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Friday, March 18, 2022

Top 15 Kills Celebrating 15 Years of ‘Dexter’ (Part 1 of 3)

The first part of Dexter's Top 15 kills, by Nick Henderson!

Showtime (edited by DexterDaily)

Over the course of 9 seasons, Dexter has dispatched many deserving (and maybe a few undeserving) victims. The writers found a plethora of unique scenarios and themes to work with which resulted in a lot of unforgettable moments. With ‘New Blood’ and the 15th anniversary firmly in the rearview mirror, I have decided to rank my 15 favorite kills from the series. Yes, it’s a tad morbid and maybe a little messed up, but these are the scenes that define the show and move the character forward. They are the moments in which the themes of the series are manifested in their purest form; Moments in which Dexter Morgan evolves as a character, for better or worse. For me, these kills embody the very soul of the series and delivered the most dramatic impact on the arc of the character. Let’s dig in…


15.) Joe Walker
Season 6, Episode 1 - Those Kinds of Things

Admittedly, this first choice is a personal favorite of mine more for the spectacle than anything else. Dexter’s High School reunion was peak Dexter - glimpsing odd human behavior through the lens of someone who sees themselves as less than human - but the Joe Walker kill scene is especially memorable because it leverages the light and dark aspects of the show to create a scene that is both fun and gruesome in equal measure.

The scene dabbles in the religious themes of the season but I remember it more for the juxtaposition between the comedic banter and the violent, casual approach Dexter takes when delivering the killing blow. Strapped to a decommissioned scoreboard, Joe makes some pathetic excuses for murdering his wife and then tries to will a miracle into existence by evoking the wrath of god. Of course, Dexter silences him with a quick blow to the head with a hammer before finishing him off with the usual knife to the heart. An absolutely brutal and unforgettable start to what eventually became a disappointing season.


14.) Nick
Season 6, Episode 6 - Just Let Go

Despite some major bumps along the road, season 6 is packed with vibrant cinematography and unforgettable set pieces. The kill that occurs at the beach at the end of episode 6 is brilliant in its execution but it tragically marks the turning point in quality for the season. Dexter, now trying to find his inner light, reaches a fork in the road when he stands in front of the man who killed Brother Sam. He gives Nick one chance to do the right thing but is surprised when he chooses instead to revel in his success; laughing at the circumstances that have now allowed him to get away with murder.

Enraged by the death of his friend and the hubris of his killer, Dexter loses control and drags Nick into the water where he viciously drowns him; Taking the motif of the season one step further, he drowns him in the same spot where he was baptized just days before. Nick struggles desperately as Dexter holds him under but the outcome is inevitable. When Dexter stumbles back to dry land, no longer burdened by his struggle to suppress his own dark urges, he is greeted by a surprising visage. His brother Brian stands there clapping, ready to welcome him back to a life of unshackled darkness.

This scene was quite literally one of my favorite scenes of the whole series and at the time, I thought it was a vehicle for welcoming back Christian Camargo for the back half of the season. Unfortunately, it only ushered in a disappointing, clumsy episode that served almost no purpose before returning to the status quo for the rest of the season. Regardless, the kill itself was packed with symbolism and a powerful performance from Michael C. Hall.

13.) Little Chino
Season 2, Episode 2 - Waiting to Exhale

Still reeling from having to kill his brother (we’ll get to that later) at the end of Season 1, Dexter finds himself unable to follow through with killing when season 2 opens. For that reason, Little Chino serves as a thematically satisfying return to form for the character and a fitting launching point for his newly refined kill ritual that would come to define the show until the very end. This notorious gang enforcer is such a memorable adversary not only because he literally towers over everyone around him but because of how they use his physical presence to emphasize Dexter’s determination to find his “mojo” again.

It’s an episode that put’s Dexter in a position that he rarely finds himself in: Held down by self-doubt and unable to tap into his killer instincts. When he finally overcomes his issues, we get what I consider to be the first signature kill scene of the entire show. Chino lies secured to a hydraulic lift as Dexter raises the knife (a blade that would define the character for the rest of the show) and plunges it directly into his heart. The blood pools beneath the plastic wrap and we see Dexter take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief. It’s an important and cathartic moment for the legacy of the show and one that finally skirted the gratuitous nature of some of his earlier kills.


12.) Zoey Kruger
Season 4, Episode 4 - Dex takes a Holiday

Early in season 4, Dexter finds himself with a rare opportunity to fully indulge his need to kill without having to balance his newfound responsibilities as a father and family man. He sets his sights on Zoey Kruger, a cop who he suspects murdered her husband and daughter to escape the pressures of family life. The two play a fun game of cat-and-mouse throughout the episode but Zoey is never quite able to hold onto the upper-hand. Despite her training and resources, she still ends up on Dexter’s table - appropriately setup in her young daughter’s bright pink bedroom.

What always makes me think about Zoey is her bizarre sexual infatuation with Dexter that appears to remain firmly intact all the way into the kill room. Even in the face of death, she is STILL operating under the assumption that Dexter’s motivations are sexual in nature - a misconception that Dexter hilariously clears up. Dexter then proceeds to deliver another brilliant performance; seamlessly flipping the switch and becoming the ruthless killer we know him to be. His demeanor and his monologue even harkens back to episode 1 by reminding us just how much he despises people who hurt children. But the icing on the cake is how his final words to Zoey before taking her out make him realize just how much he genuinely cares about Rita and the kids. It’s another reminder that despite the constant purr of his dark passenger, Dexter’s evolution as a character is as subtle as it is undeniable.


11.) Brian Moser
Season 1, Episode 12 - Born Free

In the finale of Season 1, Dexter is forced to make an unthinkable choice, even for him. It’s the first stepping stone towards any semblance of humanity for the character and a choice that creates a ripple effect that is felt all the way through to the final moments of ‘New Blood’. In what is meant to serve as a symbolic gesture - freeing Dexter from a life of lies and limitations - Dexter’s brother Brian (aka The Ice Truck Killer) kidnaps Deb and serves her up to Dexter on a silver platter. Unfortunately for him, Brian underestimates the sincerity of Dexter’s familial bond with Deb and pays the ultimate price.

After turning the table on his brother and luring him into a trap, Dexter finally has the infamous Ice Truck Killer on his table - sort of. Brian awakens to find himself strapped to his own table in the walk-in freezer at his apartment (now a retired crime scene). After a season of watching Dexter revel in his own inhumanity, the growth on display in this scene is what I would consider to be the first major turning point for the character. This kill is clearly not something he enjoys but something he knows he must do to protect his sister. He even goes as far as to offer Brian a dose of M99 to spare him from suffering any physical pain. Unable to bear the rising dread of what he must do, Dexter cuts Brian’s final words short with a blade across the throat before collapsing against the wall; clearly overcome with genuine emotion. It’s a grisly scene but one that symbolizes a major development for the character and caps off a terrific season of television.

Don’t forget that this is just part 1 of 3. The next article will include the first half of my Top 10 kills in the entirety of Dexter. Let me know what you think down below and feel free to share your own personal favorites in the comments as well!

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