The Sins of the Father, the Ubermensch, and Secrets in 312: “Do You Take Dexter Morgan?”

S03 Wedding

After taking care of Miguel Prado, Ramon now steps into the foreground of Dexter’s problems, as does Jorge Orozco (George Washington King), since Miguel did send him after Dexter before he was killed. In a face-off, Dexter tells King that he killed Freebo. His new-found lust for life, as sparked by his son-to-be, propels him to escape King’s skinning table and escape, making his death look like an accident as he’s run under a cop car. After pulling the right strings, Ramon ends up in the custody of Miami Metro. In a heart-to-heart, Ramon reveals that Miguel lied about having a Dark Passenger. In fact, Ramon pushed his father down the stairs when they were kids, and Ramon has such a bad wrap for he was busy “cleaning up after” Miguel’s messes. The Prados aren’t the only ones harboring secrets, however: Rita has a few of her own. Oh, yeah. And Rita and Dexter get married. A brief discussion of Dexter as an ubermensch also is contained within this treatment.

The Prado Problem

“You can tell a lot about a person by the friends he keeps. And this is my best friend.”
– Dexter Morgan about Miguel Prado

The season finale opens on Miguel Prado’s corpse, abandoned in the middle of a field and seemingly donning the Skinner’s M.O.: missing skin. As if things weren’t already hard enough for Ramon in losing his younger brother, Oscar, he now has to deal with losing his oldest brother, and he is now onto Dexter more than ever. He is so pissed, in fact, that he pushes Dexter and Rita out of Miguel’s funeral (which provides for a lovely bookend to this season (opening with Oscar’s funeral, and ending with Miguel’s, leaving the middle brother, Ramon, right where he is: in the middle of all this chaos). Although Dexter claimed to have learned his lesson from his run-in with the Bay Harbor Butcher accusations, Sergeant Doakes, and Special Agent Frank Lundy, Dexter certainly has been acting as if he were invincible. We are reminded of Doakes’ breaking and entering when we discover that Ramon has done the same thing to him. We fear that Dexter’s blood slide collection will be unearthed (or thawed, I guess) once again, thus revealing him to be the true Butcher.

Wedding 2

Dexter discovers his wedding tux (gray — not black — to signify that he is neither good nor evil) to be destroyed in checking out the damage to his apartment. Harry suggests to “put [a wounded animal, Ramon] out of his misery” in response to Dexter’s destroyed cave; however, Ramon does not fit the Code.

“Can’t kill him. Can’t ignore him.”

Dexter, instead, decides a different approach: “Sometimes you just remove the thorn.” He levels with Ramon and tries to console him about losing two brothers, despite the trouble he gives. Ramon claims that “Miguel always had to be the star.” It is in these few minutes that we see Miguel truly as the monster he was, and Ramon for the good guy he always was. In this exchange we discover that Ramon’s “blood family” and “Blue family” often collide, yet are kept separate; we see this paralleled in Dexter’s life. Dexter’s blood family, which we will count Laura and Harry in, explains his psychopathic tendencies, which he strives to keep away from  his Blue family, in which we will categorize Debra, for she knows just as much as Vince and Maria LaGuerta. Debra only has “Blue family;” although her biological parents, Harry and his wife, are her “blood family,” Harry also belongs to Debra’s Blue family, as could Dexter, technically. Since her birth mother is nearly absent in the series, we can ignore her for now. As deep of a connection Debra feels with her foster-brother, we know that Dexter is keeping her at arm’s length.

Dexter's Parents
Dexter’s foster-father, Harry, and birth mother, Laura Moser, attending Dexter’s wedding in spirit.

Religion and Superstition

The religious aspects of this episode emerge in how different characters deal with death and loss. Whereas Maria LaGuerta makes the sign of the cross in response to Miguel’s death in hopes of a higher comfort and understanding, Dexter does not experience loss; rather, he deals with death by dismembering and neatly wrapping body parts in industrial-weight garbage bags to be tossed into the ocean. Ramon, on the other hand, grows angry and thus turns to violence and alcohol to cope. Nothing sets these rituals apart other than the fact that one of these characters is a serial killer; individuals have their own ways of dealing with death and loss.

Bad Luck

Superstition is evident in the fact that Dexter is scolded for seeing his bride before the wedding; although he believes his bad karma has arrived before the wedding in that he nearly was killed by the Skinner and broke his hand, those who have already watched the series know that the bad luck is just down the road for Dexter.

