Trial by fire. Fight fire with fire. Fanning the flames. Playing with fire. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I could go on. All these phrases could be applied to the second season of Dexter, but there is nothing contrived or cliche about this show or its fascinating main character. Fire played a major role this season, both literally and figuratively. But that was only part of the story. In order to fully appreciate the intricacies of this season’s plot, you had to watch to the very end. Only then did it all make sense. Read on for my dissection of what happened in the twelve episodes of season two. WARNING – IT IS VERY SPOILERY, SO STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED YET AND PLAN TO.
The basic premise of this season:
Dexter’s tidy, compartmentalized world is thrown off balance when his body dumping site is discovered at the bottom of the Atlantic. Enter Special Agent Frank Lundy, who the FBI sends to Miami to lead the manhunt for the soon-dubbed Bay Harbor Butcher. Before long, Dexter’s sister Deb becomes interested in Lundy in more than a professional capacity, which further complicates Dexter’s work environment. As a blood analyst, he is in the awkward position of investigating his own bodies of work. Meanwhile, Sgt. Doakes is busy investigating Dexter, a process which includes stalking him and delving into his past.
Things are no less complicated in Dexter’s relationship with Rita, which takes a bizarre turn when she asks him if he is an addict. He answers her truthfully, “Yes, I have an addiction,” and with that statement he is thrown into the world of Narcotics Anonymous, where he meets and becomes involved with the mysterious (and, later we learn, crazy) Lila.
Before long, all of Dexter’s carefully separated worlds (work, love, family, serial killing) begin to collide, and he has to get creative to protect himself, his family, and his secret.
Here’s a closer look at the characters:
- Sgt. James Doakes – Poor, poor Doakes. I’ve read all the Dexter books by Jeff Lindsay, on which this series is based. In the second book, Doakes meets an unfortunate series of events. While the second season of the tv show differed significantly from the book, there were still some similarities (namely a secluded cabin in the Everglades and a special agent sent to lead the manhunt for a serial killer.), so I kept expecting the worst. As the season progressed, it seemed clear that the only way for Dexter to escape discovery as the Bay Harbor Butcher was for Doakes to die. The question was, how would it happen? Would Dexter kill him in the same methodical way as his other victims? That seemed unlikely, and it would have been difficult to watch. Would Doakes meet his match in a hungry alligator? He almost did, but I’m glad the show didn’t pull a “Kim Bauer and the cougar” moment. Doakes also had a close call with a couple of drug dealers. After watching him survive all of these potentially deadly situations, it really was heart-wrenching to watch him die at the hands of that horrid Lila. I so wanted him to get out of the cabin just in the nick of time, especially after he managed to grab the key and get out of his makeshift prison. But, Lila had made certain that he would be trapped by blocking the door. And so, after surviving his years in special ops and being held hostage by a serial killer, Doakes succumbed to a tank of propane and an open flame. And so Dexter’s secret remains safe. I will miss Sgt. Doakes next season. He brought a strange brew of intensity and humor to the show that none of the other characters can match. And in those last few episodes, we were able to see his softer side as he tried to talk Dexter into turning himself in. I suppose he should have left well enough alone…
- Lt. Maria Laguerta – She has never been my favorite character, and I was not a fan of the direction her subplot was going at the beginning of the season. I’m referring to her supposed camaraderie with her replacement, Lt. Pasquale. I quickly grew tired of the shenanigans surrounding Pasquale’s suspicions and obsessive snooping into her fiance’s suspicious behavior. It seemed unrealistic that someone who had it together enough to rise to such a powerful position would go bonkers so quickly. Looking back on this storyline now, though, it makes sense. I didn’t guess until just before it was revealed that Laguerta was actually manipulating Pasquale by being her friend while at the same time being the very woman the fiance was sneaking around with. This reinforced our view of Laguerta as a cold-hearted, power-hungry woman. Later on, this allowed us to understand that Doakes was one of the few things that Laguerta cared about more than herself and her career. It was very sad to see her following all the right clues for proof that Doakes wasn’t the killer, but being ignored by all the people who could do something about it. I actually feel sorry for her now, which is something that I never thought I would say.
