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Series / Dexter

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Don't worry, it's just ketchup.

"Tonight's the night. And it's going to happen again and again. Has to happen."

Dexter is a crime drama series developed by James Mano Jr. and based loosely on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, using it as inspiration for its first season and general premise but eventually evolving in a direction independent of Lindsay's future Dexter novels. The show premiered on Showtime in 2006 and ran for eight seasons, concluding in fall 2013.

The series stars Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police department. He has a loving tomboy foul-mouthed sister named Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) who works as a cop in his department, and a host of eccentric coworkers.

He's also a serial killer.

However, Dexter differs from most other killers in two essential ways: his strict adherence to The Code of Harry (named for his adopted father, a police officer who saw the makings of a serial killer in him long ago), through which he confines his homicidal urges to criminals who have gotten away with their crimes and works so carefully and cleanly that he is not likely to get caught; and his specialization in paying evil unto evil. Rather than innocent people, he targets other murderers, including those like himself, sex offenders, and other really bad people. So it's all good! Sort of.

The series follows Dexter as he assists in homicide investigations, deals with girlfriend issues and helps his sister in dealing with department politics, all the while cleaning up after a flawed justice system. When another serial killer begins sending special messages just for him in the crime scenes — and in his house — Dexter is pulled into a cat-and-mouse game that will force him to reexamine his chosen life...

A limited revival series titled Dexter: New Blood aired for 10 episodes from late 2021 to early 2022.

Not to be confused with Dexter's Laboratory.

This show provides examples of:

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    A - E 
  • '90s Anti-Hero: When Dexter's dump site is discovered to be filled with multiple murderers that have slipped through the cracks, Miami artists quickly immortalize him as "The Dark Defender", a perfect 90s Anti-Hero; "Stalker of the night, his blade of vengeance turns wrong into right..." The "real" Dark Defender, upon seeing a pin-up of the character, has the most satisfied smile on his face for all of three seconds before he shakes it off as absurd not for any moral reasons (Dex is a Poetic Serial Killer and proud of it), but because, "Miami's too hot for all that leather". He does later have an Indulgent Fantasy Segue where he crashes the key moment of his "Super Hero Origin", kills the bad guys and saves his mother from being hacked to gibbets with a chainsaw. In leather.
  • AB Negative: Dexter's AB negative blood type, referenced in a flashback, leads to Dexter discovering the truth about his biological father.
  • Abandoned Hospital: Towards the end of the last season, Dexter finds the Brain Surgeon's kill room in one of these. In the first season the Ice Truck Killer lures Dexter to one of these where he's keeping a hostage.
  • Aborted Arc:
    • Season 5 has the department pursuing the murderous Fuentes brothers. After a stakeout goes awry, Carlos Fuentes is shot and his brother Marco escapes. With a brutal murderer still on the loose, the department proceeds to... completely forget about him.
    • Season 5 has Quinn and Liddy aggressively attempting to prove Dexter is a murderer, eventually leading to Dexter killing Liddy. All evidence points to Dexter killing Liddy, and Dexter even tampers with evidence to exonerate Quinn of being Liddy's killer. You'd think this would more or less convince Quinn that Dexter is a murderer, but Quinn never brings it up again - even during Season 7 when LaGuerta accuses Dexter of being the Bay Harbor Butcher and Quinn doesn't even consider it.
    • In Season 6 Louis is being set up as a possible serial killer antagonist, and not only that but an antagonist who knows about Dexter's secret life, as he mails Dexter the Ice Truck Killer's fake hand. In Season 7 this is abandoned, as Louis is back to being annoyed about his video game before he is anticlimactically dispatched.
    • Early in the first season LaGuerta was practically flinging herself at Dexter, but this was dropped around halfway through.
  • Abuse Mistake: In season 5, episode 8, Dexter and Lumen hear a woman's screams, think Jordan Chase and his rape gang are attacking another victim, and rush to the rescue. It turns out to be a consensual sexual encounter with a very enthusiastic and vocal female participant. No Big Damn Heroes moment for Dexter and Lumen, alas.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Arthur the Trinity Killer was abused by his father, and in turn abuses his family in a number of ways.
    • In season 5, Dexter finds out that Astor's friend Olivia's stepfather hits her. So he beats the ever-loving crap out of the guy and scares him into leaving.
    • Rita's mother is shown to be emotionally and verbally abusive. And not just to her as its revealed she's living with Rita in Season 2 because she was fired as a teacher due to the way she treated her students.
    • For all the love and attention he gave, Harry constantly told Dexter that Dexter wasn't normal and never would be, and guided his son's murderous impulses towards (admittedly deserving) humans due to his own frustration with the legal system, revolving Dexter's entire life around being a Serial-Killer Killer. He did this instead of, say, seeking mental help for his son. This becomes a point of internal debate for Dexter in the Season 2 episode "The Dark Defender" when he learns that Harry was also having an affair with his biological mother. Naturally, this leads Dexter to begin wondering if Harry wasn't really some sort of Manipulative Bastard who wanted to train and use Dexter for his own personal war on crime.
      • This is averted in the eighth season when we discover that he actually did consult a psychologist specializing in psychopaths. She believed, due to her own personal history, that institutionalizing Dexter would be wrong, and it was she who came up with the idea of the Code, though Harry was the one who actually formed it. Of course, this psychologist had some very strange beliefs about psychology, and may have purposely molded Dexter into "the perfect psychopath". It should be pointed out that a large number of her clients turned into serial killers, which definetly isn't a good sign.
      • Harry was also neglectful and emotionally distant towards Debra, leading her to believe she was The Un-Favourite. While Harry was having to spend most of his time teaching Dexter how to act human, this still doesn't excuse his actions towards Debra.
    • Doakes' father is also mentioned to have been abusive. This is one of the reasons that Lundy suspects him to be the Bay Harbor Butcher in Season 2.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Subverted when Quinn explains to Masuka why no one wants to come to his lecture:
    Quinn: You are the most vulgar person I've ever met. Every line out of your mouth is a sick joke.
    Masuka: [defensively] I'm funny.
    Quinn: [laughing] Yeah, you can be. [seriously] But you can also be completely disgusting, and sometimes I think that's all people see.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Blonde Book Deb is played by brown-haired Jennifer Carpenter.
  • Adapted Out: The Dark Passenger, sort of. It is referenced, but only in a metaphorical sense. In the books, The Dark Passenger was a real supernatural entity that shared a body with Dexter.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal:
    • Dexter's thoughts include what could be interpreted as rejected book titles, such as Dear Darling Dexter and Demented Daddy Dexter, as alliteration of the letter D was common with the novels names.
    • Other characters occasionally indulge in this as well.
      Paul: Just making sure Dear Dexter is Dealing Decently with his Dead Dad.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • The death of Rita in Season 4 supposedly shows Dexter that he needs to stop being so reckless with his killing, and that he has to choose between caring for his family and satisfying his urges. While his actions in Season 5 can be mostly justified, Season 6 shows Dexter continuing to make reckless decisions and getting way too involved in fighting a serial killer, who ends up targeting his family, just like what happened in Season 4. He faces the threats of death, his secret being revealed, and his son's murder, and only avoids them thanks to Contrived Coincidences. In a favorable interpretation, it's not clear if he's trying to help and redeem Travis the same way he did with Lumen.
    • He also learns almost constantly that Harry was a very flawed human being and he needs to be his own person.
    • In the episode "Slack Tide," Jonathan Farrow turns out to be innocent of murder after Dexter kills him, despite Dexter's usual careful vetting. Dexter is shaken to learn that he's accidentally broken his code; it's the worst he's felt after any kill at least since Brian. He even sees Harry shaking his head in disapproval. It seems Dexter has learned that his methods aren't so infallible after all, and he seems to be on the verge of questioning whether any of his previous victims may also have been innocent. The next episode, he's back to killing without a qualm, and he isn't even shown to feel any need to make up for what he's done.
  • Affably Evil: Dexter.
  • Air Guitar: Rudy Cooper plays the air guitar when he helps Dexter to clean the house after Dexter's biological father died. He tries to make the cleaning more fun and plays his old records and starts dancing. Foghat, no less.
  • Alone with the Psycho
  • Alternate Continuity: The first season was fairly faithful adaptation of Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but the later seasons went in a different direction from the later books.
  • American Gothic Couple: Dexter and Brian pose like this, complete with gothic style house in a poster on the back. Dexter had the bloody pitchfork.
  • Amicably Divorced: Batista and LaGuerta.
  • Amoral Attorney: Played with in season three. Assistant DA Miguel Prado accuses his rival defense attorney Ellen Wolf of being one of these for "gaming the system" to let criminals off the hook. She in turns accuses him of judicial misconduct to get convictions. Miguel is eventually revealed to have manipulated Dexter all along to learn the art of murder from him. Miguel lacks the very integrity that he accuses Ellen of not having as he not only wants to subvert the legal process to kill criminals, but anyone who pisses him off.
  • Anti-Hero: Doakes is a pragmatic type and Dexter is a Nominal type.
  • Anti-Villain: Dexter again. He seems to genuinely care about Debra, Rita, Rita's children, Harrison, Lumen, Hannah, and a certain few of his coworkers.
  • Anyone Can Die:
    • Sergeant Doakes in the final episode of Season 2. They even show his disfigured torso.
    • The show killed off Rita Morgan at the end of Season 4 in a very cruel rendition of this trope.
    • Frank Lundy's death in Season 4 came out of nowhere and surprised a lot of people.
    • Think Brother Sam will be a season-long guest star? Think again.
    • In an original variation, Isaak Sirko, a major but not unsympathetic baddie, gets killed well before the Season 7 finale.
    • Maria LaGuerta in Season 7.
    • Debra Morgan in the series finale, in spite of seeming hale and hearty earlier on.
  • Apology Gift:
    • In season 4, when Rita is annoyed that Dexter doesn't spend time with his family, he buys them all presents. Astor gets a small laptop, Cody some video game, baby Harrison a geeky item of clothes and Rita a home oven for baking bread. Dexter says they are always out of bread, but it only makes Rita angrier — she would have to bake it. She also thinks that presents cannot fix everything that is wrong in their relationship.
    • In season 6, Dexter asks the clerk at the donut shop "What's good for an apology?" when he needs to patch things up with his sister. (FYI, the clerk recommended a cruller.)
  • Arc Words: "Tonight's the night."
  • Aren't You Forgetting Someone?: No one in the Mitchell family says they are thankful for Arthur during Thanksgiving. He doesn't take it well.
  • Arson, Murder, and Admiration: Dexter frequently displays a certain admiration for especially competent criminals, including several of the killers he goes after. The Ice Truck Killer from season one is an example, as well as Trinity, until Dexter discovers that his normal life is all a front.
  • Art Imitates Art: See American Gothic Couple above.
  • Artifact Name: Arthur Mitchell is known as the Trinity Killer because he kills his victims in groups of three. Except he doesn't. He kills in groups of four.
  • Artistic License:
    • Technology — a Motorola RAZR left on in a remote part of the Everglades, in 2007, would likely burn through its battery in under 24 hours, as cell phones tend to do in areas with weak or no cell signal. The one Doakes tried to use kept charge for at least a week, which is impossible even under the best of conditions.
    • Dexter is able to use a capacitive touch screen with ordinary leather gloves in a couple episodes, which is impossible. While there are specially made gloves on the market that work around this limitation, they weren't brought to market until late 2012, 6 months after the final season was set.note 
  • Artistic License – Geography: Some of their uses of real-life Miami locations are just plain wrong. A particularly egregious example is when a villain is noted to have had a rich upbringing, demonstrated by going to a Westland Prep School in Hialeah. Nevermind the fact that Hialeah has no prep schools and that it's a low-to-mid income city, and that they've somehow confused Westland High School (which is in Hialeah, Florida) with Westland School in Los Angeles (which is a prep school), but Westland High School was founded in 2007, making it completely impossible for a middle aged man to be an alumni of it. Sure, most non-Floridians wouldn't even notice, but all of Miami facepalmed when that sentence was uttered.
  • Artistic License – Pharmacology
    • Dexter gets a report back from the lab saying that a bottle of water is "40% alprazolam". An alprazolam tablet has a lower concentration of the drug than this, and at a maximum strength of 2mg per tablet it would take 96,000 of them to produce this level of adulteration in that bottle of water — which certainly wouldn't taste anything like water afterwards.
    • Dexter provides a Hand Wave that he only injected LaGuerta with a half dose of M99 which for some reason means it won't show up during an autopsy.
  • Artistic License – Religion:
    • Season 5 sees a string of murders committed by members of a cult known as Santa Muerte. In Real Life, Santa Muerte is not the name of a cult, but the name of a saint revered by some members of the Mexican drug cartel for secrecy and wealth. Additionally, the cult members in this season are Venezuelan, whereas the "real" Santa Muerte doesn't see much reverence anywhere beyond Mexico and its borders. Further cementing this ignorance, Lauren Veléz said in an interview that her worship is a form of Santeria, which is an Afro-Carribean centric religion with absolutely no roots in Spanish culture.
    • The Beast and Satan are referred to as the same being in season 6. A simple look reading of Revelation will show this to be completely false. The Beast was simply a being — often equated with The Antichrist — given permission by Satan to rule over the Earth for 42 months, and apart from having seven heads, its appearance is vastly different.
  • Ascended Extra: In the novels, Angel Batista is a forensics tech who refers to himself as "Angel Batista-no-relation" and does not really contribute to the plot. In the show, he is a detective who contributes greatly to investigations, has his own subplots, and gives good advice to some characters.
  • Ascended Meme: The final episode of season seven is titled "Surprise, Motherfucker!" and features flashbacks of Doakes.
  • Ashes to Crashes: The main villain in Season 4 keeps the ashes of his dead sister on his mantelpiece when he isn't scattering them next to the bodies of his victims. They're smashed by his long-suffering son in a fight. Additionally: the ashes of Dexter's real father are in a plastic ziplock bag. Dexter disperses them on a patch of grass in front of a bowling alley.
  • Asshole Victim: Why the audience tolerates Dexter's hobby.
    • Even when Dexter kills a non-killer, the writers make sure the victim is enough of a scumbag that we don't feel too upset over their murder. Examples include Nathan Marten (a child molester), Jonathan Farrow (a physical abuser), and Rankin (a gigantic asshole).
    • Played With in Rita's ex-husband, Paul. Yes, he was a drug addict who physically and sexually abused his wife, and tried to at least physically abuse his kids, and even after he gets out of prison and gets clean he tries to shove himself back into Rita's life in the most aggressive way. But he genuinely does seem to have cleaned up his act, seems like he's trying to be a better person who sometimes lapses back into bad habits (notably, playing the "domineering male" card), and genuinely wants to do his best by his kids. Unfortunately, he makes the mistake of trying to play Alpha Wolf with Dexter one too many times. Whether or not he ultimately deserved what happened to him is a very complicated question.
  • Atomic F-Bomb:
    • Quinn has a habit of keeping his normal tone, but shouting the word "FUCK" in the middle of the sentence when he is angry.
    • Dexter gives one when the FBI is asking him about Rita's death. He says "Are you suggesting I killed my wife? Are you FUCKING SERIOUS!?"
  • Authentication by Newspaper: Attempted by Little Chino in season 2.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis:
    • Dexter is a blood spatter analyst able to deduce and recreate a crime scene or a relevant incident within seconds.
    • Lundy is a legendary FBI analyst who is not fooled by some of Dexter's tricks and even reverses some of them to deduce the true nature of the suspect: "Law enforcement".
      • He also nails the identity of Trinity almost immediately after meeting him, and is killed for it.
  • Back for the Dead: Lundy in season 4. He alerted everyone to the existence of the Trinity Killer and rekindled his romance with Debra, ultimately hanging around for four episodes before his untimely demise.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: In season 2, Sgt. Doakes discovers that Dexter is the Bay Harbor Butcher. Dexter can't bring himself to kill him because he doesn't fit the code, and can't decide whether to frame him or confess. Lila resolves the dilemma by murdering Doakes herself.
  • Badass Bookworm: Dexter is intelligent, but in the few cases in which he has to get his hands dirty and rough someone up, he can. Late in season 2 he even wins a more or less fair fight with Doakes while handcuffed.
  • Batman Gambit: Dexter expertly manipulates Doakes in Season 2 when the latter starts invading his privacy and getting a little too close to unraveling Dexter's secret. First, he tells Doakes at a crime scene that the blood spatter incriminates a suspect, then writes a report indicating the opposite, but holds onto it until Doakes starts aggressively sweating the victim's innocent and traumatized father-in-law. He then sneaks it into Doakes' inbox and tells Maria the suspect is innocent, making it look like Doakes is becoming unhinged. Doakes figures out he was set up and confronts Dexter about it in his lab. Dexter taunts him and knocks him down with a headbutt, then nonchalantly walks out, counting on Doakes' Hot-Blooded nature. Sure enough, Doakes rushes out and attacks him in front of the whole precinct, making him look even more unhinged and getting him placed on administrative leave.
  • Battle Couple:
    • Dexter and Lumen in season 5. This is lampshaded by the other characters. Masuka even compares them to Bonnie and Clyde. Dexter finds the analogy worrisome.
    • Played straight from season 7 onward with Dexter and Hannah.
  • Battle Trophy: Dexter takes a blood sample from every killer he's killed. Until season 7, when he stops after Deb confronts him for it, and destroys them all.
  • Becoming the Mask: Arguably the most prominent theme. Dexter pretends to be a regular guy who has emotional bonds with the people around him. As the story goes on, he begins to realize that he really does care for the people around him, though the audience sees this way before Dexter realizes it. By season 8, he's become so successful at being normal that it confounds Dr. Vogel, the one who helped Harry teach Dexter his code.
  • Best Woman: Deb is Dexter's "best man" at his wedding.
  • Better than Sex: This exchange from of one of the Early Cut shorts:
    Cindy Landon: P-please! Please! I-I-I'll fuck you if you let me go!
    Dexter: [wielding a chainsaw] But this is so much more fun!
    • Masuka also uses these exact words to describe the donuts Dexter brings. Then he recants.
  • Betty and Veronica: Lila (Veronica) and Rita (Betty).
  • Big Bad: Each season has at least one.
    • Season 1: The Ice Truck Killer note .
