American Values in 401: “Living the Dream”


Dexter is settling into family life – and rather groggily at that – following his marriage to Rita and her children and the birth of their bouncing baby boy, Harrison. It seems as though he is “living the [American] Dream;” however, he just can’t seem to figure out how to balance his serial-killing hobby, married life, and a baby. A new, untraceable serial killer is at large in Miami and Frank Lundy has come back to town to track down this killer once and for all. The Trinity Killer, portrayed by the immensely talented John Lithgow, is chilling from the start. We know Dexter will have to go after him; it is just a matter of how. Debra continues her search for her father, Harry Morgan’s, mistress-and-C.I. and begins interviews with the women that Francis in clerical can dig up at Miami Metro. The world is off-kilter; can Dexter Morgan handle all the challenges of married life, fatherhood, and his nighttime hobby as the Dark Defender? We shall see. Serial killers (both in the series and in the real world) are discussed, as is the ever-present Freudian undertones.

The Off-Kilter Introduction

One of the first things that comes to mind when someone mentions season four, other than the finale and Trinity himself, is the off-kilter introduction (which occurs eight or so minutes into the actual episode once the regular opening sequence has already played). It is clear that Dexter is not on his game; life as Dexter knows it is virtually over. From the record scratch and sideways rendition of the opening theme to the fuzzy shots of Dexter groggily  moving about, we can tell that Dexter will not be doing his best work from here on out.

Dexter misses the mosquito that he swats away so deftly on a typical day; his t-shirt is vomit-stained and dirty. Dexter’s sense of cleanliness and control has slipped; seems as though he’s not as “neat [of a] monster” as he used to  be. And Murphy’s Law is at work: his shoelace breaks and he is exhausted. Although this is the first and last time this introduction airs, it sets a precedent for Dexter’s level of, well, dexterity, and operation for this season.

A World Spinning off of Its Axis

At the start of this season, Dexter’s “primal, sacred need calls to [him],” but in a different way than we expect. “Tonight’s the night I finally sleep.” Dexter’s dragging himself through life and work, as evidenced by him bringing the wrong notes to court, This is a “big time” screw up and so un-Dexterly that even Deb is surprised. Although it’s a huge loss for Miami Metro, we know that Dexter will take care of Benny Gomez on his own time. The only “peace and quiet” Dexter gets is when he is in his lab at work, and even that time is disrupted by his co-workers and sister. Dexter ponders,

“Who knew life could get so . . . unsimple.”

We officially know that something is truly wrong when Dexter can hardly keep himself awake while on the stalk-and-hunt (recall: he was woken up by a cop) and even during his ritual, waiting for Benny Gomez to wake up. He is sloppy in his work: Gomez’s parts fall and flop off the table as he’s packing them up to dispose. Even worse is the fact that he falls asleep on the drive to get rid of Gomez, potentially sending his limbs to scatter about the park – to be found by those who find him asleep at the wheel, and likely unconscious.

As if this is not enough to convince you that Dexter‘s Miami is off-kilter, this should be: Deb and LaGuerta seem to be bonding over the troubles of men and partnership. No, really: there is an interesting change that takes place in season four, not just in the content, but how we respond to it. If you weren’t rooting for Dexter before, you sure as hell are now. Dexter has a lot more to lose if he is apprehended, now more than ever. He will now be leaving behind a wife and three children.

In the last treatment, I discussed Dexter as an Ubermenschwhich ultimately means that Dexter is an “over man” who is forcing his perspective on you and converting you to root for him. There is a scene with LaGuerta, Batista, and Masuka in the elevator in which this phenomenon is evidenced; rather than Dexter filling in the silences in thought and responses, we now do it for Masuka’s questions about Batista’s night (which we know was occupied by his affair with his boss). We have our own internal monologue, and this scene makes us aware of it; we are just like Dexter in this respect (disclaimer: if your mind is warped as mine is, you’ll notice your internal monologue far more often than others who are not. I can assume that, since you’re so in love with Dexter that you’re reading my blog, you’ve got a similar mindset, and thus you experience this, too).

“The One Twisted Son of a Bitch Who Got Away”: The Dark Passengers of Season 4

“My Dark Passenger is like a trapped coal miner. Always tapping, always letting me know it’s still in there, still alive.”
– Dexter Morgan

Although Dexter claims to be “living the dream,” we know that Demented Daddy Dexter is not quite corrected by his new roles as husband and father. Just as his Dark Passenger taps away at him, the nagging curiosity of whether or not Harrison got the serial killing gene continues to gnaw away at him. We know that his Dark Passenger is still at large and not at all subdued due to the fact that Dexter has kept his apartment, something for which a [normal] married man should have no need; his reaction when he gazes upon his kill tools is one of lust and fixation.

