Loving Dexter: The Inner Killer and Season 5

The 5th season has reminded us that Dexter is, as always, a true outsider, and this is one of Dexter’s juiciest drawing points: duality, or, the private and public self. The extremity of Dexter’s private self highlights the gap we feel every day between our private thoughts and feelings against what we present to the world (“To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”). We can see this duality in most shows and movies to some degree, but Dexter, as a sociopathic killer, turns this gap into a huge, darkly highlighted gulf, and we sympathize all the more with him in his awkward struggle to handle both worlds.

In episode two of season five, in what seems to be a throwaway scene, Quinn and Debra are having a discussion about the severed head they’ve found. Quinn tells Debra that if a woman pissed him off enough that he would want to chop her head off, too; he then qualifies it by saying, “not saying I would do it, but I understand the impulse.” More than the tension between public and private, here we have a private that also includes the outlawed desires of the Id – the shadow side (http://psikoloji.fisek.com.tr/jung/shadow.htm). And because our own shadow sides are suppressed and repressed by nature, there is a pleasure in enjoying them vicariously (perhaps especially vicariously where we can enjoy a kill, etc and feel no guilt) and this is certainly one of the features that makes Dexter so appealing. In the broadest sense, Dexter plays off of the pressure we feel having to adjust to societal codes as well as the struggle we have with our own verboten desires.

Though our private desires so often show up as vicious (think of how this is structurally true for Boyd, the murderer Dexter has just killed, who keeps his women in the basement, in the dark), the unique note that the last episode of Dexter brings up is that love also appears in the secret shadow side. This is a new thing for Dexter whose last love was so much for show and who had no idea of Dexter’s real identity.

And now we prepare to meet Lumen, an attractive woman who has seen Dexter for who he really is, and with her our thrill as we imagine someone accepting our truly private self sans all masks.



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