    • Season 2: Lila West, Frank Lundy, and James Doakes (although Doakes and Lundy are Hero Antagonists).
    • Season 3: Miguel Prado, with The Skinner (a.k.a. Jorge Orozco) as a Bait-and-Switch Boss.
    • Season 4: The Trinity Killer, a.k.a. Arthur Mitchell.
    • Season 5: The Barrel Girl Gang note .
    • Season 6: The Doomsday Killers, a.k.a. James Gellar and his dragon Travis Marshall. Until we learn that Gellar is just a Split Personality of Travis.
    • Season 7: Isaak Sirko, Hannah McKay, and Maria LaGuerta (although LaGuerta is a Hero Antagonist).
    • Season 8: The Brain Surgeon note .
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family:
    • The Trinity Killer's home life starts off looking pristine and wholesome, but they're really quite messed up. Aside from the murderer father, there's the Stepford Smiler wife, the abused son, the Fille Fatale daughter who's frequently locked up in her room (which is decorated for someone much younger)... Not to mention Arthur's history with his own parents and sister. And then there's Christine, his daughter from some previous involvement, who's known about his murders since she was five.
    • Dexter's own family. He and his brother, the Ice Truck Killer were born to a drug-dealing snitch. Both had the misfortune of seeing mommy get hacked to pieces with a chainsaw. Dexter's biological father was a career criminal. The Ice Truck Killer spent most of his childhood as an orphan, and grew up unhinged. Even though Dexter mostly escaped that fate thanks to Harry, Harry molded him into a Serial-Killer Killer when his attempts to do something more positive about his budding sociopathy failed.
    • The Prado brothers have their darker sides revealed fairly early on in season three.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Most of the Spanish is un-subtitled.
    • The illegal immigrant boat that picks up Dexter when he's floating in the ocean in "This Is the Way the World Ends" is called the Milagro—"miracle".
    • In Season 3 Anton writes a song for Deb called "Puta Flaca Mala"—"Bad Skinny Bitch".
    • Season 7 has huge Narm potential for Russian speakers, as the "Koshka Brotherhood" translates roughly to "Kitty Brotherhood". Doesn't sound so menacing now, does it?
  • Birthday Party Goes Wrong: In "Return to Sender", Dexter's girlfriend Rita plans a birthday party for her daughter Astor. Astor gets really worried about her party getting ruined when their violent abusive father of a criminal gets released from prison and wants to come to the party. Her brother Cody tells everyone about it and Astor's friends are no longer allowed to come. However, vulnerable Rita actually manages to tell Paul he can't come because of the restraining order. The party turns out fine.
  • Bittersweet Ending: With a lot of shifting towards the bitter side.
    • The Season 4 finale: Dexter finishes off Trinity only to find out that same night, Trinity took out Rita beforehand, leaving their son crying in her blood.
    • the series finale, Debra gets shot because Dexter didn't kill the Brain Surgeon when he had the chance. She develops a stroke and loses almost all brain function, and Dexter pulls the plug himself, then buries her at sea with the rest of his victims. Dexter realizes everyone he's ever been close to has died, and he decides to save Hannah and Harrison from himself by faking his death and exiling himself. The series ends with Dexter in a self-imposed prison in Canada, alone, and a devastated shell of the man he used to be.
  • Black Comedy: The show treats dark things like murder or death humourously — occasionally.
    • From the first episode.
      Dexter: There's something strange and disarming about looking at a homicide scene in the daylight of Miami. It makes the most grotesque killings look staged, like you're in a new and daring section of Disney World: Dahmerland!
    • In season 2:
      Dexter: A blind man. Not very sporting, I know. But I'm not one to discriminate based on race, gender or disability.
      And afterwards:
      Dexter: It'll be OK. I followed the code, the stalk was good. I'm just a little rusty since killing my brother. Or maybe I took pity on my victim. I mean sure, he's a heinous killer, but he also bumps into walls.
    • In the fifth season premiere when Dexter tells Astor and Cody of their mother's murder while wearing Mickey Mouse ears. Twisted.
  • Blood from the Mouth:
    • Lila when Dexter stabs her in the chest in the Season 2 finale.
    • Camilla when dying of cancer.
    • Beth Dorsey after her thwarted attempt at executing Travis Marshall's 'Wormwood' tableau (Season 6).
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents:
    • Dexter's flashbacks.
    • Baby Harrison sitting in Rita's blood in the Season 4 finale.
  • Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress: Season 3 finale. Better watch out, Rita. See Foreshadowing example below.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Jordan Chase got hit by it in season 5's finale.
  • Book Ends: The Trinity Killer is introduced murdering a woman in her bathroom in the opening of Season 4. The season ends with Rita found dead in her bathroom, as the final victim of Trinity.
    • The last kill room in season 8 meant for Oliver Saxon is the first kill room in the Pilot episode. Even Dexter and his dad lampshade this.
      Harry: Been a while since we've been here
      Dexter: The choir director...
  • Boring, but Practical: Dexter's set of kill tools contains some... interesting sharp instruments, but he generally sticks to a plain-ol' big knife.
  • Born Detective: Both of Harry's kids become detectives in their own ways, just like Harry himself. Deb officially, Dexter...less officially.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: After discovering Dexter is a serial killer, Debra gets into a morality debate in whether or not what Dexter does is wrong, and both argue good points. Debra is right that no matter how horrible his victims were they were still victims and had a right to be prosecuted legally; Dexter is right that his victims were dangerous criminals and committed horrifying acts, and as seen during season two, the victims of Dexter's Asshole Victims were seen better off.
  • Bowdlerise: The CBS version of Season 1, aired during the 2007-08 writer's strike, which removed much of the sex, violence and bad language, and replaced it with advertisements.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter:
    • Astor as of season 4. Dexter comments in his inner monologue that she has chosen the role of a sullen pre-teen.
    • Deb talks back to her father in some flashbacks.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • In season 2 Dexter is doing one of his narrations, when Doakes says "You say something, Morgan?"
    • At one point in Season 2, Dexter comments on how the voices in his head were gone. A scene later, he starts his internal narration and adds, "The voices are back. Excellent."
    • Dexter looks at the camera.
    • In Season 3, while Dexter is killing the neo-Nazi, he mentions that he prefers to work alone and then says to no one in particular "...present company excluded." It could be interpreted as a statement to the audience, though it's more likely meant to refer to the person he's killing.
    • In the Season 6 premiere, when Jamie is first shown in Dexter's apartment, Dexter narrates saying, "It's not what you're thinking."
  • Break-In Threat: The Ice Truck Killer sneaks into Dexter's apartment several times, and leaves calling cards each time (dismembered dolls, smiley faces). However, Dexter's reaction to the intrusion subverts the trope: he realizes that it isn't a threat, but rather an invitation to "play."
  • Break the Cutie: Deb, so much Deb. It's a tribute to her strength of will that she *hasn't* completely broken down after the trail of dead and fucked up people that have surrounded her for the entire run of the show.
  • Breather Episode: Season 5's "Teenage Wasteland" mostly takes a break from the main story arc to focus on Dexter reconciling with Astor.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Harry after Season 2.
    • Dexter to Debra after the reveal in Season 7.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Lundy is a mild example. Also invoked directly by Elway in Season 8 when he tells Deb he only puts up with her bullshit because she's so good at her job.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • The Ice Truck Killer, killed off in Season 1, returns as Dexter's Imaginary Friend five seasons later.
    • Lundy leaves in Season 2 and comes back in Season 4.
    • Two years after the Trinity story arc, Arthur Mitchell's son Jonah pops up in Season 6.
    • Sylvia Prado returns briefly near the end of season 8, helping Dexter sell his apartment.
  • Cain and Abel: Dexter and his brother Brian Moser. Ironically it's Abel who kills Cain here.
  • Call-Back:
    • Referring to the Ice Truck Killer from Season 1
      Dexter: I'm just not used to checking the fridge for notes. [VO] Just messages from other serial killers.
    • During his investigation into Dexter, Stan Liddy makes mention to Quinn that Dexter went to Paris at some point, referring, of course, to the Season 2 ending.
    • The shot at the end of Season 4, with baby Harrison sitting in his mother's blood, is a Call Back to the oft-repeated shot from Season 1 of little boy Dexter sitting in his mother's blood in the cargo container.
    • Referring to the title sequence
      Dexter: You don't know this about me, but I'm actually kind of a breakfast connoisseur.
    • In Season 6 Masuka's sexy intern/girlfriend is obsessed with the Ice Truck Killer, and she steals the mannequin hand with painted nails from Season 1.
    • In Season 4, after Arthur Mitchell figures out that Kyle Butler is really Dexter, he greets Dexter at Miami Metro with "Hello, Dexter Morgan" (hence the episode title). In Season 6's "Nebraska", after Dexter tracks down Arthur's son Jonah, Jonah greets Dexter with the exact same line.
    • In Season 6, Fanboy intern Louis Greene shows Dexter his video game which allows players to control various famous serial killers, including the local title for Dexter from Season 2, the Bay Harbor Butcher, upon mention of which we hear Dexter ominously think with a tinge of annoyance
      Dexter: I AM the Bay Harbor Butcher...
    • In Season 7 episode "Sunshine And Frosty Swirl", when recounting his crimes, Dexter harks all the way back to the pilot (the murderous choir director). Then in Season 8 episode "Goodnight, Miami" Dexter revisits the spot where he killed the choir director in the pilot.
    • In the next-to-last episode, "Monkey in a Box", Miguel Prado's widow Sylvia pops up as the realtor trying to sell Dexter's apartment.
    • In the very last episode with eerie naming "Remember the Monsters", for a brief scene we can see Miami Chills ICE Refrigerated Delivery logo, only it is not on a truck. Perhaps we should remember some monsters from the very deep past.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • Rita with her mother.
    • Jonah Mitchell, in quite an epic one as there's quite a lot for his father to answer for.
    • Astor to Dexter in the wake of Rita's death.
    • Dex imagines his dead, adoptive father talking to him throughout the series. After learning that Harry had an affair with his biological mother, Dex imagined several of these moments in season 2 and 3.
  • Captain Obvious: Dexter's voiceover narration often suffers from this in the later seasons.
  • Cartwright Curse: Deb suffers from this.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Dexter tells his therapist he's a serial killer. The therapist thinks he's joking. Of course, the only reason he was at the therapist's was because the therapist was his next victim.
      Dexter: I'm a serial killer. Oh god, that feels so amazing to say out loud. I'm not joking. I kill people.
    • Also, in that same episode: Dexter seeks out one of the therapist's patients to establish whether the shrink has an alibi for the time of his "suicide victim's" death. When the guy asks Dexter what he thinks of Dr. Meridian, Dexter replies: "Nah, I'm a sociopath, there's not much you can do for me". Cue the other guy not only taking this as a joke, but actually trying to hit on Dexter. "Cute AND funny. Let me guess. Taken?"
  • Celebrity Paradox: In season 3, after Debra babysat Astor and Cody for Rita and Dexter, she jokingly tells them that Astor almost made it through Saw and Saw II. Rita's actress, Julie Benz, would later star in Saw V as one of Jigsaw's victims.
  • Character Development: Everybody gets some.
    • In the beginning of the show, Dexter is somewhat disgusted by sex, believes himself to be totally emotionless, and tries to avoid personal connections at all cost for fear of being discovered as a monster. As seasons go by, he becomes a family man and has several romantic relationships with women.
    • Rita, who is fragile and shy, becomes stronger and more assertive as she recovers from the trauma of her marriage with Paul.
  • Character Signature Song:
    • "Born Free" for the Ice Truck Killer.
    • "Venus" for the Trinity Killer.
    • "Make Your Own Kind Of Music" for the Brain Surgeon.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the books LaGuerta is an outright antagonist, described as simultaneously dumb, horny for Dexter, and unreasonably hostile toward Debra. In the show, she is referred to as being dumb in the pilot, but that is dropped soon after and LaGuerta is portrayed as quite competent. Her attraction for Dexter is implied a couple of times in the first episodes but dropped, and eventually her hatred for Deb is also dropped after the characters have a heart-to-heart. This is probably due to the decision to keep LaGuerta around, rather than killing her off as Lindsay did at the end of the first book.
  • Character Name Alias: Dexter orders his tranquilizers as Patrick Bateman. Not a very smart choice for a Serial Killer trying to evade detection while working in a police department...
  • Chekhov's Gun: The coffin built by Arthur in season 4.
  • Chewing the Scenery:
    • Miguel, especially on the rooftop. And it is awesome.
    • Dexter himself has a couple of these moments in Season 2, especially during the confrontation with his mother's killer and the opening scene with Doakes in 2x11, "Left Turn Ahead".
  • Chiaroscuro: Would you expect a show about a serial killer to be well-lit?
  • Chivalrous Pervert: For all his ribald jokes and wacky antics, Vince Masuka cares a great deal for the women in his life, and is very shaken by the sight of Dexter's neighbor putting moves on Rita in Season 4. In Season 5, he is especially disgusted when he has to watch the rape DVDs, and is also very sad when examining Rita's corpse, stating, "I always wanted to see her naked, but not like this." Season 6 has him taking on several interns, including a very attractive blonde; once he realizes her disrespect for protocol, he immediately gets rid of her. Culminates in season 8, where he discovers he has a daughter; he is very unnerved to find out that she works in a topless sports bar.
  • Choke Holds: While Dexter prefers to sedate his targets, he's been known to strangle them into unconsciousness. Acceptable, considering what he plans to do with them doesn't really require them to be in the best health anyway. His brother was considerably more fond of the sleeper hold, although his goals were basically the same. The Trinity Killer also uses sleeper holds.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Though Rita never has any serious competition as Dexter's love interest, there are a couple other women who have shown interest in him. Lila is killed by Dexter after she kills Doakes, allowing Dexter to kill her without breaking the Code. Lt. LaGuerta is a more unusual case. Early in the series she shows a romantic/sexual interest in Dexter. However, this simply fades away after a while.
  • Cliffhanger: The season 4 ending with Dexter carrying blood-soaked Harrison out of the bathroom where Rita was murdered.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Lila, oh so much. She caused a fire just to try and control Dexter. She then tried getting revenge against Dexter just because he left her. She tricks the authorities into thinking Batista raped her due to rough sex and taking a date rape drug, stalked Rita and then tried to murder Dexter, Astor and Cody in the season finale because Dexter chose Rita and the kids over her. She's also responsible for murdering fan-favorite Doakes all for the sake of winning Dexter's approval. He most certainly does not appreciate it.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Lundy shows some signs due to being a bunny ears detective, such as when he's enjoying animal crackers during a homicide interview:
    Lundy: Is this a lion or a hippo? [eats] Tastes like a hippo.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Deb and Doakes in particular, but there are other offenders.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • The Skinner ostensibly tortures for information, but Dexter states that that's just a pretense and he does it because he enjoys it.
    • The circle of rapist-murderers puts its victims through rape-and-torture sessions so shocking that even Dexter and Masuka, the resident pervert, are horrified by them.
    • Ramon Prado tortures some mook for information about his brother's killer by shaking up a bottle of Coke and letting it shoot up the guy's nose.
  • The Collector of the Strange: Dexter's box of bloody slides. Also, one character's fascination with cryptozoo-taxidermy.
  • Combat Compliment: Doakes gives Dexter an underhanded one when he discovers that the blood spatter analyst is nearly his equal in hand-to-hand combat: "Lab geek, my ass!"
  • Confess to a Lesser Crime: When confronted by his girlfriend about some of his strange behavior, Dexter confesses to being an addict and lets her assume that he's talking about drugs rather than murder. This has unintentional benefits of getting Doakes off his back for a time, as Doakes sees Dexter at a meeting and assumes that his instincts that Dexter was up to something were triggerd by the addiction.
  • Confetti Drop: Done in "Born Free" when Dexter has a rather long Imagine Spot and sees himself as a celebrity appreciated by general public. The celebrity worship and party-like feeling is completed with the Confetti Drop and banners saying stuff like "I'm your number one fan" or "we love Dexter".
  • Conspicuous Gloves: Dexter sometimes uses rubber gloves when he searches for evidence in his future victims' places, but at times he uses ordinary gloves. Once somebody sees him coming home with the gloves on and points out that Miami is little too hot for wearing them.
  • Constructive Body Disposal: The Trinity Killer (who actually kills in fours) starts his kill cycle with a victim who's Buried Alive in cement at a construction site financed by his Church group. Trinity has travelled all over the country using the charity as a convenient cover to both find new victims in other areas and dispose of their bodies. He even keeps framed photos of the projects as a kill trophy collection right in his living room. These first murders were never tied to him because the bodies were never found, so they were classified as missing person cases instead of homicides.
  • Continuity Nod: In the beginning of Season 6, we see Dexter's old prom date Mindy who we first met in a Season 1 flashback.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • At the end of Season 2, Deb walks in at exactly the right moment so that Dexter confuses her for Lila and jumps her from behind, kicking off Lila's final attempt at killing Dexter and the children.
    • The only reason the cops find out the Ice Truck Killer's real name is because Angel is in a hospital room with a patient who got transferred from the psych ward.
    • Louis mailing Dexter the ITK hand means that he somehow knows Dexter's dark secret, right? Apparently not.
  • Cool Boat: Dexter's Slice of Life plays a pivotal part in his waste management. In the series finale, it plays a part in him faking his death.
  • Cosplay: Rita Bennett dresses up as Lara Croft as a Valentine's day gift for her boyfriend (later husband) Dexter, though he has a bit of trouble placing it at first.
  • Cops Need the Vigilante: Zigzagged. Dexter is a legitimate agent of the police (albeit a lab technician, so he does not have the authority to arrest anyone) whose nighttime activities as a Serial-Killer Killer are beneath notice by the rest of the department. When Dexter himself becomes a target of the FBI after a mass grave of his victims' corpses are discovered, most of his colleagues are quick to denounce the "Bay Harbor Butcher" and his one-man war on crime. Later, when Dexter was going after the Barrel Girl Gang, a group of criminals who raped and murdered numerous young women, Debra walked in on him in the middle of his kill ritual after he and Lumen, one of the gang's would-be victims, captured their leader. Dexter and Lumen were concealed behind a sheet of plastic, but Debra just said that she was going to let them get away with it because their victims were just that horrible.
  • Country Matters:
    • The normally stoic Dexter stabs a serial killer in the chest when he called Rita one.