“Such a familiar situation. Such an unfamiliar perspective.”
– Dexter Morgan, tied to the Skinner’s table

Dex on the Table

We know that Dexter is not, by any definition, religious; however, he is spiritual: “[there is a] safety of belonging or being part of something bigger than me.” We know Harry’s intentions were to create a justice machine; a vigilante that took down those who the law could not, and thus that is the structure which Dexter upholds. Although it may not be part of God’s greater plan, he certainly is the key piece of Harry Morgan’s. Since Dexter has escaped Doakes and his accusations and now Miguel’s wrath, it isn’t all too far-fetched to believe that there is a greater power (other than Harry’s ghost) willing him to continue.

The Sins of the Father

“You know, Dad would be proud. It still means something, no matter how flawed he was.”
– Dexter to Debra about getting her Detective shield

Harry’s sins are now bubbling up to the surface since Dexter tipped Deb off to the fact that he cheated on Deb’s biological mother. Although “some things are better left in a box,” as Francis in the record room advises, Deb still presses on. The sins of the father are ever-present, and Debra, Dexter, and the Prado children are all reminders of that fact. In the stack of files Debra receives from Francis, we see Laura Moser. Dexter does not want Debra to delve too deeply into this investigation, for in her curiosity lies the pending doom of Dexter: the revelation of Dexter’s truth.

C.I. Files

Debra is accused of her own “personal and professional lives . . . colliding” when Maria LaGuerta catches wind of the fact that she was dating Anton Briggs, her C.I. for the Skinner case. We have seen the damage that fraternization could do in Harry and Laura Moser’s case (that being her brutal murder and the mentally scarring effects on Dexter and Brian Moser), and we have seen the damage it has done to Anton; however, we sill root for Debra’s happiness. Maria ends up praising Debra for not sacrificing her personal life for her career (although we do realize that her personal life is rooted in her work), and she does get her shield. In a strange maternal way, the tradition of bonding and making peace (as delineated by Ellen Wolf and Maria LaGuerta) is passed down. They celebrate Deb’s shield with ganache cupcakes.

Tie Tying

Miguel has bad-mouthed his father long enough for us to understand how deeply he scarred his children, emotionally (and likely physically); Dexter points out Ramon’s own repetition of his father’s sins:

“Someday your kids will be old enough to see the truth for themselves; I know. I’ve been there. The sins of the father go on and on, from kid to kid to kid, unless someone — you — chooses to end them.” – Dexter to Ramon

Ramon had been absent from home following Miguel’s death; Dexter suggests that he will become the father his children rebel against — a father like his own — unless he does something. From a psychological standpoint, Lisa Firestone contends that “as an adult, when we are under pressure or stress, our unintegrated anti-self manifests itself. Then we act out either on ourselves or on others in ways similar to what was done to us [by our parents]” (24). In recognizing this for Ramon, Dexter recognizes that quality in himself, indirectly vowing not to teach anyone else the Code, but also to look after and be a loving father to his son. He recognizes that Harry did the best he could with him, and Dexter “hope[s] to be half as good a father to [his] son.” In forgiving Harry, he can also reconcile the notion of becoming a father himself. He acknowledges that he poses the same degree of threat to his child that Harry imposed upon him. In his wedding vows to Rita, Dexter states:

“I promise to be the very best husband and father that I can be.”

Although Dexter doubts what he has to offer his child, we will get to see just what “Demented Daddy Dexter” provides next season. As we have seen time and time again (as accented by the blood spilling onto Rita’s pure white wedding dress), Dexter ruins everything and everyone he comes into contact with:

Blood on Rita's dress

“Maybe I’m making the biggest mistake of my life.”

In forgiving his father, it seems as though Dexter can go on and make peace with his father’s memory. In addition, in forgiving Harry and seeing the destruction that Miguel Prado caused, the Code has been officially reinforced. Stan Beeler asserts that “Dexter’s opponents test his ethical rather than his physical prowess” (227); these opponents include Brian Moser, Lila Tournay, and Miguel Prado. Brian (the Ice-Truck Killer, alias Rudy Cooper) tempted Dexter to ditch the Code and unleash his Dark Passenger; Lila pushed Dexter to give into his darker, dirtier urges; Miguel showed Dexter what happens when he is not careful enough to not get caught, or become responsible for others’ actions. Beeler continues:

S03 Pregnancy

“Every one of them tempts Dexter with the promise of release from his self-imposed restrictions. Brian, Lila, and Miguel bring into question the rigorous moral template provided by Dexter’s step-father Harry. After all, Dexter is a masked hero with very special problems. Unlike the popular-culture heroes that provide the narrative template for this series, he does not want to stop with the minimum amount of violence required to accomplish his ends.” (229)

Although promising each time, Dexter learns over and over again that the Code is the only way he can survive.

