Manipulation, Closets, and Revelations in 701: “Are You…?”

GIF You like to kill

Dexter attempts to cover up the truth of what he is to Debra while also convincing her to help him stage Travis Marshall’s final tableau: a suicide in a burning church. Detective Mike Anderson is shot and killed, opening up this season’s big case for Miami Metro. We are reminded that Deb was about to tell Dexter that she is in love with him when she happened upon his secret. The only thing left for Deb to ask is: “Are you a serial killer?”


“You snapped? What the fuck does that mean?”

Given Debra’s deft insights throughout the series, some that could have even led straight to Dexter, it is no surprise that she is more than apt to put the pieces together that he has always counted on to be overlooked. It appears as an insult to her intelligence when Dexter claims that he “snapped” and killed Travis. Just as we’ve seen before, Dexter uses the people he loves as pawns in the stage production of his life: he claims that ever since Rita’s death, he’s had pent-up anger that he needed to let out. However, we get a glimpse of the young Dexter, who thought Deb deserved the truth. Had Harry not told Deb that Dexter’s allergic to dogs, he would have let Deb onto his secret. Harry sharply tells Dexter that Debra “loves who she thinks you are,” and that she’d never get over it if she ever found out the truth: of what he is, not who he is.

“No, it’s all my fault.”

Producing excuse after excuse not only looks rehearsed and fake, but it reveals that he either does not respect his sister enough to tell her the truth, or that he loves her too much to do so. Although Harry specifically instructed Dexter not to tell Deb, it becomes clear that charades will only get him so far. It also reveals the horrifying truth of ourselves and our own rehearsed excuses, forcing us to question just exactly who we surround ourselves with and who they really are. We once again arrive back to the question of Harry’s decision to make Dexter’s habits “second nature.” What casts the most doubt on Harry’s decision is the fact that Dexter has a moral conscience, declaring that he would not have killed Debra’s dog, both because he loves her and because he knows his parents would disapprove (something we learned very early on in season one about him), and Harry claims: “I couldn’t take that chance.” Perhaps had he taken that chance, Dexter would have grown up to be a very different person.

“It was self-defense.”

Even Debra, blindly in love with Dexter and convinced with his moral character, senses the abnormality of Dexter’s, calm attitude toward Travis’ death and plotting to cover it all up. But her suspicions of Dexter’s true character do not hinder her from being as loyal as a puppy to her big brother; she even gets the gas they use to blow up the church. There was even the potential to seriously harm Deb’s ego when Dexter claims: “I work crime scenes every day,” only to follow it up with the fact that he knows what forensic analysts look for when at a crime scene. It is Deb’s animal instinct that leads her to search Dexter’s apartment and come up with all the evidence she needs to incriminate him.

“Fuck, Dex, I don’t know if this is the right thing to do.”

Guilt and Suspicions: Identity in Dexter


“I know what I’m doing.”

Deb aims her gun at Dexter when she first witnesses him  killing Travis Marshall, suggesting that she knows, deep down, he is not the person she thought he is. As she once pondered about Rudy Cooper, the Ice-Truck Killer and her ex-fiancee, how blind can one be to not see a loved one for who they really are? We know Rita bought into Dexter’s charade until the day she was murdered because of it, and it is likely that Deb would have bought into it, too, for the rest of her life, had she not seen Dexter in action.

“I didn’t even think about it. I’m a forensics expert. I guess it’s just second-nature not to leave a trace.”

We know Deb was hell-bent on getting Dexter to vent, and when Deb says that he should have called her rather than kill Travis on a whim, we should remember Lila Tournay from season two, who had Dexter call him when he was just about to kill Santos Jiminez, one of the men responsible for his biological mother’s, Laura Moser’s, death.

“You’re the hero this time.”

Not only do we suspect that Deb’s conscience is bothering her, but we see the physical evidence of it. The last time she ran her ass off on the treadmill was to combat the PTSD resulting from being abducted by her serial-killing fiancee, but also from being on Dexter’s table. When she flashes back to herself on the table, we cannot help but think of two things: the fact that she was engaged to Dexter’s biological brother, and that Michelle Ross asked if Debra felt that Dexter might kill her. The image of Deb on Dexter’s table also takes on a sexual element, too. In revisiting the Ice-Truck Killer case files, she notices that the table is exactly like his brother’s. Perhaps Deb believes, prior to her major discovery (well, second), that Dexter took on a special fascination with his brother, which he did, but for different reasons.

