TV Club

Dexter recap: Buck the System

We are all in a labyrinth.  

Every week in Slate’s Dexter TV club, Katy Waldman will have an IM conversation with a different Dexter fan. This week, she rehashes episode 7.3 with Chris Kirk, Slate’s interactives editor.

Katy Waldman: Would it make sense to declare animals a theme in this episode? Dexter keeps describing himself as a caged animal. The murderer Ray Speltzer wears a bull or Minotaur costume for his killing ritual. Deb, Dex, and Maria LaGuerta all go back and forth about their “lizard brains.” And then there’s the mobster Isaac, who speaks in his refined accent about the beauty of the opera but may be the beastliest beast of all.

Chris Kirk: I noticed the caged animal line too, but it got me more interested in all the ways people are trapped. Deb can’t accept Dexter, but she can’t turn him in. Nadia doesn’t want to betray Quinn, but Isaac is twisting her arm. And, of course, there’s Dexter, who has to kill but is constantly under the watch of his sister. Everyone is in their own version of the Minotaur’s labyrinth, and everyone is trying to get out.

Waldman: Not to mention the maze of police bureaucracy that prevents Deb from stopping Ray Speltzer in time! I loved all the shots that represented characters’ confinement visually. That scene where Dex and Deb argue in the narrow space between two buildings was great. But then, at the end, Deb tells Dexter he’s free. He can move out.

Kirk: Dexter’s a serial killer to the bone. He’s tried to change, and he knows he can’t. Freedom doesn’t mean changing himself but rather changing how others see him. His only path out of the maze is persuading Deb to accept what he does, and in this episode I think he manages that.

Waldman: Were you surprised to see Deb cave?

Kirk: When you think about her history, it makes sense. The law didn’t save her when she was strapped to Rudy’s table in Season 1. Of course, it’s very tentative acceptance. I’m sure she’ll struggle with her knowledge for the rest of the season.

Waldman: Right! Deb’s a loaded gun now: We’ll always be wondering whether she’s about to turn him in.

Kirk: This episode really explores the differences between society’s system of justice and Dexter’s, and the effectiveness and morality of each. We should remember, in evaluating the two, that Dexter isn’t foolproof either: He’s killed at least one innocent person accidentally. And he’s failed to save plenty of people—including Rita, his own wife.

Waldman: But for Dexter it’s not really about saving people. It’s about channeling his urges. I think that’s why Debra gets so upset about his blood slides—because they remind her of Speltzer’s earring trophy.

Kirk: Deb cares deeply about intentions. For her, the intent should be justice, and the result should be justice. For Dexter, the intent is to kill, and the result just happens to be justice.

Waldman: That’s one reason I liked the conversation between Dex and Isaac, the mobster. They aren’t in the strip club in order to ogle women, like the other patrons. But, as Isaac says, the end result is they’re there. Is it a stretch to read that scene as a comment on the Dexter system of justice?

Kirk: I don’t know about its deeper meaning, but to me the conversation was just weird and contrived. You don’t often see Dexter having an aimless, vague talk with a stranger. “I’m looking for something.” “Aren’t we all?” Yikes.

Waldman: There were some clunky lines. But a few great Debisms too. I loved when Dexter said, “You have to let me be who I am” and she shot back with, “Being who you are is a capital offense!”

Kirk: What’d you think of Hannah McKay, the erstwhile girlfriend of convict Wayne Randall?

Waldman: Oh, she is sooo the love interest.

Kirk: He’s already pushing her away: “Let’s keep this on a last name basis.” (Another clunky line). Dexter has had some bad experiences with love in the past. Rita dead, Lumen gone, not to mention that crazy Brit from Season 2.

Waldman: On the other hand, Hannah’s greenhouse was the one tight space that didn’t seem to bother Dexter, even though Angel had to go wait in the air-conditioned car.

Kirk: We’ll be seeing her again.

Waldman: Can I register my disappointment that Louis seems to be out of the picture? He was shaping up to be a fabulous villain before Isaac unceremoniously iced him.

Kirk: I couldn’t figure out if he was Dexter’s next nemesis or just a smart douchebag. Now we know. I guess he still could turn out to be more than what he seemed.

Waldman: Maybe, but they’ll have a hard time making us care. I can’t help thinking this was a lost opportunity. At least Dexter’s nonviolent-but-brilliant revenge (mailing the ITK hand to Masuka and the sex tape to Jamie) gave the plot line a high note to end on.

Kirk: I thought Dexter’s revenge was bizarre. As if the show were trying to show him restraining himself for the sake of his sister. But since Louis didn’t murder anyone, killing him would have broken the code. We already knew Dexter sticks to the code even when people are annoying the hell out of him.

Waldman: Still, the sequence of bloody daydreams he had in the beginning was great. For me the transition between fantasy and reality felt creepily seamless: I was convinced Dex was only *thinking* about attacking the suspect who wouldn’t open his mouth for the DNA swab. Alas, not the case.

Kirk: Can they kill off LaGuerta already?

Waldman: Wait, what?

Kirk: I want to see her in plastic. She’s like a big sign that says “look how complex our characters are,” either ragging cruelly on Deb or pining sympathetically after Doakes.

Waldman: Harsh! She’s barely done anything this season besides close the blinds to her office and peruse through manila folders.

Kirk: Law enforcement seriously needs to digitize that stuff.

Waldman: I think Quinn may be next to go. I’m worried about him, getting tangled up with the lovely Russian go-between. Like Deb, Nadia is another loaded gun.

Kirk: What did you make of Debra’s line, “I can’t change who I am?” I wondered whether she was referring to her romantic feelings for Dexter.

Waldman: I didn’t read it that way. To me, she seemed to just be saying she wasn’t sure she could bring herself to accept the DP. At least, that’s what my lizard brain is telling me.

Kirk: Excuse me if I don’t put my faith in your lizard brain. Listen, I gotta go. The wireless is spotty in this mausoleum.

Monday: What other writers and Slate commenters thought about episode 3.