Doubling, Ghosts from the Past, and Bookends in 702: “Sunshine and Frosty Swirl” & 703: “Buck the System”

Ray Speltzer

Debra learns to come to terms with Dexter’s Dark Passenger after she realizes that had she let Dexter do what he does, Ray Speltzer would not have succeeded in killing his latest victim. Maria LaGuerta continues to search for answers about the real identity of the Bay Harbor Butcher after the blood slide found at the site of Travis Marshall’s death is confirmed to be his. The Louis Greene “fire” has officially been put out, but Isaak Sirko has become Dexter’s most formidable victim for season seven, other than himself.

Family Ties and Rehab

Debra: “I am not okay. I am never gonna fucking be okay.”

Once Dexter reveals that Harry taught him how to channel his urges, Debra is clued into just how “out of the loop” she has always been. She knew her father was always more concerned with her adopted older brother, but she never knew that being left out of father-son hunting and fishing trips wasn’t the only thing from which she was excluded. This series is heavily centered on white American masculinity, which explains why we never meet Harry Morgan’s wife as well as her exclusion from the chain of events leading to the Dexter and Debra we have today. So, naturally, Debra is left out of the action, too. Though the valid reasons for Debra’s exclusion should make her feel better, Dexter’s confession makes her feel worse because it is not only her perception of her brother at risk, but the image of her father is virtually destroyed.

GIF You like to kill

Debra: “There have to be families out there who are more fucked up than us, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to meet them.”

Seeing as Debra has seriously evident issues with her father and others’ approval, this revelation delivers a more serious blow. Debra’s image of her father has been slowly crumbling during the course of the series, especially with the revelation of her father’s affairs with numerous Confidential Informants, but this particular enlightenment shatters the foundation on which she built her life and career. Dexter was sooner to recognize their father’s faults than Debra, and has been defying Harry ever since (most notably in season three when he takes on Miguel Prado as a disciple); however, Dexter readily comes to Harry’s defense when Debra condemns Harry’s surprising behavior (for a cop) in dealing with Dexter’s Dark Passenger. Why the sudden change? Michael C. Hall suggests that by implicating Harry, Debra’s response will “soften.” But, when Deb correctly suggests that if Harry could teach Dexter to “channel” his urges, he could have just as easily taught Dexter to control them (an argument that Lisa Firestone makes in her essay “Rethinking Dexter”), Dexter’s foundation becomes questionable as well. Harry intervenes just after Deb imposes her form of serial killer rehab onto her brother to say to Dexter that if surveillance would have worked, he would have tried;  however, we must remember that the Harry we see is an internalization of Harry. Season eight sheds further light on Harry’s decisions regarding Dexter’s behavior with the entrance of Dr. Evelyn Vogel, but for now, Dexter most likely believes that Harry was acting in his best interest (though sometimes misguided or naive). Dexter cannot even fathom that Harry dealt with Dexter’s “affliction” improperly, for this thought also threatens the foundations on which he has built and lived his life. Although Debra is trying to correct him now, Dexter is right in asserting that it is too late to change. According to Lisa Firestone, rigorous treatment in childhood could have saved Dexter from his Dark Passenger, and thus Deb’s efforts now are in vain.

Dexter explains each of the slides in his box as being people who were guilty, and most notably, he mentions three kills in season three, which were all turning points in how he came to know himself: Mike Donovan, the choir director; Jorge and Valerie Castillo, the human traffickers; and Dr. Emmett Meridian, the corrupt psychiatrist. In recalling season one, we are forced to question Dexter’s origins and the true nature of his predisposition to kill. Thus, his instinctual attempts at self-preservation not only attempt to preserve himself, but manipulate his sister into keeping him safe, but at the cost of her own sense of morality, both personal and professional.

