Freudian Themes in 210: “There’s Something about Harry” & 211: “Left Turn Ahead”

We are boiling down to the end of season twoLila and tensions are higher than ever. Dexter nearly decides to turn himself in; Doakes nearly gets loose; Lila almost goes away forever; Rita even decides to let Dexter back into her life a little bit at a time. After accusing Angel Batista of drugging and raping her, Lila is not afraid to show Dexter that she does have an immense amount of power and can manipulate him however she wishes. Lila finds his cabin in the woods just after Debra tries to chase her out of town. What will happen? Read more of the treatment for a critical perspective on these two episodes  below.

Bay Harbor Butcher

Dexter’s 24/7 protective detail makes his under-the-radar tasks just that much more difficult to accomplish. With Doakes in his position, Dexter’s morals and conscience are compromised: he cannot kill Doakes, for he does not fit Harry’s Code; however, he must abide by the number-one rule: “Don’t Get Caught.” Doakes figures out that he does not fit Dexter’s code and attempts to reason with him, which does not work in the first few days that he holds the ex-Special Ops agent hostage. He tries to think of ways in which he could justify killing Doakes so that he can rid himself of his problem. He accuses Doakes of being a killer: “You are. That’s why you’ve always known what I am.” Yet again, we have a juxtaposition between Sergeant Doakes and Dexter. As Doakes highlights, “there’s nothing professional about what you do. I kill when I have to — on the job.” On the other hand, Doakes makes it sound as if it is okay to kill “as long as [it’s for] a paycheck.”

Dexter’s conscience conflicts him, especially since his actions have led to the incarceration of one colleague (Doakes in the cabin) and rape charges being brought up on Angel Batista (because of crazy ass Lila). He knows that he went off course somehow, for his Dark Passenger and facades have been difficult to keep up simultaneously. Dexter repeatedly thinks of Rita, her children, and Deb and how his actions will affect them. This conflict is manifested when Rita asks about Doakes being the Bay Harbor Butcher: Dexter shakes his head “no” and says: “That’s what they’re saying.” However, we see the blood seeping through in every aspect of Dexter’s life: Lila spilling over into Rita and the kids’ business; Lila threatening Angel’s career; his watery graveyard being unearthed; his own police department/friends/colleagues hunting him down; and, literally, the blood from the gun shot graze seeping through his pants. At this point, he asks for Matthews to call off the 24/7 detail, which could only hurt him from here on out.

Although it seems as though Dexter has two options (to kill Doakes or to set him free), Dexter thinks of a third: he will frame Doakes thoroughly. In order to settle his conscience (because he’s framing an innocent man for all of his work), Dexter tries to justify taking down the ex-Special Ops agent. He tried to decipher which of the two has “more inherent worth.” Because Dexter  believes they both are “loyal civil servants,” he cannot take into account their contributions to society; however, the family and people who depend upon Dexter make him more “valuable” because Doakes does not even talk to his mother or sisters. Although he sets up Doakes to believe he is about to kill him, Doakes’ slip about Harry Morgan encourages Dexter to let him live one more day. He brings his kill tools and drugs Doakes so that he can plant his fingerprints on them and leave them somewhere to be found and reported (which he executes successfully). Although Dexter cannot kill Doakes because of the Code, he cannot get caught. Framing Doakes provides Dexter the perfect out to his issues.

What is most striking about these two episodes is the fact that Maria LaGuerta’s efforts are in vain: her first stake out log exonerates Doakes from two of the murders (his alibi checking out the night of the victims’ disappearances); however, since she failed to report that Doakes called, her evidence and credibility were compromised. She goes so far as to (literally, she goes to Port-au-Prince, Haiti) question Leones about Doakes. She discovers the fact that Leones has detailed information and solid alibis that Doakes was in Haiti and on missions during several other murders; in addition, she finds out that he needed the blood slides checked out and had DNA tests run on them by a hospital in the Dominican Republic. Lundy only becomes interested when it is too late and the FBI is closing in on Doakes. Lundy later admits that he was not convinced that Doakes was the Bay Harbor Butcher, hence his hesitation.

