwise: “that’s where you’re wrong.” This is particularly interesting, for throughout the course of the series, we will see that Lila was in fact right about this. It is clear, however, that Dexter is somewhat detached from his Dark Passenger. A magazine with the BHB case on the cover compels Dexter to comment: “this obsession with him is relentless” (emphasis added). This detachment implies that Dexter is not proud of his Dark Passenger.

A magazine whose cover story is on the Bay Harbor Butcher.
A magazine whose cover story is on the Bay Harbor Butcher.

Once the characters begin to recognize their flaws and hang-ups for what they are, they are able to stand up for themselves and adequately cope with the issues. The overarching theme in these two episodes, 204 and 205, is that no human being is either all good or all bad, as Lila Tournay points out. We each have elements of darkness and light within us, a fact that Dexter has trouble with. In a flashback, Harry comments how the man testing Dexter for psychological abnormality didn’t even sense “the monster inside of you.” We discover that Dexter was raised to believe that he is entirely evil and that he must harness that evil.

An interesting parallel that emerges is the “kind of fucked up” Sergeant Doakes and Curtis Barnes are (note, his boat is the S.S. Fubar, meaning the S.S. Damaged) for being in Special Ops in the military and the “twisted” nature of Dexter’s sociopathy. Everyone has something a little bit “off” with them; however, the three killing machines involved in this conversation are of particular interest because there is a very fine line that separates Dexter from Doakes and from Curtis Barnes. Each is a point on a triangle: We have Dexter who has a code that he uses to kill people who have murdered others; Doakes’ code is military and although he does share a deep bond with Barnes, his morality runs deeper than his loyalty to a fellow special ops man; Barnes emerges as the “least moral” of the three for he killed his wife and wishes to escape the consequences by fleeing to Cuba. Although Dexter and Doakes seem to be aligned in morality, Dexter is a serial killer, whereas Doakes is an ex-special ops agent who works as a cop. He channels his killer skills in a more legal way than Dexter does. What also aligns Dexter and Doakes is that Doakes is not at all fazed by killing two men within six months. He is fine to remain on duty, which Maria LaGuerta finds odd. When considering the case of the Bay Harbor Butcher, Debra suggests that killings are performed in a methodical way because “you like [killing];” however, we know that Dexter’s need is incessant, but we do not have enough evidence to support the idea that he likes killing.

Look at the use of shadow on young Dexter; he is not all good nor is he all evil.
Look at the use of shadow on young Dexter; he is not all good nor is he all evil.

Lila tells Dexter to take responsibility for his actions, rather than to blame his addiction on his “monster-like” nature, which infuriates him to the point where he takes her to the morgue where his victims lie in wait, which reveals quite a surprising fact about Lila: she thinks it is “incredible.” Whether or not she knows that she is looking at Dexter’s artwork, we get an exclusive look into the psyche of Lila. Her own artwork reveals a morbid sense of art, yet it still comes as a surprise that she is entranced by chopped up body parts. Dexter is right about his “monster-like” nature in the sense that he is not moral, if we are to equate morality with inherent “goodness.” M. Carmela Epright and Sarah E. Worth assert that “emotions are essential to being moral” (131), and thus Dexter is not moral. In fact, according to Lawrence Kohlberg’s Three LEvels and Six Stages of Moral Development, Dexter “is still less morally developed than a fifth-grader” because he “is trying to avoid lethal injection and satisfy his murderous desires” (132). They conclude that he “is a righter of moral wrongs,” yet “poor Dexter remains a pathetic rule-follower” rather than a Vigilante Hero (134); what do you think? Let’s explore.

Bay Harbor Butcher or the Dark Defender?

These two episodes are littered with snippets of conversations from family and strangers that both condemn and praise the Bay Harbor Butcher for his work, furthering the idea that Dexter is not all good, but not all evil either. Rita says: “it makes me so angry that there’s some relentless monster out there scaring my son,” (because, recall, Cody has nightmares about the Bay Harbor Butcher) and “I hope they catch him today, and I’m not a violent person, but I hope they hurt him.” Rita’s mother says “leave him alone. He’s got my seal of approval.” A man in the coffee shop says that they should give the Bay Harbor Butcher a medal. A man on the news suggests that they put the Bay Harbor Butcher “on the city payroll, give him a corner office, a company car, and all the ammunition he needs. At least somebody is doing something to clean up Miami.” When Debra has a chance to get her two cents in, she says: “Give me one shot, I’d put a bullet in the fucker’s head . . . he’s killing people, Dex. If dad taught us one thing, it’s the value of human life.” Dexter thinks: Yeah, but I think we had different homework assignments.

