Travis finally agrees to work with Dexter in taking down Gellar; Lisa Marshall becomes the whore of Babylon and the atheist professor becomes a part of the Bowls of Wrath tableau; Deb visits therapy more frequently; Quinn continues in his downward spiral following his separation from Debra. Louis Greene, Masuka’s intern, and Jamie Batista get close; he is later apprehended as the man who brought the prosthetic arm from the Ice-Truck Killer. Finally, we discover that Professor Gellar is just as real to Travis as Harry is to Dexter: stone-cold dead.
Trust and Family
Dexter repeatedly reports that he likes children; they do not have complex motives or emotions, nor do they have reason to question his intentions and behaviors. Harrison is Dexter in his most basic form: innocent and good-natured. Brother Sam insisted that there is light in Dexter, and that Harrison brings out this aspect of his being. Dexter and Rita’s son resembles the hope Dexter has for his future as a “better father,” and even a “better” person; however, Harry continues to beat down Dexter’s self-image, thus prolonging his belief that he is nothing more than a monster, as is evidenced by his classification of his Dark Passenger with afflictions, deformities, and defects such as clubbed feet, stutters, and lazy eyes. Dexter believes that it is too late to be a better person, but his penance (in attempting to honor Brother Sam’s dying wish, in apologizing to Debra, and in attempting to help rid Travis Marshall of his Dark Passenger) proves otherwise. He is changing and transforming, contrary to what Harry every believed his foster son to be capable of. The light in Harrison is natural, as he is pictured sharing cookies with his classmates. Although Dexter was pushed down a very different path growing up, Dexter’s decision to place Harrison in a Catholic preschool depicts his desire to instill beliefs within his son. Just as Harry was not around forever to protect him and guide him, he knows that he cannot always be there for Harrison. Perhaps Rita’s death and Lumen’s departure reminded Dexter of his temporal state on this earth and inspired him to give his son a Code and a guardian to guide his actions beyond the span of his life. Not wanting to be invasive in his own son’s life, just as Harry is, it seems as though he’s trying to give Harrison another option. Not being a believer himself, perhaps this will allow Harrison at a later point in life to make decisions for himself.
Harrison’s innocence, however, is not immaculate or immune to the evils of the world. In the 606/607 treatment, I glazed over the detail of Travis’ reaction to Lisa’s art class’ project: painting their dreams and career aspirations for the future. Although he said nothing, his facial expression conveyed that according to his and Gellar’s plan, there is no hope for the future, for he is under the impression that he is on the cusp of bringing about the end of the world. Whereas Dexter strives to shelter Harrison from the horrors of the adult world, Travis places the Whore of Babylon killing right in the school yard for all to see.
Dexter’s necessity for omission in the lives of the people he loves forces Deb further into her self-discovery in therapy. She questions why he does not ever confide in her, which begins her questioning as to what her brother might actually be concealing. Unlike his relationship with children, who are not in need of manipulation, for they are naturally trusting, he must manipulate and use Debra and send her in the wrong direction day after day for she can think for herself, and poses a threat to his secret. The Debra of season one is childlike in that she was gung-ho about her promotion to detective; Dexter could easily pull things over on her (although she did resent Dexter for squandering her deft profile of the Ice-Truck Killer, which also fit himself).
“I’m not even sure I believe in God, but I’m pretty sure he hates me.”
Being that Dexter built a life and developed a defensive line of loved ones around him to add to his facade of normalcy, we should not be surprised at the way in which he continues to use Deb as a pawn, despite how close they are. Aside from Harry, there is nobody who can understand him better than his own sister; because this is so, it is imperative to keep her in the dark so she justifies his behavior and contributes his sudden trip to Nebraska and his closed-off nature to how he has always been. She is his number-one testament to his character as a brother and family man. Interestingly, Travis uses his sister, Lisa, in the same fashion. Parallel back-to-back scenes where Dexter brings breakfast to appease Deb and where Travis surprises his sister with breakfast suggest that there are parallel dynamics between the siblings, which I will get into more detail about below. Without their sisters, Dexter and Travis would not have their character witnesses, who are so key to their survival in society. Debra and Lisa are treated like children, to a certain extent, for they are just as loyal and trusting of their brothers as little tykes are. These men operate under the assumption that they are not ready for the truth, and should be kept in the dark to preserve their innocence, and their light. It is safe to say that the thing they fear above all, even over being apprehended for their true natures, is the harming or enlightenment of their sisters. Michelle Ross suggests that perhaps their communication issues arise because they never focus on Dexter and his issues; however, if they were to do that, it would violate Dexter’s need to keep her in the dark.