Killer and hero

“Who are you?”
“Good question. It all depends on who you ask.”

It is Deb’s severe questioning of Dexter’s habits and character that finally causes her to question, indirectly, where exactly does Dexter go during the day? She now knows that Dexter is gone all hours of the night, claiming to work late when he actually does not, and she cannot only help but think the worst and confirm her suspicions.

“We can fix this.”

The Fox Hole: Closets in Dexter

“This looks pretty fucking weird.”

The way in which Dexter handles his big revelation to Debra is nothing short of manipulative. She guilts Debra into doing what is in his best interest by suggesting that if this were to ever get out, he would have to spend time in a psychiatric institute as well as possibly lose Harrison. Because of her overwhelming love for her brother, she listens and obeys.

She now has been acquainted with Dexter’s world, where he must cover  his tracks and revisit his own crime scenes. It is only after the incident in the church that she realizes just how good he is at lying and how he seems to feel no guilt about it. Just when we think she might not be able to keep up face, we witness her lying rather well to the press at the burning church crime scene. We know just how good of a liar LaGuerta is, as well as our own politicians, and for once, Debra fits this malicious mold. And it even makes us feel good for her, but why? We’ve come to defend a serial killer, and now we must choose a side: our beloved, morally-upright Debra? Or our beloved serial-killing vigilante, Dexter?

Ying Yang

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s ground-breaking queer theory text suggests that homosexuals who came out to their loved ones imposed their own “closet” on their confidant. Debra must now hang onto Dexter’s secret and do everything in her power to cover for him. It’s just as bad as if she was a serial killer herself.

“An investigation could complicate our lives more than either of us are prepared to deal with.”

An Escape

“A moment of temporary insanity.”

Dexter finally admits that he’s “losing control” over his entire life, and we learn that Dexter does have a contingency plan: a duffel bag full of cash, Euros, and passports. He suggests that if Debra gets too close to the truth that he’ll make a run for it, just as he runs from his emotions. What makes little sense is that although he’s worried about Harrison, there are no passports ready for Harrison (or at least we can assume so). We did see two passports in his bag, but who knows if they were both for him or if one was for his only son.

“It’ll all be okay.”

Even the “best fucking lawyer in the city” couldn’t help Dexter. We’re buying into idea he’s the best serial killer out there, in ability and in moral superiority.

Psych ward/losing Harrison

Other Obstacles

Dexter is always so careful; even side-stepping Debra’s questions and quelling her suspicions with smooth answers proved Dexter to operate rather well under pressure. But fulfilling his one and only task that matters – successfully extracting a sample of Travis Marshall’s blood and saving the slide – impossible. It is because of Dexter’s carelessness, and the strange fact that a church fire didn’t melt the glass, that LaGuerta finds the slide (and her doing police work? What is that all about?) and asks for it to be pushed through evidence. It is not until that Masuka highlights to Maria that the “Bay Harbor Butcher” was the only one to have ever taken slides at Miami Metro that she discovers that her initial suspicions in season two, her gut instinct about James Doakes’ innocence, were very likely true. The series writers do a rather neat job of mirroring and book-ending the seasons, and seasons six and seven have successfully tied the first two into the plot to remind us of Dexter’s origins and how he has changed. It will be interesting to see how LaGuerta navigates this one.

It’s strange that we did not see a reaction to the prosthetic hand that became such an important object to Masuka and Louis Greene last season. We know that Travis intercepted the package when he entered Dexter’s apartment, but we never saw how he reacted. Why not? Sloppy writing? Another piece of the puzzle that Dexter won’t be able to answer, honestly, to Debra when everything is laying out before us? (We only know Dexter got the package because it’s out on the coffee table.) Perhaps the writers meant for the prosthetic to be a part of Maria LaGuerta’s investigation that would lead her to question Dexter’s relation to the evidence room and his nasty habit of tampering with, withholding, and obstructing evidence and results?

Louis Greene appears to have cancelled all of Dexter’s credit card accounts, but for what we are not certain. We know Dexter gets territorial with Louis around, acting like a “pompous jerk,” but it’s not clear why. Perhaps he senses Louis’ Dark Passenger, and perhaps the writers toyed with the idea of him becoming the next big thing before throwing him out all together.

Dexter: A Comedy

Quinn: “Your name please.”
Dancer at the Fox Hole: “Foxy Raven.”
Quinn: “Is that the name your mother gave you?”

