The Dark Defender
|"The Dark Defender"|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Keith Gordon|
|Written by||Timothy Schlattmann|
|Original air date||October 28, 2007|
"The Dark Defender" is the fifth episode of the second season and seventeenth overall episode of the American television drama series Dexter, which first aired on 28 October 2007 on Showtime in the United States. The episode was written by Timothy Schlattmann and was directed by Keith Gordon.
In the episode, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) investigates a crime scene in a comic book store where he sees a poster of The Dark Defender, a character inspired by Dexter's own crimes under the guise of the "Bay Harbor Butcher", who is currently under investigation in his own police department. After he dreams that The Dark Defender saved his mother's life when he was young, Dexter's Narcotics Anonymous sponsor Lila Tournay (Jaime Murray) encourages him to seek closure by confronting one of his mother's killers, Santos Jimenez (Tony Amendola). Meanwhile, Dexter's sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) suspects that her new boyfriend Gabriel (Dave Baez) is using her to write a book about her engagement to the first season's "Ice Truck Killer".
Schlattmann was inspired to set the homicide case in a comic book store when he realized that an Aquaman snow globe on his desk "could easily be a murder weapon". When he visited comic book artist Tone Rodriguez to draw and render the poster of The Dark Defender, comic book writer Dan Wickline was also at Rodriguez's studio, and so Schlattmann arranged for the two to have cameo appearances in the episode. The episode was filmed in Los Angeles, California though set in Miami, Florida. "The Dark Defender" was praised by critics and Schlattmann was nominated for Writers Guild of America Award for his script. The episode was also submitted as Dexter's sample episode to determine the nominees for Outstanding Drama Series at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards; though nominated, the series didn't win.
While drinking coffee with his sister Debra, Dexter is called to a murder scene at a comic book store. Talking to a witness about the victim, a shopkeeper who had been bludgeoned to the head with a snow globe, he sees a poster of The Dark Defender, a vigilante killer based on the Bay Harbor Butcher. Later, at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, Dexter falls asleep and dreams about the death of his mother, Laura Moser (Katherine Kirkpatrick). In the dream, he enters the cargo container where she was killed, dressed in The Dark Defender's cloak, and beats his mother's murderers to the ground, saving her. When he tells his sponsor Lila about his dream, she tells him that he must confront them to seek closure. He and Lila travel to Naples, Florida where one of the three men, Santos Jimenez, is alive and running a tavern. Having been warned by his girlfriend Rita Bennett's mother Gail (JoBeth Williams) to leave Rita (Julie Benz) and her children alone, Dexter tells Rita that he is going away while Gail is visiting. Leaving Lila in their motel room, he goes to Jimenez's bar and waits until all of the patrons have left. Dexter tries to explain to Jimenez how he feels, but Jimenez takes out a baseball bat and threatens to beat him. In response, Dexter disarms and brutally beats him, revealing his past to Jimenez as one of the boys he left in his mother's blood. Jimenez tells Dexter that his mother was killed because she was not only a narcotics informant to Harry Morgan (James Remar)—Dexter's adoptive father and a police officer—but also his lover. Dexter punches Jimenez and is close to killing him when Lila phones and he tells her that he is about to "use". Thinking that he is about to use drugs, she urges him not to go any further, because "using" will only leave him empty and alone inside. He returns to the motel, leaving Jimenez unconscious in the bar, and falls asleep in Lila's lap, distraught and completely drained.
When the morning comes, Lila tells Dexter of why she went into rehab. She had been dating a man who introduced her to methamphetamine, a drug that she became very addicted to. But when her boyfriend broke up with her, Lila set his former house on fire after getting high. But later on, she would find out that her boyfriend was squatting inside the house, and had been burned alive. Dexter asks her if she thinks that he was bad and deserved to die, something that Lila silently agrees to. Comforting her now, Dexter tells her "It's okay then."
Debra is insecure in her relationship with Gabriel because her ex-fiancé Brian Moser, the "Ice Truck Killer", kidnapped and tried to kill her. When she looks through Gabriel's e-mail, she sees that he has sent a book titled The Ice Princess to a number of publishers. She assumes that the book is about her and angrily breaks up with him. Discussing the break-up with FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine), he gives her the background check that he had run on Gabriel, revealing that Gabriel is a children's writer, and Debra realizes that The Ice Princess is a children's book.
When Dexter visits Rita the next morning, Gail—who suspects that he is hiding something—announces that she will be staying in Miami and will live with Rita. Dexter realizes that he must protect his secrets, so he begins by cleaning his boat that night with a black light to detect any blood. He is unaware that the marina is being videotaped by the Miami-Metro Police, who believe that the Bay Harbor Butcher may be keeping his boat at that marina.
Schlattmann thought to write the comic book store homicide storyline when he picked up the Aquaman snow globe in his office and thought, "'Wow, this thing could easily be a murder weapon," because of its weight and its edge. The writers wanted to use the actual Aquaman globe but DC Comics would not allow the character and the snow globe to be used in the episode, so the Dexter art department custom-made a snow globe. The superhero's name ultimately became "Mariner" as other names including "Sea King" and "King of the Seas" could not be used for legal reasons. Trademark and copyright clearances was again an issue when finding a name for the superhero based on the Bay Harbor Butcher. "The Eradicator" and "Judge Justice" were considered, but the final choice was "The Dark Defender". Cerone said that the name was "a little on the generic side, but it was one we could clear." He said that The Dark Defender was in part an homage to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and to Dexter's Dark Passenger, featured in Jeff Lindsay's series of Dexter novels on which the television series is based. On the poster, The Dark Defender, though hooded, was drawn with a smile to resemble Michael C. Hall. The poster was rendered by comic artist Tone Rodriguez, with whom Schlattmann had previously worked on a screenplay in development at 20th Century Fox. When Schlattmann visited Rodriguez's studio in Los Angeles to discuss the art, comic book writer Dan Wickline was also there. Schlattmann thought that "by including the two of them, we could make things a bit more special and add some credibility to the show". Wickline played the dead comic book shopkeeper, while Rodriguez played the prime suspect for the murder. The Dark Defender character also lent its name to a series of highly stylized Dexter webisodes, recapping Dexter's victims of the second season.
