Morality and Religion in 306: “Sí Se Puede” & 307: “Easy as Pie”

Deb QuinnDespite what Dexter would like to think, he is not as in control of the situation with Miguel Prado as we (and he) once thought. He attempts to show the great ADA that his thirst for blood, vengeance, and justice will put him in way over his head; however, Miguel remains fearless and removes Dexter from the position of power. Although our favorite serial killer believes he has found a friend, he is about to be proven wrong. Camila, family friend and record keeper at Miami Metro, is on her death-bed: her remaining wishes are to find the perfect key lime pie and to keep her dignity in tact. Will Dexter violate the Code, either for Miguel’s sake or Camila’s? This treatment will focus on the ethics, religious elements, and the Dark Passenger within us all.

The Prado Problem

The biggest issue Dexter will face this season is dealing with Miguel Prado, ADA, and his thirst for blood, vengeance, and justice. It is not enough for him to enact his own sense of justice from the court room; he now wants to enact said justice with his own hands.  In asking Dexter what it “[felt] like to use [his] hands,” Miguel seeks a vicarious experience that will eventually lead to his own enactment of justice. Although he claims to want to “make a difference” with Dexter, already he is acting without regard to Dexter and his precautionary measures. Of course Dexter has not admitted to a solidified Code, conversations between the two on the golfing range (is that the term?) suggest that Dexter is slowly letting Miguel in on his set of principles.  Episode seven begins with Dexter’s dream: Miguel, ready for a game of golf, walks into Dexter’s kill room just as non-judgmental as we expect him to be. He clearly has his father’s reaction in mind when he asks Miguel if he has to “puke again;” however, we see nothing but acceptance. Miguel tells him after he’s finished with his kill, they can go out and practice his “slice.” Even Dexter’s dreams are witty. This dream serves to signify that Dexter is actively thinking about telling Miguel all of his secrets, which is completely plausible considering their likeness and their affinity for power tools. Despite Dexter’s claim of friendship with Miguel Prado,  we know that Dexter cannot resist the ritual when killing, and thus he goes ahead and kills Galt without Miguel, against his wishes. Dexter contemplates: “Truth is I’m not ready to share this part of me with anyone else just yet. I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready.”

Solitude

Perhaps what Dexter is truly contemplating is letting another person fully into his life: Brian was the last person to fully see the serial killing half of Dexter; he’s not sure he’s ready to allow his Dark Passenger to make a friend just yet. After all, Dexter seems to be searching for someone to fill the hole that he never knew was there until Brian showed up. We saw this with Lila and now we are seeing it yet again with Miguel. Dexter may claim that he’s “not upset” about his potentially crumbling relationship with Miguel; however, we can see he is a bit let down. He tells himself that he is better off on his own, but perhaps this is what he tells himself, as Harry once did, to keep him functioning as an effective serial killer rather than a social being with authentic human connections. As Harry posits:

We only see two things in people: what we wanna see, and what they show us.

Even with this warning, Dexter finds the mundane dinner parties with Rita and the Prado family “oddly soothing.” Dexter muses: “Maybe this is what belonging feels like.” Now that Dexter has had a taste of fitting in and companionship, he is not ready to give that all up just yet.

Like Father, Like Daughter, Like Son: Father Knows Best?

Dexter’s contempt for his foster-father has throbbed since the second season when Dexter uncovered the fact that Harry had an affair with his birth mother, and was the cause of her brutal murder. We see this issue surface when Harry appears to Dexter to reason with him regarding his relationship with Miguel and how the ADA has “gone out of his way to really understand [him] . . . which is more than [Harry] ever did.” Harry highlights: “Oh, I understood. I just couldn’t accept it.” It is from this exchange with his father (vision) that Dexter is inspired to find Miguel a difficult target to focus on so as to discourage him from further pursuing his own justice. In selecting Clemson Galt, white supremacist and murderer, Dexter believes he has found the insurmountable kill; however, Miguel “owes [Dexter] this one” for taking care of Ethan Turner. Miguel gets him out of a maximum security prison to testify on another trial in order to provide Dexter the opportunity to strike. Rather than scaring Miguel off, he rises to the occasion and proves to Dexter that he is willing to play this killing game. As Dexter observes, Miguel has “more aptitude and appetite for this than I ever imagined.”