Dexter playing in the wheelchair he used to transport Victor to the unclaimed baggage room as he awaits his victim’s awakening.


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:  10
DEX-Factor: 9.33

Work Cited

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Epistemology of the Closet. Los Angeles: U of California P, 1990. Print.


3 thoughts on “Manipulation, Closets, and Revelations in 701: “Are You…?”

  1. I think you know where I stand on why Dexter didn’t want to tell Deb and I think that’s borne out by the flashback they chose to show – Dexter thinks if Debra knows “what” he is, she won’t love him anymore and we came to learn that Dexter is as dependent upon Deb for emotional support (as well as ‘cover’) as much as his sister is on him. I don’t know what qualifies as ‘co-dependent’ in the clinical sense of the term but they have to be close to it. As the show evolved over the years, I became convinced that Harry (and Vogel) were more responsible for Dexter’s path than were his traumatic experience and whatever genetic tendencies he might have had. Maybe he could have overcome those just like Deb said (“if you can learn to control it, why can’t you learn to stop it? Dad f—ked up”) if Harry had decided to get the boy some real help instead of deciding that he was a monster that had to be trained to take out his murderous urges on people who ‘deserved it’. Of course, it’s the tragedy of those roads not taken that made “Dexter” such a compelling show to people like us.

    The end of season 6 is when I actually stopped watching the show the first time around because I felt like Deb would give up everything to protect her brother and that she would end up dead, probably with Dexter killing her (not that he intended to kill her, but because the people closest to Dexter end up dead because of his choices). I didn’t know if I wanted to see that play out and had to go through the process of deciding whether or not it was going to be worth the heartache. My instincts were correct on this one but it was consistent with Deb’s character (“you will always choose Dexter”) and let’s face it, she would have given her life to protect Dexter. Her unconditional devotion to her tormented brother made her a character that was not going to survive.

    The moments I loved in this episode were 1.) that moment in the church where Deb pulls out her phone to call the team and for an instant you see the reptile in her brother’s face and are afraid that he will kill her then and there; then it passes and he becomes Dexter again. Great acting by Michael C. Hall. And 2.) the scene where Dexter dashes out of the station and Deb goes to his computer and his screensaver is the photo of he and Deb with Harrison – her family. She just stares at it – it’s the past she cherishes and the future she had anticipated when she went to the church that night. And the flashback too…that was really illuminating as to Dexter’s motivations.


    1. I agree that Dexter and Debra are incredibly co-dependent. I think the beginning of season 7 is misleading in that Debra might need Dexter more in order to foil season 8’s revelation of how Dexter simply cannot live without his sister. I was incredibly creeped out by Dexter’s reptilian performance in the church, which I also believe further illuminates the difference between them: their sense of morality. I am still fascinated in the way that Debra abandons her morals to help protect her brother, though I am not one bit surprised by it.

      It’s incredible how much foresight Harry had in seeing Debra’s strength. Her daddy complex, in this light, is ironic but understandable in that he detected how strong his daughter was and instinctively told Dexter to rely on her, for he recognized how valuable of a presence she was in his life, but at the same time, this allowed him to pay less attention to Debra, hence the way she is today, constantly seeking approval.

      Thank you, Tom, for your comments. I am so thankful for your support!


      1. I have asked myself what I would do if I discovered that my daughters or my wife or my sister or brother was murdering bad people. And I concluded, to my surprise, that I would do what Debra did – I would protect them. I would try to stop them, but I wouldn’t turn them in. To do that would condemn them to death. And that’s Deb’s choice – if she does the “right” thing and turns Dexter in, her brother will be executed. Dexter is the most important person in the world to her – literally, as she has said, the Only important person. Given that context, I think Debra had no other real choice (since she had given up on being able to stop him), other than to protect her brother.
        I loved how this show stimulated my mind in such unusual directions. I consider myself to be a very traditionally moral person and never would have dreamed that I would find a serial killer to be a sympathetic character or that I would find myself asking the kind of questions I just asked. I’ve learned a lot from reading your blog and I appreciate the time and thought you put into it..
        Your observation that “Season 8’s revelation of how Dexter simply cannot live without his sister” is exactly why I was so aggravated at the writing of the latter part of S8. They spent the first half of the season making this complicated and fascinating central relationship of the show even more interesting, and then Hannah (who might as well have been named Plot Device) reappears and Dexter seems to almost then forget about his sister until the last couple of episodes.


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