Obfuscation, Self-Revelation, and the Phoenix in 704: “Run” & 705: “Swim Deep”


Ray Speltzer is arrested and nearly sent to jail for the rest of his life until he is set free to roam the streets once again. Dexter takes him out in attempts to lay to rest his animalistic side, which results in Dexter and Debra’s semi-reconciliation. Meanwhile, Isaak Sirko clues Dexter into the fact that he killed Louis Greene and has made it known that he will kill everyone in Miami Metro in order to avenge Viktor Baskov’s death. Maria LaGuerta lets Deb into her mission to reopen the Bay Harbor Butcher case, but little does she know Deb is only in it to protect her brother.

“Just out of Reach:” Family Matters

 “Deb was always safest at shore.”

After the passing of Deb’s desire to subdue Dexter’s Dark Passenger, she has come to understand why he kills;  however, she realizes that it’s slightly easier to function as the lieutenant of Miami Metro if she’s not so well-acquainted with Dexter’s every move to satiate his desires. For so long, Dexter did everything in his power to ensure that his sister never discovered his secret by keeping her at arm’s length, but now he seems to be doing everything in his power to bring her closer than ever before and to make her understand who he is. It is certainly strange to see the Morgans switching emotional roles in this season, Deb always constant in her affection toward her brother and Dexter always pushing her away. Under the surface, Dexter has always had issues with being accepted and approved, whereas Debra’s own issues have been so overt and obvious, especially in regards to Harry, yet now Dexter is so overtly focused on getting Deb to understand him so that she can accept him.

Deb’s initial demand for Dexter to change was initially resisted, but it becomes clear that Dexter is contemplating changing the ritual and “putting to bed” his more animalistic side with Speltzer. Just as Harrison was once attached to “lamby,” Dexter once would do anything to protect his trophies and keep them safe; however, as Jamie highlights, the two have learned to be “part of a [larger] group,” making their toys or trophies mere crutches. Dexter grows for Deb to meet her demands as a sister. In fact, she is his crutch, despite the fact that he has believed for so long that he was her rock. Incinerating his trophies, Dexter believes, would guarantee that Deb would see that he was making a conscious effort to change. As opposed to going “cold turkey,” as Deb attempted to force on Dexter in 702, this slow detox is safer and more practical. Debra is like the AA sponsor that Dexter never had. She is his guardian angel, whether he likes it or not, as she proves in finding a photo from the photographer he killed, although she does illuminate that had Dexter shown up just three minutes later to Speltzer’s killing maze, she would have died.

Wedding Photo

Although it seemed as though Speltzer’s murder inclined Deb to side with Dexter, it becomes evident that she is not as okay with lying to Batista and covering up murders for him as he is. When Batista approaches her about the bartender suicide being a set-up, she shuts him down in favor of protecting her brother, but ultimately, in favor of protecting herself and her career. Debra complained to her therapist, Michelle Ross, last season about Dexter’s unwillingness to share his personal life, and now that he is finally willing to open up to her, she feels even further from connection than before, and she’s beginning to realize that life was simpler and better that way. One hundred percent honesty is clearly too much for Debra to handle.

“There Are Many Ways to Break a Body down:” Freudian Themes

 “Long-term exposure [is] going to eat away at [Debra] like salt water on steel.”

We rarely get dream sequences, but this season seems to be chock-full of them, from Dexter envisioning murdering both the postal clerk and Masuka in 702 and now with Deb dreaming that she is in a blood-filled bathtub, just as Rita once was, with her brother proposing to her. Not only does Deb’s dream remind us of Rita’s death, but Deb looks like Rita’s darker counter part (both in appearance and in filming, as well as in psyche — Rita was always so lighthearted).

Deb discovered Dexter’s dark origins last season, which may be meshing in this season with Rita and Harrison’s misfortune in season four. If you listen closely enough, you can hear a baby cooing in the distance, although there is no baby present. This nice little dream combines Debra’s fears of being endangered by her brother, as well as her doubt regarding the past.