There is a brief question in the middle of transporting Clemson Galt out of the courthouse of whether or not Prado is using Dexter; however, those questions are postponed when Miguel pulls up and provides both Dexter and Galt’s tranquilized body the much-needed escape. (Side Note: It’s interesting that Galt’s ironic one-liner is “Hammer Time” for when he makes hits on his victims considering the fact that Dexter brings down his own hammer (or knife) of justice upon him, and also considering the fact that he escaped from a court-house. I don’t know if MC Hammer was all too happy about him stealing this line anyhow). Perhaps this close call would have taught Dexter to take more caution than he already does. Instead, he “definitely maybe” agrees to looking to Ellen Wolf for Miguel, in spite of the Code and against his better judgment, and all in the name of friendship. Although Harry effectively acts as the supplementary half of Dexter’s “conscience,” if we can call it that, we must remember that Harry only says what Dexter would imagine he would say. Perhaps Harry would act differently or use different words and metaphors, but the visions of Harry are largely Dexter’s projections of his father. He usually argues with his father in these visions (if you recall, Debra accuses him of “killing their father” so he can “become [his] own man”), so the dynamic of each exchange differs based on what Dexter needs from the memory of his father — whether it be caution, proving that he is his own man and now owns the Code, or if it is just to comfort him in times of need. Despite Harry’s warnings, Dexter continues his involvement with Miguel and we begin to see his inner monster, a volatile, hot-blooded vengeance machine.

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Debra on the other hand does not condemn or reject her father; she actually emulates Harry’s behavior by becoming romantically involved with a Confidential Informant, Anton Briggs (recall Laura Moser and Harry’s relationship). Last season, Frank Lundy suggested that Deb balance out her work life with a social life; she may have dated Gabriel for a while, but she returned right back to her world of Homicide and cops by dating Lundy, who has been discussed to be a stand-in father figure for Deb. This issue of a life-outside-Miami-Metro resurfaces when Yuki Amado visits Deb to express her disapproval in how she informed Quinn of the Internal Affairs investigation. She scoffs: “What an empty room your world must be,” although the comment is out of line for the situation at hand. The only semblance of a relationship Debra has is with Anton, yet another faction of her profession.

Debra’s life, at this point in time, resembles Dexter’s. Although Harry reminds Dexter that “anytime you get close to someone, it ends badly,” we see that this is the same for Debra. First, we have the Ice Truck Killer, Brian Moser (alias Rudy Cooper), who tried to kill her (rather, have her foster-brother kill her). Next we have Frank Lundy who promised her the world and then left shortly after the Bay Harbor Butcher case came to a close. And now Wendell Owen, the fifteen year old acting as a witness for the Skinner victims in the hunt for Freebo, who was mercilessly killed because of her actions. She claims that beating herself up is “what I do  best.” Furthermore, we see Debra compromise the Skinner investigation so that she can save Anton’s life, a personal reason, which Dexter also does. We know Dexter to have tampered with cases to provoke Sergeant Doakes into suspension as well as serve his purposes as a serial killer on the prowl. The difference between the Morgan siblings is Debra’s affinity for the truth and Dexter’s for lies and masks.

Family and Relationships

As we are continually reminded, Dexter is who he is and does what he does for two reasons: 1) He witnessed his mother be murdered with a chainsaw, and 2) His foster-father, Harry Morgan, fostered his feelings of aggression and channeled them to serve his own discontentment with the legal system, thus crafting Dexter into the deft serial killer we know him to be today. Miguel, too, “risks” everything because of his upbringing: “Asshole drunk dad. Maybe I’m still trying to clean up the mess that I couldn’t when I was a kid. I don’t know.” Unlike Rita and Sylvia, who are also going into business together, Dexter does not fear seeing a side of Miguel that he might not like, which is a concern that Rita provides about going into business with Miguel’s wife. We come to see that Dexter actually should be concerned; however, he is too preoccupied with the probably rejection from Miguel to consider any other turnout. The Prados both mirror and foil the Bennett-Morgans; other than the husbands’ affinity for killing and secrets, Rita is not as attuned to Dexter’s shortcomings and character flaws as Sylvia is. Rita comments: “You may be  his buddy, but you’re not his wife. It’s not like you can hide anything from your partner.” Rita reminds us how this is untrue, given the circumstances.