Labyrinths: Ray Speltzer and Dexter’s Animalistic Side

Dexter’s actions and reactions are always calculated; as Jennifer Carpenter notes, he’s like a “computer with skin” at times because he is forever trying to manipulate his environment in such a way so as to protect himself and the ones he loves. However, when Debra tries to protect him from himself and the state of Florida, becoming like his “Siamese twin,” Dexter becomes like a self-described “caged animal,” who starts to feel the building pressure of “red” behind his eyes, which we see played out in his fantasies of slashing the throat of the post office clerk and stabbing Masuka in the throat, Redeye-style, with a pen, and later in real life when a suspect refuses a DNA swab. Scott Buck suggests that since Deb has learned Dexter’s truth, we must analyze Dexter even more closely, for we must determine if he is truly “earnest or [just] playing earnest.” Michael C. Hall similarly suggests that we, as audience members,  must reexamine our relationship to Dexter with Debra, for he is caught in a maze of self-preservation and mind games to protect himself (a metaphor which Matt Gerold, who plays Ray Speltzer, sees as being expounded in Speltzer’s literal maze in which he kills his victims), as well as attempt to preserve Debra’s sanity after the revelation of his secret.

Vetting Gym

Although it is safe to say that at this point in the series, we are comfortable with identifying with and rooting for Dexter, the way in which Dexter acts when Deb has caught him in the act at the church and following her rehabilitation plan is downright startling. As Tom Harris, one of our blog’s dedicated readers, deftly pointed out, Dexter becomes visibly reptilian in the church as he and his sister figure out how to cover up his “impulse” kill. His act, though convincing to the perplexed Debra, is see-through and we are reminded of just how sinister Dexter is. His lizard-like response and actions remind us that he is fundamentally an animal, as all humans are;  however, his bestial side is far more lethal than any of ours.

Deb doesn’t hesitate to illuminate to Dexter that he is no different from Ray Speltzer; however, he will hear nothing of it. Though it may not be so obvious to dedicated supporters of Dexter that he is essentially the same as Ray Speltzer, fundamentally they are killers with rituals, who stalk and hunt their victims. Although Dexter has imposed a hierarchy upon serial killers in his dedication to killing other killers, Deb reminds us that it makes him no purer than or morally superior to any other bloodthirsty psychopath out there (and Dexter proves it by shooting some M-99 into his sister’s steak to buy him enough time to take out Louis Greene). Her dedication to correcting her brother is selfless in that she is willing, despite her aversion to his deeds, to support him in a desperate time of need. Although she’s always known that her brother was a “little weird” (212), she told him in the season two finale that she could “live with that,” but asked Dexter, “Can you?” (212). Clearly Debra is learning to live with her brother’s truth, as promised, but can Dexter continue to live, knowing how much evil he has done to his loved ones?

Victim

Dexter’s manipulation of  his sister is troubling because in one respect, he is simply trying to preserve himself, but on the other hand, he is knowingly using Deb’s emotions against her to get her way. Just after Deb discovers his kill tools, Dexter asks: “What are you gonna do?” in a rather taunting tone, to which Debra responds by back-handing him. His cocky guise drops, however, when he calls up Deb before killing Louis Greene. We should be reminded of season two when Lila Tournay accompanies Dexter to Naples to confront Santos Jiminez. Rather than killing him, he calls up Lila to talk him down. In that instance, it seemed genuine; however, here, it seems as though Dexter wishes to manipulate his sister into believing that he will be completely honest with her, which he, in turn, proves by luring her to a bar to stalk Ray Speltzer. Though Dexter is blaming his “lizard brain” for his behavior, it seems as though he is trying to get Debra to understand why he is the way he is, and why his work can be considered “just,” if not moral. Though Deb comes to “understand” his work, especially after she sees how Dexter’s work could have prevented the death of his last victim, it is evident that she will not be entirely okay with covering for  her brother. It is the failure of the police department that let Ray Speltzer free to roam and to kill again, but this failure runs even deeper. It is Debra’s own ignorance and blinding love for others that allowed her to miss the fact that  her own brother was the Bay Harbor Butcher. Even though one in twenty-five people are sociopathic, Debra has to learn to become even more suspicious of people and their motives, given the fact that she’s been engaged to one and has known one nearly her entire life without knowing it.