Deb Tub Rita Tub

When Debra pointedly asks Dexter if he ever loved Rita, he becomes incredibly defensive because this is, and has always been, a hot-button topic with Dexter. He was never sure about whether he could truly feel, but his reaction immediately following Rita’s death conveyed to the audience that he did love her. Though, because Deb is just learning about Dexter’s Dark Passenger, we are forced to question once again whether or not this is true. In looking at the series in its entirety, I believe that Dexter did, and always will, love Rita, but Deb is not so sure of it. She readily blames his selfishness for causing Rita’s death, and she asserts that someone needs to protect Harrison from Dexter.

Deb’s main argument about sending Harrison to live with Astor and Cody in Orlando is meant as a wake-up call to Dexter. Deb claims that it’s not “fair to expose Harrison to [his] life,” but of course, it’s not fair of Harry to have exposed him to killing and all of the tricks and trades of getting away with murder, but that didn’t stop Harry. Perhaps, like Harry, Dexter believes it is his duty to father Harrison because nobody will understand him and his urges better than he. If Harrison were sent to live with Rita’s parents, Harrison would be placed in the same exact situation as Dexter, minus the serial killer adviser. Maybe, deep down, Dexter believes that he will be able to curb those urges in  Harrison, if they ever arise.

The other main point Deb makes is that Dexter has to choose between family and his desires, for she sees exactly where Dexter’s selfishness landed Rita. Deb’s dream (spoiler alert) foreshadows her own death(end spoiler alert), which is what scares her so much about Dexter. We have not seen Dexter as cocky as he was in season four until now, I believe, especially in the way he treated Debra when she first discovered his truth (and slapped him for taunting her). This also seeps out when Dexter attempts to reassure Deb that he is entirely safe and that there is no way he could get caught for his previous murders. Of course, when Deb uncovers a photograph from one of the investigations Maria LaGuerta accompanies her on, it becomes clear that Dexter is not as “neat” of a monster as he originally imagined. Furthermore, Deb asks Dexter what would have happened had he shown up to Ray Speltzer’s just three minutes later. We know that Deb would have died, had he not shown up in time. Most poignantly, however, is Dexter’s aversion of Deb’s question of where he was when Rita was killed. The narrow space between Miami Metro and the next building has been used at least twice in the past three episodes, which, despite the virtually limitless space around them, seems terribly claustrophobic, as the interrogation room would.

The fact that Dexter dissects bodies has begun to corrode and eat at Debra, and it will only get worse. However, Deb does some dissecting of her own when she gets Ray Speltzer into the interrogation room and plays on his hang-ups about his mother to elicit the truth. The season six finale is the catalyst for several instances of dissolving: Dexter’s animalistic tendencies have begun to drop away; Debra’s resolve, sanity, and perception on the world is slowly corroding and overflowing; and the Bay Harbor Butcher case is falling apart and opening wide open again for LaGuerta to stick her nose into.

Fight or Flight: Battling Ray Speltzer

“That’s a part of everyone’s lizard brain.”

As Ray Speltzer lies on Dexter’s makeshift kill table, Dexter admits that he was supposed to be the way in which Debra was led back to him; however, despite Dexter’s resistance to her pleas for change, he seemingly gives in by burning his box of blood slides along with Ray Speltzer’s body because he “can’t risk anyone finding a blood slide ever again,” even though it is already too late. Matt Gerold (Ray Speltzer) views Speltzer as Dexter’s animal side, and when he kills of Speltzer, he is also putting to rest the indulgence of the ritual. Though Gerold posits that this kill is an exorcism of Dexter’s demons, there are still quite a few demons and problems roaming around Miami for that statement to hold up.

Their relationship, as Dexter alludes, is like a phoenix, which he hoped would rise from Speltzer’s ashes. Just after the kill, when Deb picks him up, it seems as though they reconcile, even though Deb is surprised at how in touch she is with her desire for vengeance, which starkly contrasts her sense of morality and justice. When Deb sees Speltzer at Melanie Garrett’s funeral, she snaps, wishing she could “kill him.” It’s interesting to see Deb lash out and become more emotional, and thus more animalistic, as if to meet Dexter half-way at this point, even though she doesn’t like the side of herself she is discovering. When she feels “glad” that Speltzer is dead, she fears that she, too, has a Dark Passenger lurking deep within; however, Dexter reassures her that this makes her “human,” which, by reasoning, makes Dexter human, too.

