Dexter, Season 7

Is Poison A Feminine Murder Weapon?
Talking television.
Nov. 4 2012 9:45 PM

Dexter, Season 7

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Is poison a "woman thing?"

Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan, Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan and C.S. Lee as Vince Masuka (Season 7, episode 4)
Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan and Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan

Photograph by Randy Tepper/Showtime.

Every week in Slate’s Dexter TV club, Katy Waldman will have an IM conversation with a different Dexter fan. This week, she rehashes episode 7.6 with Amanda Meyer, a creative project manager and Dexter devotee currently living in New York City. 

Katy Waldman: To me, "Do the Wrong Thing" was really all about Hannah McKay--her allure, her danger, the possibilities she opens up for Dexter.

Amanda Meyer: I have mixed feelings about Hannah. Their interactions are all a bit too blatant or forced—their conversations play like a soap opera. But I am enjoying the themes that her character brings to the plot. For instance, Christopher Ryan might disagree with me, but I feel that Hannah allows the show to explore how erotic killing is for Dexter.

Waldman: Is killing erotic for Dexter? He can't satisfy his desire for Hannah by stabbing her--hence the steamy sex scene on his kill table.

Meyer: For me, Dexter’s urge to kill has always represented a man’s need to have sex with a woman. Look at the way he describes his urge in episode 2: Blood builds up in his body and needs to spill out before he explodes. And now Dexter has actually confused his own need to sleep with someone with his need to kill her. I don’t even think he realizes he isn’t going to stab Hannah until the knife comes down at her side.

My theory is that Dexter has been subconsciously interviewing Hannah to be his sidekick throughout the season thus far. Typically, he researches his possible victims to make sure they fit the code—but now, he’s researching Hannah in order to replace the partner he lost when Lumen cast off her Dark Passenger.

Waldman: Like Deb, a good theory gives me a girl boner. (For the record, that was the first time I had ever heard that phrase! Is it a thing?) But looking at the relationship through Hannah’s eyes, what does she want from Dexter? I thought the episode was really artful in showing them circle and hunt each other. Clearly, Dex had dual motives—erotic and violent. But does Hannah as well? We see that she has harvested a plot of aconite, her preferred poison flower. 

Meyer: I think they both realize at this point that the other has urges to kill people. Maybe Hannah has been interviewing Dexter to be her sidekick all along. And if Dexter had been the one who wound up getting caught in her trap first, perhaps she would have toyed with him in the same way that Dexter toys with her on the table. But even in that scene, she is in complete control. Tied up in plastic, she’s got Dexter wrapped around her finger.

Waldman: What do you make of Hannah's methods: using poison instead of knives? Dexter tells us in voiceover that women are more likely to murder with poison, because it is safe and detached. (And this study suggests he’s right). But thematically, Hannah seems less cautious, less cool, than Dexter, not more.

Meyer: Just as women are typically seen as "non-violent" and more rational, poison is a calculated crime, not a crime of passion. Plus, like Hannah, it’s insidious: It can be disguised as "natural causes,” which is convenient for someone with a juvenile record.

Waldman: My sense was that the writers just really, really liked the metaphor of Hannah as a deadly, beautiful flower. Speaking of which, aconite has quite the literary history! It was featured in an 1891 story by Oscar Wilde called Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime. In the story, a palm reader tells the hero that his destiny is to be a murderer. Arthur wants to marry but decides he must commit the murder first—so he tries to poison his aunt with an aconite pill (disguised as a tablet of heartburn medicine). She dies of natural causes before she can ingest it, though, and Arthur embarks on a string of failed murder attempts. Finally he manages to kill the palm reader, whom Wilde unmasks as a fraud. The story thus asks whether Arthur was fated to kill or became a murderer by choice. That question seems relevant to Dexter.

Meyer: Especially this season, which questions Harry’s motives in training Dexter instead of taking Deb’s tack and trying to fix him.

Waldman: Right—To what extent was Dex’s inner darkness cultivated, like one of Hannah’s poison flowers?

Meyer: Speaking of Dexter’s early training, I thought it was interesting that he began by killing animals—and that when Dexter first goes to see Hannah, she’s holding the rabbit she poisoned. Her line about how it will just come back if she doesn't do away with it made an interesting parallel to Dexter’s philosophy of killing. That’s something he would say about Ray Speltzer!

And in terms of deceptive beauty, I love what this show is doing visually, with its two golden-haired protagonists talking "doom and gloom" in the greenhouse. They are probably the two most sun-kissed, innocent-looking characters on the show.

Waldman: Here’s a not-innocent-looking character for you: Sal Price. What should we expect from him as the season continues?

Meyer: He will wind up causing trouble for Dexter. He just seemed a bit too willing to give up information to him. I think he’s the new Louis, the new thorn in the hero’s side. And especially now that Dexter and Hannah may start working together, Sal being so hot on Hannah's trail can’t be good for Dexter.

Waldman: Not to mention that Sal seems to be making inroads with Deb. Soon, she may be running defense for Dexter on all angles.

Interesting that the last few episodes have shown us Deb slowly giving up her fantasies about Dexter because of the Dark Passenger. In “Do the Wrong Thing,” Hannah explicitly says that realizing Wayne was “the bad guy” didn’t put a dent in the dreams she built up a around him. So that’s another difference between the two women.

Meyer: Yes, I believe Hannah thinks Dex will fulfill the fantasy Wayne left hanging. He shows her the “snow” in Florida, which Wayne never could do.

Also, that may have been the coolest (almost) kill room of the entire series.

Waldman: Agreed! And quickly: What’s happening with Isaac?

Meyer: I don’t know—the scene where he grabbed the cell phone off the Colombian guy totally confused me! Was that entire confrontation staged to give Isaac the cell phone? If the phone belonged to the Colombian inmate, why did it have George Romanov’s number on speed dial?

Waldman: I missed that! I don’t think Isaac is working with the Colombians—Didn’t he call George for the express purpose of telling him he wanted to avoid killing belligerent rival gang members? But then again, that doesn’t explain the speed dial. Could it be a production error?

Meyer: We’ll have to wait and see if it turns into anything.

Waldman: Final question: Is there anything to say about Joey Quinn besides the fact that getting entangled with Nadia was exceedingly dumb?

Meyer: In my mind—NO.

Monday: What other writers and Slate commenters thought about Episode 6.

Katy Waldman is a Slate assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter.