Sociopaths, Morality, and Law in 706: “Do the Wrong Thing” & 707: “Chemistry”

Sirko

Sal Price becomes a threat, and then is quickly taken down by Hannah McKay. Maria LaGuerta comes dangerously close to the truth about the real Bay Harbor Butcher. We also learn that sociopaths like Hannah and Dexter can look out for each other and act more human than they could have ever imagined.

Sal Price

Sal Price, author of Love on the Run: The Wayne Randall and Hannah McKay Story, is causing problems for Dexter. Not only is he snooping around the case files from the couple Hannah helped Miami Metro to unearth, but he is also propelling our eponymous anti-hero toward the femme fatale, who he swore to avoid at all costs. Furthermore, he also wants to date Deb, which complicates Dexter’s predicament, for Deb is now immersed in Dexter’s current issue and is pretty much up to speed with things that she never would have caught onto had this been season 4, or at least not for another few episodes.

Sal Price

Price is mainly an issue because if word gets out that Dexter fudged the blood report to protect Hannah, his career would be over, and he would likely jeopardize Debra’s career as well. The biggest problem, though, is the fact that if his career is destroyed, his ability to stalk and hunt is limited and restricted. His access to public records, DNA and fingerprints, and the like could all be taken away, which would make the fulfillment of the Code nearly impossible.

Price is a stand-in for every close encounter Deb has had regarding her knowledge of Dexter’s Dark Passenger. He is also a reminder of the consequences of embedding her personal life into her work life, which, for Deb, doesn’t really even qualify as a personal life. Even when she’s on a date with Price, she’s picking his brain for leads on Hannah McKay and Wayne Randall. It’s a cheap cop-out of a social life, but Deb’s obsessive personality, as she reports, tends to feed into this behavior. In this way, Dexter and Deb are alike, for Dexter’s personal life can only be enacted (or Dexter can only “selve,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins would say, much to his dismay and astonishment) because of the work done in his professional life. Just as Dexter cannot stop stalking and hunting, Deb cannot help but work even when she’s supposed to be enjoying herself, though her enjoyment comes from her immersion in her work.

As a consequence, Deb’s personal life is well-known by her colleagues and by the press. When Sal Price acknowledges that he’s not trying to write her story regarding her engagement to the Ice Truck Killer, we are thrown back to Gabriel Bosque, Deb’s short-lived boyfriend in season 2 who wrote children’s books, most notably Ice Princess. As with all of her boyfriends, there is always the possibility that they are using her because of  her position in the police department (except for Lundy, he didn’t seem to be using her). Though Deb claims she didn’t deny Price’s original offer for a drink because she was worried that he would write about her, deep down, Deb likely deflected Price’s offer because of her past hurts. She’s been used by a serial killer to get back at her serial killing brother and every relationship she’s engaged in was her way of dealing with her relationship with  her father or with Dexter to deny her true feeling about everyone and everything. Deb’s real tragedy is not that her father neglected her or that she’s in love with  her brother; it’s the fact that all of Deb’s attempts at connection have been within her professional circle, which either compromised her work or totally screwed her over. However, these are the only relationships she has been interested in because they feed her love and desire to be entirely engulfed in her work. She never has to leave the professional realm with these men.

Mrs. Hannah McKay

Hannah introduces a different dynamic into the series that we have not seen before. She creates the possibility of protection for Dexter. Although Dexter intended on taking out Sal Price (not in the usual way, but by planting evidence at a crime scene to incriminate him) in order to protect Hannah, Hannah actually ended up protecting Dexter. In poisoning Sal Price, Dexter’s career, and thus his hobby, is no longer threatened. Of course Deb suspects Hannah of being responsible, so now instead of chasing after her own brother, as she did in season two, she’s now going after Hannah, his new love interest. Thematically, it makes sense, since Deb’s deeper feelings for her foster brother are boiling beneath the surface. She has always been committed to justice, but now her need for justice has become personal – perhaps even more personal than when she was searching for Trinity/Christine Hill after Frank Lundy’s death. The difference between these two situations is that now Deb is far more aware of just how far out of reach she is from controlling her life and doling out justice. Her need for justice, and the conflict of interest this introduces for Dexter, is made most apparent when Dexter is lying in bed late at night with Hannah sleeping next to him, and Deb calls him to tell him to deliver justice in the way he knows how (and now she returns to being several steps behind her brother; little does she know he has already tried to take her out). So, she’s accepting Dexter, but forcing him to choose between being accepted by her sister and a romantic (non-related) lover who will accept him without any conditions. Interestingly enough, Deb’s animosity is kicking in just when Dexter has decided to try to change his ways to become more appealing to his sister and her affections.

Hannah

“[Hannah] deserves it.”

