28 September 2008

Dexter, Season 2

I finished watching this a while ago, actually, and just finished a second viewing today. It is more intense than the first season. In the very first episode, a team of divers looking for a sunken ship stumbles across Dexter's dumping ground, and the majority of the season is spent on the hunt for the "Bay Harbor Butcher." Dexter really hates that name, btw. He's also going through a bit of an identity crisis, partly due to what he had to do at the end of Season 1, and partly due to unpleasant things he keeps learning about his father. If you want mega spoilers and episode summaries, go here.

For a taste of the show, here's a teaser promo for Season 3; here's a cast interview with recaps of season one and hints at season two; and here's an actual Season 3 Promo.

I'll put a spoilerish discussion of my own below the fold:

A theme that has always fascinated me is one of hidden identity. Earlier, I posted on a pivotal moment, where Dexter can no longer hide from one particular character. I still consider that the best scene of the season. But the theme goes deeper than that.

As part of a cover story, Dexter winds up admitting to Rita that he has an addiction. In the context of the discussion, she assumes this means heroin, and insists that he join N.A. He waffles on his reaction to the program, but eventually thinks that he has a sponsor who can understand and help him (whether the sponsor knows the exact nature of his addiction or not). In some sense, it seems to be working...except that now Dexter finds his personal life falling apart. After re-watching the season, I would argue that Dexter wound up substituting one addiction for another, and the new addiction was much more harmful to him and the people around him ... particularly when the person to whom he became addicted didn't want to let him go.

Later, Dexter talks about the weight of the mask, and what a relief it would be to finally let it go. This would mean turning himself in as the Bay Harbor Butcher, being put in prison, and probably executed, but to be rid of all the secrets seems, for a time, worth it. He's also not sure whether it would be more selfish to keep hiding, and force someone else to pay the price for his crimes, or to turn himself in and rip apart the lives of Rita and his sister. In the end, the decision is taken from him.

The interesting thing is that Dexter sometimes acts as if he really believes that the 'monster', the 'Butcher', is his only real self, yet he acts automatically to protect people and things that only his 'mask' would care about. Wear a mask long enough, and it starts to seep through the skin. Which one is the 'real' Dexter? They both are. He may be very good at compartmentalizing, but he'll never be completely free of either of his selves, and they're never completely separate. While the monster plays, the mask keeps watch and makes sure that no incriminating evidence gets left behind. While the mask interacts with society, the monster keeps watch on those the mask cares about.

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