Interestingly enough, it seems as though, at the end of 211: “Left Turn Ahead,” Dexter will release Doakes and they will turn himself in together. Doakes described Dexter’s Dark Passenger as an ever-spreading, uncontrollable cancer. The only difference here is that his cancer causes him to kill others; it does not kill him. Perhaps the cancer will cause parts of him (like his family and friends) to die instead.

Harry Morgan: Unveiled

Harry Morgan, force of justice, architect of all that I am. Suicide. It doesn’t make sense.

By way of flashback, we see Harry’s frustration with the American justice system as Juan Ryness walks free yet again after murdering young women. We hear Harry reassure himself that he did “the right thing” in training Dexter to be who he is, which is indicative of his guilt. Dexter takes Ryness out, just as he was instructed, and when Harry walks in on Dexter, he realizes just how big of a monster he has created. These episodes reveal that Harry Morgan did not die of heart disease; rather, he killed himself. Whereas Captain Matthews believes it was the stress of the job that got to him, Dexter realizes that Harry killed himself after he saw what he created: a monster; “evil pure and simple. My evil.” Douglas L. Howard in his essay “Harry Morgan: (Post)Modern Prometheus” classifies Harry as “yet another cultural variation on the Frankenstein myth.” He is the creator, miserable and disgusted  by his creation. We should be reminded, however, that Harry “does all that he can to keep him from that electric chair that would otherwise be his destiny” (Howard 61) in fulfillment of the promise he made to Laura Moser to keep Dexter safe (which we know he also promised of Brian, but left him in the shipping container to rot). Although these motivations seem sound, Howard suggests that “the creation of this monster, then, like the creation of Victor’s, is not so much a measured response as it is an act of panic or distress, the last gasp of a drowning man, an absurd attempt to create order when the chaos has already done its damage” (67).

Dexter takes on this guilt and responsibility for his father’s death; he even goes so far as to say that he killed his dad, although we know this to not be true. Ryness’ name (Juan) derives from Don Juan of Spanish legend who killed his lover’s father, whose ghost in turn dragged him to hell. Although Debra is not quite Dexter’s lover, Dexter did have a hand in Harry Morgan’s death. (Originally, I did not want to spoil the rest of the series; however, the series has been out and done for almost a year, so I think I can go on to say this.) As we will learn in season six, this is rather true. I don’t think the writers picked that name by chance.

Harry walks into Dexter’s kill room with Juan Ryness on the table.

Because Dexter and Debra have regarded Harry as their God, the latest developments have begun to take a hit to their opinion of their father. Dexter feels that his life “is one tragic mistake.” In light of the fact that Harry killed himself (which insinuates that he was ashamed of both himself and Dexter), our favorite serial killer does not know what to do. If the Code was useless and a monstrous thing, how else could Dexter live? He does not know how to live any other way.

The fact that his life as a serial killer is most likely a mistake gets Dexter thinking. Perhaps he is not the perfectly engineered serial killer: he begins to worry about the consequences that his actions will have on Rita, Deb, and Rita’s children. He knows that eventually he will be dragged down like the “animal” he really is and brought to justice.  In a way, his will being signed over to Debra and the van to Rita, as well as a few other things Dexter takes care of, is like a symbolic pre-suicide behavior pattern. Perhaps this season signals the end of one kind of Dexter, and the rebirth of another.

My Sister, My Girlfriend, My Sister, My Girlfriend, My Sister . . .

As I’ve mentioned, Deb and Rita are on the top of the list when Dexter thinks about the consequences of his actions and the people he will hurt if it ever comes to light that he is the true Bay Harbor Butcher. Although Dexter and Rita have not been on the best of terms, Rita is willing to let Dexter slowly back into her life because the kids love him and keep asking about him. Believing that he is going to turn himself in, Dexter takes Rita and the children out on the water on his boat (a rather morbid juxtaposition, given the fact that Dexter usually only uses his boat to get rid of his victims). We learn that Rita has been hesitant to get back with Dexter because she has “too many feelings” for him.