The scenes at the marina where Dexter keeps his boat, Coral Cove, were filmed at the Leeward Bay Marina in Los Angeles' Wilmington neighborhood, in spite of the show's Miami setting. The episode opens in a coffee bar at Coral Cove Marina, which was filmed at Leeward Bay's floating diner, the Chowder Barge. One of the empty barns at Long Beach, California's Shoreline Village was set up as the comic book store. Doakes and LaGuerta discuss the homicide case while standing on the Shoreline Village boardwalk, and the Village car park was used to film Doakes and LaGuerta's stake out.
Eric Goldman of IGN called "The Dark Defender" "a very satisfying episode of the show" and thought that "so far [the cast and crew are] doing a very good job" of replicating the tension seen in the first season. He was impressed by Dexter's discoveries about his birth mother and adoptive father, but called Debra's romance with Gabriel a "less successful" storyline. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Tom O'Neil called the episode a "standout" because of the parts of Dexter's past that it explored. He stated that, for regular viewers, "this episode is a real knockout", but for unfamiliar viewers, "this whole Dark Defender bit might look pretty corny". TV Squad's Keith McDuffee believed the revelation of Laura's affair with Harry to be "certainly the most shocking moment of the episode", and thought that "One of the brilliant moments of the season so far was Dexter going after one of his mom's killers." Paula Paige of TV Guide called Dexter's monologue about his hollowness "very moving". She thought that his confrontation with his mother's killer "may have been one of the best shot [scenes] in the whole series". Blogcritics' Ray Ellis praised the "razor-sharp sense of humor" seen in the episode and thought that "In a season of mostly dreary, bland series, Dexter remains the most daring show on television." Dexter and Jimenez's confrontation was named Hall's best scene by Variety critic Stuart Levine.
When the identities of the Butcher's victims are revealed to be murderers, the public applauds him, elevating Dexter to the status of a folktale avenger or comic-book anti-hero. And indeed Rita excoriates him for disappearing at night "like Clark fucking Kent," but the FBI describes the Butcher as more like one's own "personal Batman." Batman is an apt comparison, although Dexter prefers to violate Batman's aversion to killing. Both live outside the law, "part human, part mutant," as Dexter puts it. Both cling to an ethos riddled with perplexities and contradictions. Visiting a comic-book shop, Dexter find himself transformed on a handmade superhero poster from Butcher into The Dark Defender, a protector of the city and the executioner of its predators. Vigilantes simultaneously share territory with cops and outlaws, they break the law in the hopes of helping society. ... Dexter describes being "half sick with the thrill, the complete wrongness," when the "dark passenger" inside him takes command.
Schlattmann was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for his work on this episode in the Episodic Drama category. "The Dark Defender" was submitted to the Primetime Emmy Awards judging panel to determine nominees for the Outstanding Drama Series award; Dexter was one of the top ten candidates and became one of the 6 series nominated for the award. The episode was also unsuccessfully submitted for Emmys for Outstanding Writing (Timothy Schlattmann) and Outstanding Directing (Keith Gordon) in a Drama Series.
- Eric Goldman (October 29, 2007). "Dexter: "The Dark Defender" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Jonah Weiland (October 30, 2007). ""Dexter's" Comic Connections". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- "Aquaman Shrine Interview with Tim Schlattmann". The Aquaman Shrine. November 13, 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- "Special Features: The Dark Defender". Sho.com. Archived from the original on 2008-07-22. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
- Gary Wayne. "Dexter Filming Locations, Season 2: The Coral Cove Marina". Seeing-Stars.com. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Gary Wayne. "Dexter Filming Locations, Season 2: The Marina Coffee Bar". Seeing-Stars.com. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Gary Wayne. "Dexter Filming Locations, Season 2: The Comic Book Store". Seeing-Stars.com. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Tom O'Neil (April 23, 2008). "'Dexter' picks a killer eppy for Emmy's drama-series race". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Keith McDuffee (October 28, 2007). "Dexter: The Dark Defender". TV Squad. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Paula Paige (October 29, 2007). "The Dark Defender". TV Guide. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Ray Ellis (October 30, 2007). "TV Review: Dexter - "The Dark Defender"". Blogcritics. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Stuart Levine (August 12, 2008). "Men of few words make big impression". Variety. Retrieved 2009-02-15.
- Jones Lecturer in Fiction at Stanford University's Creative Writing program.
- J. M. Tyree (Fall 2008). "Spatter Pattern" (.pdf). Film Quarterly. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. 62 (1): 82–85. doi:10.1525/fq.2008.62.1.82. ISSN 0015-1386.
- Byron Perry (December 12, 2007). "WGA announce TV, radio nominees". Variety. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Tom O'Neil (May 5, 2008). "Emmy episodes: 'Californication,' 'Dexter,' 'Weeds,' 'The Tudors'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
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