    • The Trinity Killer refers to a passerby, his wife, and his daughter this way.
    • Deb calls Yuki, the Internal Affairs officer, one. Nobody likes HR.
    • So, so many examples in Season 5 courtesy of the main antagonists.
  • Creator Cameo: Jeff Lindsay pops up in Episode 3-10 as a cop.
  • Cradling Your Kill:
    • In Season Two, Dexter injects Lila with a spinal epidural and then carries her to the couch before laying her gently down and stabbing her through the heart. He then closes her eyes.
    • In Season Four, Trinity forces his first victim to lie with him in a bathtub, holds her close and says, "Shhhhh, it's already over," before cutting her femoral artery. He continues to hold her as she bleeds out and dies. Made even more horrifying by the fact that he's an extremely specific ritual serial killer and has probably done exactly this to dozens of women over the years, including Rita.
    • In Season Seven Finale, Debra shoots Maria LaGuerta. She is horrified by what she did, runs to her to embrace her and cries the whole time.
  • Cramming the Coffin: In season 3, not wanting to divulge the methods of his usual lifestyle, Dexter teaches Miguel Prado to dispose of bodies by burying them past the point of visibility within a to-be-used grave, intending them to be hidden beneath a new coffin.
  • Creepy Souvenir:
    • Dexter takes a drop of blood from each victim and preserves it on a microscope slide.
    • The Ice Truck Killer stores his victims' blood in the freezer. Subverted when he brings the blood to another crime scene.
    • In Season 3, Miguel Prado takes Ellen Wolf's ring.
    • In Season 4, Trinity keeps plaques from various places all over the USA on the wall in his living room. They mark houses he built for a charity organization, but also each cycle of his murders. In addition, a small boy was buried in the concrete foundations of the houses. He was sending postcards to his daughter from those places as well.
    • In Season 5, Boyd Fowler keeps numbered strands of the Barrel Girls' hair, Alex Tilden takes pieces of their jewelry, and Jordan Chase wears a vial of his first victim's blood around his neck as a pendant. The gang also records themselves torturing and raping the girls, and makes DVDs.
    • In Season 6, the Tooth Fairy keeps his victims' teeth in a tin box.
    • In Season 6, Louis Greene acquires the prosthetic hand that belonged to the Ice Truck Killer.
    • In Season 7, Ray Speltzer took his female victims' earrings to put on display in a mausoleum at the cemetery where he worked.
    • In Season 8, the Brain Surgeon excises a certain piece of his victim's brain.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: Dexter's girlfriend against a rapist that broke into her house.
  • Criminal Mind Games:
    • The Ice Truck Killer leaves clues that only Dexter would recognize and appreciate.
      Dexter: I suppose I should be upset, even feel violated, but I'm not. No, in fact, I think this is a friendly message, like "Hey, wanna play?". And yes, I want to play. I really, really do.
    • Dexter himself does the same thing to the Miami Homicide Department in the second season. It backfires on him badly, though, helping the police to narrow down the list of suspects to people in the Department. And that's why, when you write a 'manifesto', you stick to one possible diversionary target instead of, say, 10.
    • Louis Greene, who appears to be a wannabe serial killer, mails the Ice Truck Killer's prosthetic hand to Dexter near the end of Season 6.
  • Cringe Comedy: Brian provides some as a figment of Dexter's imagination in season 6.
    Brian: Wouldn't it have been more fun to kill her than fuck her?
  • Cute and Psycho: Zig-zagged with the Trinity Killer. We see his psychotic side first, then get shocked that he has a seemingly wholesome home life, then get shocked again when we see just how dysfunctional his home life really is.
  • Da Chief: Matthews, from Season 4 to Season 6. He becomes a regular character by season 8.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: In the first episode, a scene right out of the book has Dexter using this to subdue a child-killing choir director.
  • Dating Catwoman:
    • Dexter and Lila. It says something when Dexter is a serial killer and the girl he dates is darker than him.
    • Dexter and Hannah McKay.
  • Daylight Horror: Many gruesome crime-scenes are shot around the sunny Miami locale. Dexter comments on how the bright sunlight makes gruesome crime scenes look like staged theme park attractions.
  • Dead All Along: Gellar, the "main" villain of season 6, turns out to have been dead for a long time, and Travis was only hallucinating him while doing all the killings himself.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: The season 2 promotional poster.
  • Deadly Bath: The Trinity Killer murders women in their bathtubs. Eventually he takes revenge on Dexter by killing Rita this way.
  • Deadly Gas: Travis's attack on the police station.
  • Dead Person Conversation:
    • Dexter has many of them, mostly with Harry, but briefly with Brian.
    • As of Season 6, Travis also has these with Gellar, unbeknownst to the audience for much of the season. They stop shortly after it's revealed to the audience that Gellar was Dead All Along.
    • In one episode of Season 6, Deb implies she has them with Harry as well.
  • Death by Adaptation: The Ice Truck Killer, Doakes. And Rita, who is alive and quite well in the novels up until the end of Dexter's Final Cut. And finally, Deb dies at the end of the series.
  • Death Seeker: At the start of season 8, Deb shows shades of this with her increased drug addiction and self-loathing. Considering what she did at the end of season 7 - by either killing/apprehending Dexter or killing LaGuerta, and choosing the latter - it's easy to see why her spirit's completely broken.
  • Debate and Switch: When Doakes finds out that Dexter is the Bay Harbor Butcher, Dexter is faced with a dilemma: go against his code and kill Doakes, or turn himself in. However, the issues resolves itself when Lila kills Doakes.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Dexter frames Doakes for being the Bay Harbor Butcher. Although unplanned by Dexter, Doakes is later blown up and posthumously takes the fall for Dexter's crimes.
  • Defiant to the End:
    • Many of Dexter's Asshole Victims, at least the ones who don't try to plead with him or to deny their crimes, end their lives screaming in rage and hurling empty verbal threats at him. When you're laying on a table, tied up and unable to move, it's about the only thing left you can do.
    • Dexter himself does this as a deliberate ploy when he's caught by the Skinner, another serial killer, using his understanding of serial killers to his advantage. It works.
  • Depending on the Writer: This affects all the characters to some extent, but it's most pronounced with LaGuerta, whose portray tends to vary wildly between being the Team Mom and by far and away the most sensible and competent of the main characters, or being a borderline incompetent who refuses to take responsibility for her mistakes and has no problem throwing others under the bus to aid her own career.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Deb got hit with this twice in season 7. The first time was a slow burn despair. After finding out that Dexter was the Bay Harbor Butcher, she dipped into a slow descent into depression and anti-anxiety medication. Despite trying to help Dexter through his addiction, the burden of keeping the secret to herself has slowly gotten the better of her. By the end of season 7, the second despair hit a lot quicker and was far more brutal. Faced with the Sadistic Choice to arrest/kill Dexter, or kill LaGuerta, Deb chooses to save her brother. By the season 8 premiere, it's made clear that Deb's decision to save Dexter has turned her into a reckless and borderline suicidal drug addict that can't bear to be around Dexter or Miami P.D. anymore, and resents Dexter for destroying her life.
  • Detective Mole: More than once, most notably the entire plot of Season 2, when Dexter and the rest of Miami Metro are investigating the Bay Harbor Butcher—who is Dexter.
  • Deus ex Machina:
    • The baby monitor in Season 5, which helps Dexter catch on to Liddy's scheme.
    • At the end of Season 2, Dexter has captured Doakes, who now knows Dexter's secret. What to do? Eventually Dexter resolves to turn himself in because killing Doakes doesn't fit The Code. Lila blunders into Dexter's hideaway and kills Doakes for him.
    • In the Season 6 finale, just when Dexter resigns himself to a death at sea, an illegal immigrant boat comes out of nowhere and rescues him. A very deliberate example, given the season's focus on religion and God. The boat's name? Milagro.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Lampshaded memorably in the very first episode:
    Dexter: [VO] The only real question I have is why in a building full of cops, all supposedly with a keen insight to the human soul, is Doakes the only one who gets the creeps from me?
    • Later, Quinn. But it takes Rita's death for him to start to suspect anything.
  • Did Not Die That Way: Dexter believed Harry to have died of heart disease, but he was revealed to have committed suicide after seeing what Dexter was really capable of, and what he had trained him to do.
  • Dirty Cop: Quinn, who steals from crime scenes and takes bribes from the Ukrainian mob.
  • Dirty Harriet: Deb. She's actually called so at one point in the book.
  • Disneyland Dad: In the first season, Paul tries to make up for the time he was absent while in prison by taking the kids somewhere really fun and memorable every time he's allowed court supervised visitation. This is partially because he's upset about the kids becoming close to Dexter. Rita's parents do the same following their estrangement after Rita's mom verbally attacks Rita's parenting skills. This backfires when Rita is murdered while the kids are with their grandparents at Disney Land. This is likely all they will remember about the trip.
  • Disposing of a Body: Dexter hacks his victims to pieces and then drops 'em at the bottom of the sea. The tides turn this into a major plot point when several remains are discovered and the case against the "Bay Harbor Butcher" ensues.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Louis Greene starts tormenting Dexter because Dexter insulted his game. Dexter initially assumes Louis knows he's a serial killer, and is flabbergasted when he learns that his real reasons are so petty.
  • Ditch the Bodyguards: After the FBI suspect that Doakes is the Bay Harbor Butcher, Dexter is given a protective detail since they assume the Butcher will come after him. He slips away from them by climbing out the window of his apartment.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • In the Title Sequence, Dexter's morning routine is shown through a series of skin-crawling close-up shots that make mundane activities like slicing ham or tying shoelaces look surprisingly violent.
    • This idea is played with a lot in the fifth season with Dexter and Lumen's relationship; it seems to be parodying a traditional 'courtship' in a way: he gives her the blood slide like anyone else would give flowers or something; he presents her with his knives and invites her to choose her favorite, like any other kind of gift; he gets all tongue-tied when he sees her in her killing clothes, saying she looks "perfect"; he takes her shopping and buys her a knife after she rejects a ring, like a man shopping for the perfect gift; they cuddle as they plan their next murder, like it's their next romantic outing. Of course, for them it really kind of is their next romantic outing. It manages to be very sweet, and more than a little creepy.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: In the episode "Swim Deep":
    [after uncovering the bundled corpses of a married couple]
    Masuka: "Til death do us part" didn't quite work out for these guys. Hehehehehe...
    [Dexter and Batista stare at him]
    Masuka: Get it? 'Cuz they're dead but...they're still together? Okay, moving on.
  • Don't Sneak Up on Me Like That!: In season 2, after her recent traumatic experience of being kidnapped by a serial killer, Deb punches a guy in the nose when he comes up behind her at a bar.
  • Doom Magnet: Dexter is one of these. Just ask Rita.
  • Downer Ending: Debra is put on life support because the gun injury she received from Daniel caused a blood clot. Dexter gives her a Mercy Kill... and then proceeds to fake his own death. And while Harrison's life isn't in danger, he's still effectively on the run with Hannah, a serial killer, with the chance of reuniting with his siblings being very unlikely. And going back to Dexter... he survived, but is now an Empty Shell.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • All over the place. Rita is a particularly bad offender, constantly saying things like, "Oh, Dexter would never hurt anyone."
    • In season 2, this leads to their breakup: Rita dumps Dexter because she falsely believes he slept with Lila. Then the next day she cools off enough to let him explain, but by then he has slept with her, and his honesty about it makes her break up with him for good (until Lila is out of the picture anyway).
    • From the season 6, episode 10 preview: "Dexter is your safe place." Considering how well that works out for some people...
    • In "Buck the System," Dexter tells Mafiya boss Isaak Sirko, "I hope you find what you're looking for," when it's Dexter himself that Isaak is looking for.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Christine, when Debra doesn't forgive her for killing Lundy.
    • Harry, when he realizes what he let Dexter become. Or molded him into.
    • Trinity's mother, which causes him to force other mothers of two to jump to their deaths during his kill cycles.
    • Dexter catches a therapist doing this to his patients in "Shrink Wrap".
    • Seemingly Dexter himself in the series finale... until the last scene, which shows him alive in self exile. Word of God states that killing himself would have been too easy.
  • Driving Question: Season 1. Who is the Ice Truck Killer?
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: At the beginning of Season 4, a very attractive naked woman is murdered in a bathtub. We see another good-looking naked woman dead in a bathtub in episode "Shrink Wrap". In fact Dexter does this quite often.
  • Drunk Driver: One of the first people we see Dexter hunt is a serial Drunk Driver who is constantly able to get out of his vehicular manslaughter charges by moving to a new location and changing his name so they cannot connect him to his previous arrests.
  • Dutch Angle: Occasionally a straight shot of a normal scene is contrasted with a tilted shot of Dexter watching, to make him seem off kilter.
  • Eager Rookie: Dexter takes on a mentee, Miguel, and teaches him the tricks and trade of being a vigilante serial killer. Miguel really enjoys it and is eager to kill, but is not very good at vetting his targets. Miguel and Dexter eventually have a falling out when Miguel murders a victim who is not a criminal and has a personal, easily traced connection to Miguel.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • In the pilot, for Dexter's first onscreen kill, he hides in the back seat of his victim's car, whips a garrotte around the victim's neck, and forces said victim to drive Dexter to the kill spot, whereupon Dexter kills him by cutting his throat. Soon after, Dexter starts using his regular M.O. (sedate victim, transport victim to prepared plastic-covered kill room, let victim wake up naked on table, kill victim by stabbing them in the heart), which he has been using since his first chronological kill, as shown via flashbacks. He also goes to the trouble of digging up the rotting corpses of the killer's victims and putting them in the kill room, rather than simply pinning up their photographs.
    • Season 1 doesn't feature anyone in the role of Dexter's Spirit Advisor at all, while Season 2 only has Brian filling the role for a single episode. Harry doesn't start fulfilling the part until a couple of episodes into Season 3.
    • The dynamic between LaGuerta and Matthews can vary drastically from episode to episode in the early seasons. In one episode LaGuerta will be a Glory Hound with bad judgement while Matthews will be her more level-headed superior, and then in the next episode the former will be the Team Mom and the latter will be an incompetent, racist asshole. By the second season this settles down to LaGuerta being the overall more sympathetic of the two, but usually still putting her own ambitions first.
    • The main set for Miami Metro Homicide wasn't established until after the pilot. Initially, the characters are shown working in a much larger and open office space and Dexter didn't have a backroom. Presumably, the writers needed a convenient excuse to have Dexter access police databases for criminals he was targeting without having his colleagues always watching over his shoulder.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Lila, as a big part of her appeal. Angel notes that she's like a beautiful porcelain doll. Deb, on the other hand, memorably calls her a "Gross, English titty vampire."
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Batista has a very subtle version of this, mostly due to David Zayas's thick accent. It's actually not really noticeable unless you're listening for it.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Dexter doesn't particularly like his monicker of the "Bay Harbor Butcher". He does describe his urge to kill as his "Dark Passenger", but he just thinks of himself as Dexter.
  • Enfante Terrible: Rather ridiculously, Dexter worries that Harrison may be this, despite the fact that Harrison was less than a year old when he witnessed a traumatic event.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: A lot of the killers in the show are shown to have families and friends they care about.
    • Dexter says he has no feelings, but grows quite attached to his family and some of his coworkers, and has other romantic relationships later in the series.
    • The Ice Truck Killer is revealed to be Dexter's brother, reached out to him so they could reunite, and wants them to kill Debra together. Dexter can't do it because he loves Deb, and tearfully kills Brian.
    • Miguel Prado loved his brothers, and is particularly broken up about Oscar's death. When Dexter tells Miguel right before garroting him that Dexter himself killed Oscar, Miguel is particularly enraged.
    • Travis Marshall is shown to have a deep bond with his sister, but she ends up killed by his evil personality.
    • Ukrainian crime lord Isaak Sirko pursues Dexter for killing his friend Viktor, also his lover.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Basically the entire premise of the show. In the first episode, Dexter tells the very first person we see him kill - a child molester who murders his victims after he abuses them - that he could never kill children because "I have standards." Other especially notable examples:
    • Though Dexter feels no remorse about killing those he knows are not innocent, he cannot bring himself to murder Sergeant Doakes at the end of Season 2. At first he makes a halfhearted attempt to frame Doakes's kills in the line of duty to fit Harry's code, but ultimately he can't go through with it because he knows that Doakes is genuinely a good man, even if he's his nemesis.
    • Furthermore, when Dexter accidentally chops an innocent to bits, who he thinks is guilty, he later has regrets about what he did when he finds out the truth. Perhaps it's more than just Harry's Code keeping him in line.
    • However, the main theme of Season 7 is Dexter rejecting the Code and the idea of a "Dark Passenger", and accepting that he kills because he likes it. This leads him to make the exact opposite decision in Season 7 than he did in Season 2; he resolves to kill LaGuerta to protect himself.
    • A particularly blatant example is in Season 5 when the main antagonists are 5 men who raped and murdered at least 12 women, and gang-raped another two. Dexter is horrified by their crimes. He actually says that even though he considers himself a monster, their evil comes as a shock to him. What really stands out is that Dexter considered the Ice-Truck Killer and the Trinity Killer to be Worthy Opponents, but these men just sicken him.
    • "What's Eating Dexter Morgan?" shows that Dexter also hates cannibals, to the point where he reacts with uncharacteristic disgust upon finding a human finger in some stew.
    • Trinity seems to be particularly defensive when Dexter calls him a pedophile.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • When Quinn shows up at a party with a slutty girl, that girl is willing to put up with his Jerkass behavior until she learns she's just there to make Debra jealous.
    • Dexter of all people is not one to be bothered by the sight of blood— aside from his career as a homicide forensics expert, he has a blood fetish— but the Overdrawn at the Blood Bank crime scene in "Seeing Red", with literal buckets of blood splashed around a hotel room, is enough to make him violently queasy and practically pass out. (It turns out, though, this is partly because it triggers a traumatic childhood memory.)
  • Evil Brit:
  • Evil Counterpart: Predominately the Ice Truck Killer, but in some way every murderer and serial killer Dexter takes out could be seen as his evil counterpart. He even says as much: "You are all just unchecked versions of myself." Most of the big bads can be seen as Dexter's evil counterparts in some aspects.