We learn that Hannah McKay wanted to start a family with her husband. Although she is accused of killing her husband and then her unborn child, the opposite is actually true. Her husband didn’t want to start a family, so she poisoned him, and then had a miscarriage (unfortunately) shortly after. Hannah is similar to Dexter in a lot of ways, but Dexter has never killed anyone for not wanting to be with him. He’s simply moved on.

Although Dexter is fixated on giving Hannah “what she deserves,” it’s clear that Dexter is unable to do so. As per usual, Dexter is distracted from the more important and more pressing issues by a minor issue, a kill, in order to relieve stress from said issue. Deb, Isaak Sirko, and Maria LaGuerta are closing in on Dexter and pressuring  him into acting irrationally. Dexter initially decided to take out Hannah and not let Deb in on the idea that Hannah is yet another killer walking around, parading the failure of the justice system; however, Sal Price interrupted that mission (as did Dexter’s fatal attraction to the florist).

Purple_spotted_white_phalaenopsis_orchid_blooms
Spotted Phalaenopsis

Dexter initially levels with Hannah by bringing up her dead husband, which reminds us that they not only share the initial trauma of experiencing murder first hand, but the trauma of losing a spouse. Though Dexter did not kill Rita with his own hands (or poison her), he was indirectly responsible for her death. Hannah must carry some guilt with her, even though she intended to kill him. This isn’t the first time that Dexter has encountered someone who is just as damaged as he is. Lumen was very similar to Dexter in that they were both tragically and irreparably damaged. He helped himself “make things right” after Rita’s death by helping Lumen, a vulnerable woman who was tragically raped, beaten, and held captive.  Had Lumen not left Miami, she and Dexter would still be together. Hannah, in her own way, is yet another fit partner for Dexter, mainly because the two of them have been living under the guise of normality, hiding their secrets for so long. It’s a fatal attraction, but one that makes sense. Hannah and Dexter’s relationship should remind us of Dexter’s relationship with Lila because she poses a similar threat to Dexter in so far as she knows his secret and that she’s rather sneaky. I’m not quite sure who is more dangerous (for Lila nearly killed Rita’s children and was absolutely insane, but Hannah will prove to be just as formidable), but these women let Dexter know that there is a life possible where he can be with a woman and be himself.

The gardener at Hannah’s greenhouse describes Hannah as independent and hardworking. While this man finds her peculiar, Dexter understands that to live life the way he and Hannah do, they must keep to themselves. Interestingly enough, Hannah claims that she doesn’t date, just as Debra does not. Even though Dexter is not in love with his foster sister, the two mirror each other in that they fall for unavailable women. The Morgans and Hannah share one thing in common: they all believe that they will never be satisfied until they find a perfect someone (dead or alive) that will bring them happiness. Dexter may have been Deb’s, but she’ll never get the approval she was looking for from her dead father; Hannah is still mourning Wayne Randall; and Dexter doesn’t know what will make him whole.

“But some of us are never satisfied.”

Dexter’s kills serve to fill in his emptiness temporarily until another situation stresses him out or until he pins his next victim, but in seeking to satisfy his needs, he fails to “do what you gotta do” (as Hannah says). Though Dexter has been seeking permission from Debra to kill anyone, Hannah readily grants him the go-ahead, which throws him off. This moment solidifies the idea that what Dexter needs is support and acceptance, not permission, because he is going to kill whether or not he is “allowed” to do so. In telling Dexter it’s okay to kill her, he sees that she understands his need and perhaps believes that she is the answer to his problems. Hannah doesn’t even flinch while on the table – she knows deep down that they are kindred spirits.

“She isn’t drawn to my darkness like Lila, or blind to it like Rita, and she doesn’t need it like Lumen. She accepts both sides of me,the whole Dexter. So why am I walking away from this?”

There is an innate fear within Dexter upon embarking on a relationship with Hannah. Anyone he’s ever loved has either been killed (Rita), shrank from him at the sight of his evil (Harry), or rejected him entirely (Deb). Rather than Hannah being a threat, it is Dexter’s fear of losing or perhaps becoming too dependent upon her that tampers with his cool.  Any time he has found happiness, or its appropriate equivalent, it’s been taken away from him – Rita was killed, and  Lumen left.

Side Note: I mentioned a potential homoerotic reading of Dexter in a previous treatment. I would like to point out 706 in particular because Dexter so easily switches from kill mode to having sex with Hannah. The moment in the kill room is erotic and arousing to Dexter, which could then translate to a possibility of Dexter’s homosexuality, or at least his bisexuality. After all, there are more men than women on Dexter’s kill table.

Ice Truck Killer Tie-Ins

I mentioned that Dexter’s choice of date for Hannah (Santa’s Holiday Adventure) mirrors one of the key spots in which the Ice Truck Killer left body parts, wrapped underneath a Christmas tree at Santa’s Land, but there is another key parallel to season one.

