by DICK CHENEY
creator James Manos Jr.
It was an awkward situation, on a number of levels, when the titular character of Showtime's long-running serial killer comedy Dexter found his sister Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter) watching him stick a knife in the chest of Colin Hanks.
The most obvious discomfort arose from the fact that Deborah Morgan, head of Miami metro's homicide division now knew her brother was the fabled Bay Harbor Butcher, the killer of killers, murderer of murderers. The second level of disgust was that Ms. Carpenter was witnessing the finest performance of her ex-husband Michael C. Hall's career.
If you were not previously familiar with Michael C. Hall as the simpering brother of the worst actor in the universe, Peter Krause, on HBO's Six Feet Under, you would be forgiven for thinking he was the bloodthirsty blood spatter analyst for the police, so completely is Hall subsumed in the role. Granted, the part isn't exactly Richard III, although I would certainly pay my money to watch Hall take a crack at that, too.
Now that Dexter's sister-wife is onto him, she is going through the twelve stages of grief. I can identify with what she is experiencing because America just elected a guy whose chief qualification for the highest office in the land is the number of different anecdotes he unfurls on Leno and Letterman. Karl Rove lied to me.
At first Deborah Morgan focused on preventing her brother-husband from killing anyone else. This resolves soon dims to, in one hilarious scene, begging him not to interfere in police investigations. She makes Dexter promise, and after he agrees she says, "Are you lying to me right now?" "I don't know," he responds. (Expecting candor from a serial killer is of course a metaphorical analog for the IRL expectation of fidelity from a popular actor. Carpenter sued for spousal support, he got a new girlfriend who appears only slightly less annoying than his last.)
Jennifer Carpenter examines her ex-husband during her scenes with him as an eagle responds to a particularly runty member of her offspring before swallowing it whole. Because the distrust she shows for him is so real it on some level cannot be hidden through Stanislavsky's method, Dexter has become half drama, half true-to-life reality show. Some of the scenes between the two are so tense the possibility of sex between brother and sister (Dexter was adopted) is as plausible as cold-blooded murder. It's an exciting time.
Finely tuning the reaction of the most important person in his life to Dexter's obsession was not an easy task. Yes, Dexter takes lives on a fairly routine basis. Yes, wikipedia is the main resource providing evidence for his kills ("I googled poison! She's guilty!). On the other hand, if the general public were ever actually made aware of all the unbelievably nice things Dexter has done for the state of Florida, he'd be the most popular man in the state behind Marco Rubio. (I am not totally sure what stage of grief I am in now, but I am completely open to Latino options, that much is certain.)
Dexter's reaction to Deborah's reaction is itself complicated. He is very happy his sister finally knows him for who he is, because before now the possibility of anyone accepting his true self was merely a temporary fantasy certain to end in their death. But he also knows he cannot stop killing, and Deborah's involvement in his somewhat off-the-cuff plans, what I call killcations, complicates matters more than he would like. The real-life and fake-life conflict between the two has completely invigorated the show after a somewhat dull Sixth Sense-esque season in which Edward James Olmos fell asleep during one of his own scenes.
As Dexter's seventh season continues, it has introduced Chuck's Yvonne Strahovski, an Australian actress who portrays a Bonnie-type character finally met up with Dexter's Clyde. After learning of this lovely woman's murderous ways (she uses roughly the same weaps as Poison Ivy), Dexter plans to murder her in Miami's only makeshift Santa's Village. "Do what you gotta do," she whispers to him. Instead of stabbing her, he cuts off the packaging tape binding her and has unprotected sex on his killing table while fake snow descends around them. Yvonne's teeth are the tragedy that makes her advances towards our hero completely resistible; her guilt and lack of compunction for her crimes are the nudge that tips the needle back in the other direction.
It was always thought that Dexter would have to, at some point, be caught. It is presumably how the show will end, and indeed there is such a preponderance of evidence against him that it is almost an inside joke no one has even so much looked in his direction for some time. The African-American officer who he framed for about forty murders and imprisoned in a cage is now many seasons dead. Race is an issue that hovers at the edge of Dexter, since if he were to demographically target those who commit violent crimes, he would surely find himself killing his share of Latino and black men.
Instead, the individuals Dexter targets are overwhelmingly white. The reason is for this is obvious: if Dexter hewed closer to reality, he would not only subtly seem like a white supremacist, but he would be dealing out justice for crimes that occur in urban areas and are somewhat less clear morally. Dexter himself has already proved that even killers can be sympathetic if their stories are presented in the right light; after all, the Navy Seals and the president who killed Osama Bin Laden have done nothing but brag about it since.
One thing you rarely see in Dexter is the inside of a prison. The staggering number of incarcerated individuals is the chief way the crime rate became so low this past decade. Jailing criminals is effective at preventing crime, we can be relatively sure, but the financial cost is absolutely enormous. It impairs the government's ability to fund a public television station that, despite costing millions to a country that can't afford it, is apparently the justification some need to steal wealthy people's incomes.
The approach Dexter wields to the problem of crime is actually far more humane. If someone has committed a crime that deserves death, Dexter provides it for them in as painless a fashion as possible. If the individual involved does not at that moment deserve death, Dexter allows them to go on living, but he will often tail them in his car until he can get more evidence, or enter their name in AskJeeves and nod approvingly at the results.
In practice, this could be accomplished with a simple monitoring bracelet instead of degrading imprisonment. If the shame and anger we felt when Dexter imprisoned Doakes is any indication, savages jail their ne'er do wells, civilized people either kill them or fine them a sum appropriate to their offense. Instead of paying to house and feed the worst elements in our society and creating monsters in the process, we could be letting them go free, watching them closely, and spending the money on more important things, like diplomatic protection for honorary generals and airtight security while the president plays another round of golf.
In the meantime, Guantanamo continues operating. The left is more concerned with a secession movement than reforming the justice system. Holding anyone accountable except for the businesses that create actual jobs is anathema to them. Sending Michael C. Hall just a few miles south to Cuba remains the most cost-effective option.
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about Downton Abbey.
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