Welcome to Part 3 of this Dexter Morgan series. In Part 1 we talked about how Dexter came to be so dashing and deadly and, in Part 2, we talked about Dexter, the family man. For the first two parts, we focused mainly on the Dexter and Jeff Lindsay’s novels but there are two Dexters. How do these two Dexter’s stack up against one another? Continue reading “A Tale of Two Dexters – Dexter Morgan, Part 3”
Ah, Dexter Morgan. Everything you could want (and maybe a few things you don’t) in a guy. Dashing. Clever. Charming. Good with a knife.
But is he good with kids?
*originally posted 10/1/11, slightly modified here*
Note: This discussion centers on the novels by Jeff Lindsay. We’ll be discussing TV Dexter a bit later. While I don’t think they’d hurt your enjoyment of the novels, I have to warn you that there are some spoilers ahead. There. Now you can’t say I didn’t tell you so.
In Part 1 of this series, we talked a bit about what made Dexter who he is and why Dexter does what he does. This time, we’ll talk more about who Dexter is.
Dexter in the Middle
Who is Dexter Morgan really?
A mad slasher? Maybe a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes, don’t we? Most certainly a slasher but, you know, only of the irrefutably, monstrously guilty.
Dexter might say he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a happy homicidal maniac hidden beneath an extraordinarily ordinary appearance.
But Dexter is not exactly what he seems. Not even to himself.
Although Dexter believes himself incapable of genuine emotional attachment, Dexter is in fact chock full of attachment. You see, Dexter is a family man.
Let’s meet the players, shall we?
Doris Morgan: Dexter’s foster-mother. She died when Dexter was an adolescent. Although she doesn’t feature prominently in Dexter’s inner landscape, she left her mark. She cared for him when he was a young child and he cared enough for her in his own way to off a yapping neighbor dog that kept her from resting when she was battling cancer.
Harry Morgan: Dexter’s foster-father, a police officer. He rescued Dexter from the bloody refrigerated storage container and raised him as his son. As soon as he discovered Dexter’s dark urges, he began to train Dexter in the Code of Harry. This set of rules allows Dexter to channel his Need to kill in a more *ahem* positive way and ensures that Dexter doesn’t get caught. Even after death, Harry’s lessons stay with Dexter, guiding his actions even when deviating from the code would serve Dexter’s immediate desires.
Brian Moser: Dexter’s biological brother, older by a year. He was in the storage container with Dexter but was abandoned to the foster system. Dexter blocked out all memory of his life before the Morgans and thus forgot his brother existed until Brian made a splashy reentrance to Dexter’s life. Brian is not only a brother to Dexter in blood but also in darkness. Brother Brian is also host to a Dark Passenger and driven to kill but without the Harry Code. For all the deadly havoc he creates in Dexter’s life, Brian is the only person that really gets Dexter.
Deborah Morgan: Dexter’s foster-sister, a cop like their father. Although Deborah often introduces conflict and complications to Dexter’s well-ordered life, she helps to anchor Dexter to the memory of their father. Even when Brian sorely tempts Dexter to abandon the Harry Code, to kill Deborah as a symbol of breaking free from his “fake” life, Dexter chooses to uphold the Harry Code and save Deborah’s life. As much as he wants to be with his brother, Deborah is his sister and he’ll even go as far as to admit that he’s “fond” of her.
Rita Bennett: Dexter’s girlfriend and eventual wife, mother of Astor and Cody. Rita, severely traumatized by her abusive ex-husband and as shy of intimacy as Dexter, seems to be the perfect disguise. Along with her two children, she lends Dexter the air of an ordinary family man. But, before long and somewhat accidentally, she becomes real family. Although she doesn’t know his dark secret, she sees something human in Dexter and further ties Dexter to that humanity.
Astor and Cody Bennett: Rita’s children by her first husband. Their father’s abuse has left them damaged and they don’t laugh and play freely as other children. They seem to share one mind, communicating between themselves with a look. Cody seldom speaks, letting Astor do most of the talking for the pair. At first, Dexter feels protective of them because he feels a special connection to children in general. But soon, Dexter discovers that Astor and Cody are more like him than if they were his own blood. Cody, like Dexter and Brian, has a Dark Passenger, a tiny, fledgling darkness that Cody and Astor are eager to explore. Dexter finds himself wanting to be a father to them in truth and guide them down the Harry Way.
As the series progresses, Dexter becomes more and more entangled with these people. They ground him, draw him to what is human. And that puts him in direct conflict with his bloody hobby. How can Dexter be a family man and a killer? It’s the question that drives the story and pushes us to keep on reading.
Dexter may be one of the most brilliant characters of all time. He is dark and complicated. He is innocent too, sometimes hopelessly naïve. He is a darkness we do not want to look into, the purest, most terrifying personification of our dark urges, but we do not want to call him evil. We want to cheer for him. He is Dexter Morgan.
If you haven’t had the chance to read Jeff Lindsay’s novels, even if you’re already big fan of the show, you haven’t really met Dexter. It’s one of the few cases where the books and tv series can be radically different and still be both compelling in their own right.
Dying to know how TV Dexter measures up to Novel Dexter? Stay tuned for Part 3 to find out.
What do you like best about Dexter? What do find most frightening about his character? How do you feel about the idea of Cody and Astor, Rita’s children being budding serial killers and Dexter wanting to teach them the Harry Code?