    • Season 1: Rudy Cooper/Brian Moser AKA The Ice Truck Killer is probably the biggest one of them all. He is Dexter's biological brother, he was traumatized along with Dexter by their mother's death, both have fetishes that possibly rooted from their witness of their mother's death and both have the "killing urge".
    • Season 2: Lila. She recognizes that both she and Dexter have something that they both refer to as "The Dark Passenger" to the point where she believes she's his "soulmate".
    • Season 3: Miguel Prado. It turns out that he also has "the darkness" in him and they both live lives of deception.
    • Season 4: Arthur Mitchell AKA Trinity. Like Dexter they are both family men but while Dexter has his family as his Morality Pet, Trinity is an abusive husband and father.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Animals in general, and dogs in particular, loathe Dexter. Subverted by Brother Sam's murderer being figured out by Dexter by the fact that it *didn't* bark at him in the kill footage.
  • Evil Versus Evil: This is how Dexter personally justifies his role as a serial killer, and quite possibly the entire premise of the show.
  • Exiled to the Couch: Inverted, Angel exiles himself to the couch after getting an uncomfortable look at how far LaGuerta will go to keep her job.
  • Expy:
    • Lundy is like Kyle Chutsky except with more screentime and no pinky ring.
    • The Skinner is a torturer who mutilates his victims, similar to Dr. Danco.
    • A marine biologist brought in as a consultant in Season 2 is named Manny and described as a "Prima Donna," similar to a conceited caterer.
    • Tony Tucci and Neil Perry are Expys of a single character from the novels, Daryll, who works as a security guard, is arrested for the Tamiami killings, and confesses to them.
  • The Ex's New Jerkass: When Hannah returns, Dexter finds out she's married to an abusive man.
  • Eye Scream: In Season 7, Isaak Sirko thrusts a screwdriver into Tony Rush's eye, and later threatens Louis Greene's eye with a hand drill. Subverted in the latter case, as he shoots him dead instead.

    F - K 
  • Faking the Dead: Dexter in the final episode.
  • False Rape Accusation:
    • In season 2, Lila falsely accuses Batista of rape (in actuality, they had consensual sex before she took a dose of rohypnol and injured herself in order to frame him) in order to pressure Dexter into getting back together with her, implying that she will drop the charges if he does so.
    • One of Dexter's prospective victims, a female police officer who murdered her own husband and daughter, quickly catches on to his surveillance and confronts him in a gas station restroom. She threatens to kill him under the cover of self-defense by falsely claiming that he attempted to rape her, but he points out that the ballistics would not support her story.
  • False Reassurance: Dexter does this just about every single time a loved one says something ironic about his true nature. That's pretty damn frequently.
  • Fan Disservice: One might have hoped that John Lithgow would have had some sort of Alba-esque moral objection to doing nude scenes. Sigh.
    • A shirtless Deb scene is marred by her nasty bullet scar.
  • Fanservice Extra: Kristen Miller plays the chick Tricia at Dexter's 20th anniversary high school reunion who decides to give Dexter a blow job and takes her top off while doing it.
  • Fell Asleep Driving: Played for Drama in "Living the Dream". Sleep-deprived from his newborn child, Dexter makes a series of mistakes throughout the episode, culminating in falling asleep and crashing his car at the end. In the next episode, he's hospitalized and his car is towed... with his latest victim's corpse still hidden in the trunk.
  • Fetish: The Ice Truck killer (i.e. Brian Moser/Rudy Cooper) has one for amputees. Dexter's fascination with blood spatter also verges on this, something James Doakes remarks on with much disgust. It's arguable that both Brian and Dexter's particular interests are a direct result of the chainsaw murder of their mother when they were kids.
  • Fetishes Are Weird:
    • Subverted and Played for Laughs with Vince Masuka. He has several fetishes and is depicted as a total weirdo that everyone finds perverted (which isn't undeserved), but he's also one of the heroic characters in the series. Masuka is just a Lovable Sex Maniac.
    • Played Straight with Brian Moser, the Ice Truck Killer. He's a sociopathic Serial Killer who has an amputee fetish, and it's later revealed that this is because he witnessed his mother getting murdered with a chainsaw, and it's implied that his fetish has a large role to play in his modus operandi. Slightly Downplayed, as Vince warns Batista to not call an amputee fetishist by the medical term (acrotomophilia) because it sounds like a disease, implying that he knows people with the fetish who are just ordinary people and want to be treated respectfully.
  • Fictional Video Game: In season 6, one of Dexter's colleagues (an intern named Louis) was developing Homicidal Tendencies, a literal Murder Simulator in which the player could assume the identity of one of several serial killers. This included the Bay Harbor Butcher, who was actually Dexter. He asks Dexter for advice (not knowing his double life as a Serial-Killer Killer) because he was involved in the case, but the latter just feels insulted.
  • Finger in the Mail: This is a recurring theme throughout the whole of season one, but never quite so strongly as the time that the Ice Truck Killer mails a jar of blood with a hotel room key in it to the homicide department. The hotel room key turns out to lead to a hotel room with walls covered with much more blood.
  • First-Person Smartass: Dexter is a charming, amusing sociopath, whose twisted outlook on himself and the world around him emerges as dryly hilarious. For example, in one scene when he is particularly irritated with his sister, he thinks:
    Dexter: I will not kill my sister. I will not kill my sister...
  • Flanderization:
    • Dexter used to be a cold-hearted, meticulous, intelligent killer with no capacity for emotion and empathy. He had to put up a front to hide all that by using his then girlfriend Rita and her children. Seasons 3 and 5 are evidence that he's turned into a bumbling idiot, allowing two other strangers to watch his kills and confessing his murderous activities to them. In addition he is more sloppy than ever; one example being the season five finale where he left his blood and fingerprints in the crashed stolen vehicle in a ditch for cops to eventually see. This may or may not be the result of the increasing toll that leading a dual life has, or even Death Seeker tendencies based on his increasing guilt.
    • Deb was originally tough but occasionally emotional, and had a habit of sleeping around. As the series dragged on, the "sleeping around" angle turned into a minimum of one love interest per season. Her strong emotions, which Dexter once commented she worked hard to hide, escalated to the point where she would break down and cry almost every episode. This culminated in the beginning of Season 5, when Deb, immediately after cleaning her murdered sister-in-law's blood off the floor with Quinn's help, broke down crying and had sex with him. Of course, this may all be justified, given the increasing toll her work in homicide has on her.
      • A more minor example is Deb's Cluster F-Bomb tendencies, as seen in this video:
        Season 1: ~50 "fuck"s
        Season 2: ~75
        Season 3: ~100
        Season 4: ~100
        Season 5: ~100
        Season 6: ~150
        Season 7: ~200
        Season 8: ~200
  • Flaying Alive: As his name suggests, this is The Skinner's MO.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Rita's first husband, Paul, initially refuses to sign the paperwork, despite the fact that she had him sent to prison for domestic abuse. She later gets him to finalize the divorce, threatening to have his visitation rights to his children revoked if he doesn't sign.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Every season ends with a cue regarding the main theme of the next one:
      • Season 1 ended with Dexter contemplating what it would be like if his actions were exposed and with Doakes gesturing ‘I’m watching you’ at him; in season 2, the bodies he dumped are revealed and Doakes' pursuit of him becomes more pivotal.
      • In the season 2 finale, Dexter says, ‘It's strange to have a creation out there, a deeply mutated version of yourself running loose and screwing everything up. I wonder if this is how parents feel?’; in season 3 he meets someone who becomes his partner and makes a big mess for Dexter to handle, and Rita is pregnant.
      • In the season 3 finale, Dexter and Rita get married, and blood from Dexter’s hand stains Rita’s wedding dress; in the season 4 finale, Rita is murdered.
      • In the season 4 finale, Dexter claims he’s the source of the problems of everyone around him; in season 5 he challenged this notion by experiencing being the solution.
      • In the season 5 finale, Dexter talks about salvation at length; in season 6, religious salvation is dealt with in depth.
      • In the season 6 finale, Deb catches Dexter in the act; season 7 deals with the implications of this on their relationship.
      • In the season 7 finale, Dexter talks about the influence of breaking one’s own most basic rules and the new ground discovered thereby, following Deb killing LaGuerta to protect Dexter; season 8 shows exactly what happens to Deb and introduces the inventor of Harry’s code.
      • Finally, in the final shot of the series, Dexter silently comes into his new home, a modest cottage, where he lives alone, and finally looks into the camera with a Thousand-Yard Stare; this implies that nothing new will come into Dexter’s life anymore, and he’s destined to have only a quiet, empty existence from now on.
    • The mug gifted by Rita and imprinted by Astor, Cody and Harrison breaks during Dexter's fight with Kruger. By Season 4 finale and beginning of Season 5, Dexter's idyllic family life literally disintegrates as Rita is killed by Trinity and Astor and Cody end up leaving Dexter.
    • When Dexter finds out that Trinity is a stand-up member of his community (as far as appearances go), he sees him sing in church a hymn with the line, ‘Are you washed with the blood of the lamb?’ It turns out he has an obsession with childlike innocence and his kill cycles actually start with another member—a young boy he perceives as innocent, a reflection of himself before he was traumatised.
      • When Camilla is in hospital in Season 3, Debra tells Dexter she wants him to pull the plug if she's ever incapacitated or seriously ill. Guess what happens in the series finale?
      • In the Season 4 finale, Trinity asks Dexter what his alternative is. Dexter says I'll fake my death and start over again.
  • Freudian Excuse: Dexter's Start of Darkness is considered hard to reverse after he witnessed the brutal murder of his mother and was left in the ensuing blood pool when he was only a child. Dexter rationalizes that Brian was too old and past salvation after this.
    • Several of the season-long plot guests are built of this, particularly Trinity and Lumen.
  • Friend to All Children: Dexter the serial killer has quite a soft spot for kids. Or maybe just hurting them is an Even Evil Has Standards moment, considering his origin.
  • Friend to Psychos: In some seasons, Dexter becomes friendly with the Big Bad, only to later realize that they need killing after all.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: The Trinity Killer in the Season 4 premiere. Super creepy.
  • Functional Addict: Dexter is certainly "addicted" to his "hobby", but doesn't necessarily let that addiction rule his life.
  • Fun T-Shirt: Season 5, episode 3, Dexter borrows an apron from a victim that reads "Natural Born Griller."
  • The Gadfly: Dexter is this to Cody, making up outlandish Noodle Incident stories with a straight face just to entertain him.
    Cody: How did you get that ugly scar?!
    Dexter: Swordfight. I won.
  • Gayngster: Isaak Sirko, as well as Viktor Baskov.
  • Giant Mook: Little Chino, the only person thus far to ever escape from Dexter's table... against Dexter's will, anyway. At least at first... Little Chino is the only one of Dexter's victims that require several tries to get. The second encounter pits several of Chino's gangster buddies playing hide-and-seek with Dexter as he hides in a sewer. Becomes a funny moment when Chino wakes up a second time on Dexter's table, this time with about 5 rolls of duct tape holding him down versus one. Lampshaded by Dexter: "I made sure that you aren't getting away this time."
  • Good is Not Nice: James Doakes is an anti-social Jerkass with a penchant for violence, but a damn fine cop and a good person at the end of the day.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Used occasionally during Dexter's killings and also any time a character commits suicide with a gun.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Lots, given the highly Latino population of Miami. LaGuerta is a major offender. Angel isn't much better. Miguel also throws Spanish out there every once in a while but he was usually speaking to a Hispanic American character.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: This applies to season 2 with Dexter and Doakes. The antagonists of every other season have been serial murderers with multiple kills under their belt, at the very least.
  • Groin Attack: Deb delivers a shot straight to a perp's nuts in "Buck the System".
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: The opening credits, depicting Dexter's morning routine, shown in extreme close-up and shot to be reminiscent of his hack-n-slash murders.
  • Hannibal Lecture:
    • Dexter's victims try this occasionally, but it never works.
    • Neil Perry tries this on LaGuerta, but fails hard.
    • When The Skinner captures Dexter and prepares to torture him, Dexter chews him out before escaping.
  • Happily Adopted: With a twist, Dexter was happily adopted by the Morgans, a caring family, but Harry was unable to correct his homicidal nature and just canalized it.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Masuka's sexy intern draws interest in Season 6 from not just Masuka but most of the men in Miami Metro Homicide.
  • Hereditary Suicide: The Mitchells have this going on, both due to extreme bad luck and, in the present, Arthur/Trinity's horrific abuse. Arthur's mother committed suicide by jumping off a rooftop after his sister died falling through a shower, two actions that got Arthur on his Start of Darkness. Arthur's daughter by a previous relationship, Christine, then Ate Her Gun in Season 4 because Arthur rejected her after she killed Lundy for him. Sometime before Season 6, even after Arthur's own death, his wife Sally drove their daughter Rebecca to suicide with constant verbal abuse.
  • Hero Antagonist: Multiple examples, all in opposition to Dexter, the serial killer protagonist.
    • Sergeant Doakes, though his morality is called into question a few times. Somehow, he's the only one in a precinct full of cops and forensic specialists to get a creepy vibe off serial killer protagonist Dexter. This doesn't end well for him. When he discovers that Dexter is a serial killer in season 2, Dexter locks him up in a remote cabin. Then Doakes is killed by a woman who was obsessed with Dexter and tries to cover up for him.
    • Special Agent Frank Lundy in the second season of the same. He probably would have caught Dexter if it weren't for Doakes' suspicious and secretive behavior making him more conspicuous than Dexter.
    • Detective Quinn is set up as this in season 5. He's the only one in the office who notices that the Mitchell family's sketch drawings of "Kyle Butler" look a lot like Dexter, and starts to suspect that Dexter may have killed Rita, his wife. At the end of the season, he abandons his investigation when Dexter gets him off the hook for a murder that Quinn is erronously suspected of (in fact, Dexter himself committed the murder), and he falls in love with Debra.
    • Stan Liddy in season 5 as well. Although he's a Dirty Cop, and is trying to expose Dexter mostly for his own benefits so that he will be reinducted into the police force, he is still trying to catch a serial killer. Dexter kills him, and Quinn is subsequently suspected of the murder.
    • Maria LaGuerta in Season 7. She discovers evidence that may expose Dexter as the real Bay Harbor Butcher, and starts her own investigation. Dexter dismantles her case by setting her up as having an irrational grudge against him instead of solid evidence. Dexter then tries to kill her to get rid of her permanently, but Debra intervenes and shoots LaGuerta to cover up for her brother.
    • Elway late in Season 8. After Deb starts up a personally-motivated manhunt for Hannah McKay, a suspected serial killer, and soon abandons it for Dexter's sake, Elway takes up the case for himself and begins hunting for her along with a federal marshal, which soon leads to them hunting for both Dexter and Hannah when they suspect Dexter and Hannah are involved with one another.
  • Hidden Villain: The Ice Truck Killer in season 1, The Skinner in season 3, and the Brain Surgeon in season 8.
  • Hired to Hunt Yourself: Dexter is sometimes put in the position to investigate his own crime scenes.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar:
    • On Dexter's advice about Cody's school assignment:
      Rita's mom: Dexter does drugs. He is wrong.
    • On Lundy's walking style:
      Masuka: That's exactly how Hitler walked.
  • Hollywood Genetics: Rita and Paul are blond, but their kids Astor and Cody are brunettes.
  • Hollywood Thin: Debra and Quinn. Quinn is so thin his cheeks are concave.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Doakes finally stops being suspicious of Dexter after following him to an AA meeting and assuming that substance abuse is what Dexter has been hiding the whole time (rather than serial murder). He even seems to grudgingly respect Dexter for getting help; however, it doesn't last long and Doakes is soon pursuing him closer than ever.
    • Just when it looks like Doakes is going to be able to put out the stove in time to keep the cabin from exploding... boom.
    • In the series finale, just when it seems like Deb will pull through from getting shot, she is suddenly reduced to a vegetative state, prompting Dexter to pull the plug and let her die.
  • Horrible Judge of Character:
    • Rita. A violent junkie, a serial killer, and another marriage we know almost nothing about but presumably ended badly. Dexter lampshades it and thinks the effect it would have on her is a major reason to not get caught.
    • Deb also gets into some ill-advised relationships.
  • Human Traffickers: One of Dexter's victims was a businessman who was smuggling illegal immigrants into the United States in containers and murdering those who couldn't pay him. What was more surprising to Dexter is that the man's wife, whom he initially believed to be in the dark about her husband's crimes, was a co-conspirator in their trafficking ring.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Dexter hunts people as a matter of course, but his idea of a really good time is to go after a killer who is hard to get at, able to put up a fight, or expecting a visit from him. e.g., a cop who killed her husband and daughter, a public figure with lots of bodyguards, a neo-Nazi currently in prison but still giving orders to his minions on the outside, his friend and co-killer the district attorney, etc.
  • I Am a Monster: Dexter has become so comfortable with the notion that he's a monster that he usually just mentions it in passing, cracking Inner Monologue jokes about it. The most dramatic it ever gets is when it occurs to him that he may not be as monstrous as he previously thought.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Camilla begs Dexter to kill her in Season 3. Dexter dutifully does.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Passed around from time to time to ensure Dexter's survival.
    • Oddly, Dexter takes firm hold of the Idiot Ball in Season 6 after being a quite meticulous killer in previous seasons. Totally misjudging Travis, "anonymously" tipping off the cops from his own phone using his own voice, making a video of himself taunting Travis, attempting to jump Travis while dizzy from the aftereffects of being gassed, setting up a kill scene in a room that Deb knows he will be in, c'mon, Dex, get it together.
    • Over and over again Dexter fails to kill his target at the first opportunity and it comes back to haunt him. Lila, Miguel, Trinity, Travis, Hannah, LaGuerta & Saxon could all have been taken care of much earlier. In the case of Trinity it costs him Rita, in the case of Travis it costs him his cover when Deb sees Dexter kill Travis, for LaGuerta it forces Deb to kill her, and with Saxon it costs two lives.
    • Rita understandably held a massive one whenever Paul was involved. It makes sense character-wise because she was supposed to be extremely vulnerable, weak and with clouded judgement.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Dexter, to Rudy. Better known as The Ice Truck Killer. Dexter follows through. Threat nullified in the books.
  • Ignored Confession: In Season 8, Debra drunkenly confesses to Quinn that she killed LaGuerta, but Quinn interprets this as Deb just blaming herself for failing to be there to save LaGuerta, and not that Deb literally killed her.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Dexter often monologues that he wishes he could feel like everyone else, stripped of his own drives to slaughter. He even uses this to get closer to Rita after asking a couple about the secret of a successful relationship right before he kills them.
