Self-Discovery and Justice in 606: “Just Let Go” & 607: “Nebraska”

Picturesque

Brother Sam passes on with one final wish: to forgive Nick for shooting him to death. Whereas Dexter attempts to overcome his darkness, he discovers he cannot. The Dooms Day Killers take their killings to the next level and the Trinity Killer is believed to have struck again in Nebraska where the Mitchell family was holed up in the witness protection program, leaving both Sally and Rebecca Mitchell dead. The ghost of Brian Moser, the Ice-Truck Killer, revisits Dexter to play the evil angel on his shoulder (hence the 606 or 666 episode number), replacing Harry for a while. Religion and the nature of psychopathy are discussed.

Light, Darkness, and Religion

“If there’s light in me, I don’t feel it.”

Dexter is beginning to realize that choices define who you are, but he is having trouble accepting the fact that he has the ability to change and to act differently, despite Brother Sam’s testimony. Harry claims that “it’s because he’s traveled both roads that he understands the darkness in you and he sees the light. I wish I did. Maybe things could’ve been different.” This startling admission forces us to question whether or not Dexter was born to be a serial killer. What would have happened had Dexter not learned to channel his urges in a forensic-friendly way?

Sam represents Dexter’s hope for change, a hope that the jaded Harry never had for his foster son. When Brother Sam dies, Dexter questions everything the minster attempted to teach him, especially when Nick, instead of being remorseful after Dexter “forgives him” for Sam, laughs in Dexter’s face. Vengeance, despite the minister’s wishes, is the path Dexter takes in dealing with his killer, for Nick’s testimony solidifies, for Dexter, that there is no such thing as a transformation, despite the fact that Brother Sam repeatedly explained that changing takes a great deal of work; the darkness does not disappear, but it is subdued by light. Dexter has only successfully resisted a kill once in the series: when he was about to kill Jiminez during his trip with Lila to the Keys. She managed to talk him down from the ledge. Dexter did have it in him to resist killing Nick; however, he had gotten too involved in Brother Sam’s life to separate his own wishes from Sam’s here.

“If you don’t let that darkness go, it won’t let go of you.”

After an earnest effort to let his darkness go just this once to honor Brother Sam’s dying wish, Dexter snaps and takes a detour further into the darkness than he usually goes, going on a road trip to Nebraska to visit Jonah Mitchell, son of Arthur Mitchell, Trinity Killer. Brian Moser, alias Rudy Cooper AKA the Ice-Truck Killer, appears immediately after Dexter decides to kill and dispose of Nick, against Sam’s wishes, dressed in black, suggesting his evil nature (Harry, on the other hand, is always pictured in feathered lighting, suggesting his angelic status). Brian works his way into Dexter’s mind to take Harry’s place when he is at his most vulnerable immediately following Brother Sam’s death: Brother Brian slips into Brother Sam’s place. Brother Sam and Dexter are arguably more of “kin” than Dexter and Brian are, despite their shared past, for they both have struggled with darkness and light, and pressing moral questions, whereas Brian has always embraced the darkness inside of himself. Professor Porter suggests that academics are not believed to be religious, which also suggests that neither are serial killers. The Dooms Day Killer serves to invalidate that misconception.

Brian Moser, older brother and evil angel on Dexter’s shoulder.

“Can’t live with that hate in your heart. Eat you up inside.”

Dexter’s hatred and pessimism gets the better of him while he hits the road with his lawless brother’s shadow beside him; you could say that Brian is Dexter’s Dark Passenger in “Nebraska.” He reinforces Dexter’s belief of his darker side, for he “[doesn’t] turn the other cheek. [He] slice[s] it.” Dexter seems to become frightened when  he discovers that neither Leo nor Nick’s death brings him peace, nor does he feel better, as he usually does after a just kill. This sudden emptiness, as well as Brian’s accusations of Dexter’s domesticity, compels Dexter to ruminate about his capacity for moral goodness, hence his sudden adventure into moral oblivion. In taunting Dexter and his performance of empathy and “real manhood,” Brian gets what he wants and gets Dexter to break out of his comfort zone on their road trip.

