Guilt, Monsters, and Trauma in 804: “Scar Tissue” & 805: “This Little Piggy”

Debra continues to push Dexter away until she learns that Harry killed himself, driving her to kill herself and her brother; however, she is rescued and she ends up saving Dexter once again, which proves that she will “always choose Dexter.” AJ Yates catches wind of the fact that Dr. Vogel is poking around in his things and kidnaps her. Yates’ murder and disposal brings the three together.

Saving Debra Morgan

“Sometimes the deadliest wounds are the ones we barely see. They run deep.”

Debra continues to struggle with her moral transgression with the assistance of Dr. Vogel. Unlike Dexter’s psychical shipping container confinement, Deb has the opportunity to escape these metaphorical walls because she is not a psychopath like her brother. Vogel suggests that Deb repeatedly relive the incident in order to free herself from it, but Deb is hesitant to move forward, attempting to rewrite her decision by imagining herself shooting Dexter instead of Maria LaGuerta. Entrapped in a web of guilt and self-loathing she finds it difficult to move forward, refusing to accept the fact that she killed an innocent woman (for if she did, she would be condoning her own break in character);  however, Vogel illuminates to her that her “What ifs?” only serve to avoid the fact that if she had to do it all over again, she would still choose Dexter. When she gets the opportunity to rewrite history by driving her brother’s car off into the lake, Debra fulfills Vogel’s assumption by saving her brother from imminent death.

“[You’re a good person] who was forced to do a terrible thing.”


“No, I won’t just let her go.”

We have witnessed an incredible change in Debra’s character since day one, and we thus have learned that there are three crutches she relies upon to get through all kinds of turmoil: (1) running her ass off on the treadmill, (2) spending quality time with her brother, and (3) throwing herself into her work. After nearly being killed by her fiance and serial killer, Brian Moser (alias Rudy Cooper), she spent her days running, sleeping erratically, and turning Dexter’s persnickety apartment into a cyclone. Six seasons later, she has moved in with Dr. Vogel instead of Dexter and has resumed her treadmill schedule. Whereas Deb once used running as a distraction from her problems, it has now become the ameliorating alternative to drinking and pill-popping, which has kept her numb and intensified her symptoms of PTSD. Although she had originally taken time off from work, Jacob Elway finds Deb in her office surrounded by an ocean of case files. No matter how far Deb diverges from sanity, she is fundamentally still the same person.

Deb's Files

“My dad was everything to me.”

When Elway finally gets Deb talking about her family, we discover that his relationship with his father is not all too different from her own. In attempt to get back at his father, he joined the police academy only to find out that everyone there was “exactly like” his father. Debra similarly joined the force to earn more of  her father’s attention and respect. Although Elway makes a toast to their fathers, “long may they haunt us,” Deb refrains from drinking, which is indicative of two things: she is refraining from numbing her pain with alcohol, suggesting that she is willing to accept her current situation, and she refuses to toast to her father, for she is sick of the (negative) influence he has had on her life and his hand in Dexter’s creation.

“I don’t think I can live with this.”
“Fuck. And I’m supposed to?”

What finally puts Debra over the edge (literally) to make her hit rock bottom is the fact that Harry himself once the reality of creating a killing machine, and his responsibility in the matter, hit him. Deb and Harry have had comparatively equal reactions to Dexter’s truth and the enactment of his proclivity to kill. Because Harry did not live long enough to reveal his true feelings about his foster son, Dexter takes Debra’s harsh reaction (or solution) to the problem of their mutual guilt as an extreme insult. However, his difficulty in letting Debra go long enough to let her heal is quickly balanced with the fact that his sister has tried to kill him. The Morgan siblings’ relationship is further balanced out when it is Deb who starts pestering her brother with incessant phone calls, trying to get Dexter to talk to her after nearly killing him.

AJ Yates

In chasing down the Brain Surgeon, Dexter is entering all-too-familiar territory. After navigating relationships with Miguel Prado and Arthur Mitchell, the Trinity Killer, one would think that Dexter is used to playing with the big boys of serial killing; however, he somehow underestimates AJ Yates, which allows Vogel’s former patient to learn that Dexter is both working with Vogel and that he has a son. Had this been season 6, it’s likely Yates would  have been the one to kidnap Harrison, rather than Travis Marshall; however, in season 8, he functions to reveal the fact that Vogel, despite the destruction she has caused and her illegal methods, is still looking to study psychopaths in her life-long search for the truth. Dexter is “Subject 0” and she will squander this opportunity to study him first-hand, begging the question of whether she is using him to write another book. Suddenly, it seems as though we have transported back to season 2 when Deb questioned her then-boytoy, Gabriel, about his book entitled The Ice Princess. This instance also serves to illuminate the fact that Dexter is not a textbook case of a psychopath, for he is quick to anger, but more of a “case study,” as Vogel suggested in episode 1. As we learn more about the ways in which Dexter “make[s] [his] own kind of music,” we question his true motivations in keeping Debra around, as juxtaposed by Yates’ split-second decision to jeopardize his father’s life to save his own.