Speltzer

I believe the season six finale plants the seed within Debra that leads her to believe that no matter what she does, she will never be able to make a difference. She’ll never have her father’s approval; she might never find true love or be happy; she’ll never deeply understand or be as close to her brother as she wishes to; and some of the bad guys will always slip between her fingers. Though she wants to protect her brother, she tells them that she’ll take them both down if she has to. For those who have seen the entire series, we all know where this gets them.

Wayne Randall and Hannah McKay

Dexter: “I’m never gonna be normal.”
Debra: “Yeah, none of us really are.”

WR

Wayne Randall mistakes Dexter and Debra for lovers; when compiled with Dexter’s showering together joke, we are reminded of the things that happened last season that are being neglected thus far. Just as Dexter is preserving himself and his methods by trying to make Deb understand him and his ways, perhaps Deb is preserving her own sanity and trying to deal with Dexter’s truth in the face of her love for  him by focusing on him and the job at hand, as she always has done. Perhaps in sticking to their own rituals, they are able to endure. When Randall relates Dexter and Debra’s own strife to his own relationship with Hannah McKay, a parallel is drawn between both the convicted murderer and Hannah, as well as Dexter and every other woman who has come into his life.

Hannah

Like every other serial killer Dexter has come into contact with, he is itching to pick at Wayne Randall’s head. Just before he takes his own life, Wayne Randall claims that he wanted to “clear [his] conscience,”  which was “always there, [but] it was just buried under a lot of Wayne Randall.” Furthermore, he asserts that accepting his situation helped him to shirk his anger and move on with his life. Dexter has struggled with himself and his actions since the start of the series, but particularly after Rita’s death. In a way, justifying himself to Debra will begin to help him understand and accept himself more fully, which eventually leads to season eight and Dexter’s emotional progression to no longer needing to kill. Though Dexter believes that Randall did not actually “change,” as he claimed, he still wonders if there is time for him to do so.

“I was never as alive as I was when I was with [Hannah]. Everyday was like Christmas Day … unwrapped present.”

Randall also wished to tell Hannah how he felt about her; though she once though he was “something special,” now “she sees me as just a killer.” Dexter similarly has fallen in Debra’s eyes, for Deb is not so unconditionally approving of Dexter as she once was. This particular observation continues to provide us with links back to Dexter’s origins in that Christmas-themed observations and “unwrapped presents” serve to remind us of the way in which Brian Moser delivered a severed body to Dexter in Santa’s Land, and later Dexter will move to take out Hannah McKay at Santa’s Holiday Adventure. These cool places not only recall Brian Moser’s preferred working temperature, but they are metaphors for the cold, hollow shells of serial killers, Brian and Dexter included. (It is interesting to note that to get closer to Dexter, Brian slept with his sister, whereas to get closer to the mind of a killer, Dexter inadvertently ends up doing the same with Hannah McKay.)

Hannah essentially went along with Wayne Randall for the ride; she and Rita share the experience of loving a serial killer, which Hannah also shares with Deb, though, Lumen Pierce, like Hannah, gets in on the action of their serial killing beloved. At first glance, Hannah is not as dangerous as Lila West, but she will prove to be. Of course, the main thing Hannah has in common with all of Dexter’s women is her blonde hair and similarity to his mother, further feeding his subconscious desire to reclaim and protect his mother from serial killers and those who threaten to harm her.

Laura

Randall’s love for Hannah also parallels (spoiler alert) Isaak Sirko’s love for Viktor and Dexter’s love for Rita and Lumen. Though they are dangerous and morally ambiguous men, (end spoiler) these three understand what it means to be profoundly in love with someone, and they seemingly will never – have never – gotten over their lost loved ones. To remind you of a train of thought regarding Dexter’s alter ego as the Dark Defender, Dexter and these three men are superheroes of sorts, who are simply not allowed loved ones. Perhaps in meeting Hannah, Dexter feels as though he is visiting Rita from beyond the grave. Something captures him emotionally, however, for he drops the swab with which he was going to take her DNA. Whether it is a reminder of Laura Moser, or a sudden flash to Rita, Dexter is emotionally perturbed by this meeting, for he tells Hannah to remain on a professional basis by calling him “Mr. Morgan.”