  • I Knew There Was Something About You:
    • Doakes comes to the incorrect conclusion
    Sergeant James Doakes: [about Dexter using drugs] I knew there was something wrong with you. The secrets, the sneaking around... Now it all makes sense. A lot of cops have been where you are. The booze, the drugs... makes the job go down easier. Stay clean and stay out of my way, we won't have a problem.
    • Later subverted when Doakes discovers the real reason that Dexter acts weird.
    • Also, when Lila discovers that Dexter is the Bay Harbor Butcher and Dexter asks her if she is now afraid of him, she tells him that she was always afraid of him because she could tell how consumed he was by the darkness inside him. And later in season five, one of Dexter's soon-to-be victims says that "from the moment I met you I knew you were f**ked up".
  • I Lied: When Dexter goes back on a promise to set a victim free, "You think I'm a killer, and not a liar?"
  • The Illegal: A source for both a few-episodes B-story and a Victim of the Week or two.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Ron Galuzzo in Season 8.
  • Imaginary Friend: Harry Morgan starts out as a Posthumous Character shown in flashbacks but eventually becomes this, with Dexter having lively chats with his imaginary dead father in almost every episode after Season 2.
    • Dexter's brother, Brian Moser the Ice Truck Killer, fills this role briefly in both Season 2 and Season 6.
    • Prof. Gellar for Travis in Season 6.
  • Immoral Journalist: Christine Hill from season 4 is initially just a bit unscrupulous, sexing it with up with Detective Quinn and then using their pillow talk in her reporting, which is really his own fault for being stupid enough to share confidential information with her. Then it's revealed that she was the one who shot Agent Lundy and is the daughter of the Trinity Killer, whom she tried to cover for.
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue:
    • Season 1 ends with Dexter's Imagine Spot of being treated like a hero, surrounded by adoring friends and family, such as Rita cheering for him for "protecting our children."
    • In season 3, Miguel Prado finds Dexter at the scene of a fresh kill and accidentally gets blood on his shirt. He later gives Dexter the bloody shirt as a token of friendship and a guarantee of secrecy. When Dexter becomes suspicious and tests the shirt, he discovers that it's a fake, daubed with animal blood. His explosion of rage is revealed to be this trope.
    • In season 7, there are two examples in the same episode. The first is Dexter standing in line at the post office for a long time, and when he reaches the front the desk lady closes the line. Then he imagines slitting her throat in front of everyone. He imagines doing the same to Masuka back at the office when he imagines Masuka insulting him.
  • Indy Ploy: Dexter is very, very good at improvising when he has to convince somebody that his more suspicious mannerisms definitely aren't those of a homicidal sociopath.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Deb when she returns to the place where Frank Lundy was killed.
  • Informed Attribute: For a supposed tough-as-nails cop, Deb does seem to burst into tears a lot.
    • Dexter supposedly graduated "top of [his] class in med school", but other than a high school level knowledge of anatomy and first aid, we'd never know it.
    • Characters comment on Quinn's supposed skill as a detective in Seasons 3 and 8. Given his behavior in Seasons 6 and 7, it's hard to imagine they're talking about the same person.
  • Informed Flaw: Some judgments Dexter makes might be the result of his personal biases.
    • Dexter justifies his hobby in part by claiming that Miami police won't or can't do its job right. But as the show unfolds, we see them only a few steps behind the perpetrators, and Dexter only manages to stay one or two steps ahead of them because he's head-deep in just about anything they're investigating. He even suppresses evidence or won't share with them to artificially slow them down.
    • Dexter describes Boyd Fowler as being rather dumb, yet Boyd has already made several very observant remarks that throw Dexter for a loop. He sees that the raccoon Dexter killed was not a real roadkill and notices that Dexter has recently taken off a wedding ring.
  • Inner Monologue: Dexter uses this a lot. It helps highlight the difference between the socially acceptable role he plays and his true (sociopathic) thoughts and responses. Though in later seasons it was more used to describe what was happening onscreen.
  • Instant Sedation:
    • Dexter frequently uses this to get his targets to a more secure area. Justified as it takes the form of a syringe with Norpropoxyphene, a powerful and dangerous animal tranquilizer that knocks the target out instantly, and really can knock a person out that fast in real life. Admittedly, he always gets them in the neck and he's not terribly concerned about long-term health effects, which can include kidney and heart damage, for hopefully obvious reasons.
    • Played with in the season six finale. Did you think that Dexter went down a little too suddenly when asked to inject himself? Yes, he did.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Vincent Masuka occasionally does this to himself, referring to all Asians as "my people" and setting up a Buddhist shrine for good luck, only shrugging after Dexter asks if the Japanese aren't traditionally Shinto (most Japanese people practice a combined Buddhism and Shinto though, with one third being exclusively Buddhist. Over half have a Buddhist shrine in their home). Another example is when Masuka says Dexter is "messing with his chi", and the latter points out that's Chinese, which Masuka just responds to with "So?" (this is not really wrong, except it's called "ki" instead of "chi" in Japan).
  • Internal Affairs: Surprisingly for a show about a member of the police force who kills people in his spare time, not that commonly used. However, it does form the basis of two minor subplots:
    • The first is in season 1. Doakes shoots a man on the street, Angel is torn between reporting discrepancies between the shooting and Doakes' report. He eventually comes clean, but Doakes still stands up for Angel when the other officers call him out on it.
    • The second is a somewhat painful subplot in season 3 featuring an incompetent IA officer who harasses Deb in order to get her to turn over on her (very mildly corrupt) partner, which Deb resists because the IA officer gives no details on why she's pursuing Deb's partner whatsoever, and instead just hounds Deb and interferes with her job (not in an Obstructive Bureaucrat way, more of a "yappy dog getting in the way" manner).
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Invoked by Dexter sometimes when he is researching a prospect in his computer and another character may snoop on or take a glance, he switches to a NSFW site to project an image of normality. Doakes doesn't buy it for a second, though.
  • Ironic Nickname: Little Chino, who's an absolute giant of a man.
  • It's All My Fault: Dexter has killed dozens of people and felt no remorse, but when he finds his wife, Rita, dead, his shocked response as police arrive is to blurt out "It was me."
    • In the series finale, this drives Dexter not to follow through on his plans with Hannah and Harrison after Deb dies from getting shot by Saxon, after Dexter willingly gave up his chance to finally get rid of him.
  • It's Personal: Miami Metro makes the Law & Order: SVU cast seem like level-headed, impartial observers by comparison. Is there a major crime they investigate where one of their own ISN'T related to, sleeping with, or being the perp?
  • Jerkass:
    • Vince is a bit of a jerkass and prone to making rude comments, though he's also a Butt-Monkey at the same time. In Season 3 he gets softened. No one turns up to a conference he speaks at or reads an article he gets published and he begins acting polite for a while. The other characters apologise and say that they preferred him before. This is further developed in Season 4 when he agrees to keep Deb company for Thanksgiving and shows genuine dismay at having to keep a secret from Dexter about his marriage.
    • Doakes, especially in season one, most clearly in episode one. It doesn't matter if a coworker gives you the creeps, berating them and yelling profanity at them as you demand they do something for you is behavior that would be likely to get you fired if you weren't best buds with the boss. He becomes gradually more sympathetic as the show goes on. In Season 2 he even got a Pet The Dog moment about his failed marriage so that his death would be more tragic, making Lila less sympathetic.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Zig-zagged in season 4 with the Trinity Killer. After committing murder for 30 years and never getting caught, in the season finale he robs his family, takes his prized sports mobile, and escapes the police as he drives off into the sunset. Then Dexter captures him and he ends up on his killing table, but still has the final laugh as Dexter has no idea that Trinity had killed Rita earlier that day, making it impossible for Dexter to derive closure or get revenge since Trinity is already dead.
    • Dexter. While it's all in the service of the community (as he sees it) and while it gives him no end of trouble, he does kill people and avoid getting caught. He even got to pin most of his murders on Doakes. In the series finale, Dexter fakes his death and starts a new life elsewhere, and his dark secrets are never even exposed. Some viewers, however, see this as a fitting Fate Worse than Death-type punishment, as Dexter has lost everyone he loves and is apparently living in isolation and misery.
    • Marco Fuentes is still on the run, and Cira Manzon got away with setting Deb up to take the blame for his escape.
    • A the beginning of Season 2, Jimmy Sensio, a serial killer and Dexter's intended victim, is spared by Dexter because he just killed his brother in the previous episode and can't bring himself to return to killing just yet, instead releasing him and allowing him to leave Miami.
    • Hannah McKay, Dexter's girlfriend and fellow serial killer, is spared by Dexter when Debra tries to get him to kill her, escapes from prison when Dexter finally turns her in and ends up living happily in Argentina in the series finale after Dexter helps her escape.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty:
    • Most of Dexter's victims are this, as his MO is to target murderers who got away with their crimes, with some of his victims, such as Walter Kenney, Santos Jimenez, Arthur Mitchell and Jordan Chase going years without punishment before Dexter kills them.
      • Even some of Dexter's supposedly innocent victims fit this trope, such as Jonathan Farrow, who turns out to be innocent of the murder Dexter thought he had committed, but is mentioned to have raped a woman several years prior and gotten away with it through bribery, and Clint McKay, who Dexter kills despite knowing he hasn't killed anyone because he regularly abused Hannah when she was a kid.
    • In one first season episode, Doakes chases a seemingly random guy down to a beach and shoots him dead. Later it turns out the guy was an ex-Tonton Macoute war criminal who Doakes recognised from his days as a US marine.
    • The second season episode "It's Alive!" sees Dexter's Victim of the Week, Little Chino, escape from him. The next episode partially revolves around Dexter hunting him down and successfully killing him.
    • During the hunt for the Trinty Killer in Season Four, one of the guys who gives a DNA sample turns out to have killed a woman in a mugging some years ago, and donated his sample confident that the police would have forgotten about the crime. He was wrong.
  • Karmic Death:
    • This show plays heavily on this trope. It's about a Serial-Killer Killer, what else can you expect?
    • Santos Jimenez kills Dexter's mother with a chainsaw. Guess how he meets his end...
    • Dexter ultimately kills Arthur with a claw hammer, the same way Arthur killed innumerable others, including his last ritual victim.
  • Kavorka Man: Masuka, it would appear. He always seems to get good looking girls, and it crossed a bit of a line with the girl he brought to Harrison's birthday party.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Many fans see LaGuerta's death as this, seeing as how she framed Debra for Marco Fuentes escaping and some innocent people being killed, blackmailed Captain Matthews, refused to re-open the Barrel Girls Case because she thought it might make her look bad and did many other morally questionable things.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence:
    • The Ice Truck Killer.
    • Also the used car salesman who insulted Rita while Dexter had a very sharp knife near his throat.
  • Killer Cop:
    • Of course, Dexter is one of these, although he's a forensic examiner rather than a detective. He was also trained by his adoptive father, who was already a cop but couldn't bring himself to actually kill criminals who escaped justice. In season 2 Dexter is the subject of an ongoing investigation when the corpses of his victims are discovered, which he manages to avoid by making it look like another cop within the department had turned to serial killing.
    • Dexter also went after one in season four, a cop who'd killed her own husband and daughter and made it look like a robbery gone foul. She was a particularly hard target because her experience allowed her to suspect Dexter was up to something pretty early on.
  • The Killer in Me: In season 6 Professor Gellar is a split personality of Travis after he killed the real one
  • Kill Him Already!: LaGuerta tells Debra to do this to Dexter in the finale of Season 7. It turns out badly for LaGuerta.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Doakes, Harry.
  • Knight Templar: Obviously, a few characters are this to some to degree, but especially Miguel.

    L - P 
  • The Lab Rat: Dexter and Masuka are often called this.
  • The Lad-ette: Debra. "Ugh, me in a dress... I feel like a transvestite." Also Lila and, to a lesser extent, Maria LaGuerta.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • During Season 5 Dexter says things to himself only to be repeated by Jordan Chase out loud. Dexter lampshades this himself the second time it happens.
      Dexter: [thinking to himself] Jordan is one tough nut to crack.
      Jordan Chase: [out loud] You're one tough nut to crack; you know that, Dexter?
      Dexter: [still thinking] I wish he'd stop doing that.
    • In the season 6 premiere, Angel refers to how great of an idea it was for him and his sister to get the apartment next to Dexter because it lets him slip in and out day and night without anyone knowing. Considering the whole premise of the seriesnote , there is no way this was accidental.
  • Language Barrier:
    • When off-duty Sergeant Doakes is lost in the Everglades forest, fleeing from the Bay Harbor Butcher, he meets two dangerous smugglers who speak only Spanish. He asks them for help, but when they understand that he's a policeman, they take him hostage and decide to kill him. In this case, international words and Spanish Poirot Speak made the situation go From Bad to Worse.
    • Debra Morgan, being a Detective and later a Lieutenant at Miami Metro PD, doesn't know Spanish, even though Florida is full of Cuban and South American immigrants. In Season 5, she swears she will take Spanish classes after one particularly painful questioning of a witness. It was a bit strange that it didn't occur to her to just call one of her colleagues, as many of them are of Hispanic heritage.
  • Language Fluency Denial: Dexter is stalking a victim to prevent him from killing his friend, when he is approached by a couple scary looking thugs speaking Spanish. Since this is Miami, everybody speaks a little Spanish, but at that particular moment Dexter needed to get the heck out of where he was as fast as he could. So he said he didn't speak Spanish. This might have worked, except he was so flustered that he accidentally said it IN SPANISH. Nice one, Dex.
  • Last-Name Basis: Almost all the characters in Miami Metro, unless they're particularly close to each other (Angel Batista and Maria LaGuerta during their mariage, siblings Dexter and Debra Morgan, etc.). This sometimes leads to confusion when a character calls out for "Morgan" when Dex and Deb are both present. Subverted to great effect by Doakes to Dexter in episode 2.11 to reflect that in addition to capturing a killer, he now also wants to help Dexter by turning him in.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: In season 4, when Debra learns that the Trinity Killer works in the school system during Thanksgiving with children in the room:
    Debra: June, July, August... oh ffffff- [looks at child in her arms] -udge....
  • Lecherous Stepparent: In season 5, Astor runs away with one of her new friends back to her old house to get drunk. Dexter is initially furious (Astor is only 12), but comes around when he discovers that the friend's stepdad is sexually abusive and Astor was trying to help her. He beats the guy up instead, since "disappearing" him would draw too much attention at that point.
  • Leitmotif: In season 4, the Trinity Killer is given "Introducing Trinity" and "Trinity Suite", ominous and haunting themes that illustrate his dark nature as a serial killer. It reappears in season 6 when the cops think they may have found him (in reality, Dexter killed him), but it is instead his son who did the murder.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the books, the show is downright tame in regards to violence. This falls partially in the Pragmatic Adaptation zone, as some of the books' content would be unsuitable even for Showtime.
    • Season 3 is the lightest season, especially in between season two and four. It does have its dark moments, however, its the only season with a happy ending, Rita and Dexter get married.
  • Lonely Funeral: Due to the fact that everyone assumed him to be the Bay Harbor Butcher (instead of Dexter) Sergeant Doakes has a funeral attended only by his mother, his two sisters, and his former partner. Emphasized when the former partner suggests starting up a memorial fund in his name, and everyone looks at her like she's high.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Oh, Deb. Her book counterpart luckily has Chutsky.
  • Lost Aesop: Season 6 is trying to say something about religion. What that is, beyond "Religion is weird, huh?" is anyone's guess, though it did get Dexter to go from being dismissive of religion in general to saying, "Oh God!" as his last line in the season.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Masuka. To a point. Deb certainly thinks he's better as one.
    Masuka: So I hear a rumor you're tracking all our internet activity. Is it true? Cause, I can explain all that shemale stuff.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: The Lieutenant of Miami Metro PD at the end of season 1 and beginning of season 2, Esme Pascal, got hit by this between seasons. She's shown to be a Reasonable Authority Figure, a very competent cop, and a pretty good person. But when she suspects her fiance is cheating on her (he is, mind you) she completely breaks down and handles her investigation into his infidelity... poorly, to say the least.
  • A Love to Dismember: The Ice Truck Killer is referred to as having chosen not to kill a hooker when he realized she was an amputee. She says that he "started worshipping it (her fake hand)" and did "some freaky stuff with it (as well as her stump)". Given his obsession with dismemberment, it is implied that he may have used the parts of his victims for this as well. It's later revealed that they are lingering issues from his mother's death and dismemberment by a bunch of gangsters with a chainsaw. He's Dexter's big brother Brian.
  • The Mafiya: Part of the plot of Season 7.
  • Magical Nanny: Sonya in Season 5, and Jamie in Season 6. Dexter never, ever has a problem getting his nanny to look after Harrison, no matter how late he is out murdering or how unpredictable his schedule is.
    • Sonya initially quits on Dexter after he was unexpectedly out all night, but later has no problem staying for long stretches of time, or even taking Harrison to Orlando for days. Apparently, that "trust issue" didn't amount to much, or Dexter got better at communicating his schedule with her. And an offhand comment by Jamie in Season 7 suggests that Dexter pays her quite well.
  • Magical Negro: Brother Sam in Season 6.
  • Male Gaze:
    • To be fair, Deb did take her shirt off, and any red-blooded straight male would be distracted.
      Debra: Jesus, Masuka, they're just tits.
    • Sgt. Batista gets one of these from one of Masuka's (female) forensics students in the season 6 premiere.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Lila, with serious emphasis on the "manic".
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Dexter. For a guy who doesn't understand human emotions, he's pretty good at manipulating them in other people. This is an actual requirement for sociopaths.
    • This is the M.O. of the Big Bad of season five.
  • Married to the Job: Debra, Lundy and Batista are competent investigators who have a very limited life outside of the job.
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: Dexter has relationships of varying lengths with Rita, Lila, and Lumen. Due to his double life, none of them end well.
  • Matricide: The major antagonist of the final season ends up killing his own mother after she realizes that he's an irredeemably cold-blooded killer. He had already killed his brother when he was younger.
    Mother chose the wrong son...again.
  • May–December Romance: Deb and Lundy, who could easily be her father.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • "It doesn't matter what I do, what I choose... I'm what's wrong."