Killer Thursdays are going every other week for now. Look for the next Killer Thursday 4/26/12.
After six novels and six seasons on Showtime, Dexter is still one of the most fascinating fictional characters. The joy he takes in killing is monstrous, however vile his victims. Yet, we cannot help but be drawn in by Dexter’s dark, somewhat clumsy charm.
What is Dexter, exactly? And what drives him?
*originally posted 9/16/11, slightly modified and updated here*
*warning – the following contains spoilers from the first three Dexter novels. Given that the novels have been out for some time and the television show is approaching its 7th season, I doubt these spoilers will negatively impact your enjoyment of either. Still, you’ve been warned. ;)*
Driving Mr. Dexter
Dexter Morgan. Forensic blood spatter analyst and friendly neighborhood serial killer.
What’s that you say? Friendly and serial killer in the same sentence? Indeed.
See, Dexter isn’t your average homicidal maniac. Oh no. Dexter is a cut above all the rest. Because Dexter only kills people who really, really deserve it.
So you see, as long as you’re one of the good guys, you’re perfectly safe with Tall, Dark and Deadly Dexter.
Dexter Morgan is the (anti)hero created by author Jeff Lindsay and first appearing in the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Since then, he has starred in Dearly Devoted Dexter, Dexter in the Dark, Dexter by Design, Dexter is Delicious and Double Dexter (whew, that’s a whole lotta Dex). Darkly Dreaming Dexter also inspired six seasons of the Showtime series Dexter, with Dexter Morgan being portrayed by Michael C. Hall.
As the character of Dexter Morgan in the novel differs in a few very important ways from the character in the television show, we’ll restrict our Dexterish explorations to Novel Dexter for Part 1 of this series.
The novels are narrated in Dexter’s playful and often euphoric voice. He’s prone to Capitalizing A Lot and is almost as fond of alliteration and nicknames as he is of Bavarian cream filled doughnuts, medianoche sandwiches and badito de mame milkshakes.
By day, Dexter is a mild-mannered forensic blood spatter analyst for Miami’s Metro-Dade Police Department. While he finds blood extremely disturbing for reasons he doesn’t understand until late in the first novel, he does enjoy making sense of blood spatter at a crime scene and forcing the “vile sticky red stuff” to “behave.”
By night, when the moon calls and the Need rises, Dexter goes a-hunting. Once he finds the perfect “playmate,” Dexter waits in a white silk mask with a noose of fishing line which he uses to subdue his victims until he can tape them to a work table in a carefully arranged killing room. He then spends a few hours in “happy exploration” before disposing of the victim in various creative ways.
Although Dexter feels an irresistible Need to kill, he doesn’t do so randomly or haphazardly. He always selects his victims from among the worst murderers, especially those that the justice system cannot put away, is careful to confirm their guilt, and always tidies up afterward.
How did Dexter come by such a work ethic?
His cop foster-father Harry Morgan discovered Dexter’s dark penchant and quickly got him “squared away.” Harry Morgan, a good man and a good cop, saw the darkness in his foster son and realized that, although it wasn’t curable, it might be used as a force for good (if you can call murder, even Dexter’s brand of murder, good). Dexter calls the set of rules that define his murder ritual the Harry Code. And he never deviates.
Well, almost never.
But how did Dexter come by his dark Need in the first place?
When Dexter was very young, he witnessed the brutal slaying of his mother and several men in a refrigerated storage container. The murder involved a chainsaw and copious amounts of blood. Afterwards, Dexter and his brother Brian, older by one year, were left for days in a lake of blood an inch thick. Dexter was rescued by Officer Harry Morgan and later adopted by Harry and his wife Doris. Brian was abandoned to the foster system.
Although Dexter blocks it out (until his brother Brian returns and forces him to remember), the incident in the storage container killed most of what was human in Dexter and let in something that Dexter calls the Dark Passenger. It left him with a Need to kill.
The Dark Passenger is described as another voice inside of Dexter, a dark, reptilian voice that guides Dexter and prods him into killing. Dexter refers to “letting the Dark Passenger” drive and often uses “we” statements when he’s in the grip of his Need.
While it might at first seem like the Dark Passenger is just a figment of Dexter’s twisted imagination, a way of filling some of the emptiness inside himself and passing off some of the blame, it quickly becomes clear that the Dark Passenger is Other. Some of the cold killers Dexter encounters, including his nemesis Sargeant Doakes, carry their own Dark Passenger. Those Dark Passengers and Dexter’s respond to each other with a flurry of invisible black wings and not-heard hisses.
The third novel in the series, Dexter in the Dark, makes it even clearer that the Dark Passenger is a real and separate being and goes deeper into its mythology. The story, the only one in the series so far to not be narrated exclusively in Dexter’s voice, traces the Dark Passenger’s origin from the first IT through the development of a brutal religion surrounding a god called Moloch and into the present day where a being called the Watcher is trying to revive the worship of Moloch in all it’s child-sacrificing, Dark Passenger-eating, and burnt-offering glory.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Dexter Morgan series where we’ll delve into Dexter’s softer side…
Have you read the Dexter novels? What about the differences between Novel Dexter and TV Dexter? What do you think of the Dark Passenger? Was Harry’s Code really the right solution for young Dexter?
Knife blade by The Ewan, on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
blood spatter by Matt Allworth, on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Bloody Handprint by Jessica Howard, on Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
Gargoyle by Scott Duncan, on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0