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We discover in this cluster of episodes that Camila, a family friend and record keeper at Miami Metro, has known all along about Dexter’s past, truth, and kinship with the Ice Truck Killer, Brian Moser. Her unexpected terminal illness takes Dexter by surprise, and it is as if Dexter is losing a parent all over again. It is this strong bond, and Camila’s lack of family to console her to her death, that compels her to ask Dexter for his help in ending her life. She fears losing her dignity in death, and Dexter promises her that he will take care of her before she gets to that point. Of course, it takes them until they have found her the perfect key lime pie for Dexter to realize that not everyone is disgusted by the truth. Dexter’s “perfect pie” is a “gift” to Camila that will “make [her] feel better,” and indeed it does. Dexter did not make up his mind over night about this, however. It takes a conversation with his sister to bring him to that realization:

Debra: “Hopefully she goes fast.”
Dexter: “Not likely.”
Debra: “Just shoot me if I ever get like that.”
Dexter: “Really?”
Debra: “Hell yes. I’d do the same for you. Pull the plug, put a pillow over your head, whatever. I’d  never let you suffer.”

For those of us who have seen the entire series, we can see that Dexter actually listens to his sister. It is an act of mercy to bring death upon Camila rather than to watch her die a slow, undignified, and painful death. Until now, Dexter has considered “those closest to me [to] have always resided in a box of slides . . . until now.” With Camila about to die, and the possibility of Miguel’s friendship slipping out of reach, Dexter is finally realizing that he does have relationship and authentic connections, despite his omission of the obvious facts. Tragedy has been kept at bay thus far, but Camila’s terminal illness has brought Dexter’s first taste of tragedy in a long time (of course we didn’t experience Harry’s death real-time, nor did we experience Laura Moser’s in the timeline that the show gives us, nor do we know much about Harry’s foster-mother except for the fact that she, too, was taken by cancer). Dexter comments at a crime scene: “Marriage, children. You never expect it to end in tragedy. Unless you’re me.” To Dexter, everyone he loves must not know his truth if they wish to live a long, fulfilled life.

Although religion has been both directly and indirectly addressed in the series before, a discussion of Catholicism comes into play when Camila asks him to “violate [his] conscience.”

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Religious Elements

Camila explains that her husband, “Gene wanted me to end his life . . . I would’ve done it if I could’ve. [Murder is] a mortal sin to us Catholics. A one-way ticket to Hell. I can’t take my own life either.” Camila explains that she has taken care of her funeral arrangements, which will include a simple Catholic service. She conveys that she knows Dexter is not Catholic, and that this fact could possibly help her in her quest for death. It is Dexter’s own justice-based Code that allows him to bend the rules of his own moral system to help her out. With this said, I still cannot help but look at Dexter’s life and his relationship with his father as a perversion of Christian belief and parable. We know that Dexter has referred to his Kill Room as a “Cutting Courtroom,” which we are reminded of when Miguel calls his own court room “a church” (did anyone catch that the number of the court room was 103? A quick reminder of the 103 significance: the bloody hotel room was number 103, the bible was bookmarked at 10:3, and the radio was set to station 103 all to signify October 3rd, the day that Laura Moser was murdered; of course the religious significance of three people/spirits in one — Father, Son, Holy Ghost/Spirit, depending on your upbringing — furthermore, episode 301 was entitled “Our Father,” which referred to Harry Morgan).

I believe I have commented before on how Dexter’s dream visions of his father are visually Christological. We know Harry is about to appear on-screen when the scene seems bright and dreamy, as if a higher light is shining upon Dexter. The fuzzy quality makes both father and son appear angelic, although the two commit(ted) very Satanic acts as far as Judeo-Christian tradition is concerned.

Twins

This is the first episode that has mentioned sin — we know that Dexter does not believe in sin, but he does have a sense of a higher power somewhere, as brought out by the fact that Doakes was taken care of by Lila’s pyromania. Rather, Dexter has right and wrong, the Code, and justice in mind.