    • "Hello, Dexter Morgan." Spoken to Dexter by both Father and Son (The Trinity Killer and Jonah) to show that the son is following in the Father's footsteps. Later subverted however that Jonah actually wasn't evil, having killed his mother in revenge for her vehemence leading to his sister's suicide.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • In Latin Dexter means right and is the opposite of left, which is Sinister. The main character must follow the Code of Harry so as to appear as Dexter and not let on that he is Sinister. Dexter also refers to quickness, skill and grace, which are traits that Dexter must always display to stay alive.
    • Lila is Hebrew for "night". Lumen is named after a unit of light, i.e. the opposite of Lila.
  • Mid-Life Crisis Car: In season 6 Batista gets a Trans Am.
  • Mirror Character:
    • The Big Bad in almost every season is basically an Evil Counterpart to Dexter. Sometimes they try to pull this trope, while other times Dexter just comes out and admits it, but always affirms that he is different because of his Code.
    • Former Army Ranger Doakes is regularly compared to Dexter; Good/Bad People doing Good/Bad Things for Good/Bad Reasons. Doakes actually performs a Vigilante Execution - a Tonton Macoute he recognized from his operations in Haiti. Soldiers in general are implicated as well; another Ranger talks about how killing, even in the line of duty, naturally turns people into sociopaths.
  • Mirror Scare: Appears in the season 4 opening, as the Trinity Killer claims his first on-screen victim.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Done at least twice:
    • In Season 2, when Dexter and Rita are about to, er, do the deed, Lila calls...and mentions their road trip, where he confronted his mother's killer, and then they slept together (but did not have sex.) Unfortunately, he lets the machine get it, and Rita hears everything and thus suspects he was cheating. Later on, Lila and Dexter do have sex, but only after Rita breaks off the relationship.
    • And played with in season 3. At first it's played straight when Miguel's wife suspects him of cheating...when, in fact, Miguel can't say where he was because he was committing a murder. Then later his wife catches when he did actually decide to rekindle an old romance, albeit for ulterior purposes.
  • Mistaken for Junkie: When Dexter is caught in his web of lies at one point and thinks he is going to be exposed as a serial killer, instead it is assumed that he is a drug addict. He goes along with it.
  • Monster Fangirl:
    • Dexter himself gets a fangirl in Lila, who sees him as a misunderstood creature and her soulmate when she finds out that he is actually a prolific Serial Killer.
    • The killer in Season 6 gets legions of online fans, plus a pair of fans who actually aid him in a kill.
  • Mood Dissonance:
    • The morning breakfast-and-grooming routine never looked so sinister.
    • Dexter wears Mickey Mouse ears while telling his step-children about the death of their mother.
  • Moral Myopia: It's usually averted as Dexter tends to be aware that his reason of killing is for his own urges. However, he initially feels almost no guilt for Doakes' death, thinking of it as a coincidence (even though the fact that he was locked there was his doing). Once he finds out that Lila did the deed, he calls her out for murdering an innocent man.
  • Morality Pet: Astor, Cody, Deb, Rita, Harrison, Angel.
  • More than Mind Control: In season five, Jordan Chase seems to be adept at this, especially on Emily Birch.
  • Morning Routine: The famous opening sequence. It'll either Squick you out completely, or make you hungry for eggs and bacon.
  • Moving Away Ending: The final season ends with Dexter faking his own death, leaving Harrison with Hannah, and moving from Miami to Alaska, where he works as a logger.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Lila. "Pardon my tits."
    • Christine the reporter from Season 4.
    • Ryan, Masuka's intern from Season 6.
    • Niki, in Season 8.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • In "Dex Takes a Holiday", Dexter stalks a police officer whose husband and child were killed. The blood evidence suggests that she may have actually murdered them and planted evidence to incriminate a known thief. She goes to kill Dexter (whom she sees only as a nosy blood guy) and plans to make it look like he was killed in a house invasion. Little did she know...
    • This was toyed with in the storyline with revenge on Dexter's mother's murderer. Both Dexter and the perp knew one another at the time. When he tries to kill Dexter, Dexter plays it off as an attempted mugging, leading to many trope-invoking comments from the other Miami PD.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The opening credits sequence features Dexter following a completely normal morning routine (shaving and accidentally cutting himself, flossing his teeth, frying and eating ham and eggs with hot sauce, juicing a blood orange, putting a shirt on), but it's all shown in extreme close-up and slow-motion so it looks uncanny and draws parallels to his secret life as a serial killer.
  • Murder by Mistake: Dexter, a serial killer who mainly targets other murderers, on a few occasions kills the wrong person entirely while going after someone else.
    • Season 3 is kicked off by a "wrong place at the wrong time" situation when Dexter tracks down a drug dealer who is responsible for at least one murder. He breaks into the dealer's home late that night but interrupts an altercation with a third person whom Dexter accidentally ends up killing instead (he finds and kills the dealer later). This guy turns out to be Oscar Prado, the younger brother of Assistant D.A. Miguel Prado, who then takes an interest in Dexter.
    • In season 4, the cops are investigating several disappearances and suspect that they were murdered by a scumbag photographer who physically abuses his models. Dexter seems to find evidence of the guy's culpability and kills him, but afterwards finds out that he misidentified his target when his colleagues arrest the photographer's assistant as the real culprit.
  • Murder By Proxy: Jordan Chase directs the rest of the Barrel Girl Gang to rape and murder numerous young women. However, he limits his own involvement to psychologically tormenting these victims and does not touch them himself. It's just a power-trip for a raging narcissist. It's not until Dexter and Lumen start to go after him and his associates that he decides it's time to get his hands dirty.
  • Murder Simulators: In a season 6 episode, forensic intern Louis Greene (who is also a video game developer) excitedly shows Dexter a game he is working on, a literal murder simulator where you can play as Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, or the Bay Harbor Butcher (actually Dexter himself, unbeknownst to Louis). Dexter is disgusted and asserts that no one should ever want to play such a game.
  • Must State If You're a Cop: In one of the last seasons, Hector Estrada, the last guy left from the group who killed Dexter's mother, gets paroled from prison and Dexter pretends to be a criminal and approaches Estrada so he can get close enough to kill Estrada. Estrada agrees to talk business at a later date, but first requires Dexter to loudly and clearly state that Dexter isn't a cop. Dexter, who really isn't a cop but a forensic examiner, does so without hesitation. Even if he were, it wouldn't count for much, since Dexter's intent isn't to arrest him.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: First season, second episode: "Crocodile"
    Dexter: Unlike the other guys down at the station, I love coming to court to rub shoulders with the good people of the sunshine state... [scruffy guy bumps into him] ...and Sasquatch.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Harry doesn't say this line, but he clearly thinks it, reeling in horror in a Season 2 flashback when Dexter's training culminates in Dexter bringing a kill home.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Without ever stating it out loud, Sergeant Batista heavily implies this to intern Louis when he starts dating Batista's little sister Jamie. It's portrayed as just being overly protective of her, but the boyfriend in question turns out to be a scumbag regardless. Subverted later on when Jamie starts a secret relationship with Batista's colleague Quinn. He's supportive of it when he finds out, but wants Quinn to man up by applying for the vacant Sergeant post as Batista himself is now Lieutenant.
  • Narrating the Obvious: Dexter's Inner Monologue is frequently redundant.
  • Naughty Under the Table: In a season one episode, Deb and her date are making out across the table, which causes Rita to feel insecure about the lack of sex in her and Dexter's relationship. She responds by putting a hand on his thigh under the table, but he merely looks uncomfortable and tries to ignore her.
  • Necessarily Evil: Partially subverted, since Dexter is not so sure whether he really is necessary.
  • Neck Snap: Dexter kills the Skinner and Dan the Dentist this way.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Dexter is seen as very nerdy in his day job but also gets hit on quite a bit.
  • Never Suicide: Played with: the victims actually were suicides, but their therapist drove them to it.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The teaser for the last episode of Season 5 strongly suggested that Deb would find out about Dexter's "hobby". She doesn't. Until next season's finale.
  • New Year Has Come: Season 7 ends with a New Year's party and "Auld Lang Syne" being sung at midnight.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Dexter has done this a lot. In fact, it's essentially the entire point of the series as a whole.
    • In Season 2, Dexter's criminal career, and his hesitation to turn himself in when Doakes urges him to, gets Doakes killed and blamed for Dexter's crimes, and leaves Astor and Cody traumatized by nearly being burned alive in a fire.
    • In Season 3, Dexter's mentoring of Miguel gets Ellen Wolf killed.
    • In Season 4, Dexter's season-long game of footsie with the Trinity Killer gets Rita killed (as well as leaving the Trinity murders officially unresolved, with the FBI chasing a dead man).
    • In Season 5, Dexter's hunt of Jordan Chase and the Barrel Boys gets Emily Birch killed.
    • Season 6 is the worst example for Dexter. He keeps screwing up in his attempt to catch the Doomsday Killer before the police. This allows the killer to get away from the police just as they are closing in. If Dexter hadn't withheld evidence, Debra would have probably caught the killer by the middle of the season and prevented all the additional deaths.
    • Hoo, boy...Season 8. Not only does Dexter's decision to not kill Saxon get Vogel murdered, it also ends up getting Deb shot which results in her death, which in turn then results in Dexter feeling that he needs to fake his own death, leave his lover and son behind, and live in quiet obscurity away from everyone he cares about.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Dexter shows shades of this in season 1. The first time he shows sexual interest in Rita is while talking about a victim of the Ice Truck Killer.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Miami's hockey team is the fictional "Miami Blades" rather than the real-life Florida Panthers.
  • No Love for the Wicked:
    • In the pilot, Dexter says, "I don't understand sex. Not that I have anything against women, and I certainly have an appropriate sensibility about men, but when it comes to the actual act of sex, it's always just seemed so undignified." He starts dating a rape victim, Rita Bennett, to avoid any sexual intimacy while still appearing normal to outsiders. Later on, it turns out that he is pretty sexual but has an aversion towards sex because his partners somehow get a glimpse of what he's really like: a serial killer who's Hiding in Plain Sight. He sticks with Rita because somehow, she doesn't.
    • A straighter example would be Jordan Chase, the Arc Villain of Season 5. He spearheaded the multiple rapes of several young women with his gang, but Jordan himself appears to be quite uninterested in sex or any other kind of intimacy. He does not participate in the rapes and when a woman with Stockholm Syndrome for Jordan tries to caress him, he quietly brushes her off. He was just in it for the power he wielded over other people's lives.
  • Not Blood Siblings: The show finally goes here at the end of Season 6, when, with the help of a curiously enabling therapist, Deb comes to realize that she is romantically in love with Dexter. In season 7, feeling betrayed and angry, she confesses her feelings to him.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Brit Ray Stevenson plays a Ukranian crime lord with his natural British accent. He mentions having a British accent to explain it.
    • The step children get Put on a Bus to live with their grandparents after Rita becomes incapable of taking care of them.
    • Dexter buys the adjacent apartment for the babysitter so baby Harrison can be abandoned with ease without making him appear negligent.
  • Not in Front of the Kid: Debra won't swear in front of Dexter and Rita's infant son. She's dropped f-bombs on live television and in a hospital waiting room full of children, though.
  • Not So Stoic: Dexter likes to think he's The Stoic, but really who's he fooling here? He does start off the series this way, but eventually grows into himself and becomes more normal and emotional.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Inverted with the first lines of "That Night, a Forest Grew".
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging:
    • When Cody has nightmares of the Bay Harbor Butcher, Rita tells Dexter she hopes that the Butcher is found and hurt badly. Followed by:
      Rita: Anyway, have a nice day.
      Dexter: [internally] Make your mind up...
    • Jamie and Batista are having a conversation about Jamie's ex-boyfriend Louis, who cheated on her with a hooker. Jamie asks who would possibly sleep with a hooker, not knowing that Batista almost got arrested in Season 3 for trying to do just that.
  • Obstructive Vigilantism: Basically the whole point of the show.
  • Oedipus Complex: Brian Moser "Rudy Cooper" killed his father and fetishizes his mother. (Prosthetic hand with painted nails similar to Laura Moser.)
  • Offering Another in Your Stead: Many of Dexter's victims that end up on his kill table attempt to bribe or bargain with him in return for their freedom. At least one victim, who was part of a larger group of Serial Rapists that Dexter was going after, offered to give him the ringleader. Ironically, said ringleader was already using him as an Unwitting Pawn to lure in Dexter and Lumen. Dexter doesn't even acknowledge the offer, eventually killing both of them.
  • Office Romance:
    • It's revealed in season 2 that Lieutenant Maria LaGuerta had an affair with Sergeant Doakes when they used to be partners and a pair of detectives. They broke up but stayed close friends.
    • Angel Batista from Homicide dates one detective from Vice. They're OK because it's allowed to see people from other departments. When they broke up, one of Batista's colleagues says to Angel that office romances never work out, but asks whether he can ask her out.
    • LaGuerta, a boss of Homicide, and Sergeant Angel Batista start a sexual affair in season 4. Their superior Captain Matthews wants them to either break up or have Angel transferred to another department. They decide to marry and the pro-family politics allows them to stay together and both at Homicide department. Season 6 begins with them being Amicably Divorced.
    • Deb Morgan and Detective Quinn. They started as Friends with Benefits, but later became a regular couple. Debra's promotion to Lieutenant and the new head of Homicide of Miami Metro PD essentially ends their relationship, although Debra never saw them as something super serious in the first place.
    • There is a very brief romantic flirting between Masuka, a forensics expert, and Ryan, his sexy blonde of an intern. They also had the forbidden teacher/student dynamics. She screwed him over, stealing The Ice Truck Killer's prosthetic hand from the evidence room. He ended their relationship and he fired her as well.
  • Off the Rails: Starting from the second season the show leaves the books for original plotlines.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Oh Crappiest Oh Crap that ever Oh Crapped ends Season 6, when Debra catches Dexter in a murder.
  • Once a Season: Dexter's apartment gets broken into by an antagonist at least once every season (by the Ice Truck Killer, James Doakes, Ramon Prado, the Trinity Killer, Stan Liddy, Travis Marshall, Isaak Sirko, and the Brain Surgeon).
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Season 7 opens with Dexter rushing to the airport, finding all his credit cards canceled, and pulling emergency cash from his bug-out bag to buy a plane ticket to eastern Europe. Since Season 6 ended with Debra walking in on a kill, we expect he's fleeing the country. The episode then rewinds to where we left off Season 6, and the second time we get to the airport it turns out Dexter's just rushing to catch a murderer before he flees the country, and the problem with his credit cards is unrelated.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: In the season 5 finale, the other characters (all police officers) treat Quinn this way when he requests to speak with an attorney when it's likely that he might be implicated in a crime that he didn't actually commit.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: As Miami Metro Homicide grows more competent, Dexter's murderous urges and his obsession with being the one to catch and kill certain foes lead to him increasingly undercutting and sabotaging the ongoing investigations of the police (who are usually pretty damn close to solving the crimes) so he can be the one to take the bad guys out. This usually backfires horribly on everyone involved.
    • It also highlights Dexter's Motive Decay. Harry repeatedly warned him to only go after the ones who had successfully evaded the system.
  • On the Rebound:
    • Lila is explicitly referred to as a rebound for Dexter after Rita dumps Dexter (ironically, because Rita falsely believed Dexter had slept with Lila).
    • Lumen is a Replacement Goldfish for Rita after she dies, being a blonde Broken Bird herself.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: After Batista gets stabbed in season one, Debra comments that she hates feeling so helpless. Masuka just stares blankly, and she asks why he's not making some perverted comment about providing sexual support in a time of need. Masuka just looks at her blankly and responds "My friend got stabbed, and he may die."
  • Outlaw Couple:
    • According to Masuka, Dexter and Lumen.
    • In season 7, the story of Wayne Randall and Hannah McKay.
    • Dexter and Hannah later on.
  • Pac Man Fever:
    • Prominent enough throughout, with first-person shooters accompanied by the beeps and whistles from Galaga.
    • Perhaps most notably in the season 3 premiere, when Freebo is playing an obvious Wii bowling knock-off and we still get 80s-era bleeping.
    • Later in Season 3, Dexter is playing Halo 3. On a computer. With no mouse. With sound effects from the 70s clearly dubbed in.
  • Papa Wolf: Letting Dexter think you're a potential threat to his stepkids, or Harrison, his biological son, should probably qualify as assisted suicide. Letting him think you're a threat to Rita, Deb, or Lumen is nearly as bad an idea if you want to survive the experience.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Deb feels this way about Harry.
    • In season 4, Christine feels this way about her father, Arthur Mitchell (the Trinity Killer). She killed Lundy and shot Deb, hoping she would gain approval from him for protecting him from their investigation.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Rita with Dexter. She trades a wife-beater for a serial killer, who is ironically a big improvement.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish":
    • In season 4, Dexter has a short-term memory loss. But he remembers his password, which is "Harry". Not a perfect choice since Dexter has to hide a lot.
    • In "A Beautiful Day," Dexter's first guess at Deb's bank account password ("password") fails. But he soon types in the correct one: "fucking password".
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Harry's code.
  • Perma-Stubble: Dexter himself. He's shown shaving in every opening sequence, but we see no more than a few swipes at his neck, so he apparently cultivates the look intentionally. The final shot of him in the series is one with a full-grown beard.
  • Poetic Serial Killer: Dexter, every once in a while.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Constantly flirted with in LaGuerta. She was promoted more for political reasons (in part her Twofer Token Minority status) than for her skill, and is often shown to be more interested in her career than good policework. She starts showing much better judgment later in the series, but forfeits a lot of her sympathy after blaming Debra for her own screwup.
  • Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: Dexter vs. Doakes. Dexter knowingly cultivates the image of a geeky Nice Guy and family man in order to hide in plain sight, while Doakes is a no-nonsense, abrasive detective who antagonizes most of the people around him. For as much of a jerkass as Doakes can be, his suspicions about Dexter are absolutely right. When Doakes ends up being framed for Dexter's crimes, all but one of his colleagues have little trouble believing that he is the Bay Harbor Butcher.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Clemson Galt, one of Dexter's vicims of the week in Season Three, is the leader of a Neo-Nazi gang. Throughout the episode, he repeatedly references white power and calls Miguel Prado a "spic".
