Complex TV

p. 179: DEXTER

This tight alignment shifts in episode 8, “Shrink Wrap,” when we learn something Dexter does not: that Rudy, Debra’s new boyfriend, is the Ice Truck Killer. In the subsequent episodes, Rudy seems creepily obsessed with Dexter for reasons that only we understand (at least partially). This knowledge shift alters the narrative intrigue away from the curiosity question of the killer’s identity and toward anticipation of what will happen down the road—by allowing us to know more about Rudy than Dexter or Debra do, we start to anticipate their potential jeopardy and notice hidden motivations in Rudy’s behavior. This dynamic is especially effective in episode 9, “Father Knows Best,” when Dexter discovers that he inherited a house from his biological father and travels there to uncover pieces of his past. Rudy convinces Deb to join Dexter, and we watch Rudy insert himself into Dexter’s emotional life, building on the established game that the two killers have been playing. We watch these episodes with the assumption that we have the essential knowledge about Rudy and his twisted motivation and that our position as more knowledgeable than Dexter provides anticipatory pleasures, expecting the emotional and violent payoff when Dexter discovers that the killer has been lurking around his sister. The season finale, “Born Free,” does pay off this anticipation but raises the stakes even more when we learn that Rudy and Dexter are long-separated brothers, a revelation that pulls all of the Ice Truck Killer’s actions into focus, providing clear motivation as to why he was tweaking Dexter’s past and repressed memories and how he knew more about Dexter’s history than Dexter himself did. Dexter uses these differentials in narrative knowledge to drive the serial narrative forward via suspense, anticipation, and curiosity. However, the revelation of Rudy and Dexter’s shared parentage is more complex than just a surprise twist, as it turns our attention back- ward toward the mechanics of storytelling that drive the narrative, shifting focus on the characters and their relationships to offer more depth and complexity in light of this new knowledge.

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