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Dexter: A Good Person Doing Bad Things.

Updated on January 9, 2014

A Look at what made the 'Dark Passenger'

***Spoiler alert***

A great TV show with an original new twist. Dexter a blood spatter analyst by day, a serial killer by night, is a normal average man. He has a job, family and friends and by all appearances seems a nice guy. This statement rings true in many serial killers today as people wonder how they didn’t notice. Here I will be looking at the psychological make-up of this fictitious character and the old question of nature vs. nurture.

His childhood and teenage years-

Dexter knows and remembers little of his biological family but adores and loves his adoptive family. His adoptive father, Harry Morgan, a well known police officer, finds him in a storage container sitting in a pool of his mother’s blood. Dexter suffers enormous amounts of emotion distress and psychological damage. Harry adopts the boy and treats him as one of his own but the memories of witnessing his mother’s decapitation and murder show through in his methods of body removal.

Harry discovers a mass grave with dead animals-the neighbours pets and realises his son has certain tendencies. As he became older his urges become more powerful. Harry teaches Dexter codes, rules to live by in order to survive as a serial killer, to which Dexter later refers to as the ‘Code of Harry’. His first murder was that of a nurse, one that was killing patients and was also Harrys nurse after a heart attack. Harry gave Dexter permission to kill her using the lessons he was taught and from then on realised that Dexter could continue to kill, but only people who deserve to die.

Dexter as an adult-

Dexter calls his urges the ‘Dark passenger’ as he feels he is a good person but with another darker person inside him. It rules his life, and through the show we will see him defying his father’s codes in order to fulfill his desires or needs.

He works close with the local police, being a blood spatter analyst which gives him great advantage in finding his victims. He does, however, stop the police from catching some of his victims before he can get to them as to not spoil his kill.

His sister, Debbie Morgan, works as a detective with the police and they both have a close relationship to one another.

Dexter’s victim profile-

Dexter chooses murderers who he feels have escaped justice somehow, be that literally getting away with murder, serving a sentence shorter than deemed appropriate, etc. As most serial killers, Dexter keeps souvenirs of every kill. Blood slides, no numbers on them, just the blood of each victim in order of their deaths. In each death, there is much preparation. Finding the victim first, someone totally and completely guilty. A room, or the ‘kill room’, covered wholly in plastic tarp. A table, to hold his victims, his knives and his boat, to drop the bodies onto the ocean floor. With each step he takes we see how he thinks everything through, making sure not to leave any evidence behind. He is also extremely saddened and confused when he accidentally kills people outside of his code and not deserving of death. This portrays his need to fulfill his father’s code and also his humanity. Although he doesn’t have feelings like everyone else, he shows humanity and emotions on more than one occasion.

Dexter’s Social life-

Although Dexter is close, superficially with his friends, he genuinely cares for his sister and his wife and her children. At the beginning their relationship was purely platonic, she was divorced from a very violent relationship and Dexter has no interest in sex. It fit perfectly for him at the beginning until his feeling for Rita surface and he realises he cares for her too. I do not use the word love because Dexter himself does not use the word, not understanding what exactly it means.

He constantly looks for someone he can be brutally honest with and not have to keep secrets from which he finds in nearly every season, athough they tend to either be serial killers themselves or victims of some sort of crime. He tends to let these few people in but only to have his hopes smashed and end up alone again.

Dexter’s Emotions-

Throughout, Dexter claims to have no emotions, and yet at certain (and very few) moments he does show anger in the form of fits of rage. When he does show these emotions, he is also confused as to what they mean. Other times he looks as if he feels nothing, even at times of deep distress or emotion. He has a complete lack of desire for sex, at first because he says whenever he had sex with someone they saw who he really was. He is neither offended or interested in Masuka’s dirty jokes or talk of his sexual exploits.

He sees his father everywhere (although he’s dead) advising him on what to do and how to go about certain things, always appearing when Dexter needs him.

He is also completely unbothered by nasty or callous remarks about him, smiling back to most of them.

He questions his morality and ‘Dark Passenger’ throughout the whole show almost finding excuses for doing certain things and asks "Am I a good person doing bad things, or a bad person doing good things?" on many occasions.

Nature vs Nurture-

We know from Dexter’s childhood that he was killing small animals and lying, a significant part of a young serial killers early years. So given this information alone one could say it was his nature to kill. But thinking back of his very early years, witnessing his mothers brutal and graphic death, sitting in her blood for two days, hungry and crying, one can also say it was something he was simply introduced to at a young age at and it stuck with him as he grew. Harry taught him everything he knows though. Would normal parents not have tried to get rid of the ‘Dark Passenger’?

With Harry telling Dexter to kill only people who have escaped justice, Dexters psychology is confused. Where most children growing up with these symptoms would end up killing innocent people. Dexter views innocent people as helpless against other killers though, they need protecting and he is the only one who can truly help them.

In the final season we are introduced to Dr Vogul, a woman who helped Harry come up with the code when he didn't know how to deal with Dexter. Throughout the final season, Dr Vogul notices aspects of Dexter that she never thought possible, like his outbursts of emotion when something goes wrong, his constant need to 'Protect' Debra and his child from himself, and the fact that he talks so much about his family and his future with Hanna. Dr Vogul never thought this possible of a killer of Dexters magnitude, "psychopaths have no empathy" and so Vogul questions whether she did the right thing when Dexter was a boy. Dexter definitely has feelings for Hanna and possibly even loves her, these are things that shouldn't be possible in Dexter, yet they are. This gives the whole 'Code' another twist because as an audience we and Dr Vogul begin to question whether Harry made a mistake, whether Dexter's dark passenger is real or something simply imagined by a father who wanted the best for his son, who had simply been through a horrific ordeal at a very young age.

Dexter has morals, maybe not truly his own, but morals all the same. Something that cannot be said of many killers in society. He may have lived a normal life with no dramatic deaths, if it had not been for his very early trauma so given the information, I would say it was nurture that created this ethical monster. His mother’s vivid death started the cycle, Harry and Dr Vogul controlled and trained it, while Dexter just went along with it.

Season 1 Trailer

Season 8: The Final chapter


This is possibly the best finale to a show I've seen, not only was I on the edge of my seat, i cried through the whole thing. It was so unpredictable, right to the very last second, and the whole thing was amazing. Such a good show :(


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    • belleart profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Ireland

      I agree, its definitely one of the best shows out there. The final season is especially amazing, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub :)

    • uNicQue profile image

      Nicole Quaste 

      4 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      My boyfriend and I are currently hooked. We just started the final season. Hopefully your hub convinces people to watch it, because it is one of the most cleverly-written shows I have ever seen. Great hub!

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 

      6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      I am a huge Dexter fan and never miss an episode. I'm looking forward to the new season. You summarized this brilliant show very well. Thanks for sharing!

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 

      6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      My husband and were foster parents for six years to children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder-the disorder which most serial killers have. So, I have a very unique view of Dexter because I have lived with kids that have these traits. The lack of feeling (empathy) can begin in the womb according to experts...our children were all neglected in the womb by their mothers, then experienced horrible abuse, even torture at very young ages. It is very a very difficult disorder to reverse but it has been done. If you are really interested in the subject look up Nancy Thomas and RAD. She is the leading expert in the US for the disorder and has taken in some of the most disturbed children you can imagine. I have not watched many episodes of Dexter just because we do not have Showtime but I would like to rent all the seasons and catch up.


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