Religion, Regeneration, and Reunion in 601: “Those Kinds of Things”

Crucifix

“All is well in [Dexter’s] little corner of the world” at the opening of season six. Dexter finally is moving forward after Rita’s death and losing Lumen. It comes time for Dexter to choose a preschool for Harrison; however, this forces him to face his spirituality and the concept of religion head-on. LaGuerta is promoted to Captain, and Jamie Batista becomes Harrison’s new nanny. Meanwhile, Quinn is planning to propose to Debra when a shoot-out breaks out in the restaurant. The Dooms Day Killers create their first tableau. Religion and regeneration are discussed.

Regeneration and Reunion

Last season left us wary of Dexter’s ability to balance his life and his Dark Passenger; after nearly being caught by his sister at the River Jordan Camp after murdering Jordan Chase, it seemed as though Dexter’s charade would crumble around him. However, we see that Dexter is back and stronger than ever as he deftly takes out two errant EMTs, reminding us that even the people that are supposed to be our everyday heroes have the capacity for evil, too. Ironically, these men are taken out for harvesting body parts to sell (like Dexter, minus the need for cash). He defies his sense of ritual by ditching the Kill Room process and electrocutes his victims; however, he does take a blood sample from each of the men.

Blood Moon

Dexter is finally starting to move forward: Sonya is replaced by Jamie Batista, Angel’s sister, and she seems to be just as good, perhaps even better, than Rita was for him. Of course, he is learning to be appreciative of her time and considerate of her school schedule, for he nearly lost Sonya for being “irresponsible” last season. Dexter has even bought the apartment next to his own to make even more room, both for his son and himself.

Evolution of Emotions in Dexter

“I’ve learned that periods of darkness can overcome us at any time. But I’ve also found that I’m able to endure, overcome, and in the process, grown stronger, smarter, better.” – Dexter

Although Dexter’s entire life could be considered a period of darkness, we have seen even further despair in Dexter’s life since the passing of Rita. All of season five was a shadow upon his shadow life, a pit of despair, wheel-spinning, and regret. When Lumen announced her departure, something Dexter longed for at the outset of last season, it seemed as if Dexter’s world would shatter all over again. In the wake of her departure, Dexter is now forced to examine his life, as a newly widowed father. But of course Dexter cannot move forward without being reminded of the past (Deb decides to persuade Dexter into action by saying: “Tick tock,” a clear reminder of Lumen and her trauma). Jamie even comments that Dexter needs to “disappear for a while” some nights; she assumes that he’s keeping the darkness of losing Rita away from Harrison. She’s not entirely wrong.

Dexter always returns to his origins; in this particular episode, he revisits his time in high school, where he was virtually invisible. At that time, it is questionable whether he appreciated his status, a status that is now necessary for his operation as a serial killer. The only reason why Dexter goes to his high school reunion is to avenge Janet Walker, a girl who “was always  nice to me.” These acts clearly touched Dexter, for he remembers her years later and seeks to kill her murderous husband, Joe Walker, to avenge her. Harry always advises Dexter to not make his kills personal, but he clearly has a personal stake in Walker’s death.

Interestingly enough, Dexter has become popular among his graduating class: between a “cool job,” Rita’s tragic death, and his newly improved physique, Dexter is now flying higher on the radar than he ever expected to. Of course, this popularity makes his task of taking out Joe Walker just that much more difficult. He must now fit in, while also operating to get the evidence he needs to incriminate and kill the former football star. He even goes so far as to step out of his comfort zone and partake in the masculine ritual of playing football in order to obtain the evidence he needs. Harry is happier for Dexter than he should be, simply because being well-liked is part of his advice for a simple and normal life.

It is incontrovertible that he was an absent father to both Rita’s children and his own son last season; now it is Dexter’s time to step up to the plate and figure out what to do with his son: an un-molded clay block, a clean slate.

Father, Son, and Serial Killer: Religion in Dexter

Nun: “What do you believe in, Mr. Morgan?”
[Silence]
Dexter: “Nothing.”

Dexter’s silence in this exchange leaves us expecting one of his morbid voice-over dual-answer moments; however, we begin to have the opportunity to fill in the blanks. Here, I answered: the Code and “our father, Harry” (“our” not “his” because Debra was standing there.)

As we move forward through the seasons, Dexter encourages us to look backward; just as Dexter returns to his origins, we should look backward to see how Dexter evolves. The first episode of season three was entitled “Our Father.” This season explored Dexter’s break from Harry’s Code and wishes from what his father envisioned him as. Here, we see Dexter in a similar position, thinking about how Harry shaped him (without religion or “those kinds of things,” but with the Code), and how he starts thinking about Harrison’s future. The nun giving Dexter and Debra the tour of Our Lady of the Gulf preschool reports that the school would provide structure for Harrison, something Dexter is toying with.

