The 'Dexter' Fantasy: Why The Series Needs a Gooey Center
You could say that Dexter is a show about a man filled with blood-lust, channeling his dark thoughts into a Robin-Hood-esque killing spree that rids the world of ruthless murderers and trying desperately to keep his side-job under wraps. But the way I see it, Dexter is a fantasy. It's a show that corrals our fears about the psychopaths that live among us and coaxes us into believing that not all inner evil makes the world a more terrifying place. Sometimes inner darkness can become fuel for heroism. Dexter Morgan's superhuman serial killer tells us so.
This idea becomes more clear during the episode titled "What's Eating Dexter Morgan?" As Deb spins further and further out of control, barely getting out of a D.U.I. and coming into the station drunk and screaming about how she wants to confess to killing LaGuerta, Dexter jumps into big brother mode. He makes it his mission, ahead of finding the season's big serial killer, to save Deb from her pit of despair. When he fails, Dr. Vogel insists that Dex step aside and let her handle Deb.
She's probably right, but her reasoning strikes a painful chord with Dexter: She says Dexter can't really love Deb because he's a psychopath. It's clear Dexter doesn't believe that, and it's clear that we don't really believe it either. We've known Dexter has issues loving people normally, but we want to believe that on some level he has the ability to love. It's that belief that drives us to follow him into the depths of his dark mind. It's why we're okay with and even charmed by the fact that he's still being a dad to little Harrison. Dexter loves; we've seen it. However, Vogel argues that given his status as a psychopath, the only sort of love Dexter can exhibit is a sort of calculated, selfish love-composite.
He loves being around Deb, he loves that she looks up to him, he loves that she looks out for him, therefore he "loves" her because of what she gives him and not because of who she is, which the Doc points out, isn't "real love." Vogel throws out the caveat that, of course, non-psychopaths have trouble understanding that this isn't real love as well, but that doesn't change the fact that we don't believe her. After all, didn't we just see Dex go into protective dad mode when he thought Harrison's red popsicle mess was blood? And when he realized the boy's situation was a snack mishap, he cleaned his son's sticky face with tenderness and care.
We need Dexter to be the exception to the rule, and so does the series. He's the one good guy in a sea of sickos. He's got slightly different wiring that makes him something of a miracle: a serial killer with a heart of gold. Even when we've questioned it, we know on some level that the rules don't apply to Dexter and Vogel is working tirelessly to shatter that notion.
Luckily, Dexter does the right thing by the end of Sunday's episode. Even though he loves her and it would make him feel right to be the one to fix her, Dex hands Deb over to Vogel so she can figure out her grief. He's able to put his desires and needs aside in order to give Deb the chance to feel whole again. That is love. And that moment gives us hope that Vogel and her theories are wrong. Dexter can be different. He can be the one who changes the rules. He can keep our fantasy alive. After all, if we didn't think that Dex had some sort of gooey center, would we even still be here?