Dexter was raised to take responsibility for his killings; Brian, on the other hand, persuaded Dexter to abandon consequence and take his misguided road trip to Nebraska. This is not the first time that Dexter’s Dark Passenger and his kinship with Brian Moser has hurt Deb. Brian and Gellar alike attempt to make Dexter and Travis dissatisfied with their responsible, domesticated lives, which Gellar deems as “pathetically mundane.” In season one (episode either 6 or 7), Dexter asks Rita what she wants for her life, and they agree that they just want normal, quiet lives. Travis and Lisa appear to fit this paradigm, too. Rita was also forced into the dark because of Dexter’s cover; however, “mundane” here wasn’t just a cover. It was a sincere wish from all parties involved. Dexter and Travis wish to keep their sisters ignorant, or in Disney World (as Travis suggests), the happiest place on earth, for without them, who are they?
“False Prophets”: DDK and Morality
“We don’t have time for your little journey to find yourself.”
Travis and Dexter are kindred spirits; as we learn at the end of 609, Gellar and Harry are the voices in their heads who guide them to “what is right.” Although Harry seems only slightly less demonic, and Gellar’s intentions are in the name of God, we cannot classify one pair as “good” and the other as “bad.” Since Dexter is our protagonist, this is our only inclination to classify Dexter as the “good” serial killer, in addition to the fact that he only kills other killers. Travis may be literally taking out the trash at Lisa’s house, but Dexter takes out human waste and disposes of it in the ocean (no wonder our oceans are so messy).
“In my own way I’m going to eliminate a small bit of darkness and let some light in.”
Dexter’s visit to Father Galway (owner of the F.N. Galway-tagged robe used in the Whore of Babylon tableau) brings about an unexpected confession as well as being absolved of all his sins. Being that the Father fell victim to dementia, his sudden amnesia after Dexter’s confession could be a sign of serious distress, a miracle, or sheer coincidence. Regardless, he is apparently “saved,” for”anything you confess God will forgive.” Being that Deb is in therapy doing the same kind of introspection, perhaps a therapist is the atheist’s priest. If we recall, Dexter visited an errant therapist in season one (Dr. Emmett Meridian) and also confessed his sins to that doctor; however, these are not the only people to know about Dexter’s hobby: anyone that lays on Dexter’s table gets a dose of our dearly demented Dexter.
The Bowls of Wrath tableau, in which “punishment is poured on the people,” should remind us of Dexter’s dream in season one where Debra apprehends Dexter for who he truly is and puts him on the kill table where Valerie Castillo was killed, for it rained blood. This serves to remind us that there are only so many years that Dexter can keep his sister in the dark and safe. It could have just as easily been Debra in Rita’s bloody bathtub at the end of season four (if she fit Trinity’s Code). The series finale sneak-peak features this very snippet from season one, which you can watch below.
It is inarguable that the Bible (at least the Old Testament) is a very violent work of literature (and even art), which Professor Gellar reinforces. Christians often make the habit of downplaying the violence in the Bible in favor of the idea of a just and loving God who is only looking out for our best interests; similarly, we like to downplay Dexter’s own violence and look to the good aspects of his character and his relationships to justify why we like a show about serial killing and can even laugh at it. No matter how you spin it, killers are killers, just as “a chair is a chair” and Dexter “is who he is,” as Deb comes to realize in her therapy session.
Deb has been challenged with the demands of her new position as Lieutenant of Miami Metro; while this position requires prudence and a political-oriented mindset, Deb feels forced violating her own detective’s Code. Maria LaGuerta’s insistence on closing the Jessica Morris case violates Debra’s inherent need for justice. No matter what she does, she, too, is who she is, and does not feel good about letting someone off for the possible murder of a prostitute. This is yet another connection to season one: the untimely and unjust death of an escort.
Time and time again, Dexter avoids the realization that his Dark Passenger always wins out over his family. It is only a matter of time before the Dark Passenger destroys his life and the lives of his loved ones (beyond Rita and her children, of course).
Mirrors, Parallels, and Foretelling Doom
What makes Travis so frightening is that first-time viewers assume that Gellar is committing all of the evil, and he is simply the weak-willed sidekick. His act is so convincing that perhaps he believes he is good and that he was dragged into this situation. For Dexter’s loved ones, the same is true: if anyone were to ever apprehend his truth, he would appear just as sick, twisted, and hypocritical as Travis does, sinister even. Gellar insists that Lisa is a whore and a traitor; however, if we treat Gellar like Harry, the professor is just the other part of Travis’ conscience, thus making Gellar’s opinions his own. We hear Dexter’s mental monologue and repeatedly observe similar behavior, but it is not nearly as hateful as this exchange. Dexter sometimes has a God-complex going on, but why does it not freak us out the way Travis’ does?
Perhaps it is the capacity for someone’s duality that frightens us, for his act is so convincing that it forces us to question everyone we know. Who is putting on an act? Who is real? Who is lying? As George A. Reisch maintains:
“Of course we live at the edge of that cliff . . . and we too will take a big fall if someone close to us, or even that guy over in accounting with the ridiculous toupee and stupid jokes, turns out to be an illusion, a walking, talking shell of appearances, who felt nothing inside and wouldn’t think twice about killing you if it didn’t mean he’d probably lose his job and his freedom” (xiii).
Rita, Deb, and Lisa do not have the reason, nor emotional capacity, to wrestle with this question of Dexter or Travis’ morality and true nature day in and day out, and so they ignore signs of his abnormality to preserve their sanity.
“Is it possible that Brother Sam changed me?”
Given that Travis let Holly Benson go, and that he let Jonah Mitchell go, Dexter asks Travis “why,” as if to get a closer look into his own nature through Travis. Travis claims that he “though we were doing the right thing,” which highlights how he was misguided, much like Harry misguided Dexter. Dexter proceeds to help Travis, for he is under the assumption that his Dark Passenger (Gellar) can be killed, whereas his own (both his sociopathic/psychopathic urges and Harry’s ghost cannot), which reveals Dexter’s desire for change in himself. Harry claims that he wanted to rid Dexter of his Dark Passenger rather than provide a “godless doctrine to the young and impressionable,” but Dexter doubts he even tried. Season eight will shed greater light on this idea, and prove just how similar the Morgan clan is. Travis reports wanting to bring about the end of the world, for he just wants to wipe the slate and start clean; however, Dexter will come to find that they are both chained to their Dark Passengers: literally, and figuratively.
Travis’ demonic behavior, under the guise of religious necessity, leads to Lisa’s death. Given that Travis and Dexter are more alike that Dexter cares to admit, I cannot help but see this as foreshadowing the series finale, as well as Dexter’s final conclusion that he destroys everyone he loves. It is not until that moment, on The Slice of Life that he recognizes what he has done to the people he has learned to love. Travis and Dexter blame Gellar and Harry for their actions (“He killed my sister,” Travis insists), for they refuse to take responsibility for their own actions, just as Deb refuses to admit that she poorly chooses life partners.
As a quick aside, Professor Gellar suggested that Lisa could not be saved; for some reason, I got the vibe that Lisa was a lesbian, or had some other “quality” that would make her unfit to be redeemed and go to Heaven, which was a big preoccupation for Travis. Being that Lisa and Deb mirror each other, as further emphasized by Deb’s visit to her home, and the fact that sometimes people question Deb’s sexuality, especially given her choice in wardrobe and boyish attitude (which is more a matter of gender and “tom-boyishness” than anything else), perhaps there is a suggestion of homosexuality in these two women.