“Crucial Times … Demand Extraordinary Measures”: Politics in Dexter

Dexter stays relatively small as far as his victims go: he stalks, hunts, and then kills perpetrators that he is absolutely certain have killed people and are guilty (with the exception of Nathan Marten the pedophile). Miguel is now thinking in terms of the big picture: he desires to go after the “root cause . . .  the one responsible for putting [the criminals] on the streets,” Ellen Wolf, the “blood-sucking, soulless, defense attorney” for Albert Chung (if you recall, Debra referred to Lila West, alia Lila Tournay, as a gross English-titty vampire — I believe there is a hint of misogyny in both of these comments comparing women to vampires. On Deb’s behalf, the hatred is directed toward nearly every woman who goes after her brother; on Miguel’s behalf, it’s directed at Ellen Wolf, a powerful woman who he cannot trump or outsmart. A case of the feared, yet desired femme fatale).

Speaking of Ellen Wolf… The cold-hearted defense attorney claims: “That conscience I don’t have? It’s been eating away at me.” Much like Wolf (what a fitting name for someone who defends criminals), Dexter claims to not have a conscience, at yet his Code keeps him contemplating what Miguel and Camila ask of him. Dexter ponders (in reference to aiding Camila’s death): “I’m doing a good thing, aren’t I? Then why does it feel so bad?”. Dexter continues: “All the lives I’ve taken, they’ve always begged for mercy. I’ve never understood that concept until now. This — this is mercy. But only for a friend.”

When we compare Dexter to the season’s other powerful figures (Miguel, Maria LaGuerta, and Ellen Wolf), certain similarities surface. Maria and Ellen, two powerful women, are chastised for being effective and knowing how to play political games; all four characters’ ethics are questionable regarding evidence, interrogation techniques, jury tampering, and other political practices. Ellen Wolf tells Maria that “Miguel has been playing fast and loose with legal ethics for a long time.” After Maria claims to know Miguel as a “friend and colleague,” Wolf scoffs: “You can’t possibly believe he’s either of those things if you really knew [him].” Nobody is exactly innocent, and nobody is exactly entirely guilty either. As Miguel comments about the lady justice statue:

“[The] [r]eal reason she’s blindfolded [is] so she doesn’t have to watch everything she stands for get pissed on by someone like Ellen Wolf.”

Lady Justice

Much like Dexter, Ellen has no evidence for Miguel’s foul play, for although “he’s a bad guy, he’s not a stupid guy.” It  becomes clear that the war between ADA Miguel Prado and Defense Attorney Ellen Wolf becomes more of a political power play than it is about justice and righteousness. Surprisingly enough, Dexter’s cutting courtroom appears more just than any of the justice executed legally by either Ellen Wolf or Miguel Prado. Ellen Wolf may be defending men and women who are clearly criminals, but Miguel’s practices caused him to condemn Chicky Hines to an undeserved fate. In this gray-area of morality, Maria comments: “You call Miguel a bad guy while representing someone like [Albert Chung]?” to which Ellen reminds: “It’s not my job to judge, Maria.” She’s just the one carrying out requested services.

Dexter: A Comedy

Camila: “You know, Dexter. My whole life I’ve been searching for . . . ”
Dexter: “The meaning of life?”
Camila: “The perfect Key Lime Pie.”

Dexter [when looking through the box of Camila’s photos]: “Dexter: The Awkward Years.”

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Dexter [as he’s contemplating his guest list for the wedding]: “That’s his name . . . Soderquist.”

Ellen Wolf: “I think we all know how easy it is to plant evidence, and well, you look the type.”
Dexter: “Do I see sheets of plastic in your future?

Dexter: “Hand-holding. So simple. So intimate. So uncomfortable.

Dexter: “I’ve never been great at conflict resolution. Not without a blade and several rolls of plastic wrap.

Angel Batista: “How much caffeine have you had?”
Debra: “A metric fuck-ton.”

Rita [reading Dexter’s guest list]: “Donut guy?”
Dexter: “I see him every day.”
Rita; “If you don’t know his name, he’s not invited.”

Donut Guy

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: 7
Entertainment: 8
Xtremity: 7
DEX-Factor: 7.33

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