Atonement, Rebirth, and Hope in 512: “The Big One”


Dexter and Lumen take out Jordan Chase, but not long after Deb nearly catches them in the act. Joey’s suspicions of Dexter nearly come back to bite him once Stan Liddy shows up dead. Dexter is faced with his identity and his ability to be a good father and man. Will Dexter continue his behavior given what (rather, who) is at stake? When will he learn from his mistakes?


The season finale opens with Harry reminding Dexter of what happened the last time his foreplay with a “Big One” got out of control – Rita died. Although Dexter says he does not need to be reminded of his past misfortune, it appears as though Dexter is not willing to change. When Sonya shows up with Rita’s parents, Astor, Cody, and Harrison at his apartment door just as he is about to run after Jordan Chase, his social situation yet again forces him to question his ability as a family man. In a moment where Dexter should feel sheer joy at seeing his three children, he hastily wishes to sweep them off to the side, asking if they “can do it later? I just don’t have time right now.” While Dexter has embraced his role as father in the past, he appears as a selfish figure here. Although he is caught between saving Lumen’s life and spending quality time with his family, this situation still questions whether Dexter can ever fully devote his attention to both the realms of killing and his mask. The idea that the children will be staying with Dexter for the summer daunts him, for he will once again be restricted by his obligations, ones that led to Rita’s death at the close of season four. He is in a particularly precarious position, for Astor has finally returned to good spirits after a rough go with her since her mother’s untimely death. If Dexter messes this up, who will be left to make him feel human?

Dexter routinely questions his humanity and capacity for emotion, yet a monster like him (Jordan Chase) that has keen insight into Dexter’s psychology accuses him of utilizing “the unemotional approach” in dealing with how to track him down and rescue Lumen. Much like how Dexter’s actions convey his emotions, Chase accuses his voice of betraying his stress. If Dexter’s self-assumptions were true, Chase would detect no emotion. Perhaps Chase has better insight into Dexter than he or Harry ever had about him. Chase further proves that he is a monster akin to Dexter when he reveals his knowledge about Rita’s death; it appears as if he has been researching Dexter as well. Dexter goes on to prove that he does feel when he offers to sacrifice himself in place of Lumen, something a cold-blooded serial killer would never do.

Harrison’s birthday party leaves Dexter feeling emptier than he could  have ever imagined. As he toys with his wedding ring, Astor asks him if “helping his tenant” made him feel better. His lack of an answer betrays the fact that nothing can make up for what he has done. Helping Lumen has only made him feel slightly better, for justice has been served, but he knows nothing can bring Rita back. Just before Lumen reveals that she is leaving Miami, it seemed as though Dexter assumed that she would slip into Rita’s place so he could pick up right where he and Rita left off, for it takes years of work to build one’s life up to the point it was at. As Dexter ponders at the end of this episode, “they make [love and human interaction] look so easy . . . it’s the hardest thing in the world.” Dexter no longer seems committed to devoting his time or life to a new partner, especially since he  knows that nobody will be as forgiving and blind as Rita was with his midnight hobbies. Just the idea of going back to what he once had gives him hope; however, we see a great display of anger once he throws a plate against the floor, in a childlike tantrum, once he realizes Lumen must leave him. We haven’t seen a display of anger like this since 501 when he brutally murdered a man immediately following Rita’s death without the ritual, research, and consideration. Dexter realizes that life can only get more difficult from here. Dexter is faced with the big question: Can he be a hero? After playing the shadowy villain for so long, Dexter is not sure he can, even though he was the hero for Lumen.

Dexter assumed, as Jordan Chase points out to them, that they had a “deep, deep [bond].” Their shared “brokenness” provided a sense of love, but Chase points out that it’s all conjured, imagined. They are “not the same” and they cannot carry on together, despite the fact that Dexter finally had some hope for the future. Lumen illuminated Dexter’s world for a short while, and this season finale sounded ominous. He believes that he can only wish for a normal life, and “wishes are for children.” In the middle of season three when Dexter was contemplating the idea of  having Miguel Prado as a friend, Dexter claimed:

“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.”

Despite this, Dexter changed his mind with Lumen. Although Brian Moser, Lila, Miguel, and Arthur Mitchell were all contenders for a soul friend, nobody fully accepted him the way Lumen did, without judgment, an agenda, or a fellow Dark Passenger to steer him in the wrong direction away from his mission. Lumen is the only person who knows his secret who reenters the world without being assassinated by Dexter (with the exception of Hannah McKay in seasons 7 and 8, of course, but this is another story).

“It must be terrible going through this again . . . [like] some kind of terrible curse.” – Jordan Chase

Dexter grows increasingly sloppy as the series carries forward; in this episode, Dexter and  Lumen do not have time to set up a kill room, nor do they even wear their kill outfits while they take out Jordan Chase. He steals a car, which he crashes, on his way to rescue Lumen, and Debra nearly walks in on them and exposes them for all to see.