  • Poor Communication Kills: Doakes finds proof positive that Dexter is the Bay Harbor Butcher by locating the blood slides in the air conditioner. He removes the evidence illegally and has it tested behind the department's back, thereby making it inadmissible in court, rather than alert anyone at the department about its existence to begin a legitimate investigation. Ultimately by keeping the department in the dark, they posthumously pin the murders on him.
  • Posthumous Character: Dexter's foster father, Harry. For the first two seasons, his only appearances were via flashbacks - scenes showing him grooming a younger Dexter to be a vigilante in order to slake his blood lust. From season 3 onwards, Harry is more of an Imaginary Friend giving Dexter advice about following The Code.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The first season cuts out some of the more questionable plot elements while fleshing out the supporting cast and making Dexter more human.
  • Precision F-Strike: Dexter rarely swears, so when he does, it's jarring.
    • When visiting Angel in the hospital, Doakes grabs Dexter and starts giving him a hard time for his emotional detachment, Dexter just looks him in the eye and says, "Take your fucking hand off me."
    • When Doakes starts really messing with him in season 2, he's scary.
      Dexter: Back... the fuck... off!
    • He drops a small Cluster F-Bomb in 1x03. Apparently there are Evil Detecting Alligators in Florida. Who knew.
    • Happens right at the end of an episode of Season 4 - Dexter had been awake for about 48 hours straight, and begins monologing...
      Dexter: After a beautiful night's sleep, everything will be better again.
      [Harrison starts crying in the next room]
      Dexter: ...Fuck. [cut to black]
    • In Season 4, when Arthur finally shows Dexter that he knows exactly who he is, Dexter drops one in his internal monologue.
    • The ending of 6x12, after a several discussions of Dexter's lack of religious faith, is followed by a revelation that surprises him. His reaction:
      Dexter: Oh, God!
    • In 7x10, after chastising a killer on his table for blaming his murderous urges on a traumatic event that happened when he was a child.
      Dexter: You're not a kid anymore. It's time for you to take responsibility.
      [Dexter raises his knife, pauses.]
      Dexter: Fuck.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Dexter has made this into an art form.
  • Product Placement: Lots of it, most notably for Apple, José Cuervo Silver, and Nokia.
  • Protagonist Title: The show is named after its main protagonist and point-of-view character.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Trinity sits down and plays with a train set, making choo-choo noises, much to the bewilderment of his captive.
  • Psycho Psychologist:
    • In a first-season episode one of Dexter's victims is a therapist who was driving his patients to suicide for kicks.
    • Then there's Deb's terrible, terrible therapist in Season 6, who bizarrely encourages her to acknowledge and act on romantic feelings towards Dexter.
    • Lila acts like this as Dexter's "sponsor" for his (non-existent) drug addiction in Season 2, by warping the Narcotics Anonymous 12 steps.
    • Dr. Evelyn Vogel in Season 8 appears to be this as well. She is the author of the definitive textbook on profiling psychopathic killers, yet is somehow intimately involved in Dexter's own formative past as one. Despite an austere warmth and wisdom, she appears very emotionless and unnervingly detached when discussing a case.
  • Pun-Based Title: Several episode titles, especially the ones that integrate characters' names ("Dex, Lies, and Videotape," "There's Something About Harry," "Everything Is Illumenated," etc.)
  • Punk in the Trunk:
    • A dead stripper in a car trunk kicks off the main plot of Season 7.
    • Lumen is also an example of this at one point in season 5.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Partial example: Lundy for Season 3. Partial because as an FBI agent he was only in Miami to investigate the Bay Harbor Butcher, as soon as the case closed he would be gone. It was clear from the beginning his character would only last the season, it's actually a surprise that he's back for season 4.
    • Lumen in the season 5 finale.
    • Put in the back of a car: Astor and Cody, after their mother died, went to live with their grandparents in Orlando. They take a bus back from time to time - Astor twice (one episode centered around her), Cody once with getting face time only in one shot.
  • Pyromaniac: Lila. She loves fire & uses fire to kill a man who hurt her as part of her backstory, sets her loft on fire to try and get Dexter's attention, burns down the swamp house that Doakes was trapped in and then burnt down her loft to kill Dexter, Astor & Cody.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Dexter's relationship with Deb is full of this as he emotionally supports her, lets her live with him after she's traumatized by her kidnapping and saves Quinn, someone he strongly dislikes from prison for the sake of her happiness.
    • Quinn giving Angel a huge check so he can open a bakery.
    • Dexter's conversation with Jeremy in episode 7 where he sees himself in the boy and makes an attempt to reach out to and help him.
    • Matthews may be a Politically Incorrect Hero who is vindictive to Laguerta, but he has a sincere soft spot for the Morgans due to his friendship with Harry.
    • Despite all his hate for Dexter, Doakes tries to be supportive in Season 1 when Dexter freaks out at the room full of blood and actually tries to comfort him when he's planning to turn himself in in Season 2.
    • Doakes never holds Angel's honesty against him during the Internal Affairs issue after Doakes killed a man in cold blood who happened to be part of a Haitian death squad several years ago. He even publicly shames the officer who tried to harass Angel.

    Q - Z 
  • Rage Against the Reflection: In the Season 5 finale, when Lumen tells him that she needs to leave, Dexter sees his reflection in a dinner plate he's holding.
  • Rape and Revenge: Basically Lumen's whole plan in season 5.
  • Rape as Backstory:
    • Dexter mentions in the pilot episode that Rita's ex-husband repeatedly beat and raped her, presumably for years.
    • Lumen is introduced as a kind of sex slave, and is ultimately revealed to have been repeatedly raped and tortured by five men for approximately a month.
    • Emily Birch has a similar backstory to Lumen, but the future Barrel Gang's members didn't kill her. Or not for a while anyway.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Dexter is appalled by the crimes of the Barrel Girl Gang.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Generally averted. Characters stutter, pause to think, et cetera. Some less than others, obviously, but it's still there.
  • Really Gets Around: Debra becomes a serial monogamist after the first season, with roughly 5-6 bed buddies throughout the span of the series, in part due to the difficulty she has getting close to people and the demands of her job.
  • Red Herring:
    • Sonya the nanny from season 5 (played by Maria Doyle Kennedy from Showtime's The Tudors) gets a pretty good amount of screen time and it seems as if she will eventually be important. She isn't. note 
    • Louis Greene is seemingly set up as a major antagonist for Season 7. Suddenly, Boom, Headshot!. A case of Real Life Writes the Plot, as Louis' actor got another role and his arc subsequently had to be cut short.
    • When Batista announces in season 7 that he is burnt out on detective work, then buys a restaurant and tells everyone he is retiring, it seems like an obviously telegraphed case of Retirony. It isn't; Batista is alive and well and retired from Miami Metro at the end of the season. He returns to his job in Season 8.
    • Season 8 has multiple red herrings regarding the identity of the Brain Surgeon. The biggest one is A.J. Yates, whom Dexter identifies as the Surgeon and kills; it's not until three episodes later that we learn the real Brain Surgeon is still at large.
  • Reflective Eyes: Lumen in Season 5 when she's watching her own rape/torture video. It is mercifully discreet.
  • Rescue Romance:
    • Dexter and Rita, since he's her refuge after her abusive relationship with Paul.
    • Dexter falls in love in Lumen, a girl broken by being repeatedly raped and tortured.
  • Retired Monster: Santos Jimenez. Trying to come out of retirement does not go well for him.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Afraid that the team investigating the Bay Harbor Butcher may be closing in on him, Dexter writes a rambling manifesto touching on politics, the environment, religion, and other themes to fool them into thinking it's just a standard deranged serial killer. However, the team sees through the deception and correctly concludes that the manifesto was written with the intent to deceive themnote , confirming their suspicion that the killer is somehow involved in law enforcement and bringing them even closer to finding out his real identity.
  • Right Behind Me: Deb has a problem running her mouth.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Dexter spends most of Season Five helping Lumen hunt down and kill the men who raped and tortured her.
  • Robbing the Dead: Dexter kills a paedophile who was stalking his girlfriend's daughter in his home. While he was dragging his corpse out, he remembers a phone call from his girlfriend who asked him to pick up some milk for the kids. So he steals a carton of milk from his victim's fridge.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: With Miguel in Season 3 and Travis in Season 6.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Lumen turns her motel room into a tragic version of one.
  • Running Gag:
    • Deb's total inability to speak Spanish, despite being a homicide detective in Miami. Babies who watch Dora the Explorer know more en español than her.
    • Dexter's employment and close involvement with police investigations, yet lack of a badge.
      Dexter: It's a laminate.
  • Sadistic Choice: A brutal example in Season 7. In the season's final minutes, Deb has to choose whether to apprehend or kill Dexter to protect LaGuerta, or murder her to cover up Dexter's actions. Deb chooses to gun down LaGuerta, and has an emotional breakdown afterward that spans half of the entire next season.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Doakes' entire family, which consists of his mother and sisters. Deb gets along with them wonderfully.
    • Also Francis, the file clerk.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Dexter, of course.
  • Saved by the Coffin: Dexter eludes the police when they raid the Trinity Killer's house (he was there to kill Trinity) by hiding in a coffin that Trinity had made himself until enough time had passed that Dexter (a member of the police department) could realistically have arrived.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Dexter's father once took him to witness an execution by electric chair to show him the importance of following The Code. "Keep your wits about you, son, or this is going to happen to you."
  • Scary Black Man: Doakes when he's angry, which is permanently.
  • Scoundrel Code: The "Code of Harry" which allows him to uphold a measure of control over his Serial Killer tendencies.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: The tapes that the Barrel Girl killers made of them torturing their victims. Virtually nothing is shown (mercifully), but the screams are terrifying.
  • Secret-Keeper: In the books Deb finds out about Dexter's proclivities in the first book, and is the only one who knows who he truly is. In the show, Deb discovers Dexter doing away with Travis Marshall at the end of season six, and Dexter fails to kill Hannah McKay, so both of them know about his secret.
  • Seduction as One-Upmanship: After Lieutenant LaGuerta is demoted, she strikes up an affair with her replacement's fiance, thereby driving said replacement to paranoid outbursts that get her deposed and let LaGuerta reclaim her position.
  • Serial Killer: Miami is lousy with them.
  • Serial Killer Baiting: Several examples.
    • Part of Deb's undercover work on vice at the start of the series is to bait a client who is killing prostitutes.
    • In Season 8, LaGuerta pushes (successfully) for drug kingpin Hector Estrada's early release, as she suspects that Dexter is the Bay Harbor Butcher, and knows that Hector would fit the profile of Dexter's victims.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: Dexter, the whole point of the show. His stepfather teaches him to channel his homicidal tendencies to punish those who truly deserve it but have escaped justice, usually serial killers who are too smart to be caught by conventional means.
  • Serial Rapist: Jordan Chase and his followers, the Barrel Girl Gang, from season five combine this with being Serial Killers. He and his group capture, torture and rape women for months before finally disposing of them in barrels, hence their name. Notably, unlike other Big Bads from the series, who are usually given something to humanize them, the show treats Chase and his accomplices like pure evil scum. Strangely, Chase himself by all indications didn't even directly participate in the nightmarish gang rapes that he orchestrated himself; instead he seemed to get off on the power he had over people by goading his buddies to brutalize his gang's victims and mentally torment the girls about how they were about to die.
  • Series Continuity Error
    • In Season 3 it is established that Miguel and Sylvia Prado are childless. In Season 8 Sylvia says she's focusing on the kids.
    • In Season 7 Dexter imagines a conversation with Harry about the death of Hannah's husband. Harry claims to have also died of heart disease. It is stated multiple times before and after that Harry committed suicide.
  • Sex Equals Love: Deb and Quinn in season 5.
  • Sex for Solace: In season 5, Debra has sex with Quinn after she breaks down crying, because she just had to clean up the blood-stained bathroom where her sister-in-law was murdered.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The dirty cop Stan Liddy spends Season 5 covertly gathering evidence on Dexter's crimes only to get killed rather anticlimactically by Dexter.
    • Arguably, this could be the series as a whole as this series begins with Dexter more or less alone and over time he starts to become more human but ultimately ends up alone in the end. The reason this could be a shaggy dog story is that all of the character development and difficult decisions ultimately prove meaningless. Everything was building up to dexter either giving up serial killing or being caught/killed. But instead he just leaves for Canada letting everyone think he's dead while he becomes a lumber jack. Even that last sentence sounds like the end of a shaggy dog story.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: In "Teenage Wasteland", Dexter insists that Lumen is just a tenant. Though to be fair, she really wasn't his girlfriend at the time, but she was more than just a tenant.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The entire 4th Season: Agent Lundy's entire career and 4 years of Rita Bennett/Morgan; All Dexter's efforts to get close to Trinity in order to learn from him are wasted, as Arthur has nothing to teach him about raising a family. Frank Lundy will never receive public vindication, Deb will never get closure, and the FBI will waste innumerable man-hours because Trinity is already dead. Rita's efforts to build a loving home for her children and a happy life with Dexter fail, as 4 years of Character Development are of little use when you are dead in a bathtub.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Dexter uses the name Patrick Bateman as an alias to procure tranquilizers. He states he chose it because it sounded "So wholesome, so inconspicuous."
    • Opening Shout-Out on more than one occasion.
    • There are a few references to the books in the season four finale: Dexter driving like crazy in Miami traffic and extra emphasis on the moon.
    • The shot down the hotel room leading to a bloodbath in Season 1 is a pretty obvious (though effective) reference to The Shining.
    • "Dexter? He spends all his time in a laboratory for God's sake!"
    • In Season 1, Rita shows up at Dexter's apartment on Halloween in a Lara Croft costume.
    • In Season 5, after concluding that the Barrel Girl Gang members are being killed by a pair vigilantes in love, Dexter and Lumen, Masuka compares them to Bonnie and Clyde. Considering how they ended up, Dexter finds the analogy worrisome.
    • The title of Season 6 finale "This Is the Way the World Ends" is both a nod to the apocalyptic delusions of the Big Bad and a Shout Out to T. S. Eliot.
    • In the season seven finale Dexter uses Arthur Curry as a phony name.
    • In Season 2, Masuka says that one of the ways to dispose of a body is with meat pies.
    • The series finale, with the protagonist riding out into the ocean to his apparent death, his loved ones sitting at a café in a foreign country, and then the protagonist being revealed as still alive under a new identity, is suspiciously similar to the ending of The Dark Knight Rises.
  • Single Tear: Brian lets one tear out when Dexter makes up his mind to kill him to protect Debra.
  • Sir Swearsalot: Debra. While most of the cast swears pretty liberally, in one conversation with Dexter in the third season, she manages to use every single obscenity in the English language, excluding racial slurs.
  • Sleep Deprivation:
    • Rita and her children are being kept awake at night by their neighbour's dog. When Rita and Dex confront the neighbour, she just mocks them and says there's nothing they can do about it. Rita then takes the neglected dog to her friend and her nieces who will take care of their new pet.
    • Debra pulls an allnighter when she's searching for clues in the Skinner case (serial killer of the season). She says she had a metric fuck-ton of coffee and is extremely fidgety in the morning.
    • Dexter stalks his victims at night and it's mentioned he's an extremely early riser who doesn't sleep well. In one episode when he finds Lumen, he spends with her the whole night, trying to calm her down. When he comes home to his baby son and his new nanny in the morning, the nanny's pissed that she can't trust him because he didn't inform her he wouldn't be coming home.
  • Sleeping with the Boss's Wife: When Lieutenant LaGuerta is demoted and replaced as head of the Homicide division by Lt. Pascal, she gaslights Pascal by striking up an affair with her fiance, all while acting gracious in defeat in the office. Pascal's anxiety over her deteriorating relationship causes her to behave erratically at work, which gets her removed and lets LaGuerta reclaim her position.
  • Slumber Party Ploy: Astor, Dexter's stepdaughter, shows up in Miami drunk after running away from her grandparents' house with her friend Olivia, who explains she lied to her mom that she was staying at Astor's in order to go on the trip.
    Astor's friend Olivia: My mom thinks I'm staying at Astor's.
    Dexter (to Astor): Let me guess, your grandparents think you're staying at Olivia's.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Subverted, as Dexter beats up an abusive parent while a cheerful-sounding Spanish song plays. It's "Mac the Knife" in Spanish.
  • The Smurfette Principle : Debra Morgan seems to be the only female Homicide cop, and La Guerta the only woman in a position of administrative authority.
  • Snuff Film: The Barrel Girl Gang recorded their own rapes/murders of young women for their own viewing pleasure. Of course, this leads to a mountain of incriminating evidence for the police to sort through once their crimes are exposed.
  • Spanner in the Works: Season 8 has a massive one towards the end. Federal Marshal Max Clayton followed Dexter in his attempt to apprehend Hannah McKay, only to find Oliver Saxon strapped down on Dexter's table. Apparently unaware of Saxon's face all over the news, he sets him free only to get stabbed in the heart for his trouble. This makes Saxon able to shoot Debra when she comes to apprehend him, ultimately causing Dexter to Mercy Kill her after she becomes brain-dead and exile himself from Hannah and Harrison's lives out of fear a similar fate would happen to them.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the first book, LaGuerta was killed by Brian, but survived the first season (which was based on the book) and went on to appear in subsequent seasons. Until her death in Season 7 under completely different circumstances.
    • Also, Dexter dies at the end of eighth book (which came out way after the series was over) while he faked his death and became a lumberjack at the end of the series.
  • Spiritual Successor: To the Hannibal Lecter series.
  • The Sponsor: Lila in season 2, though she is initially unaware of just what Dexter is actually addicted to.
  • Stab the Salad: Used frequently, which is unsurprising with this show being what it is. Outside the opening sequence, the most notable examples are the opening scenes for the second, third, and fourth seasons.
  • Staredown Faceoff: In season 2, there's the famous and awesome "I own you" scene. Doakes confronts Dexter in his office, so Dexter squares up to Doakes and tells him that whatever he tries, Dexter will always be one step ahead, for one reason: "I own you." He then headbutts Doakes and quickly but calmly walks out into the main office, so when Doakes runs out and attacks him in retaliation it looks totally unprovoked and Doakes looks crazy. An example of this trope being used as a way of getting in position for the attack, and bonus points to Dexter for coming up with all this on the fly.