Secrets

What is curious about this particular episode is the fact that someone other than Dexter has some unanswered personal questions for us to ponder. First we have Debra and Anton’s affair; next we have Angel admitting to his near-bust with Barbara in Vice; and now we have Rita and her marriages. The wedding card Rita’s mother sends reads:

“Let’s hope the third one is the charm.”

Although Rita easily sweeps this one under the carpet, claiming her mother was referring to the third child (although it’s a poor cover), Dexter unearths the fact that she was married at sixteen years old. Bella DePaulo observes that “romantic partners in particular are not very good at knowing when their loved ones are lying . . . The problem is they want to believe that their partners would never lie — especially not to them. As a result, they see their partners as telling the truth more often than they should, and more often than a stranger would” (74). Given the fact that Rita is a charade for Dexter (for the most part), Dexter sniffs out her lie far easier than Rita sniffs out all of Dexter’s (although she tried in accusing him of using heroin).

Although Maria advises Angel to keep his secrets to himself, for it makes her job far easier, we are reminded of the secrets that Sergeant Doakes supposedly kept (regarding his Bay Harbor Butcher “activity”). We know that the secrets in the department, if all aired out at once, would make the place collapse; however, as Dexter points out:

“We all have secrets. In that way, I’m just like everyone else. Sorta.”

Bella DePaulo asserts that “the important people in Dexter’s life enable his lies. They don’t mean to, but they do. First, the mere presence of friends, a (now former) partner, kids, and a sibling he sees all the time shield Dexter from suspicion. They make him seem normal” (74).  The success in secrets is all just a matter of how you handle them and live with them, whether or not they make you feel guilty or criminalize you.

Is Dexter a Ubermensch or an Avenging Angel?

Bambi Haggins of FLOW magazine contemplates in her article, “Darkly Dreaming of Dexter: If Loving Him Is Wrong I Don’t Want To Be Right“, just why we have fallen in love with Dexter. Hand-in-hand with my back-peddling to religion all the time, Haggins contemplates Dexter as an ubermensch, or “an over man” “who overcomes the herd perspective and is capable of creating a new perspective without dogmatically forcing his perspective on others” (source). She talks about us, the Dexter cult, and how we try to convert others into rooting for a serial killer, which begs the question: is Dexter good or bad? Haggins contemplates America’s needs after 9/11, as do select essays in Douglas L. Howard’s Dexter Investigating Cutting Edge Television. Perhaps it doesn’t matter what Dexter is, so long as he is on the other side of the screen, and this isn’t our reality. If we think of him as an ubermensch, then Dexter and Harry are becoming gods in their own right, which I believe was intended (at least for the sake of religious parallelism and Christological comparisons).

As a viewer, are you conflicted by Dexter’s perspective, and how we adopt that perspective and subsequently root for him? For a while I was. And then I grew far too attached to the characters to care anymore; I sleep far better at night in thinking that serial killers only go after bad people, or at least in thinking that there are people out there who do bad things only to people who deserve it. And then this cycle of thinking begins to nudge at my conscience. And here is where I stop. What do you all think?

Dexter: A Comedy

Dexter: “Darling Rita, once you were a dream and a prayer. Now our future is as bright as the sun glinting off the morning dew and I vow that I will . . . sounds like I’m marrying a unicorn.

Debra: “Ugh, me in a dress. I feel like a transvestite.”

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
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. London: I.B. Tauris, 2010. 221-30. Print.

DePaulo, Bella. “Deception: It’s What Dexter Does Best (Well, Second Best).” The Psychology of Dexter. Ed. DePaulo. Dallas: Smart Pop, 2010. 65-78. Print.

Firestone, Lisa. “Rethinking Dexter.” The Psychology of Dexter. Ed. Bella DePaulo. Dallas: Smart Pop, 2010. 17-32. Print.

Haggins, Bambi. “Darkly Dreaming of Dexter: If Loving Him Is Wrong I Don’t Want To Be Right.” FLOW. Flow TV, 16 Nov. 2007. Web. 8 June 2014. <http://flowtv.org/2007/11/darkly-dreaming-of-dexter-if-loving-him-is-wrong-i-don%E2%80%99t-want-to-be-right-pt-1/>.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s