Toy Giraffes and Hannah McKay

“Look at us talking blood and gore like we’re on a date, sharing our first sexual experiences.”

Deb tries making Dexter promise that he will never compromise a Miami Metro investigation again; however, he refrains from telling his sister that he believes Hannah McKay is responsible for the murder of the female counterpart of the dead couple unearthed near the motel. He is drawn to Hannah, as he was drawn to Rita, Lila, and Lumen, because she is damaged and has some sort of darkness trapped inside. He will endeavor to get closer to Hannah because he understands her and is intrigued by her, just as he has been intrigued by all of the “big bads.”

Hannh Greenhouse

Hannah is also of interest because Dexter is seeking acceptance and a distraction away from the storm at home with Deb. At this point, Hannah could either be a target or love interest for Dexter because she fits his code and has slipped through the cracks. The thing stopping him, however, has to be the fact that she resembles his mother (as well as his late wife and love interests). I will only focus on Dexter’s fixation with his mother because of Ray Speltzer’s own mommy issues, meant to mirror our eponymous anti-hero. In Hannah, Dexter must see the innocent young girl she should have been, had Wayne Randall not gotten his teeth into her. Much like Debra, once exposed to killing, she developed the desire to take a life, as her story of Wayne Randall’s killing spree goes (Hannah’s first attempt at killing was done just before they left Florida for Argentina). Dexter’s forensic work suggests that the female of the couple killed at the motel was done by a first-timer.

Like everything else in his life, Dexter wants her to both be an enemy and a love interest, and hence we have season seven laid out in a nutshell, as well as a hint of season eight. Upon asking Dexter if he had ever had the feeling that “anything was possible,” we see Dexter and his situation more clearly. He never had a choice: Harry pushed him down the path he’s on. He feels trapped by his ritual and his obligation to his sister, and the thought of running free was never a possibility until he met Hannah. Perhaps his interests finally lie in a selfless task: giving Hannah the freedom she desires and deserves.

Schooner or Later: The Isaak Sirko Problem

Isaak Sirko shows up at Dexter’s apartment, and it’s almost like deja vu. Just three episodes ago we saw Deb, waiting for Dexter in his apartment in a nearly identical fashion (although Debra was situated at the back wall). Isaak and Viktor provide an interesting foil of Dexter and Deb in that Isaak understands Viktor’s faults, but loves him in spite of them, whereas Dexter and Deb are easily hurt when the other does not accept the other for their faults or shortcomings. Isaak and Debra’s love, however, are what ultimately propels them forward to protect and defend the honor of their loved ones, no matter the cost. Whereas Isaak is willing to kill everyone in Miami Metro and Miami to get vengeance, Debra is not willing to kill anyone (or at least she doesn’t admit to it). And she only kills one of Miami Metro’s finest.

SirkoIsaak’s appearance is convenient in that he offed Louis Greene for Dexter, but inconvenient in that both Sirko and LaGuerta are threatening to expose Dexter’s truth to the whole world, whereas he originally thought the only problem he had was Deb. Isaak also helps to make a connection that I have been struggling with. I originally began tracking homoeroticism concerning Dexter and other men throughout the series, but now I have an appropriate time to interject it into my blog.

As  Isaak and Dexter speak on opposite sides of bullet proof glass, Dexter asks him why he is going after Dexter. Isaak replies that he should not have to ask that question. Though Isaak is avenging is homosexual lover, and Dexter merely killed to satiate his needs, they both have a darkness or secret that require obfuscation. Though Dexter, at times, comes across as queer (like when Isaak tells him he’s in the “wrong place” if he’s not interested in naked women and alcohol),  his Dark Passenger makes him an outsider. His sexual preference doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. His serial killing is a closet, as Eve Kosofksy Sedgwick would assert, to come out of, and boy is Dexter coming out, little by little.