Picturesque
This image parodies “American Gothic” (1930) by Grant Wood, a tableau in itself. The image suggests the fall of ideals and supposed domesticity, as Brian accuses Dexter of. [Source: Wikipedia]
On this adventure, Brian attempts to convince Dexter that he has no principles and that, at his very core, he is merely a cold-blooded killer; however, when it comes to Jonah’s explanation of what actually transpired in Nebraska, and the revelation of Jonah’s intent to antagonize Dexter into killing him, Dexter cannot kill Jonah. The trip to Nebraska serves as Dexter’s way of “trying on” a different persona, or the lifestyle Brian wanted him to lead just before he was murdered, one of total freedom from responsibility. This option was given to Dexter in the season one finale when Brian set up a kill room with Debra on the table; Brian muses in this episode: “Wouldn’t it’ve been more fun to kill her than fuck her?” (about the convenience store cashier). Brian basically said the same thing about Deb in the season one finale. This kind of irresponsible lifestyle nearly lands Dexter into trouble: the owner of the motel, Norm (deftly named just like Norman Bates, and a reminder of Batista’s mother named Norma), blackmails them for $10,000 in exchange for the knives and gun he stole from his car while fixing his flat tire.

At the end of their trip, Dexter is resolved to go back to Harry’s teachings. He kills Brian again by denying his wish for Dexter to kill Jonah and he advises Jonah, just as Brother Sam advised Dexter, to forgive himself for the atrocities  he committed. In returning to his core values, he picks Harry back up. Whereas Dexter has tried to eradicate Harry from his mind in prior seasons, namely season three, he is more than willing to re-accept Harry back into his psyche.

“Welcome home, son.”

Similarly, Travis is willing to ignore Professor Gellar’s taunts and lets the young woman go who was intended for the Whore of Babylon tableau because she claims to “know [that] [Travis is] a good person.” Travis rejects Gellar in favor of his sister, just as Dexter rejects Harry to listen to Brian, his older brother. Travis’ conflicts between the light and darkness, God and Satan, and himself and Gellar become more difficult given the fact that he feels very different from how others see him as a person. Both Deb and Dexter feel the same, in this respect, as Travis.

A Serial Killers Convention

The past comes back to bite several characters in this season. Here is an overview of the significant parallels that emerge in these two episodes.

The hook Jonah uses to go after Dexter reminds us of Brian Moser’s profession, a prosthetics man, for Debra called him “Captain Hook” in season one when she was first getting to know him. This is significant given the fact that Brian re-emerges in Dexter’s psyche to accompany him to Nebraska.

Travis Marshall pumps his own blood out and refridgerates it to feed to the Whore of Babylon victim. The last time we saw this much refrigerated blood was also when Brian Moser was still well and alive. Mike Anderson highlights that this specific tableau refers to people as being “drunk with the blood of the saints,” making the Dooms Day Killers seem as visionaries who believe they themselves are saints for spreading “God’s word.” Brian thought  he was a visionary in draining the blood from his victims and displaying the bodies for Dexter to gawk over.

BloodFridge

It seems as though a bit from each of the five prior seasons is coming back to haunt Dexter; Brian literally reappears to him; Mike Anderson, Miami Metro’s new and intuitive detective echoes the late Sergeant Doakes in his confrontational style as well as his demeanor; Nick’s gang seems to make us recall the Prado family of season three; Jonah Mitchell returns from the grave of season four; and all of the emptiness of Rita’s death and Lumen’s departure continues to loom over Dexter no matter where he goes. Perhaps Professor Gellar’s statement about free will and accepting consequences is resonating at the zenith of season six for Dexter to reflect upon, for where he is today is a result from where he has been and who he has come into contact with.

Making Amends: Justice and Justification for Killing

“My Dark Passenger will make amends.”

Brian attempts to discover why Dexter likes to wake up his victim while they are on the table. Where Dexter claims that he wants his victims to see what they are guilty of, Brian accuses him of taking pleasure in watching the light leave their eyes, just as he observes Dexter doing with Norm in his shed. While Brian might not be 100% correct on this assumption, he’s not wrong.

[Growling] “There’s no light in you. There’s no light in me.”

The intentions of DDK are questionable: these killers are murdering supposedly in the name of God; however, their actions recall the past. Professor Gellar repeatedly suggests that the changing world is to blame for the “end of days;” however, those who cling to the Bible the way Gellar does see typical events (such as casual sex, partying, and all other acts of debauchery) as sin. The Alpha/Omega branding on the whore of Babylon was an attempt at a twenty-first century scarlet letter. Depending on who you ask, the victim Travis let go might be referred to as a “whore;” if you ask others, perhaps they would define her as an independent young woman.

“Leo is dead, so why doesn’t it feel better?”