As I mentioned in the 510/511 treatment, Dexter’s loved ones cover for him and help him perpetuate his charade. Interestingly enough, we see Dexter reverse the pattern and procure false blood work results for Quinn, which both secures his innocence and reinstills Debra’s faith in Quinn, thus securing her happiness.

Rebirth and Atonement

“Lumen sees me for what I really am, and she hasn’t turned away from me.” – Dexter

Because Dexter is attempting to “right” the past, perhaps Dexter is attempting to reinvent himself and prove, once and for all, that he is not his father’s creation. As conflicted as he is by this, he continues to rebel against what he believes Harry would do or say. There is a degree of resentment in Dexter’s epiphany that “Lumen sees me for what I really am,” meaning she’s not afraid and that there is a person who can accept his demons. He feels that Harry abandoned him once he saw what he had created (just as Dr. Frankenstein abandons his monster).

Jordan Chase accused Dexter of attempting to make up for Rita’s murder by helping Lumen; although he says that you cannot do one deed to erase another, Dexter highlights that it is human nature to do something to make up for another deed; we see this with Angel buying Maria LaGuerta a necklace to try to rekindle their relationship, as well as when Dexter helps Quinn out with the blood work to settle the score, once and for all, between the two of them. We also see Debra let the vigilante killers (Lumen and Dexter, unbeknownst to her) go because them killing Jordan Chase atones for the fact that Rudy Cooper, the Ice-Truck Killer, was never caught (or so she thinks). There are numerous instances of this happening, and Dexter’s main struggle reflects his own humanity.

After they kill Jordan Chase, Lumen is surrounded in white, and we visibly see her scars, which are healing. This signifies her transformation and her rebirth, from traumatized woman to valiant, satiated, and justified woman. The “need” has vanished. Dexter himself is reborn, because although he was trying to save Lumen, he reports that she gave him his life back. As Dexter ponders, the one thing that is certain is that”nothing, nothing is set in stone. Not even darkness.” Looking forward, we will see that this comes true for Dexter. For now, he will carry Lumen’s darkness for her: “Don’t be sorry your darkness is gone. I’ll carry it for you.”

Parallelism and Connections

“Is this what I do? Curse everyone around me?” – Dexter

Mary Shelley’s monster in Frankenstein endures a level of self-loathing that Dexter would understand, for Harry, his “creator” was too busy with his own mission of justice to think of the consequences such operation and deviancy would place on Dexter, a boy would indubitably could have channeled his angers through legitimate therapy sessions and a healthy and loving environment. Marisa Mauro explores the idea that Harry is a narcissistic parent, who screwed up both Dexter and Debra alike in her article “It’s All about Harry: Is the Morgan Family a Narcissistic Family?”. She maintains that adult children of said families

are distressed by their own pervasive desire to please others, chronic need to seek external validation, and difficulty identifying their own feelings, wants, and needs. They are also likely to suffer from strong feelings of hidden anger. Depression, chronic dissatisfaction, indecisiveness, and poor self-confidence are also common. (165)

Dexter’s constant mental notes of what Harry would say or do are evidence of his incessant need for self-approval. His inability to define his own emotions also helps to categorize him as one of these beings. Furthermore, his bleak notions of his future as a parent highlight his poor self-confidence. His self-confidence is so low that he sees himself as an object, rather than a person: “Lumen sees me for what I really am, and she hasn’t turned away from me” (emphasis added).

When Quinn and Deb are talking, Quinn comments on racing the vigilante couple, Dexter and Lumen, to find Jordan Chase. While Deb and Dexter are natural foils of each other, it is interesting that Quinn draws this parallel, given Deb and Lumen’s shared trauma by serial killers, and Dexter and Quinn’s habit of partaking in illegal activities and struggling to cover up their tracks in time. Furthermore, Debra and Dexter are parallel in the fact that they will not be able to “live with [themselves]” if Jordan Chase gets away, Debra for her shared trauma and Dexter to atone Rita’s death.

Jordan Chase (formerly Eugene Greer) got his namesake from the River Jordan Camp; the river Jordan is where Jesus Christ was said to be baptized; this idea plays into several aspects of Chase’s character. Jordan believes he is all-important and invincible, and thus we can say he has a God complex; here is Dark Passenger was born, he renamed himself, and transformed because of the River Jordan Camp. He even transforms in this episode when he goes from being a director to wanting to become an active aggressor. Lumen herself underwent a transformation; if you recall, she ran away from home to Miami, leaving her fiancée at the altar. She then underwent abuse, which further transformed her. Lastly, she ends up casting out her demons with Jordan Chase’s cathartic kill. Speaking of River Jordan Camp, did you see the plastic sheeting hanging in Jordan Chase’s kill room? It was there before Dexter ever got there. Guess he’s not the only one acquainted with the benefits of plastic.