Crucifix

Dexter’s struggle with the concept of religion emerged at Paul Bennett’s funeral (for a reminder, visit this treatment); it resurfaces as he asks Angel about religion and how to explain it to Harrison. When the only answer for proof of God is “faith,” Dexter begins questioning his choice in preschools for Harrison.

“How do you reconcile a belief in God with what you’ve done?” – Dexter to Joe Walker on his kill table

However, he realizes that it was Harry’s upbringing that shaped his beliefs. Just because he does not believe in God himself does not mean Harrison should not be afforded the opportunity. Deb even comments that although she resisted religion in her youth, she does believe in a God. Dexter’s visit to the nun proves that Dexter is willing to sacrifice his own apprehensions for Harrison; after all, he wants Harrison to have a normal childhood.

“It’s not just about you anymore . . . you have to think about what you want [Harrison] to believe.” – Debra

Harrison (literally “Harry’s son”) is a chance for Dexter to start all over; although Dexter was not Harry’s biological son, he is his legacy. Perhaps had Harry not been vengeance-bent (Dexter was trained to kill to “balance the scales,” as Harry reports in season one, or settle the score, as Dexter ironically does by killing Joe Walker on a football scoreboard), and had a son with no proclivity for killing, he would have raised Dexter to be a “wholesome” child. Although that idea is nice, we know that it was Harry’s wife and Deb’s mother who pushed religion in their lives. He must “[give] a lot of thought to what I don’t want to pass onto Harrison — namely my Dark Passenger.” Perhaps Dexter believes Harry made a mistake in training him; Harry passed on his own demons and hang-ups with the justice system onto Dexter. Had Harry’s partner not died, or had he not witnessed the shortcomings of the justice system, perhaps Harry would have raised Dexter differently. Harry may be dead, but he is always coaching Dexter from the sidelines of his subconscious (literally in this episode when he helps Dexter figure out how to get Joe Walker’s blood sample).

We know Dexter does not want to train Harrison to become a killer; his life is hard enough as it is, and he can only pray that Harrison does not have his own Dark Passenger inside him. Although he may have delivered a cheek slice to another child shortly after his mother’s death, Dexter was reassured by the post-crisis therapist that Harrison was too young to have been fundamentally changed the way Dexter was by a chainsaw and a pool of his mother’s blood. Dexter is exhibiting a fundamental need to protect his son and secure his happiness and longevity, much like Harry’s wish for Dexter. The difference here is that Harry thought little about the consequences of turning his foster son into a serial-killing machine.

Debra calls Dexter’s “set of principles” “kinda cold and empty.” She’s right, Dexter realizes, because it “sounds like something [Deb] might teach a puppy.” As if Dexter were not already troubled by his father’s decisions to turn him into a serial killer, Dexter has to now think about this. Did Harry see him as a puppy to be trained, perhaps a hunting dog? Just because Dexter is “ignorant in spiritual matters,” he realizes, does not mean that he should force Harrison down the same path. He will allow his son to make his own decisions.

Dooms Day Killer (DDK)

Christopher Ryan in his article “Being Dexter Morgan” asserts that there are four kinds of killers:

  1. Visionary killers have just lost it. They’re convinced God, Satan, the neighbor’s dog, or The Beatles are telling them to kill, and really, who’s gonna argue with The Beatles?
  2. Hedonistic types get off on the killing, normally in one of three ways:
  • lust (the torture excites them sexually),
  • thrill (they do it for the adrenaline rush), and
  • comfort (they do it for the money).

3. Power/control types are drawn by the ability to flick the switch from life to death.

4. And lastly, we have Dexter’s motivational type: mission-oriented. Mission-oriented killers see themselves as making the world a better place by eliminating  certain types of people: prostitutes, blacks, savages, heathens, homosexuals, Catholics, Jews, Armenians, Hutus, Tutsis, infidels, terrorists . . . the enemy. (250)

I would like to put forth the idea that Dexter appears as each of these four types of killers at varying points throughout the series. It has become clear in the first episode that Travis Marshal and Professor Gellar are motivated by the Bible, and they thus fit into the first type. They will blur the line further between good and evil, despite the fact that you already think your morals are corrupt because you’ve been rooting on a serial killer for five-plus seasons, for they will highlight that, as Mohandas Gandhi once said:

“The most heinous and the most cruel crimes of which history has record have been committed under the cover of religion or equally noble motives.”

Even Joe Walker reinforces this idea; he beat and killed his wife and starts praying on the kill table. He tries to stress to Dexter that if he truly repents, God will forgive him, which only makes the idea of God even more ridiculous to Dexter. We see Travis approach their first victim mimicing the words of the Bible, robotically and without much thought. These men are trying to send a message, but for what purpose? Debra, when talking about the removal of the victim’s intestines, suggests that the killing could be gang or Santeria-related. Conflating these killings with those of Santeria is even questionable and casts the intentions of the killers into an even greater dubious light.

