Doppelgangers, Brotherhood, and the Oedipal Complex in 808: “Are We There Yet?” & 809: “Make Your Own Kind of Music”

Zach Sleepilng

Dexter discovers that Zach Hamilton has absorbed the Code through the observation of his Spiritual Father. Hannah McKay further complicates Dexter’s already convoluted situation by consuming his every waking thought and involuntarily impairing his decision-making skills. Debra’s difficulty with her brother’s life choices and unmistakable vengeance against Hannah compels her to put Jacob Elway on her trail, ultimately leading us to Dexter’s final path of destruction.

The Passing of the Torch: Zach Hamilton

Dexter has recently been faced with the task of evaluating his life and his Code and determining whether Zach Hamilton could possibly emulate the set of principles that have kept him alive these past twenty-one years since Harry’s death; however, Dexter’s initial suspicion of his Spiritual Son’s involvement in Cassie Jollenston’s death spookily reminds him of the looming darkness that inches closer and closer to him and his family with each passing season. In “Are We There Yet?”, a dead body shows up next door to him and his son; in the following episode, Zach Hamilton’s dead body is deposited into Dexter’s desk chair. It is by no accident that Cassie’s apartment is the female counterpart to Dexter’s, for it is meant to remind us that it could have just as easily been Dexter’s female doppelganger, Debra, who lay floating in her own blood bath. Dexter must be constantly reminded of the dangers posed to himself, his family, and Dr. Vogel with each passing day that either Zach or the Brain Surgeon is roaming Miami freely.

Dexter repeats yet another one of his past sins in taking Zach under his wing. Just as he allowed Lumen to learn the Code and avenge those who deserve it, he is now allowing Zach to do the same. Though Jeremy Downs took this suggestion in season one as encouragement to kill himself, Zach was beyond that idea morally and unfortunately was taken out by a larger “fish.” Had Lumen killed recklessly or outside of Dexter’s direct supervision, perhaps he would have aimed to kill her, too, just as he planned to take out Zach. The only difference in sparing Zach’s and Lumen’s lives and teaching them to kill is the way in which Dexter’s seemingly innate desire to “give back” engenders itself. Whereas Dexter aided Lumen to somehow correct his mistakes in looking out for his wife, Zach is taught the Code  in a way that symbolically rewrites his own upbringing with the added benefit of a serial killer’s perspective. From an evolutionary standpoint, the culmination Vogel’s clinical and Dexter’s lived experience should lead to an even quicker, more refined, unstoppable serial killer; however, Zach is taken out before he can ascend the food chain.

In attempting to teach Miguel Prado in seson 3 the Code, he discovered his mistake in roughly eight to ten episodes and took out the problem; Dexter went to rectify this mistake in killing Zach, but was persuaded otherwise by Dr. Vogel. Though he decided to kill him again after assuming his guilt for Cassie’s murder, Dexter did not get the chance to see if he actually would have carried out his mission to kill Zach. Vogel suggests that this kind of kill would be “different” for Dexter, perhaps as Brian Moser’s murder was, but we know that Zach’s death provides us with yet another perspective of Dexter’s self-reflection: He must never teach anyone else the Code, for it always ends in death (with the exception of Lumen).

Though we don’t know if Dexter actually would have gone through in killing Zach, we can assume that he would have decided against doing so, judging on how he treats the possibilities of “what could have been:” he has let Hannah live and has persuaded her to stay in Miami against both their interests in favor of their potential as a couple and their future in Argentina. Dexter wants to straddle this dangerous line of killing and normalcy, and eat it, too (though he’s no Hannibal Lecter). Now that Dexter has seen his future with his family – as depicted at dinner with Vogel (his Spiritual Mother), Hannah, and Zach (an older stand-in for Harrison) – there is no way that he is about to give up his happiness or risk Harrison growing up without a mother figure (though Deb would have an adequate tomboyish substitute).

Dinner Time

Though Zach is dead, eliminating the possibility of passing on the torch, Dexter is still willing to leave his “charitable” contribution to Miami unattended in favor of starting a new, interesting `, a “life worth living,” as Vogel and Deb have put it. Dexter has always viewed himself as a hollow shell, temporarily filled with the reflections of others’ emotions to keep up the appearance of normalcy; however, his needs have change and organic desires have taken the place of his need to kill. When posed with the opportunity for a change of pace, Dexter jumps at this opportunity. It finally seems as though Dexter is allowing his father’s long-gone hang ups about the failings of the U.S. justice system to die in favor of his own wishes by abandoning his hollow shell for a life that will truly fulfill him.

“So you’re back together? How’s that gonna work out?”

When Lumen told Dexter that she was leaving Miami, she did not give him the option to follow her there, nor would Dexter have followed her. Dexter’s connection to Hannah, however, is deeper than the one that he formed with Lumen, likely because Hannah and Dexter are in a more similar mindset than he and Lumen were. Furthermore, Dexter’s utter breakdown when Lumen announced her plans to leave (which, in retrospect, might have been more of an angry expression of regret and guilt for Rita’s death than anger toward Lumen’s leaving) is one that he does not want to relive, hence his decision to follow Hannah to wherever she wishes.