Jordan Chase’s words ring in our ears loud and clear, once again, as we see that Leo Hernandez’s death does not atone for Brother Sam’s. The fact that his feeling of emptiness cannot be satisfied with the justice of death is alarming to him. We have seen Dexter spiral out of control before following the loss of a loved one: after Rita’s death, Dexter heedlessly murdered a man in a public bathroom of a boating rest stop (or whatever the formal term for them is). When Lumen announced she was leaving, Dexter flung a dish across the kitchen. And now  Dexter took to the open road with Brian as his companion following Brother Sam’s death and his failure to let go and forgive Nick, as was instructed. There has to come a certain point when Dexter has to realize that he hurts the people around him, both directly and indirectly. Just as Dexter is “responsible” for Jonah being left to harm his family, he is also indirectly responsible for Brother Sam’s death, as well as Rita’s. Dexter accuses Nick of being the “ultimate  Judas” to Brother Sam; however, if Dexter continues to do what he does, he, too, will be betraying everyone he loves.

Nature and Nurtuer: Family Influence

“Jonah has been a very good student . . . Real talent.”

Dexter does not take responsibility lightly: in assuming that Jonah killed Sally and Rebecca Mitchell, his mother and sister, he automatically assigns the blame to himself. Of course, Dexter cannot help but assume that Jonah became a killer because he was the son of  a killer; what Dexter fails to take into account is the trauma he endured throughout his entire life that also fostered the genetic predisposition for psychopathy. Dexter immediately worries about Harrison’s future and is reminded that if he is not careful, or if his behavior ever regresses to that of his Dark Passenger, he could very well end up just like Jonah. We should remember that Dexter’s biological father also had a criminal record; whether or not he killed anyone is questionable, but it does prove that psychopathy is genetic, just as Joshua L. Gowin tackles in his article, “Naughty by Nature, Dexter by Design.”

Dexter: “It’s in his blood.”
Brian: “The son of a serial killer becomes a killer. What are the odds?”

Trinity ruined both of their lives, as well as the lives of each of their families. Jonah reports that his mother continued to defend her husband until the day he killed her; although we find this irrational behavior for Sally to partake in, we saw this same pattern in Rita and Dexter’s relationship. While Dexter never raised hell the way Trinity did on his family, David Barber-Callaghan and Nigel Barber make a strong case that the emotional abuse, consisting of lying and manipulation, equates an abusive relationship in its own right.

“Not this again: Harry’s Code. Tell me why it matters if a person is good or bad. Does it make you feel better to kill bad people? . . . You don’t need a justification to kill.”

Interestingly enough, we learn that Jonah and his family, upon Rita’s murder, put the pieces together about Kyle Butler and  his true identity; however, because he had tried to help them, they refrained from offering the information to the FBI about his true identity. Their prudence, little did they know, saved` Dexter from yet another manhunt. It is Jonah’s conscience that separates him from Dexter and Brian. Although he fits Dexter’s Code, Dexter seems to empathize with him, for Jonah is simply a product of his environment, just as he and his biological brother are. Perhaps one of the most frightening aspects of Dexter’s nature, to both us and himself, is the fact that he believes he is doing a good thing and killing the “right people.” But time and time again, Dexter notices that there is little that separates him from other killers, and what does separate them (the Code) might very well be arbitrary. Dexter claims that the Code has “given [him] a life,” but Brian scoffs that it is “a life that is a big, fat lie.”

“Debra, Debra, Debra. Is she really worth it, Dexter? What is it with you and her?”

There has been a big fight brewing between Jamie and Deb these past few episodes, and I think I finally have come up with a theory as to what is going on with these two. This season, I suggested that the deep bond between the Batista siblings resembles the bond between the Morgan siblings; perhaps Jamie sees that Deb is just as close with Angel as she is and is getting jealous, just as we have seen Deb do with Dexter and his love interests. The parallel deepens when we realize that both Louis Greene and Brian Moser have used Jamie and Deb, respectively, to get information on Dexter.

Self-Discovery

As Debra stumbles into the corn maze of her brain in therapy, it seems as though everyone is making some profound self-discoveries. We have already discussed at length Dexter’s contemplation about his capacity for both good and evil, but I would like to further draw the parallel to Travis and his sister, Lisa.