Regardless, Dexter is “killing the dregs of society,” and all of Miami is still shaken up. John Cawelti observes that Dexter, “as [a] superhero, he gains no personal advantage or satisfaction from his heroic deeds beyond his basic and automatic concern to make justice prevail” (qtd. in Beeler 222). Each detective in Miami Metro seeks justice, thus accounting for Angel Batista’s misstep with Mrs. Sota. After acting inappropriately with the wife of one of Dexter’s victims, he apologizes for his behavior, saying that it made things easier for him to assume that Oscar Sota was a bad person and that he “deserved it.” Speaking of taking out the trash . . .

The outdoor morgue at Miami Metro.
The outdoor morgue at Miami Metro.

Dexter knows that if the Marine Biologist gets into the morgue and studies the algae found on the bodies that he is done for. So, what does he do? He breaks into Miami Metro in the middle of the night, right after the garbage men came and busts the pump that was keeping the box refrigerated, and moves the dumpster over by the pump to make it look like the garbage company’s fault. Although Dexter thinks he is now out of hot water, Masuka reveals that they moved the rocks that weighted down the bags to a different spot, so the Marine Biologist still has something to work with. As Dexter broods: “the rocks I used may eventually sink me, too.” These rocks triangulate Miami Metro to three different private harbors in Miami, one of which is obviously where Dexter and many other people on the force dock their boats because it is “affordable.” We discover that Dexter picked this harbor not only because of the price, but because there is “dismal upkeep, an unsecure perimeter, [and] poor lighting.” Knowing that each and every boat will be inspected in the harbors, Dexter makes sure his boat is bloodless; however, he fails to notice that the 24-hour surveillance has already been installed. Uh-oh!

The Dark Defender poster found at the crime scene of 205.
The Dark Defender poster found at the crime scene of 205.

When at the first crime scene of 205 of Denny Foster (meaning the beheaded woodworker or foster parent), Dexter spots the Dark Defender poster on the wall, the super hero identity that the murder victim had created for the Bay Harbor Butcher and tried to get developed into a graphic novel series. Dexter says he never got the “superhero” idea, but he has a lot in common with them: “tragic beginnings, secret identities, part human, part mutant, archenemies . . .” Keeping up with the superhero theme, Dexter muses: “the algae might as well be Kryptonite.” When Dexter dozes off in the middle of Narcotics Anonymous, he dreams that he appears in the shipping container just before his mother was murdered as the Dark Defender to save his mother. His dream, as Lila muses, is evidence of an “Oedipus complex . . . which explains a lot.” Interesting you say that, Lila. I already have a running list of Oedipal and Elektra complex instances that I will eventually compile into one essay.

Although Dexter nixes the idea of the leather suit as if he would become a superhero or vigilante, an interesting parallel is drawn. His plastic hooded suit that he wears in the blood spatter test room at Miami Metro is much like the Dark Defender costume, but it even resembles the black leather apron he wears when dissecting his victims (nailed it).

Black leather apron to compare to the Dark Defender costume.
Black leather apron to compare to the Dark Defender costume.
Clear suit to compare to the Dark Defender costume.
Clear suit to compare to the Dark Defender costume.