Enjoy this GIF, folks. The seven snakes are likely meant to symbolize the evil serpent in Eden. Seven are chosen to represent the Seven Deadly Sins, or to remind everyone that God made the world in seven days. Perhaps the snakes are inserted into the body to suggest the original sin that exists in everyone, according to Judeo-Christian belief.

If this were the end of season two, where Dexter hypothesizes that a higher power is willing him to continue his work, we would see that Dexter and the Dooms Day Killers, as they are more infamously known, share quite a bit in common. It is interesting that Dexter will have to deal with these killers this season, given his own spiritual introspection and his rumination over his son’s fate. God seems to be the reason for this season.

Dexter could fit into the second type by the way in which he kills Lila. They are just about to have sex when he kills her; we will see a similar course of action when Dexter meets Hannah McKay next season. Her death, if you recall, is motivated by comfort: he can only secure the safety of Rita and her children (as well as the safety of his secret and his emotional well-being) once she is dead.

Dexter toys with the third type when his victims are on his table: he often tortures them with his tools and makes it known that he is in control (almost airing on the first type of power-playing and Godliness). He enjoys having total control over a vulnerable man or woman unto whom justice must be brought.

Clemson Galt

The fourth type seems to fit Dexter best, as Ryan posits; however, his examples cast Dexter in a fascist light. Yes, Dexter has several enemies, but they are not always minorities, despite his living in the culturally diverse Miami. In season 3 episode 7, he  has Clemson Galt, a white supremacist, on his table. It’s safe to say that Dexter is unlike Galt (if you recall, Galt called himself “the hammer.” Ironic that we’re discussing him now, given Dexter’s “Hammer Time” performance at the high school reunion. Don’t remember? Visit the Comedy section! Also, Dexter kills Joe Walker with a hammer, declaring “Hammer time!”). Dexter’s enemies are the people who escape justice.

Parallels

When Dexter introduces himself to Joe Walker at the reunion, Walker draws a parallel between them; they are very dangerous men with dead wives. Dexter could have just as easily become Joe Walker or a monster like Arthur Mitchell (Trinity) or his brother, Brian Moser, a man without the Code, had Harry not taught him better. We are reminded that everyone has the capacity for evil. This parallel also suggests that a religious man like Walker could be just as capable of evil as a man without religion like Dexter.

When Angel and Jamie are out to dinner to celebrate what he believes will be his promotion to Lieutenant, he draws the parallel between them and Dexter and Debra. Both sets of siblings are close – close enough where Angel fears others perceiving them as being on a date. When Angel gets weird about Jamie being “almost naked on top,” his reaction echoes Dexter’s when he sees Deb’s “sex suit” in 101 while she’s still working vice. Although we know there are no incestuous intentions between the two, the parallel to the Morgan siblings serves a purpose: it foreshadows Deb’s discovery in this season. Although Angel and Jamie are not Dexter and Debra, everything that happens within Dexter’s world contributes to and circumvents the development of his and Debra’s characters. Much like Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, although each short story is not directly about Nick Adams, the experiences of the other characters are shared by Nick, and so we can understand everything that happens through Nick’s eyes. The same concept applies here.

Dexter: A Comedy

 [Jamie appears] Jamie: “Dex!”
Dexter: “Hey, Jamie.”
Dexter V.O.: “It’s not what you’re thinking.
Angel: “Hey, Dex.”
Dexter V.O.: “It’s really not what you’re thinking.”

Nun: “So, you are Catholic as well, Mr. Morgan?”
Dexter: “Actually, I’m not.”
Dexter V.O.: “And though it does have a certain appeal [surveying the crucifix and Jesus’ wounds], I’m not sure it’s right for everyone.”

Masuka: “They’re looking awfully lovey-dovey up there. You think the two of them are . . .”
Deb: “Gross, no way. Matthews and LaGuerta hate each other.”
Masuka: “Oh, yeah, just like you and Quinn used to hate each other and now you’ve been living together for–”

Dexter: “High school: all the elements of a federal work camp with those of a third-world poultry farm.It’s a miracle I graduated without killing anyone.”

Alan:”Best biology lab partners ever! Man, I never saw anyone dissect a fetal pig as fast as you. You’re, like, the first student ever to ask for seconds.”

Mindy: “You’re the last man that I ever dated.” [After introducing her wife.]
Dexter: “Well, I’m glad if I was of any help.”

Dexter: “Being a blood spatter analyst isn’t so much of a job . . . it’s a calling.”
Unknown: “You guys are the American cowboys.”

Dexter: “I have no idea what “Hammer Time” is or how it differs from regular time.”

Dexter: “I gotta sneak back to the reunion. Got a big flag-football game to suit up for.”
Deb: “Did I just hear him right?”

Deb: “Holy frankenfuck! Snakes!”

Quinn: “I’m not acting weird.”
Deb: “You’re about to drink a candle.”

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

Work Cited

Ryan, Christopher. “Being Dexter Morgan.” The Psychology of Dexter.  Ed. Bella DePaulo. Dallas: Smart Pop, 2010. 243-56. Print.

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