Dexter watches his sister grill Hannah McKay in the interrogation room and realizes that Hannah’s emotions are genuine. In season one, Dexter watched Neil Perry, the man who falsely confessed to the Ice Truck Killer murders, with a similar degree of interest and curiosity.

And, as I love to mention, if Dexter succeeds in keeping Hannah safe, in some way he is also rescuing his mother (just as when he was saving Lumen, he was atoning for Rita’s death).

There’s No Such Thing as Dark Passengers

In an interview in the Dexter complete series box set (“Behind 701”), Scott Buck said that this season focuses on Dexter coming to terms with the fact that there’s no such thing as a Dark Passenger. Hannah tells Dexter that there’s “no need to dress . . . [up]” the motive for killing. Hannah justifies death and murder as a Darwinian race, a “survival of the fittest.” Hannah highlights that the fact that they covered and protected each other is “big for people like us.” Dexter has questioned his capabilities in just about everything except his job and his hobbies his entire life, so it is no different when he questions his capacity for love and emotions.

While Hannah is allowed to dodge responsibility for any killing committed with Wayne Randall, Dexter is learning to take more responsibility for himself and his actions. With Harrison getting older and Deb knowing his truth, Dexter is now forced to make responsible decisions. It’s not just Dexter judging himself now; he has an audience.

Dexter has bought into Harry’s ideas of the Code and his purpose on earth so deeply and for so long that it’s difficult for Dexter to understand that his own actions are his responsibility. He may have been raised a certain way, but he has the ability to change. The Code is like a religion – you play with it for a while in your younger years when you don’t have the capacity to make decisions for yourself, and then eventually you are meant to either willfully decide to adopt or reject these doctrines. Dexter still doesn’t realize that he has a choice, that he’s always had a choice. And this is where Dexter’s evolution truly begins. He’s changed since day one, but now his evolution is occurring more rapidly than ever before.

Morality, Law, and Family Ties

Joey Quinn unexpectedly is forced to bend his morals once again in favor of protecting Nadia. While Dexter compromises evidence and reports daily for his own benefit, Joey and Debra are not used to knowing things and being involved behind the scenes in things that they never should have known about.

Batistas

“What kind [of animal] are you, Dexter Morgan?”

Just as Joey is forced to lie to Batista, Deb is being forced to lie to LaGuerta to cover for their loved ones. These scenarios draw our attention to the fact that there is the law of the land, then there are family ties and bonds that go unbroken, and then there are morality and emotional obligations that sway our decisions. The law is obviously a larger part of the conversation, given that everyone is involved, directly or indirectly, in law enforcement, but the men and women upholding the law are the ones that surprise us most when their beliefs weaken and morph.

“I know what it’s like to hold on to an idea of someone, you know? To refuse to believe that they have a dark side.”

The brother-sister duos in Dexter offer a similar view on morality. While out for a meal,  Jamie comments on how disgusting hookers are when discussing how she hasn’t heard from Louis Greene in a while. Little does she know that she’s insulting her brother’s former use of hookers, thus creating an invisible rift between the two of them. Similarly, Deb rejects Dexter, more directly, for what he is. Jamie’s accusation that Angel is not responsible with money can be translated to Deb’s point that her brother is not keeping his son’s best interests in mind.

It seems as though everyone has “me” time on the brain, with Angel contemplating buying the restaurant and Debra going on a date with Sal Price, Hannah imagining Argentina, and Dexter contemplating if life could afford him that kind of luxury.

Bay Harbor Butcher: Under Investigation

Maria LaGuerta has gotten her fair share of s*** for working her way up in Miami Metro through politics, but we find that when she is emotionally invested, she becomes one hell of a cop. (Perhaps that’s Deb’s burden and saving grace – she cares too much.) She is frighteningly adept at theorizing about the Barrel Girls killer case and Dexter’s involvement in them, and Deb is able to connect the dots about Lumen from there. Ironically, it’s Maria’s investment in her idea of Doakes that allows Debra to pull her attention away from the case. Yet … she still comes across Dexter’s name on that list of boat owners.

Dexter: A Comedy

Deb: [to Sal Price] “C’mon, don’t be a ‘cop-tease.’ A good theory totally gives me a girl boner.”

Dexter: “I wanna take you out.”
Hannah: “On a date?”
Dexter: “That’ll work.”

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: 7
Entertainment: 7
Xtremity:  7
DEX-Factor: 7

Work Cited

“Behind 701.” Screenplay by Scott Buck. Perf. Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter. Dexter: The Complete Series. Dir. James Manos, Jr. Showtime, 2013. Blu-ray disc.

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