In a heart-to-heart with Debra, we learn that Debra is extremely thankful to have Dexter in her life, for she is the only constant thing in her life.  Dexter asks her how she survived her stint with Rudy Cooper. Her advice gives him the courage to be himself and “ride out” the storm because life (well, steak) is worth living for. We see just how territorial Debra gets with her family when she asks Frank Lundy to pull up records on Lila Tournay, thus leading her to an investigation and trying to chase her out of town (but not before she can do a ton of damage). The profound hatred she has for Lila makes me feel like she’s jealous of Lila’s relationship and influence over Dexter. (Hmm…) Dexter knows how big of a betrayal it will be to his sister once she finds out that he is a serial killer; he considers telling her so that she could take him into the station, and not anybody else; however, he does not know how she will react. What he does know is that he is afraid to betray her because of what she has already been through — falling in love with and  being engaged to a serial killer, his blood brother (literally), Brian Moser. As Debra muses, “amazing how easy it is to hide who you are from people, huh?” As the “Hurricane of Destruction,” it is interesting and even surprising that Dexter would be so selfless as to turn himself in before anyone else got hurt.

A Continuation of Freudian Themes

We see that Debra has always been pushed aside, especially when she was younger and growing up with Dexter under Harry’s care. One of her birthdays will always be marked as the one where Harry broke a bottle and spilled beer everywhere. We discover that all Debra ever wanted was a heart-to-heart with her father, who never gave her the time of day. As Deb puts it, “kids versus case — case always won.” The difference between Dexter and Debra is that Dexter was the case that Harry was so focused on. We see Debra finally get her father-daughter heart-to-heart when she sits down with Frank Lundy to dinner and tells him  how she feels. Among the several “old man” jokes, we see that Debra and Lundy are more like father and daughter than they are romantic partners.

Interior Decorator: Lila West

It has become extremely clear to us that Lila hates Rita and her children because Dexter is attached to and loves them. The fact that she twitches when Angel mentions them to her and even stalks them to the marina to watch them set sail on their family field trip makes us shiver. For me, Lila Tournay/West is the first person on Dexter that I actually was rooting for him to kill. She is so profoundly evil that I needed her gone. Her obsession with Dexter and his whereabouts is so profound that she breaks into his car and steals his GPS to find where he has been going and where he has been spending his time. As a side note: the voice on Dexter’s GPS sounds like an English woman’s; for a while, Dexter had been controlled and directed by Lila, which is fitting.


Her territorial nature continues to ooze out as she tells Angel that he “belong[s] to me” just before she sets it up to look like Batista drugged her with roofies and raped her (Angel is marked by the dark mistress, physically: by the red paint (the color of passion) in her hair and mentally by her manipulative nature). She is so desperate to get Dexter back because “I’m your real soul mate. Not Rita. I see you. I’m the only one.” When Dexter goes to admonish Lila for her actions, he discovers that he, too, is “framing a good man to get what [he] want[s].”

Dexter: A Comedy

Doakes’ hair. ‘Nuff said.

Doakes Hair

Dexter: “Of course I have a conscience. I left you a place to shit, didn’t I?”

Angel Batista calling Dexter socio, which means “partner,” but to me it says “sociopath.”

As Miami Metro views the footage of Doakes at a gas station, Masuka says: “I can’t  believe it. $3.49 for regular?”

Masuka: “Love’s a battlefield.”
Debra: “Or in your case, a restraining order.”

Debra: “How do I find Lila’s real name?”
Frank Lundy: “You know the answer to that.”
Debra: “Cut off her head, look for a label.”

Debra [in reference to Lila’s apartment]: “Wow, I thought lived in a shitcan.”

Dexter imagining Debra’s reactions to him telling her he is the Bay Harbor Butcher:


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: 10

Xtremity:  10

DEX-Factor: 9.67

Work Cited

Howard, Douglas L. “Harry Morgan: (Post)Modern Prometheus.” Dexter Investigating Cutting Edge Television. Ed. Howard. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2010. 61-77. Print.