Other Observations

Hannah McKay cites her and Wayne Randall’s plan to run away to a farm in Argentina, which (spoiler alert) obviously plants the seed for the events in season 8, confirming that all of Dexter’s ideas and actions are people-pleasing. Why else would Dexter suggest Argentina? Though this points to the fact that Dexter is like a hollow shell, aren’t we all? (end spoiler alert). Speaking of hollow shells, Ray Speltzer’s mannequin room furthers his maze as being a metaphor for Dexter and life: all people are just mannequins, hollow existences that are meant to confuse and misdirect.

Dexter: A Comedy

Vince Masuka: [at the bartender’s crime scene] “We got a white Russian on ice.”

Dexter: “You mean more to me than…”
Harrison: “Pizza.”
Dexter: “That’s right. Pizza.”

Dexter mocking Speltzer before sending him into the incinerator.

Debra: “Why in fuckville are you telling me to meet you in the parking garage?”

Debra: [After Dexter describes Isaak Sirko’s impressive combat strategy in Mateo’s Bar] “So, we’re looking for the fucking terminator.”


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

Work Cited

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


2 thoughts on “Obfuscation, Self-Revelation, and the Phoenix in 704: “Run” & 705: “Swim Deep”

  1. I appreciated the use of the Speltzer character – pure, unadulterated evil with a mommy complex – as a dramatic foil for the Morgan siblings. It just makes sense to me that Deb would have this dark side that she would have in common with her brother – after all, they were raised by the same man. Harry may not have taken Deb on those ‘hunting trips’ with Dexter, but I am sure he told Deb the same stories about bad people who had escaped justice and how that was an affront to him. This driven Morgan daughter would not, in my view, have wanted so badly to be a cop just because it was her dad’s career and wanting him to be proud of her meant more than wearing a badge. Then those same kind of bad people had almost killed her on multiple occasions. Deb unquestionably had a strong sense of right and wrong, but she’s no Clark Kent – I believe her definition of ‘right’ probably included what other people may think is ‘wrong’.

    The other thing that stuck out to me about these episodes was how Debra’s complicated feelings about her brother were ‘re-complicated’. From the dream in the bathtub where she considers Dexter’s proposal only to remember that the last woman who loved Dexter ended up dead in a pool of her own blood, to that tremendously charged scene in the alleyway where she angrily makes Dexter confront the cost of his choices, to the night she and Dexter spent in the hotel room exchanging a nostalgic tale from their childhood (“you were my hero”, in that strangled voice that Jennifer Carpenter employed so well), I thought these episodes had Deb run quite an emotional gamut. And Dexter too – yes, there’s some manipulation going on as he tries to keep Deb on board with his desires, but I think he’s mostly trying to be honest with her and burning his slides with Speltzer’s body is a kind of peace offering to her (even though he doesn’t tell her about that, if I recall correctly). That last scene in “Swim Deep”, when Deb sadly reflects that Dexter has been “forever out of (her) reach” and Dexter replies, “maybe we’ve learned it’s better that way”, was one of the most mournful to me prior to S8:12. I remember feeling so strongly at that moment that one of these characters, and maybe both, was going to die. Maybe Dexter would have deserved that, but Debra loved Dexter so much that his death would have killed her too.

    And this Hannah was interesting – a quietly sinister but tantalizing figure who intimidated Dexter, not the bland plot device she became in S8, stripped of everything that had made her interesting and turned into someone that Dexter would not have been interested in just so the audience would regard her as now ‘safe’ to raise his son. But I shouldn’t get started on that.


    1. Hello Tom!

      I’m in the process of rewatching season 7, as you may assume, and I initially hated to love and loved to hate Hannah McKay. In taking my second look at the series, she serves an important thematic purpose – yet another missing piece to Dexter’s puzzle of humanity. She provides further clarity as to who he is and what he is not. She allows him to start to envision a different life for himself, a “blank slate” or an “Argentina,” as he says in 709: “Helter-Skelter.” But I agree about the disaster of season 8 with Hannah’s character. She came back full-force in a sinister light by poisoning both Dexter and Debra, and then was toned down immediately to suit the writers’ purposes. I’m going to have to figure this one out once I get into season 8.


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