- Angel Batista – At the beginning of the season Angel was fresh off of an Oprah moment, and was finally seeing the light and embracing his moments of opportunity. He provided some of the humor this season with his silly rants about seizing the moment and taking control of his destiny. Later on, he got a reality check when crazy Lila framed him for rape. Thankfully, though, in the end he was able to come out of the situation relatively unscathed.
- Rita Bennett – Sweet, good-hearted Rita. She’s always looking out for her children’s best interests, and trying to protect herself from potentially unhealthy relationships with addicts. I was slightly annoyed by the introduction of her perceptive mother, who pegged Dexter as someone who was hiding something from the moment she met him. But, having her mom move in gave Rita a chance to demonstrate her newfound self-confidence. I was so proud of her when she ran her mom out of town! And strangely enough, she has made a wise choice for a man in Dexter. He probably cares more about her two kids than he cares for anyone or anything else. That pesky killing habit that he has is one of the only drawbacks to their relationship.
- Debra Morgan – I must say, I liked Deb more this season than last. She was more grounded and level-headed, under the influence of her AARP card-carrying boyfriend Lundy, than she was while dating the icky Ice Truck Killer, Rudy. She was also a more solid cop than last season, rather than an annoying rookie who was always trying to get Dexter to do her job for her. That being said, the Debra/Lundy romance was my least favorite storyline of this season. Eww! He was really old, and they kept making subtle references to Lundy being a stand in for her father, which just made her involvement with him seem wrong.
- Special Agent Frank Lundy – As a perceptive FBI agent, he was fine. But I wasn’t buying him as a sexy, silver-haired dream guy for Deb. Again, yuck! All he ever talked about was food and dead bodies. If I were Deb, I would have stuck with the well-built, attentive children’s book writer, Gabriel. I’m guessing we won’t see Frank anymore. He’s already off working another case, and Deb chose her job when she was forced to make a quick decision of taking a cab to the airport or helping Rita find her kids.
- Lila – She may be the best female villain I have ever encountered on a tv show. I hated her at first, and later on I despised her. When Dexter first became interested in Lila, I was wondering if we the audience were supposed to like her, because I certainly didn’t. She was extremely annoying, and she was quickly destroying all the things that Dexter had worked to build, like his mask and his relationship with Rita. I started to worry that this season wouldn’t be very good. But then, about the time that she set her home on fire to get Dexter’s attention, I saw where things were headed, and I liked it. The question became, “What chaos will she cause now?” And she certainly caused a lot of chaos, all in her quest to convince Dexter that she was his soul mate. To name a few examples: She lured Dexter away from his safe and comfortable relationship with Rita. She told Dexter’s mother’s murderer where Dexter was, which led to several more complications and inconveniences (including Doakes’ discovery of Dex as the Bay Harbor Butcher). She accused Angel of rape. She deliberately caused an explosion to kill Doakes. And worst of all, she kidnapped Rita’s kids and left them and Dexter to die in her burning apartment. What a horrible woman! By the end of it all, I was nearly yelling at my tv, “Chop her up into little pieces, Dexter!” I was ready to see her pay for her manipulative, psycho, destructive ways. A simple knife to the heart wasn’t what I was expecting, but it works just fine. It’s nice to know that she won’t cause any more trouble to the good people of Miami.
- Dexter – How strange that I love Dexter and cheer him on in his dark deeds. It was fascinating to see him become more human. He was making poor decisions (namely Lila) and then feeling guilty about them (as well he should have!). He was torn about what to do with Doakes. I was glad he decided against killing him. And in the end he made decisions based more on the people he cares about (and who depend on him) than on his own needs. Of course, he didn’t want to get caught, but he was more concerned about how it would affect Deb, Rita, and the kids. By the end of the season, Dexter felt that he had risen above Harry and his code. He still finds release in killing, but he is now more than just a man in a mask. There are feelings behind that mask. It will be interesting to see what direction the show takes in the third season, as Dexter once again balances a stable domestic and professional life with a morbid, night time hobby.
At the beginning of this post I mentioned that this season was all about fire. Fire was a catalyst for many of the problems Dexter encountered, but in the end it was also the solution, as it took care of his Doakes problem. I think I actually liked season two better than season one. Lila was a more interesting villain than the creepy Rudy. But I enjoy this show through all of its storylines and all the ups and downs of its characters. Sign me up for season three!