My Sister, My Lover, My Sister, My Lover…
And now for what we like to all skirt around: the issue of incest. Once again, a large source of laughs is the suggestion of incest and “bromance,” all references of which are listed in the Comedy section below. Perhaps the repeated exposure to the idea of incest, through laughter, was the writers’ way of getting into our heads and getting us used to the idea that a situation like Dexter and Debra’s was plausible. And these suggestions didn’t just spring up this season. I have compiled a list of dozens of references that are embedded throughout the series referring to this zenith of Deb’s character arc, a list which I will supply shortly.
There has been a resistance to further closeness, as is highlighted by Lisa Marshall’s report of Travis’ tendency to keep her at arm’s-length. Both sibling duos have experienced and shared great trauma and loss, which “makes you tight.” All of the questions Deb asks Lisa before her murder could just as easily be asked of her and could be answered in nearly the exact same way, and the two are “doomed to hell on earth,” according to Gellar, for they love men who do very bad things. We see that the brothers’ desire to protect their sisters only serves to hurt them, and Lisa even ends up dead.
Debra is sure to reinforce the idea that Dexter is not blood-related, but the man who she was engaged to for a hot second sure was (in more ways than one). This idea is not exactly spelled out, but it seems as though Deb was drawn to him because he was exactly like Dexter; the two even share DNA. The therapist also serves to finally highlight Debra’s daddy issues, thus justifying my attention to it all along.
Much like Dexter, Debra has accepted the fact that she is “broken,” and just as Brother Sam suggested to Dexter, Deb does not have to remain that way. There is always room for change.
I’m not sure what to make of my first point, but in attempting to connect this idea with my aside on artistry in the 606/607 treatment, I first wish to point out Dexter’s inclination to connect Travis/Gellar’s use of blood to his brother’s.
“Another page from my brother Brian’s playbook.”
Although Travis is not trying to directly communicate with Dexter exclusively through these tableaus like Brian was, perhaps there is a sort of divine revelation in the similarity between these two killers. The fact that Brian showed up for “Nebraska” is by no coincidence. Perhaps this is the Higher Power’s way of illuminating how Dexter could have just as easily gone down an “evil” (or more evil) path than he did.
A new artist emerges! Louis Greene’s apartment is like a hybrid of Dexter’s cool and detached apartment (much like Travis’) and Lila Tournay’s, which was filled of disturbing and quirky works of art. We know that he is a video game designer, which is yet another form of artistry, and so we should be wary of this man. Oh, and it seems like he might also have it out for Dexter.
Speaking of artistry, I have reason to believe, mainly from the parallels between the Morgans and the Marshalls, that the show’s writers knew how they wanted to end the series. The light bulb went off when Michelle Ross asks Deb: “So you think he [Dexter] might kill you?”. I would reiterate each detail, but all is discussed above. Pick and choose as you please to make your own case for this.
Dexter: A Comedy
Deb: “I need everyone’s asses on the fucking ball.”
Masuka: “I’m going to keep rearranging that sentence to make it hotter.”
Dexter: “And that’s still my sister.”
Deb: “I’ll fuck Masuka if this [Travis Marshall] isn’t our guy.”
Quinn: “I’m gonna marry her. I’m going to marry green thong.”
Deb: “You don’t have to apologize.”
Dexter: “I don’t?”
Deb: “Nope, I get it. You’re a chair.”
Dexter: “I’m a what?”
[Deb walks away. Dexter walks into briefing room.]
Batista: “You look confused.”
Dexter: “Your sister ever say anything that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever?”
Batista: “All the time.”
Dexter: “She ever call you a chair?”
Batista: “I don’t think so.”
Quinn’s affair with the waffle house waitress and their sexy pictures.
Dexter: “Professor Casey, I believe you’re in danger.”
Professor Casey: “What variety of lunatic might you be?”
Masuka: “Louis Greene is the man.”
Deb: “Easy with the bromance. You’re gonna pitch a tent.”
And, lastly, our serial killer keeps a blog. Uh-oh . . .
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.
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.