Dexter's Villains: Ranking the Series' "Big Bads"
Ever wonder what it's like inside the mind of a serial killer? Well, without Dexter's brilliant voice-over narration, we really wouldn't know. But take away his story telling, and how can you get to know Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall)? One way of finding out is by looking at his fellow serial killers -- or "big bads" -- and finding a connection.
Part of the formula for Dexter is that each season, the blood spatter analyst/vigilante is paired alongside another serial killer, who is meant to make Dexter look good. You see a gang who rapes and kills young women, or a lunatic who wants to bring about the end of the world, and you think to yourself "Dexter isn't that bad!" in order to justify your admiration for an antihero. It's okay, that's the whole point -- until season eight, when the formula gets chopped up into asymmetrical pieces, placed into black Hefty bags, and thrown overboard into the water.
Things are going to change for Dexter Morgan this upcoming season, but until then, let's reminisce on the big bads who have made it onto Dexter's table.
7. The Barrel Girl Gang
Season five spiced things up by having a gang of five friends, rather than just one killer, be the target of Dexter's blood lust. However, if that wasn't enough, adding Lumen Pierce (Julia Stiles) as Dexter's sidekick was that extra pinch of cumin. Dexter didn't kill all these men on his own -- Boyd Fowler was his first solo endeavor, which led him to meet (and team up with) Lumen.
The Barrel Girl Gang, in order of death, is made up of: Boyd Fowler, Dan Mendell, Cole Harmon, Alex Tilden, and Jordan Chase. Five friends who like to rape, torture, and finally kill young blonde women. Fowler would dispose of the bodies in barrels of formaldehyde and dump them in a swamp. Their only code seemed to be secrecy. Aside from dumping their victims in water, the only other similarity the gang shares with Dexter is their trophies. Fowler keeps a lock of hair, Harmon a DVD of the rape, Tilden a piece of jewelry, and Chase wears a vile of blood from their first rape victim as teens.
The most interesting part of this season was Dexter's relationship with Lumen - even though we were still a bit broken up by Rita's death. She was the first person he could really be himself around (Lila doesn't quite count, since she first thought he was a heroin addict) and she even helped him with the kills. Lumen even took the coveted final kill in the season finale when she stabbed Jordan right through the heart, and just like that avenged herself and satisfied the darkness inside her.
Unfortunately for Dexter -- and fortunately for us -- his Dark Passenger cannot be so easily extinguished.
Season three's big bad was forgettable. The most memorable killer from this season was Dexter's new best friend, Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits), but he wasn't the main monster. George King, aka Skinner, aka Jorge Orozco (Jesse Borrego) was supposed to be this big, scary guy who spent the entire season looking for Freebo -- who was offed in the second episode -- because he owed him money. Jorge killed anyone he thought knew where Freebo was, and as a trophy, he would take a piece of his/her skin -- majorly gross.
The only thing Skinner has in common with Dexter is that they both keep trophies from their victims. Other than that, Jorge is just a low-life who kills [relatively] innocent people in search for money. But he did bring Dex out of his comfort zone; he had to hustle a quick kill before his wedding, and after breaking his neck, he drops Jorge's body from the second floor onto a moving police car -- much quicker and cleaner than his usual method.
5. Isaak Sirko, Hannah McKay, The Arsonist Phantom, and Hector Estrada
Season seven was quite the game changer. For starters, Deb finds out all about Dexter and his Dark Passenger, and there's not just one big bad serial killer -- there are four. First, we have Isaak Sirko (Ray Stevenson), the Ukrainian mafia boss who is after Dexter for killing his lover. Then, there's Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski) whose mode of operation involves poisoning her victims. Thirdly, and very late into the season, someone named the Arsonist Phantom is introduced, who drenches his victims in gasoline and then sets them on fire while he watches wearing a fireproof suit. And lastly, Hector Estrada (Nestor Serrano), the man who ordered the kill on Dexter's mom, is our last big bad this season.
Out of the four, Isaak shares the most in common with Dex: they both have lost someone they love and are grieving.