Santos Jiminez and Dexter’s Origins Clarified

Lila says that in order to get closure and to get better, he must confront the men that “stole [his] life.” A search through the files at Miami Metro reveals that one of the men responsible for Laura Moser’s death is dead, another is doing life in prison, but the third, Santos Jiminez, owns his own bar and lives in Naples. Lila and Dexter take a road trip there to confront Santos Jiminez. After a night of sitting at the bar and eying up the offender, Dexter snaps. Although “Harry always said never make things personal . . . clouds your judgment,” Dexter has been “living in a fog way too long.” Lila advises him to focus his rage on Jiminez; however, he cannot fully do so, for that involves the ritual, which he cannot complete with Lila along for the ride; however, he says this visit is in preparation for the day he does focus his rage. Of course he knocks out Jiminez, yelling the details of his mother’s murder, and lays him out on the pool table, without the plastic sheeting, heavy-duty garbage bags, and other necessities for the ritual, nearly succumbing to his rage (which would be a terrible idea given he is not on his game, nor is he prepared for adequate disposal). What is interesting in this moment is that Jiminez says that he would have been killed had he not followed orders and killed Dexter’s mother. Not even Jiminez is purely evil. However, something strange happens at the end of this sequence. Lila calls him in the middle of this and talks him down. This has never happened before.

Santos Jiminez.
Santos Jiminez.

What Dexter also discovers in these files is that Laura Moser, his mother, was Harry’s confidant in the case. Had she not allied with Harry, she would not have been killed. Harry destroyed files illegally not to “protect Dexter,” as he had said; rather, he did it to “bury his own guilt.” Recordings of his birth mother and foster-father reveal that Harry promised Laura that she, and Dexter and Brian would be safe; however, we find out that Harry lied. Big time. Even more insult is added to injury when Harry promises that he would make sure her boys would be taken care of when we know he left Brian in the shipping container. Yet another level of betrayal is added: Harry not only knew his biological father, but he worked closely with his biological mother as well. Jiminez also reveals that Laura was having an affair with Harry Morgan. How’s that for secrets.


Everyone Has a Dark Passenger: Parallels and Foiling in Dexter

Lila’s art involves cannibalism and severed bodies. She loves the heat because it “makes me feel like the whole world could explode at any moment.” She steals public property and peoples’ belongings for art supplies. Despite her foul play and illegal activity, Dexter finds a special kinship with Lila. Because “all [of Dexter’s] relationships have been built on not knowing,” the fact that Lila understands him deeply and is offering guidance is an exciting new possibility for Dexter. “Imagine that – a life with no more secrets.” The bond strengthens when Dexter reassures her that the death of her ex-boyfriend/drug dealer was deserved, and so she did nothing wrong by burning down his house (and killing him, though accidentally).

Doakes is virtually unaffected  by killing two men in under six months, and Maria LaGuerta finds it funny that he has  “buddy.” In his heart-to-heart with Curtis Barnes, he reveals that he left his wife because he was afraid he would kill her.

Gail senses that Dexter is hiding something. She can sniff out Dexter just like he can sniff out other psychopaths, sociopaths, and serial killers.

Another interesting parallel emerges: Dexter has begun what appears to be an affair with Lila, cheating on Rita. Harry had an affair with Laura Moser, cheating on his wife. Like father, like son, huh?

Frank Lundy and Debra Morgan

It seems as though Lundy and Debra are paired up more frequently than anyone else in Miami Metro, and it thus affords us a closer look at the psychology of Debra Morgan. I cannot recall whether we have seen this thus far in the series, or if it has been alluded to, but Debra admits to never feeling like she was good enough for her father. Nothing she could ever do could get his attention long enough. Dexter always stood in the way of that relationship with her dad. When opposite Frank Lundy, arguably a father figure in regards that he shares the same profession and even resembles Harry Morgan just a smidgen, we see how Debra begins to thrive when validated by Lundy. The father-daughter dynamic is highlighted when Frank tells her she is “fidgety. Did anyone ever tell you that?” to which Debra sorely answers, “Yes, my father.”

Their first true bonding moment emerges when Lundy reveals that his wife died of cancer two years earlier; apparently Debra’s mother died of cancer as well. The two are able to mourn the loss of their loved one together, which further places Lundy, to Debra, in the father position.

When Frank is talking about how he shouldn’t be dating because “a really beautiful relationship is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I’ve already had mine,” Deb looks bummed. Perhaps she wanted to date Frank. Perhaps she felt that she and Rudy/Brian/ITK had a beautiful relationship, and doubts herself for it was all fake. And so begins the warped series of events for Debra Morgan . . .


Other Observations

We have Dexter addressing his victims as the “dearly departed,” an obvious homage to Jeff Lindsay’s novels.