Dissecting Dexter’s Next Opponent

Along with the revelation that the Brain Surgeon is Dr. Vogel’s son comes the inevitable comparison to the linchpin of season one’s story line: Dexter is faced with a (spiritual) brother of roughly the same age as himself, who has led a radically different, orphaned and institutionalized lifestyle (his name is Oliver [Twist] and he’s English, for crying out loud) from his own and who envies Dexter’s relationship with their shared spiritual parent. In place of Brian “Biney” Moser, we have Daniel Vogel. Not only does Daniel replace Brian in terms of book-ending the series, but Daniel’s re-entrance into the picture replaces Dexter as Vogel’s cherished son. Daniel is Vogel’s regained lost son, making Dexter the older, hopeless, serial-killing child who is sent away since he is no longer “wanted” or needed. In light of the fact that Dexter’s entire psychology has sprouted from the fact that his mother was murdered, abandoning him, it is safe to say that Vogel’s decision to shut him out of her reconnection with Daniel is nothing but painful.


The obvious lack of a blood connection should make it easy for Dexter to take care of Oliver Saxon; however, we know that Dexter has changed and has seemingly transcended his need to kill, which those of us who have already seen the series in its entirety know is the final revelation/evolution that leads to his and Debra’s demise.


[Who] in the World Is Hannah McKay [Maggie Castner, Claire Thompson]?

“I would give everything to feel nothing again.”

Uncharacteristically as it is, Hannah McKay refuses to hurt or betray either Dexter or Debra because of her deep love for our eponymous anti-hero. Unfortunately for Debra, she is talked into a stalemate with her arch-nemesis because of the femme fatale‘s rationale. Even though Debra understands just how poisonous Hannah literally and figuratively is to Dexter’s well-being, she has no choice but to let Dexter live his own life, just as Dex was forced to leave  Deb on her own in her downward spiral after LaGuerta’s murder. Although Deb’s gut instinct and her innate moral compass tells her to arrest Hannah McKay and either stick Dexter in jail or send him far, far away, she cannot act or think rationally because of her emotional involvement in the situation.

“What was once moving, speaking, killing, and threatening becomes nothing but an empty vessel, which is not so different from how I’ve always felt” – Dexter on Prado, 312

Never before has Dexter’s love life or deep-seeded desires become between Deb’s happiness and his own, which is what makes Debra’s reaction to Hannah even stronger. Why should Dexter run off now when he has held up just fine the past twenty-one years? Though her own complicated feelings for her brother further convolute the situation, she ultimately succumbs to her brother’s desires to the point of allowing Hannah to stay with her. Now, if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Debra: The Residual, yet the Original

Now that Debra has slowly begun to claw her way out of the black hole of PTSD, she has started to rethink her career choices. Now that she doesn’t have the overwhelming need to escape Dexter’s direct gaze every moment of the day, she’s considering returning to the force. Just as Jennifer Carpenter has described Michael C. Hall/Dexter melting into his kill room scenes, we can see Debra melt into her own natural habitat once she visits Cassie Jollenston’s crime scene. It is clear that she is meant for detective work; however, her brother continues to complicate her life, despite the fact that she now works for Elway. She has now come to the awful realization that no matter where she works, her brother’s secret will always compromise her professionalism. Since this is so, she figures that she might as well enjoy her job and be proud of the work she does rather than feel awful about the dirty work she does for Elway. Though Batista has offered her a way back into Miami Metro, it seems dismal. Debra will never be able to live a normal or fulfilling life with Dexter still in the picture.


As strange as it is for us, as an audience, to consider what it would be like for Dexter to start anew with Hannah and Harrison anywhere other than Miami, perhaps this is the only way that Debra could ever put herself back together again. As inexplicably complicated as their intertwined lives are, it is also just as strange to consider what it would be like for the Morgan siblings to live apart for more than the six months it took for Dexter to get back into contact with her at the start of the final season. The fact of the matter is that neither Dexter  nor Debra could ever be the same without each other. Though Hannah might be effectively replacing Debra as his crutch, she is a different, more understanding replacement that sometimes prevents Dexter’s grounding in reality of the world. Whether or not they keep their past a secret in Argentina is beside the point, for they could not be tried for their actions in any other country; however, their intention of starting fresh suggests that they would allow their pasts to slowly fade in the background as they move forward with their lives.

As for Debra, perhaps she would have worked her way back up to Lieutenant, rightfully inheriting her position from Angel Batista, as she feels is right. With Dexter out of the picture, Debra would have a chance to prove herself and her abilities on her own without Dexter’s interference. Although Debra was nudged onto the fast-track in her career both directly and indirectly with Dexter as her handy-dandy lab geek sidekick with a lizard brain, it is obvious that she has what it takes to get back to where she once was again, but this time more honestly. Had Dexter not tipped Deb off about her ice truck hunch, she might not have ever escaped Vice with LaGuerta as lieutenant. Though Matthews and LaGuerta’s feud still would exist in this parallel universe, this ground-breaking moment in season one is what started it all.

As Debra often laments, we cannot go back in time to when the Morgans’ lives were much simpler. We are left to deal with these two as they are and for who they have become as a result of their circumstances.

Dexter: A Comedy

Dexter’s decision to remove every article of clothing except for his socks when going to bed with Hannah for the first time since her escape from prison.

Debra: “What was Zack doing with you and Hannah in the Keys? Serial killer convention?”


Here is what I originally discussed regarding episode 808: “Are We There Yet?” and 809: “Make Your Own Kind of Music.”


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: 9
Xtremity:  9
DEX-Factor: 8.6


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