4. Doomsday Killer
Season six, which aired in 2011, was clearly about the whole rapture/end of the world craziness that was making headlines back then. So it makes sense to have an off-his-meds killer recreating scenes from the Book of Revelations in order to bring about the apocalypse, right? Sure. Enter Travis Marshall (Colin Hanks) who believes he is doing God's work and that God is speaking to him through the Professor (Edward James Olmos). Throughout the season, we see Travis being mentored by the Professor, so it appears as if he is more of a victim than a killer.
It was not much of a shock when audiences found out that the Professor had been dead for three years -- killed by Travis, obviously -- and Travis was only imagining his conversations with the dead man. Much like Dexter imagines Harry (his deceased adopted father) is in the room with him, guiding him and giving advice, Travis, too, is haunted by his demons.
When doomsday fails to happen, Travis still gets to meet his maker, thanks to Dex. An actual shocker: Deb walks in on Dexter and Travis at the church, and long story short, Travis' body gets hosed in gasoline and lit on fire instead of dumped to the depths of the sea.
Season four is all about Dexter adjusting to his new life as husband and father -- he's gone from serial killer to family man. Trinity, who is really Arthur Mitchell (John Lithgow), turns out to be a family man much like Dexter. Because of this, Dexter - pretending to be Kyle Butler - gets close to Arthur and tries to understand how he can be a notorious mass murderer and a perfect father and husband at the same time.
Dex soon discovers that Arthur's family life is far from picture perfect, and though he tells himself he is nothing like Arthur Mitchell, you can't help but see the similarities. Like Dexter, Arthur kills because of something traumatic that happened during his childhood: his older sister caught him creeping on her while taking a shower, broke the shower glass and cut herself; his mother couldn't live with the grief and jumped to her death; and his father was bludgeoned to death in an alley. Therefore, almost every year for the past 30 years, Arthur recreates his family's death -- cycles of three, hence Trinity. (Technically, Trinity abducts a 10-year-old boy first that sets off the cycle, so he kills in fours, but the nickname Quadruple sounds pretty lame.)
After many missed attempts, Dexter finally realizes how he does not want to end up like Arthur and so he puts an end to Trinity's killing spree - but not before Trinity can cross off one last kill: Rita Morgan.
2. The Ice Truck Killer
Season one started off strong - pairing Dexter against his own biological brother was bloody brilliant. Rudy Cooper, aka The Ice Truck Killer, aka Brian Moser (Christian Camargo), targeted ladies of the night. He would drain their blood and then, with surgical precision, cut their bodies into pieces and wrap the pieces up like a present. Since we know Brian was in the same shipping container as Dexter when his mother was killed, we know why he's a tad bit troubled.
Posing as a prosthetics maker, Brain woos Dex's sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), and makes his way back into Dexter's life. Aside from being related to Dexter, Brian shares plenty of similarities in killing style. Like Dexter, he too cuts up the bodies, and he keeps trophies; Dexter keeps a drop of blood, Brian keeps an entire gallon full.
As predicted, Brian meets his end by Dexter's hand, but not before he kidnaps Deb and lays her out in a kill-room for he and Dexter to kill together. In what was a tough moment for Dexter, he choses his stepsister over his bio-bro. Since Brian was still special to Dexter, his body wasn't dumped in the ocean, but instead his death was staged as a suicide and handled by the police.
1. The Bay Harbor Butcher
Season two of Dexter got creative with its serial killer, pairing Dexter alongside, well, Dexter. His dumpsite was discovered, and though he is a pro at not leaving any evidence, things got complicated. He was dubbed the "Bay Harbor Butcher" because of where the bodies were found and their condition. Viewers know about Dexter's past -- seeing his mother get chopped up and being left in a pool of blood for days -- and because of this, he believes he was "born in blood" and that is why he kills.
Even though Dexter is guilty -- killing is killing, despite personal justification -- we watch with anticipation hoping he doesn't get caught. Enter scapegoat Sgt. James Doakes (Erik King). Nobody liked him anyway; he was always picking on Dexter and it was only a matter of time before he discovered Dex's secret. He had to go. And with crazy, obsessive Lila's help, he did, and Dexter was safe.
Tune in Sunday, June 30, to find out what similarities Dexter will share with his final big bad pair, the Brain Surgeon, in season eight.
--Carolina del Busto
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