I don’t know if this was intentional or accidental, but Curtis Barnes, the special ops agent that Doakes takes out, shares a name with one of the agents that Gabriel Bosque, Debra’s temporary boyfriend, tries to sell his children’s book to. Perhaps “Barnes” was meant to recall the Barnes & Noble booksellers.

To play off of the religious themes touched upon in the treatment for 202 and 203, we have a continuation of the discussion: Dexter jokes that Debra “broke a commandment somewhere” in her curse chain. We also have our victim from the crime scene at the comic book store in 205 named Denny Foster, whose last name translates to beheaded woodworker or carpenter, which I automatically associate with Jesus. Jesus was crucified, so that’s not too far-fetched. We learn that Foster was in an internet fight with someone over creating the Dark Defender, which may also turn the Dark Defender into a warped Christ figure, and thus Foster a disciple. We also have three men in the shipping container who killed Laura Moser, resembling the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or Ghost. In addition, Debra’s temp. boyfriend Gabriel is named after the angel that tells Mary she is pregnant with the son of God. Interesting.

Sticking with Denny Foster’s crime scene, we have the snow globe as a murder weapon, which reminds me of two things: Pawnee’s snow globe museum that Leslie Knope is banned from . . . but seriously . . . Rudy Cooper’s depositing of one of the hookers under the Christmas tree in that Christmas town place in season one. Rudy is never far away, as we will come to discover throughout the series. Rudy also told Dexter that he is inherently bad, and why should he try to pretend that he is good? The fake snow foils the fake warmth and compassion Dexter shows, as well as his act from day to day.

To return to the religious themes, we have the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” playing in Santos Jiminez’s bar. It’s a half step away from “Sympathy for the Devil,” which compliments our Good v. Evil conversation quite nicely.

We have “art” emerging as the preferred outlet of the disturbed. We have Brian and Dexter who treat their bodies as art, and now we have Lila the artist, the arsonist thief who has a Dark Passenger of her own lying in wait. Did you notice the severed mannequins and bodies and cannibalism going on in her loft?

Lila refurbishing the cottage and its landscape.
Lila refurbishing the cottage and its landscape.

Dexter: A Comedy

Rita: “It makes me so angry that there’s some relentless monster out there scaring my son. You know, I hope they catch him today, and I’m not a violent person, but I hope they hurt him. Have a good day!”

Dexter: Make up your mind.


Dexter: Trust me, I’m not above sending pizza and hookers to [Masuka’s] house in the middle of the night.


Dexter: “What kind of algae?”

Masuka: “Diatoms. Eukaryotic algae.”

Dexter: Okay, this is the first time I regret not being a bigger nerd.


[After Esmee Pascal freaks out]

Dexter: This is the kind of thing that makes me glad I have no feelings.

Esmee Pascal.
Esmee Pascal.


Dexter: Want a real glimpse of human nature? Stand in the way of someone’s mocha latte.


Debra: “Oh, sweet Mary, Mother of Fuck, that’s good!”


Dexter: The Dark Defender. No, Miami’s too hot for all that leather.”

[Dexter wakes up from his dream, drooling in the middle of Narcotics Anonymous]

Lila: “Mmm, that’s hot.”

Dexter: “I think I’m gonna take the minivan out on the open road.”

Debra: “Who are you?”



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

Entertainment: 9

Xtremity:  9

DEX-Factor: 9.66

Works Cited

Beeler, Stan. “From Silver Bullets to Duct Tape: Dexter versus the Traditional Vigilante Hero.” Dexter Investigating Cutting Edge Television. Ed. Douglas L. Howard. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2010. 221-30. Print.

Epright, M. Carmela, and Sarah E. Worth. “Pathetic Rule Follower or Vigilante Hero?” Dexter and Philosophy Mind over Spatter. Ed. Richard Greene, George A. Reisch, and Rachel Robison-Greene. Chicago and La Salle: Open Court, 2013. 125-35. Print. Vol. 58 of Popular Culture and Philosophy. 81 vols.

2 thoughts on “The Spectrum of Good and Evil in 204: “See Through” & 205: “The Dark Defender”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s