Subject 0

Season 1 echoes again once Miami Metro finds AJ Yates’ house and discovers that his victims are buried in his yard, just as Neil Perry’s (the fake Ice Truck Killer) first victim was. This parallel suggests to first-time watchers that just as Perry was not the “real” big bad everyone was searching for, neither is Yates.


The main commonality we have discovered among the “big bads” is trouble with mothers (Neil Perry, Arthur Mitchell, Ray Speltzer, AJ Yates) and fathers (Miguel Prado, Dexter).  One should not jump to the conclusion that if you have issues with your parents that you’ll inevitably become a serial killer, for I can say with confidence that if you are an American,  you most certainly are faced with the difficulty of recovering from your childhood and your parents’ inadequacies in your emotional development to some degree. Interestingly enough, we will see Dexter attempt to replicate the sins of his own father once again with Zack Hamilton.

Spiritual Mothers and Biological Families

“A family that kills together [stays together].”

Dr. Vogel might be the Morgans’ spiritual mother, but she sure isn’t opposed to telling Deb to get her “ass off the table.” She may not have Dexter’s taste for bananas, as Harrison does, but there is a familial tie. Evelyn’s close relationship with Harry has given her the license to step into Dexter and Debra’s lives as both a ghost from and a window to the past. Though she can never replace Harry, she is a darker voice of reason that understands their situation better than anyone else, for nobody else  knew about Harry’s secret manipulation of his son.


Vogel is perhaps more evil than Dexter, for she may not have taken lives, but she has encouraged others to do so. She is more or less of a Trojan horse, for she seems good-natured and moral on the outside, but her views are evilly skewed. She tells Dexter that he is not a monster because by rule, they are “outside of nature, but you’re a part of the natural order;” however, monsters are actually forced outside of society. If we take Beowulf as an example, Grendel is a monster because he is outside of society, but a part of nature in that he exists. Dexter, however, is both natural and a member of society. His monstrous self-perception stems from the fact that he destroys parts of society and that he believes had no hand in creating  himself and therefore cannot control himself. While Dexter is a member of society, we must remember that he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, allowing him to participate in natural order. Vogel’s insistence in convincing Dexter that he is an important part of the natural order has forced her to overlook the fact that he has been pushed out of the natural order and made into a monster with her direct guidance. Dexter is a monster in that he does not take responsibility for his actions and blames them on Vogel and Harry.

“She doesn’t understand us, Dexter.”

Regardless of your feelings for Vogel, we side with her to a certain extent when we sympathize with Dexter and root for his survival. Whereas Harry “assumed [Dexter was] a monster” and sought Vogel’s help to channel his feelings to help him survive, Vogel never saw him as a monster, which was why she suggested that they provide him with a structure to kill. Dexter’s projection of Harry in season 5 claims: “If only I had seen that [he is not a monster] maybe I wouldn’t have led you down this path.” Even so, the question of genetics and  social experience looms with Harrison when Dexter discovers that he has an  imaginary friend, Dan the elephant, for Harrison might have the genes to kill, but he also might have unlocked the potential of those genes in witnessing his mother’s murder.

“Is this ever gonna be right?”

It is thus natural for Deb to not trust Vogel, the woman who guided Harry to mold Dexter into the serial killing machine he is today and indirectly led to her father’s suicide. Dr. Vogel seems to be the one with the lack of empathy, for she refuses to regret any of her decisions regarding the Morgan family and the havoc that has come of them. Much like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Dr. Rappaccini, she will sacrifice even her spiritual son in the name of science.


Problematically, Dexter and Debra save Vogel from AJ Yates’ grasp perhaps only to keep her alive for what she can do for them: she is Deb’s lifeline and Dexter’s only remaining window to his past. Dexter makes the strange decision to dispose of Yates on The Slice of Life with Dr. Vogel and Debra, something he has never done before (well, perhaps with Lumen, but my memory fails me at the moment). Symbolically, disposing of Yates also helps Dexter and Debra move on from the suicide attempt and it inclines them to realize that their journey is intertwined. Vogel’s death would have prevented them from ever learning anything new about their father and would have stopped their evolution as people and as brother and sister. She may not be the best influence on their lives, but neither was Harry. Dr. Vogel’s longevity improves the Morgan siblings’ chances of moving past the damage done in the past several seasons.

Dexter: A Comedy

Angel Batista: “It’s good to see you taking the initiative, like any good sergeant should.”
Quinn: “Whoa, whoa, whoa, yo… you got my test back?”
Batista: “You nailed it, bro. Now wipe that stupid grin off your face before Miller sees it.”
Quinn: “Yeah – no. I’ve just never been this happy to get back a positive test, you know?”
Batista: “What does my sister see in you?”

Vince: “You’re probably wondering why I’m smiling.”
Quinn: “I’m  never wondering why you’re smiling.”
Vince: “I’ve just confirmed that I have a daughter.”
Quinn: “Holy fuck, someone let you impregnate them?”

[After Jamie forces Dexter into a dinner with Quinn and Cassie]
Dexter: [V.O.] “Serial killer bested by 100-lb. nanny.”


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: 6
Xtremity:  9
DEX-Factor: 7.6

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