6 thoughts on “Freudian Themes in 210: “There’s Something about Harry” & 211: “Left Turn Ahead”

  1. I’m slow catching up on old eps – just saw 210 last night and was really impressed at this foreshadowing of an event that is years in the future: When Deb confronts LaGuerta over her unreported phone call from Doakes, she asks LaGuerta if not reporting it was worth the risk to her job and career. “Did you ever care about anyone, Morgan?”, LaGuerta asks. “Yes,” Deb replies. “Then you shouldn’t have to ask. Because when you care about someone, you do what you have to do.” In Season 7, both characters will find themselves opposed to one another again, both of them “doing what they have to do” on behalf of or to protect the person they care about. It’s so apt I wonder if even as far back as Season 2, the writers were thinking about how LaGuerta and Deb would end up.


    1. Hi Tom,
      Glad to hear from you again! Yeah, I thought that, too. I think the writers always had an idea of how they wanted it to end. Perhaps not in the sense that they knew Deb would kill LaGuerta, but of course there has always been that female competition in the office. Maybe they had an idea that Deb and LaGuerta would face off, but perhaps in the sense that Deb would have to protect Dexter in a less crazy way. In that sense, they were planning for Debra to know about Dexter’s Dark Passenger and for her to want to shield his secret in order to protect him.


      1. Similarly, I almost got a chill when Doakes tells Dexter “it’s only a matter of time before you hurt your sister, your girlfriend or even those kids.” “I would never…” Dexter replies quickly. “No, not on purpose,” Doakes said. “But you can’t control this shit that’s growing inside you.” It was Dexter’s first overt warning that despite all of his intentions, the people he loves may die as a result of his choices. But Dexter as always can’t hear it.
        I am struck by how emotional Dexter becomes in the second season. He feels guilt and remorse for the pain he will inflict upon Deb, Rita, Cody and Astor once he is arrested. He blames himself for his father’s suicide. He knows it’s wrong to frame Doakes for what he has done. He even flashes anger when Doakes goads him about Harry. That’s a pretty wide range of emotions for a guy who says he doesn’t have emotions. Talk about denial!


      2. Yes, I think that Harry’s assumptions about Dexter and his Dark Passenger early on in his life molded Dexter’s belief about his range of emotions. I think we all feel at times that we don’t actually “feel” anything; rather, we are just going through the motions and hoping that everyone else feels the same way in similar situations. Yes, it is denial, but we do spend the greater part of our lives living in our parents’ projections and images, whether it be trying to break free or to fit into the mold that the parents set forth. Dexter believes in the Code just as much as he believes what his father said about his “condition.” Food for thought.


  2. I think what made this show so compelling for me was the way it inspired questions like this – for example, the impact of early childhood experiences that we may not even be able to recall on the way we react to the world. Harry took a shattered little boy, saw how he demonstrated certain characteristics that troubled him and decided Dex was going to be a serial killer so it was his fatherly obligation to turn him into the very best serial killer he could be. And it’s a good thing because it gave us this great show to discuss! But it made my heart ache as I came to realize that Dexter didn’t have to be that. It was painful to watch him grapple with his guilt in this season because we realized that revealing himself to Deb at this point would have been absolutely devastating to his sister, not to mention Rita and the kids.
    Speaking of Deb, you cover the overarching psychological issues very well, but the brazen way in Season 2 she would ask the most incredibly inappropriate questions about Dexter’s sex life (“And she’s off!…”) caught me by surprise. I take it this was the show’s signal to the audience that Deb had feelings about her brother that were a little more than just sisterly?


    1. I, too, asked those same questions of myself. I both wonder about and fear any underlying childhood experiences that may surface later on in life. This does happen. It’s not just dexter who discovers the blinding and horrifying truth about his birth into blood.

      In interviews, Jennifer Carpenter has said that she knew all along that Deb had feelings for Dexter. We can tell from the pilot that there is a certain tension between the foster siblings. So anything she says is intentional. We’re not reading too much into it.


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