“Clock’s ticking. But it’s all about sacrifice.”

The first glimpse at the Trinity Killer, portrayed by John Lithgow, is  a rather troubling one. In the very first scene we have Dexter on the (perceived) stalk paralleled with Trinity preparing for his kill. The intercuts signify that Dexter will be on the hunt for him at some point in this season. Another parallel to emerge is the cut along Trinity’s victim’s leg (which should remind us of the cut on Dexter’s victims’ cheeks.

Dexter notices how immaculate and careful his work is — much like his own. Although Dexter muses that the killer “obviously doesn’t have kids,” we will soon discover that this is not true. Special Agent Frank Lundy returns Miami after his retirement to track him down even, for he has never had enough evidence to prove that he exists. “Trinity’s the most successful serial killer to ever… get away with it” because he moves around the country, and law enforcement never talks to each other. Dexter’s detective work uncovers an identical case in the same house that this C.S. was in from nearly thirty years ago. Lundy asserts that he is “starting his cycle all over again” with the kill of the twenty-two year old that was just found.

Other than the fact that we are troubled by Trinity, it is apparent that Trinity is bothered  by something — his disturbed self-harm (by scalding hot water) while in a public shower is enough to make us shudder.

The Kill

The American Dream

“Can I do it? Can I have it all?”
– Dexter Morgan

The American Dream: A new home in suburbia, a wife, a white-picket fence, perhaps a dog, two and a half children, a well-paying job, “carpools and swimming pools”… Dexter has it all. Or does he? With this upgrade in lifestyle comes a greater demand on all of Dexter’s resources; when it’s not the kids or work or his Dark Passenger, it’s Rita wanting to have sex. Since Dexter has never before been responsible for anyone but himself, it is understandable that he is having trouble learning how to handle his situation.

With this upgrade in lifestyle also comes an upgrade in opponents. Brian had no family or friends; Lila had partnership issues; and Miguel had no children. Trinity is a whole other ballpark for he is exactly like him. The misconception about the American Dream is that once all of the above items and events are achieved, one will find happiness; however, the opposite is true. Looking for fulfillment through material things will not bring happiness; materialism cannot fix one’s problems, and we know that from Dexter. Having a wife, baby, and new house will not erase the fact that he’s a serial killer.

There is a special emphasis on the American Dream given the fact that Dexter sings “America the Beautiful” to Harrison and the title of this episode, which is alluded to in Dexter and Rita’s conversation about “living the dream.” The American Dream makes everyone fit in and conform to society; it seems as though Dexter has achieved this for himself quite nicely. Who will be suspicious of him now? Exactly.

Living the Dream

The Sins of the Father

“We were all like that once, pure and innocent. But then we grow up and things happen.”
– Dexter Morgan

Debra has made her way through half of the pile of Confidential Informant files that Francis has dug up for her; when asked what she will do after uncovering which of the C.I.s had an affair with Harry, Deb really has no answer. While Francis believes that Deb is “looking for misery,” perhaps it is because she will feel less bad about her own shortcomings if she comes across proof of the fact that Harry had an affair, despite the fact that Dexter told her so. In an interview with one of her father’s C.I.s, the woman reveals that Harry “didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” Although this does not directly relate to Debra, we can assume that Harry was strong-minded, thus reinforcing how he was able to train Dexter to be a serial-killing machine.

When Lundy returns, Deb is thrown off, and it suddenly becomes clear just how in love she was/still is with him. When he congratulates her on making detective, she is uncomfortable and bashful, for she doesn’t know what to do with praise. Harry never gave it to her after all.

Rita reassures Dexter that “nothing’s gonna happen [to Harrison], not when he has a great dad watching over him;” however, he fears that he will inflict that harm upon him. As much as he wants to shield Harrison from that reality, he confesses to his son: “Want to know a secret? Daddy kills people;” however, “Daddy’s not going anywhere. I already lost my innocence. I’m not going to sacrifice yours, too.” Despite his hesitance, he is resolute: “If I want to be around for my son, I have to do this right. I’m . . . killing for two now.”

Dexter: A Comedy

Debra: “What is this, Extreme Home Makeover: Forensics Edition?”


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: 9
Xtremity:  9
DEX-Factor: 8.33


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