Jordan Chase recognizes that Dexter “ha[s] a kind of greatness in [him] . . . you’re no different from the idiots that show up at my seminars. Totally lost.” What is interesting here is that while Dexter is lost in some respects, Chase is lost because his fellow killers and abusers have disappeared and he is all alone and is forced to act differently and change his habits, just as Dexter is. In believing Dexter is pathetic, this furthers my assumptions of Chase’s God-complex. As critical as Chase is of Dexter, the same goes for Dexter of Chase. When Dexter spits back a line from Chase’s seminar about being “present in the moment,”  Chase sneers at him about actually paying attention; however, Dexter retorts: “I heard the words . . . but you have to consider the source.” In highlighting Chase’s hypocrisy, Dexter highlights his own. How many times does he try to sound enlightened and human when he may not actually be all he tries to be? Jordan reminds us: “Killing is killing, Dexter.”

Similarly, Debra casts doubt on her character as a good cop. While Dexter thinks he is better than other killers (just as Chase does, but for different reasons), Debra thought she was a great, moral cop. She reserves judgment of Joey, given the fact that she has recently questioned her own position in her department. Just like Harry, she questions the justice system and its effectiveness.  Good and bad were once black and white, but for Debra, these two are now confounded, ambiguous, and perhaps arbitrary. She hypocritically snarls:

“Maybe it’s true; some people deserve to die, but I’m a cop and I don’t make that fucking decision. So I’m gonna call this in.”

Here, it seems as though Debra is trying to convince herself of her loyalty to her job and the laws she abides by and lives to reinforce; however, she second-guesses herself and allows the romantic in her to get the better of her. She lets the vigilantes go because she wants the thirteen girls to get their justice, something she never had (well, she did. She just didn’t know Dexter took care of him). This marks Deb’s first step on the path toward self-destruction and moral confusion. When she admits “You think you know someone, and then it turns out you don’t,” Debra is inadvertently admitting that she doesn’t even know herself. She is now a good cop who has made a “bad” decision.

When Deb gives Joey a hard time about hiding things from her, it only serves to foreshadow the trouble she will run into once she and Dexter become more acquainted with each other. Much like Dexter, Quinn refuses to tell Deb about his misbehavings in order to shield her from the truth and to protect her, and both do so because they love her. Similarly to when Dexter had a run-in with Doakes, Quinn keeps quiet and decides to keep things on the down-low regarding another Miami PD staff member. Both Quinn and Doakes went to outside sources (all reliable) to do their dirty work regarding Dexter’s demonic devices. At the end of the episode, Dexter and Quinn are pictured wearing different shades of purple while standing beside each other. Purple, specifically in literature on race, often signifies blackness and evil in race as well as in character. Interestingly, Quinn is a deeper shade of evil than Dexter, perhaps because of Quinn’s malevolent intentions aimed at Dexter, or because Dexter helped Lumen to conquer her Dark Passenger. Regardless, they are both vigilantes in their own right, and thus don a similar color.


What is peculiar about this point in time is that Dexter and Joey see each other as men and for their monsters. Joey must know now that Liddy was right and that he killed him, but Dexter also knows a few things about Quinn that could get them into trouble. This is a moment of truce between the two men, for now that is. Although Dexter reminds Debra in this episode that he detests Quinn, it is clear that Dexter is willing to play nice to both make Debra happy and to make his life easier.

Religious Themes and Morality

Season two ended with Dexter proclaiming that the higher powers were willing him to continue doing what he was doing; however, he finds that “fate is hardly lending a hand” in his current situation. The fact that he and Lumen were not caught by Debra is “a fucking miracle,” according to  her.

While Dexter lucked out with showing up in time (and having a knife to stab Chase in the foot with), and then later was saved when Debra decided to let him and Lumen go, there is no telling when his luck will run out. Season six will deal with themes of religion, which makes sense given Jordan’s God-complex and Dexter’s sudden epiphany that there is  hope for him to be good.

Dexter: A Comedy

Deb: “This guy [Jordan Chase] doesn’t take a piss without bodyguards holding his dick.”

Deb: “The sound in the, uh, uh, ‘trunko’?”

Dexter claiming to be a breakfast connoisseur.

Masuka calling Dexter “Dexterous.”

Dexter’s hand tan from his rubber gloves. (You might have to zoom in for that one)

Dex's Hands


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: 8
Entertainment: 9
Xtremity:  9
DEX-Factor: 8.66

Work Cited

Mauro, Marisa. “It’s All about Harry: Is the Morgan Family a  Narcissistic Family?” The Psychology of Dexter. Ed. Bella DePaulo.  Dallas: Smart Pop, 2010. 163-79. Print.


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