Louis Greene: A Plot Device down the Fox Hole

Many people have had serious issues with Louis Greene and the way in which Dexter writers dealt with his character. It is amazing to me how Dexter failed to find the Ice Truck Killer’s hand in his apartment until season seven. I understand that the end of season six and beginning of season seven take place within about four days, but how is it that Deb managed to find the hand in Dexter’s own apartment before he did?

Isaak Louis

Louis was really angry about his video game that Dexter “shat” all over, but I’m sure there was a deeper motivation behind why he had it in for Dexter, which simply was not revealed due to time constraints. Other than providing yet another image of a psychotic blogger (Professor Gellar and Travis Marshall are the other two), Louis Greene served a more clever purpose. His feud with Dexter was a convenient way for Isaak Sirko to get on Dexter’s trail, and even more conveniently, Sirko unintentionally took care of Greene for him. This plot strand’s ending ensures that Jamie and Harrison will be relegated once again to the sidelines of season seven, for if Louis lived to see another day, there is a good chance that Harrison would be in danger.

Isaak

Though Louis could have proved to be yet another great match for Dexter, the writers would have had too many balls up in the air to juggle between Maria’s suspicion about the true identity of the Bay Harbor Butcher, Debra’s love for her brother, the revelation of Dexter’s secret,  and Ray Speltzer.

Loose Ends and Other Observations

Maria LaGuerta discovers that the blood slide contains Travis Marshall’s blood, which furthers her purpose in getting to the truth about the real Bay Harbor Butcher; meanwhile, we are reminded of Yuki Amado’s incessant pleas to have Deb cooperate to get to the bottom of who Quinn truly is. It becomes clear that his willingness to work with Nadia, so as to protect her, and possibly compromise Miami Metro’s investigation, makes him a “dirty cop.” However, in this show, morality and goodness is always relative.

Nadia

A lot of season seven’s plot material is wrapping right back around to season two, from Lila Tournay and Santos Jiminez and Estrada to Maria LaGuerta’s devotion to getting to the truth about the Bay Harbor Butcher investigation and Sergeant Doakes’ innocence. Although Hannah is not as purely evil as Lila Tournay/West, she is his season-seven stand-in for Lila as well as Laura Moser.

The mausoleum that Ray Speltzer uses to store his trophies in has a bull head mounted on top of it. Though the name on the tomb is Laurel and not Speltzer, it seems as though there is some deeper connection for Speltzer. Also, I didn’t realize until watching this again that the shape etched in the stone that surrounds one of the earrings is a maze.

Speltzer Shrine

Dexter: A Comedy

Vince Masuka: “We’re cool, right?”
Dexter: “Yeah. No one needs to know.
Vince Masuka: “Oh, thank God. I was ready to blow you.”
Dexter: “Not necessary.”

Debra: “[I]f we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do it all the way. We’re gonna eat together; we’re gonna watch TV together; we’re gonna drive to work together.”
Dexter: “Hope you got a big shower.”

Dexter: “She’s my sister and also my boss.”
Wayne Randall: “Congratulations, you just redefined hell.”

Debra: “Christ on a fucking cracker, Dexter!”

Isaak Sirko: [to Dexter] “So, you’re not interested in alcohol or looking at naked women? You may be in the wrong place.”

Louis Greene: “Kiss my ass, you ginger freak.”

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: 8
Entertainment: 8
Xtremity:  8
DEX-Factor: 8

Works Cited/Referenced

“Becoming Ray Speltzer.” Perf. Matt Gerold. Dexter: The Complete Series. Dir. James Manos, Jr. Showtime, 2013. Blu-ray disc.

“701: Dissecting the Scene.” Perf. Jennifer Carpenter. Dexter: The Complete Series. Dir. James Manos, Jr. Showtime, 2013. Blu-ray disc.

“702: Confession.” Screenplay by Scott Buck. Perf. Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter. Dexter: The Complete Series. Dir. James Manos, Jr. Showtime, 2013. Blu-ray disc.

Firestone, Lisa. “Rethinking Dexter.” The Psychology of Dexter. Ed. Bella DePaulo. Dallas: Smart Pop, 2010. 17-32. Print.

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