Dexter: Father of the year?
Is Dexter neglecting his son this season, or is it the writers?
Don’t blame Robbie Rist; he was just a child actor looking for a job when he walked into the Brady home as the now infamous Cousin Oliver. He didn’t start the problem; he just became the face for it. It’s a common trend for shows that are long in the tooth to add a new baby, cute wise-cracking neighbor or distant cousin to the recurring cast in an effort to spice up their shark-jumped story-lines. In theory it makes sense. The main characters need new stories, challenges, and responsibilities to stave off monotony and adding in a young burden – I mean child – instantly raises the stakes and adds a new avenue of conflict. The problem, of course, is it also threatens to completely change the dynamic of the entire show.
Dexter, for the most part, has straddled that line when it comes to Dexter’s son, Harrison. It is an interesting avenue to explore with Dexter’s character: how will a single father psychopath raise a child? Is he capable of loving another person unconditionally? This seems to be one of the themes of this season, but instead of utilizing Harrison’s role in Dexter’s life to explore that idea, the focus turns to his relationship with his sister, Deb; Harrison has become nothing more than a plot point. Dexter travels all over the city, tracking potential (or in most cases active) serial killers, with just a casual reference to his only child waiting for him at home with the most flexible nanny (congrats, Quinn!) on the planet. In many episodes, I find myself wondering who’s actually watching Harrison, since Dexter’s dealing with Deb and Jamie’s out with Quinn. As I’ve said in other posts, that’s not really the point – maybe Harrison’s asleep in the other room while Jamie and Quinn “exercise” at Angel’s house. That doesn’t matter. The reason those thoughts pop up for me has less to do with babysitting plot holes and more to do with how Harrison could be used this season — of course, the boring Quinn applying to be a Sergeant storyline isn’t helping my mind wandering either; at least he’s tamed his haircut this season.
Vogel has questioned Dexter’s love for Deb and instead postulates that Dexter is using Deb’s love and adoration for him as a mirror to reflect a positive image of himself. Before she found out his secret, Deb not only looked up to her brother but she also needed him in her life to keep her grounded, giving Dexter a purpose outside of simple survival. Vogel points out that everything Dexter claims he loves about Debra relates only to how she effects Dexter, not about Debra herself. Now that she knows the truth and no longer looks up to her older brother, Dexter is left with a hole that he’s desperate to fill. He needs a connection to the real world, not just as a mask to hide his true nature, but as a link to the sense of humanity the Code of Harry tries to regulate. But wouldn’t his son fill that role as well? Harrison is no longer a mute baby or babbling toddler … he’s walking and talking, and old enough to interact and show his love for Dexter. Boys at that age idolize their fathers. They are heroes in their son’s eyes and the fact that Dexter works for the police department – sure he’s not a cop, but Harrison is only five and would only know that daddy wears a badge – would ensure that Harrison reveres his father, fulfilling the same role Deb filled for six seasons. Dexter did show more interest in his son initially this season, but recently the late nights out and the fact he knows nothing of his son’s imaginary elephant friend imply that Harrison has taken a back seat to Aunt Deb.
Now, you could argue that Dexter’s obsession with “fixing” Deb is actually related to Harry’s (or really Vogel’s) first rule: never get caught. Since Deb’s guilt has caused her to spiral out of control, she now poses a threat to Dexter’s survival if she were to confess to killing LaGuerta. Vogel has probed into why Dexter didn’t just kill Deb once she found out his secret. He claims sibling love, but she asserts it’s the associations Dexter’s built up around his relationship with Deb. What confuses me is that Vogel is fascinated with Dexter and Deb’s relationship – that a psychopath appears to feel regret and empathy toward another person – but hasn’t really addressed the fact that Dexter is raising a child by himself. You would think the “psychopath whisperer” would vault over the sibling relationship in favor of the much more interesting father-son dynamic that Dexter has with Harrison. Obviously, it’s much more interesting for viewers to watch the confrontations between Dexter and Deb instead of play dates with Harrison at the park, but I find it odd that Vogel hasn’t brought it up more (or at all). Wouldn’t she want to study Harrison to see how Dexter’s parenting has shaped Harrison’s identity?
There’s still time for writers to explore those ideas this season, and I have a feeling that it is part of the plan, considering there is a major theme of family and parenting this season. Harry and Vogel were surrogate parents to Dexter, molding him into the killer he is today. Angel has taken over a fatherly role in regards to Quinn, pushing him to be a better man by applying for the Sergeant position. Even Masuka is a father this season, thanks to a sperm donation he made in college – although you’d think the sperm bank would give him some warning that one of his “children” may come knocking. And you could argue that the Brain Surgeon Killer is also one of Vogel’s children. It could be that I’m reading too much into this (or that I just watched Magnolia on TV), but I think the “sins of the father” (and mother) will play a large part in the show’s final 8 episodes.