Season 1, Episode 9, “The Family Business”
Dexter Morgan never took parenting naturally. As much as he talks about being grateful for that second chance to be a dad to Harrison, when it comes to being a dad, Dexter’s aptitude never quite caught up with his ambition. He barely knows Harrison’s whereabouts half the time, and his interest in his son’s life only skyrockets when Dexter gets another clue to their shared thirst for blood. But there’s a parental decree that Dexter has effortlessly incorporated into his new life: do what I say, not what I do.
“The Family Business” finds Dexter giving in to the temptation that has slowly consumed him all season, the temptation to steer Harrison down the same path Harry once showed him. The problem is, nothing Dexter has done since ending his abstinence streak looks like anything from Harry’s code. He tried not to get caught, but he was extremely careless even in this regard. His carelessness and lack of discipline got him into all kinds of trouble, hence his belated efforts to get rid of Elric Kane’s body. Yet somehow he believes he is able to teach Harrison how to carry on a proud tradition he barely adheres to.
Or maybe the “proud lore” isn’t quite accurate, given that the episode begins with Dexter still trying to keep Harrison in the dark for the full extent of his former life. After saving Harrison from Kurt Caldwell and his rifle, Dexter seats Harrison by the fire and tells the story of Wiggles the Clown, a never-before-seen child murderer sent by Dexter. Dexter walks him through the process one step at a time, but when it’s time to do the deed, Ghost Deb (whose function has become increasingly murky) convinces him to step back. “You’re like Batman,” Harrison says, in the episode’s first but not the last comparison with Bruce Wayne. “Pretty much,” Dexter said, putting aside the fact that his vigilantism is far from bloodless.
But that act can’t last since, contrary to Dexter’s wishful thinking, Kurt Caldwell didn’t actually leave town after the dust in Kurt’s cabin. Instead, he shows up at Angela’s house with gifts in hand, since it’s Christmas after all. Kurt feigns good news for Dexter and they hurl barely veiled insults at each other. Once Dexter and Harrison know that Kurt still poses a real threat, they set out to neutralize him by starting with a study of Kurt’s cabin using the drone Kurt gave Harrison a long time ago. They discover a vent that apparently isn’t connected to anything, and when they go to investigate it, they find a trap door leading to all the work Kurt has been doing all season and for years before.
Inside the hatch is Kurt’s embalming and restoration workshop, and further back is a collection of Kurt’s victims which is part of the crypt and wax museum. Dozens of bodies of young women are expertly preserved, each in its own display case, including the body of famous podcaster Molly Park. Once Harrison sees his former mentor’s lifelong work, he knows a bloodless showdown would suffice. “You killed Wiggles,” Harrison said, a line that apparently isn’t meant to be hilarious. And finally, against Ghost Deb’s unnecessary protests, Dexter confesses the whole truth to Harrison. He kills murderers so they can never kill again.
The opportunity to demonstrate the family business quickly arises, as soon as Kurt and the Morgan-Lindsays are done swapping places. Because while Dexter and Harrison go after Kurt, Kurt is chasing them too. He shows up to Dexter’s cabin, sprays fuel on it and sets it on fire, planning to shoot Dexter and Harrison when they rush out of the fire. Naturally, that doesn’t happen because it’s a very stupid plan, and Kurt’s phone informs him via a wire-triggered security system that his inner sanctum has been violated. As Kurt rushes to pack a bug out bag and leave town, Dexter shows up with his syringe and prepares to show Harrison the next steps in protocol.
As is often the case with Dexter, the episode gets more interesting when it’s time for Dexter to put his prey on the table and give the last rites. These scenes are usually a duet between Dexter and the Big Bad, but Harrison’s presence is a game-changer. Harrison insists on watching the whole ugly ritual, even though Dexter gives him multiple opportunities to look away, and he doesn’t seem thrilled with the way the proverbial sausage is made. For one thing, Kurt mentions that Dexter killed Matt, which probably isn’t something Harrison wanted to hear from Kurt if he wanted to hear it at all. Dexter is quick to add that Matt matches the code, and Kurt is utterly confused when he finds out that this was Dexter’s pretext for killing Matt from the start.
This pace is especially important because while Harrison tries to determine if Dexter is actually following the code, he’s also trying to determine if the code is worth following. Dexter chops up Kurt’s body, and as the pool of blood rushes towards him, Harrison has traumatic flashbacks to his “born in blood” moment. It’s a terrific streak thanks in large part to the sound design full of wet sounds and friction from cleaning up the carnage. Harrison wouldn’t be the first to consciously avoid the family business, and his reaction to Dexter’s work makes him appear poised to reject Dexter’s example. After all this time of thinking that Dexter was trying to reject him, Harrison might be the one to reject Dexter.
- Angela spends the entirety of another episode allaying her suspicions about Dexter and checking on Molly, whose disappearance is understandably concerning. Angela will no doubt suspect that Dexter is responsible for this, having heard her episode of Bay Harbor Butcher, and in fairness to Angela, Dexter only spared Molly because Kurt interrupted her.
- Angela, I need you to keep Dexter and Harrison at the lodge. Just tell Audrey that she is not allowed to live with her boyfriend and leave it at that.
- Speaking of Angela’s research, apparently Dexter administered his knockout juice through a large-diameter cannula the entire time. That’s the only explanation for those gnarly injection holes he leaves behind.
- I can’t understand how absolutely stupid Kurt’s plan was. So in that secluded little cabin, Dexter and Harrison weren’t going to hear him get into a tanker and direct a high-pressure stream of it onto the porch? What was going to happen while they were still inside?
- I’m also annoyed by Kurt’s wire-trap alarm system. Seems like if you are hiding dozens of bodies you need a more active security system because a camera can only tell you that someone has already found the dozens of bodies you are hiding.
- Besides, Harrison should think that Kurt doesn’t fit the code either. If the idea is to weed out the people who escaped the justice system, perhaps imagine a way to alert the cops at the Caldwell Evidence Museum and let the system work before you get stabbed.
- We now have confirmation that there were “hundreds” of serial killers all concentrated in the Miami area, including Wiggles, the killer clown outside of Dade.