Travis clings to Lisa when the “whore” tells him he is a good person; this moral question has frequently been tossed about between the Morgan siblings. Whereas it is debatable who leans on who in the Morgan family, we can feel comfortable in drawing the parallel between the Morgans and the Marshalls in that they have sleep-overs and “play house” when things go wrong. Harry instructed Dexter, as we see in the first season, to lean on Deb when he feels he’s “slipping,” and the same seems to be true for the Marshalls. Lisa observes that he only comes to stay with her when “there’s some problem you need help with.” We have already seen Debra stay with Dexter after her kidnapping by the Ice-Truck Killer as well as following her recent break-up with Quinn. Deb and Dexter, up until very recently, had been “playing house,” too. We are unsure of the Marshalls’ upbringing; however, we can assume that they had issues similar to the Morgans.

Travis admitted in the last treatment’s episode to Dexter, while nearly being choked out, that he wants to kill but he can’t. We are forced to wonder whether or not Harry, like Professor Gellar, pushed Dexter down the path of serial killing. While we know he had darker urges, perhaps they could have been channeled in a more healthy way.

Debra’s reevaluation of her life  has forced her to realize that perhaps she never loved Quinn; perhaps like Dexter’s relationship with Rita, she was using Quinn to cover up deeper troubles and demons. It is curious that Deb is seldom able to have a personal life aside from her career, and perhaps she has been keeping herself occupied for a reason. Quinn seems to be on the same slippery slope as Debra.

Psychopathy and Artistry: A Study

Gellar’s tableaus are enactments of a code that he believes will unlock the end of the world. Clearly he is not working with a full deck (rather, Travis,a “talented artist” according to Lisa Marshall, isn’t). The professor’s art installation with his former TA, Carissa Porter, is a horse of another color, too. There is no doubt that artists have brilliant minds; however, we have seen several artists on the show to date.

Dexter and Brian both consider their killings and “tableaus” works of art and Dexter repeatedly regards killings and blood spatter as artistry of its own kind. Brian has studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before becoming a prosthetics technician, seemingly having an innate appreciation for art (Brown and Abbott 218-9). Brown and Abbott define Dexter’s humane performance as the “peculiar art of protective mimicry” (224), which allows him to operate under the guise of being a psychologically typical human being. George Reisch classifies Dexter as “a kind of artist, a Jackson Pollock addicted to red” (xiv) for his addiction to aesthetics and the act of the performance of his kills.

There was Lila Tournay/West in season two, who created morbid figures and then lit them on fire. Even Miguel Prado refers to a replication of his brother’s crime scene as “a piece of art” in 301.

Miguel Art

While the field of Art Therapy continues to bloom, evidencing the healing powers of art, the artists we see in this series seem to not only channel their anger through art, but also appear to use their art as a means to hostility.

Dexter: A Comedy

Minister: “Let’s pray for the misguided sinner who shot Brother Sam.”
Dexter: “I’d rather prey on him.”

Louis Greene: “Hey, we were talking.”
Quinn: “Exactly, ‘were.’ Now run on back to the lab, Igor.”

Quinn: “I wanna have a relationship with [Jamie’s] that ass. I wanna have babies with -”
[Batista decks him in the face.]

Travis Marshall: “I can’t for the life of me figure out how to turn off predictive text on my phone. I texted my boss I had two tickets to the ‘jizz’ fest.”

The motel Dexter stays in is the “Shady Lane Motel,” which uses corn cob key chains.
Brian: “This place would turn anyone into a homicidal maniac.”

Deb: “I would kill myself, but it would add to my murder total for the month.”

Deb: “Where in Fucktopia are you?”

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: 9
Xtremity:  9
DEX-Factor: 9

Work Cited

Barber-Callaghan, David, and Nigel Barber. “Rita’s Rocky  Relationships: Is Dexter Any Better than Paul?” The Psychology of  Dexter. Ed. Bella DePaulo. Dallas: Smart Pop, 2010. 193-205. Print.

Brown, Simon, and Stacey Abbott. “The Art of Sp(l)atter: Body  Horror in Dexter.” Dexter: Investigating Cutting Edge Television. Ed.  Douglas L. Howard. New York: I.B. Taurus, 2010. 205-20. Print.  Investigating Cult TV.

Gowin, Joshua L. “Naughty by Nature, Dexter by Design.” The  Psychology of Dexter. Ed. Bella DePaulo. Dallas: Smart Pop, 2010. 33  47. Print.

Reisch, George A. “Know Thyself?” Dexter and Philosophy. Ed.  Richard Greene, George A. Reisch, and Rachel Robinson-Greene.  Vol. 58. Chicago: Open Court, 2011. xi-xiv. Print. Popular Culture  and Philosophy.

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