  • Stepford Smiler:
    • Dexter puts on a cheerful facade while internally lamenting his hollowness.
    • Arthur Mitchell's family has elements of this. Despite being very messed up, they project an image of wholesomeness to the outside world that initially fools Dexter even when he's looking for signs of dysfunction.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Emily Birch for Jordan Chase in Season 5.
  • A Storm Is Coming: The series finale coincides with a tropical storm gathering over Miami and the concern about it starts in the penultimate episode.
  • Suicide by Cop: Debra uses the exact words "death by cop" with regards to The Skinner.
  • Suicide Dare: In the first season, one of the title character's targets was a Serial Killer that used this as his modus operandi; he was a psychologist who would encourage his vulnerable, mentally ill patients to kill themselves. He was advising them also about the method.
    Dr. Emmett Meridian: Look at me. I understand the appeal of death, okay? No more pain. All the career pressure, the hopelessness, gone. In many cultures, there's no stigma attached to taking one's life. Suicide's respected, even revered as a matter of personal conscience.
    Patient: How do most people do it?
    Doctor: Well, painkillers are the most common. But they're entirely unreliable. The truly courageous of heart... use guns.
  • Suicide Is Shameful:
    • People think Dexter's foster father and legendary cop Harry Morgan died of a heart disease, but it was later revealed he had killed himself (overdose of medication). Harry's superior and friend Captain Matthews felt that suicide would be a serious blow to Harry's reputation and that it would taint his immaculate service record.
    • Debra, thinking the Skinner jumped to his death to avoid arrest.
      Debra: He took the chickeny way out.
  • Sunshine Noir: The series combines grisly crime and serial murder with the bright, sunny and colorful backdrop of Miami.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That:
    • When confronted about his possible activities, Rita assumes Dexter is a drug addict rather than a serial killer. Dexter enthusiastically goes with the deception, and it turns out to be useful on several other fronts as well. Because his homicidal tendencies are very much an addiction, his NA speech is very convincing.
    • Happens in the season 6 premiere:
      Dexter: It'd be good to catch up with some of the old friends...
      Debra: ...You're hoping to get laid.
      Dexter: You got me.
    • In Season 7, Dexter frustratedly blurts out his desire to kill Hannah:
      Dexter: I want to take you out.
      Hannah: On a date?
      Dexter: ...That'll work.
  • Suspiciously Clean Criminal Record:
    • Very frequently used to describe Dexter's Victim of the Week, usually to handwave how the victim was Beneath Suspicion and thus slipped through the cracks.
    • Doakes cites something similar to this after looking into Dexter's background. He believes that no one's record is that clean unless they've done some scrubbing. He's right, although Dexter's late father/mentor Harry is responsible for that moreso than Dexter himself.
    • Quinn, being Doakes-lite, reaches the same conclusion.
    • When looking into the identity of the girl that Dexter found at the home of a victim, he mentions that she doesn't have so much as a speeding ticket.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: While Hannah is somewhat more sociopathic than Lumen, the similarity is definitely there.
  • Systematic Villain Takedown: In Season 5, Dexter and Lumen decide to track down (and kill) the individual members of the five-man Barrel Girl Gang, who tortured and murdered twelve women, and raped and tortured Lumen and their first victim, Emily. Dexter kills the first, cleanup guy Boyd, by himself, and then he and Lumen team up to kill the others.
  • Take That!:
    • In the episode "Let's Give This Boy a Hand," Cody is shown wearing a George W. Bush mask while Dexter narrates "People think it's fun to pretend you're a monster."
    • There is usually one blink-and-you-miss-it segment per season showing that the villains are either Republicans or leaning that way. Season 4 has Trinity tell a woman his parents were lifelong Republicans, while Season 5 had the guy driving some loaded barrels listening to seemingly conservative talk radio.
  • Tap on the Head: Dexter whacks Paul over the head with a frying pan after he threatens Rita and the kids. Paul survives with only a slight skull fracture (a slight subversion) despite having had no medical attention and then being shot up with heroin.
  • Tattooed Crook:
    • Dexter's biological father had a prison tattoo, not to mention plenty of the people Miami Metro drags in.
    • Zig-zagged with Quinn, who sports tattoos, is a cop, and has stolen from a crime scene.
    • And one of Dexter's victims early in the series - a valet who liked snuff films.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: While searching for a Nanny for Harrison.
  • That Came Out Wrong: To LaGuerta.
    Dexter: If you need something under the table, I'm your guy...That didn't come out right.
  • Theme Serial Killer:
    • The Ice Truck Killer chops up prostitutes and leaves their parts scattered because he watched while his mother - and, by extension, Dexter's - met the wrong end of a chainsaw at the hands of drug dealers.
    • The Trinity Killer, who kills people in ways that mimics how his sister, mother and father died, although it turns out that his nickname is non-indicative. He actually kills in fours, starting every cycle with kidnapping and killing a boy, who is supposed to represent himself.
    • The Doomsday Killer kills his victims based on his interpretation of the Book of Revelation. He believes that if he can complete the sequence on a certain day, he will bring on the Apocalypse.
  • These Gloves Are Made for Killin': Being a forensics specialist, Dexter knows the value of gloves to reduce the likelihood of his capture by law enforcement. Many episodes will feature him wearing either the leather or latex kind during his murders (Apart from that one instance he wore yellow rubber household gloves along with a "Natural Born Griller" apron when he doesn't have his usual kit and is forced to improvise.). If not for killing, then for doing recon on his victims to ensure they fit the code Harry taught him.
    • Most of the accomplices to Dexter have followed his lead in this trope. Namely Miguel Pardo, Lumen Pierce, Debra Morgan, and Harrison Morgan.
    • This trope is lampshaded in "Dex Takes A Holiday" when Dexter investigates Zoey Kruger's involvement in the home invasion and murder of her husband and daughter. He realizes she was wearing gloves from the crime scene photos before discovering a shred of a blue nitrile glove left in the garbage disposal. This evidence confirms to him that she is the culprit behind her husband's, daughter's, and the criminal she framed's deaths. Zoey later breaks into Dexter's house wearing blue nitrile gloves like the kind she wore during her murders to kill him.
  • Third Act Stupidity: In the penultimate episode of Season 8, Dexter captures Big Bad Oliver Saxon but, instead of doing the practical thing by just killing him, decides to leave him to Deb. So, of course, Saxon ends up shooting Deb and escaping.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: Lumen, meant to be the thirteenth Barrel Girl, brought very bad luck indeed.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: The series ends with Dexter giving one directly to the camera.
  • Title Sequence: An award winning title sequence.
  • Together in Death: Dexter takes a dying Isaak to where he dumped Viktor so they can have a semblance of this.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Season 6. Travis Marshall is actually hallucinating James Gellar, whom he had killed on his own before the season started. Travis' serial killer side is a split personality he attributes to Gellar.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Dexter, starting in the latter half of season 2.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Quinn in the sixth season. He had already stolen from a crime scene earlier in the show, but he rapidly spirals out of control after Deb rejects his proposal and says that she never really loved him. He starts getting drunk, neglecting his job and acting like a total douche to everyone. His negligence almost gets his partner killed. The only reason he doesn't get fired is that he exploits a loophole intended for alcoholics.
  • The Topic of Cancer:
    • Debra and Dexter's mom died of cancer when they were teenagers. Debra once says she can't visit Camilla, their family friend, because her suffering would remind her of her own mother too much and she thinks she could not cope.
    • Camilla and her husband were friends of Harry Morgan (Dexter's father). They have been heavy smokers all their life. Camilla is already widowed in season one. In season three, she's dying of lung cancer and in excruciating pain. She wishes to die soon to cut short her suffering.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The Neo-Nazi leader Dexter targets in Season Three.
  • Trailers Always Lie:
    • Trailers for the Season 5 ending showed Debra pointing a gun at what appears to be a bloodied Dexter. What they omitted was the plastic covering standing between the two, meaning all Debra saw was silhouettes. She did not even suspect it was Dexter.
    • Another example was the trailer for an episode earlier in the season, which showed Dexter chasing an escaped victim, apparently followed by a shot of a surprised Deb in the same location saying, "Dexter?" In the actual episode these two shots happened about five minutes apart, giving Dexter just enough time to kill the victim and quickly conceal his own involvement.
  • Tranquillizer Dart: Dexter usually uses a syringe of M99 animal tranquilizer, which really does work that fast. It also causes significant damage to the kidneys and frequently stops hearts, but his victims won't be alive for much longer anyway. In Season 5, however, victim Boyd Fowler manages to shoot Dexter with an actual tranquilizer gun before going down.
  • Trapped in a Sinking Car: In S8x E 4, Dexter and Debra crash into the river as Dexter is hit unconscious.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: Dexter goes into Narcotics Anonymous after he covered up his strange behavior (related to his serial killing) by telling his girlfriend he was an addict (she assumes it's heroin). The therapy ended up reaching over into his desire to kill, but also sets him up with an enabler. And causes him to meet a hot Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette whose supportive sexual relationship actually keeps him clean for much of the season.
  • Trauma Conga Line:
    • Sgt. James Doakes. Early on, he finds the woman he loves shot to death in her home, and because her estranged husband was a police officer, he ends up "volunteered" as the bait in a trap to catch the man who ordered her death. In season 2 he finally discovers Dexter's secret only to be caged up, blown up and posthumously framed for all Dexter's murders, so effectively that LaGuerta is the only cop who mourns his death. Somebody sure doesn't like Doakes being happy...
    • Angel has it pretty bad. First season he's separated, then divorced. Then he gets stabbed, which leads him to thinking his ex-wife would take him back. She doesn't. Then he is used by Lila to get at Dexter, including being framed by her for using Rohypnol. Then he goes to a prostitute, but gets busted as she is an undercover cop. Then he begins a relationship with LaGuerta, which eventually ends in another divorce. Then he loses a promotion to Lieutenant to his junior, Deb. As a result, he has to deal with his partner Quinn, who holds the Idiot Ball for much of Season 6. He's eventually redeemed by getting Lieutenant when Deb leaves.
  • TV Telephone Etiquette: The entire cast does this all the time, at least once literally every episode if this troper isn't mistaken. Dexter is notoriously bad about never, ever saying goodbye at the end of a call, which sticks out so glaringly because he's on the phone so often with so many people, many for whom he cares a lot about, and yet he doesn't have the courtesy to ever say goodbye. In fact, on the rare occasion he does say goodbye, it's actually quite jarring.
  • Undercover When Alone: In season 2, Laguerta is scheming to get her superior fired by pretending to be her friend when she's having marital difficulties. However, when a fight between her superior and her superior's fiance occurs while Laguerta is in the office, Laguerta curses to herself (before shes spotted by them). Given the later reveal that she orchestrated the fights between the two, this was perfectly according to her plan.
  • The Unfair Sex:
    • Poor Angel falls victim to this in Season 5. He thinks Maria is cheating on him, but she's actually doing an undercover sting operation. Of course Angel gets yelled at for not trusting her when she goes sneaking around late at night and makes up clearly fake excuses as to why.
    • Maria plays it straight, but the show subverts it, since the viewer is led to believe that she really was cheating on him, even if only to get the case against him dropped and save him from jail time.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Dexter narrates his story, but he does so through a filter of his own biased perceptions. One notable example is Dexter's constant assertions that he has no emotions and is a complete monster. As the series progresses, we see that he does have emotions, a conscience, and cares for the people around him in spite of the relentless bloodlust he also experiences.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee:
    • If a good amount of screen time is spent on Dexter preparing for a kill—or if his narration outright tells us his detailed plan—you can bet that something will go wrong. Just ask Boyd Fowler, Ray Speltzer, Oliver Saxon, etc.
    • Dexter's plan to leave for Argentina with Hannah and Harrison near the end of Season 8. He discusses or narrates about it so damn much that it's basically guaranteed to fall through. Sure enough, only Hannah and Harrison make it to Argentina.
  • Unstoppable Rage: For a guy that appeared in only one episode, Rankin sure managed to really piss Dexter off. An emotionally confused Dexter with an anchor doesn't go well with a disrespectful angry dude, seeing as Dexter's rare moments of anger can make him completely disregard The Code.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Oh my God, the series finale. First, Dexter turns off Debra's vital signs monitor, which would immediately trip an alarm at the nurses' station, but the medical staff ignores it. Second, after his Mercy Kill of Debra, Dex wheels her corpse out of the hospital; although this is not quite as conspicuous as it would normally be since many other patients are being moved on account of the oncoming storm, the fact that he is not wearing nurse's scrubs and an obviously unresponsive patient has no fluids or life support hooked up draws no notice whatever from the hospital staff. Third, his removing Debra from her bed, carrying her down into a boat, and then motoring off into the heart of a freaking hurricane also attracts no attention. In comparison to this, it's almost believable that a busful of passengers pays no heed to Hannah reaching across the aisle to stab Elway with a large hypodermic.
  • Vampire Detective Series: Dexter isn't technically a vampire, but he's obsessed with blood and kills only at night, so we'll take it. He fits all the requirements for the Vampire Detective Series except #4. (1) He is a cop (a blood analyst) (2) wants to be normal and (3) has a lot of daddy issues (his are 75% positive but it's a big deal). His daddy made him what he is, too. He (5) has lots of flashbacks about his earlier life, and he (6) only kills other killers. He fits even #4 after the Lumen story arc.
  • Variations on a Theme Song: In the Season 4 opener, the normal sequence of Dexter preparing his day along to the theme song is replaced with a much more drowsy and disjointed sequence to represent his exhaustion at this point in the story.
  • Vertigo Effect: Used in the second episode of season 8, when Dexter finds a match for a blood sample.
  • Victim of the Week: Played straight in the first two seasons.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Louis Greene develops a video game where you get to play a serial killer and wants Dexter's opinion on whether the blood spatter mechanics are realistic. Dexter refuses to even look at the game and tells Louis that making that type of game is just wrong.
  • Villain Protagonist: Dexter is a bit more heroic than most examples of this trope and even has redeeming qualities (his love for his family, friends, and coworkers), but he still qualifies. Although he kills other killers, he does it primarily for the wrong reasons, to satisfy his own bloodlust. No matter how well he rationalizes it to himself (and the audience), he has tampered with evidence to let guilty men free, killed innocent people, and indirectly caused many innocent deaths including his wife and sister because of his "hobby".
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Miguel Prado and Jordan Chase. Also Dexter Morgan, especially from Sgt. Doakes' point of view.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Miguel Prado has one when he realizes that Dexter killed his brother Oscar as he's already lying on Dexter's table.
    • Jordan Chase becomes slowly more unhinged as Dexter and Lumen kill all of his "rape buddies" and elude capture. When they have him on a table, he loses it completely.
    • Happens quite frequently when Dexter captures any Victims of the Week.
  • Visual Pun: In the episode Shrink Wrap, Dexter kills a psychiatrist who enjoys convincing his patients to commit suicide. He does it in his usual manner - by restraining him to a table with thin sheets of plastic while he tortures him. Therapist. Plastic wrap. Shrink wrap! It's even the name of the episode.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
    • Harry in the flashback near the end of "There's Something About Harry."
    • Deb in "Sunshine and Frosty Swirl" after learning some very unpleasant news.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy:
    • Debra Morgan had this kind of relationship with her father Harry, even following in his footsteps as a cop to gain his attention. It's not that he wasn't proud of her, but honing her brother Dexter's extra-curricular activities (to which Deb wasn't invited for obvious reasons) meant that he couldn't spend as much time with his daughter.
    • Likewise with Christine Hill, the daughter of Arthur Mitchell/Trinity. She even killed Frank Lundy to gain her father's approval. After she accidentally put him at risk of being discovered, he disowns her. She doesn't take it well.
    • Dexter, too. Everything was to live up to Harry's expectations. When he realizes that a) Harry was using him as an outlet for his own vigilante impulses and b) Harry was deeply revolted by what he'd made him into, to the point of suicide, he...takes it pretty hard.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Miguel Prado seems extreme when compared to Dexter. And perhaps Dexter himself is an extremist when compared to Doakes. And Doakes probably is compared to most of the other cops. It's all a scale, really.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: After Quinn tells Masuka that the reason nobody came to his speech on his newly-published work is because of how perverted he is, he starts dressing nicely and cleans up his act. This freaks out Debra immensely. It's only after they stand up for him in front of Miguel's brother that he eventually returns to his normal self.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Season 4 episode 9, arguably. There were hints of Arthur's mask slipping before, but this time you get to see how messed up his family life really is.
    • The Season 4 finale. Dexter comes across the scene of Rita dead in the bathtub and Harrison bawling in a pool of blood.
    • The Season 6 finale. Dexter gets caught killing Travis by Debra.
    • And the Season 7 finale too. Debra kills LaGuerta after she urges Debra to kill Dexter.
    • Season 8's A Little Reflection, Dexter and Debra are chatting over the happenings in the episode (mostly the fact that Dexter would be taking on rich teen Serial Killer in the manner of Harry) when they both start to feel dizzy and before Dexter passes out, he sees that Hannah's back.
    • Are We There Yet?: A.J. Yates wasn't the Brain Surgeon, the real killer is still out there and he's killed Zach.
  • Wham Line:
    • In "Circle Of Friends", Dexter meets the man who is supposedly the Ice Truck Killer in prison, ready to ask him what the point of all his messages has been.
      Neil Perry: Who the fuck are you?
    • In "Hungry Man," Christine talking to Trinity at the end: "Hi, Dad."
    • A pretty minor one but clearly one that sets up a story arc: "Boyd wasn't the only one".
    • Take It!:
      Jordan: Tick-tick-tick. That's the sound of your life running out.
    • Teenage Wasteland:
      Jordan: Send a message to Dexter. Tell him; Tick-tick-tick. That's the sound of his life running out. Stay safe, Lumen.
    • The Season 7 Premiere:
      Debra: Did you kill all these people?
      Dexter: ...I did.
      Debra: Are you... Are you a serial killer?
      Dexter: ...Yes.
    • The Season 8 Premiere:
      Vogel: You can't kill me.
      Dexter: Why not?
      Vogel: Because I don't fit Harry's code.
    • A Little Reflection
      Hannah: Hi, Dexter, remember me?
    • From 8x10:
      Saxon: Mother chose the wrong son. before he slits Dr. Vogel's throat
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • In the first episode of the series, it's both shown and mentioned how LaGuerta has a romantic interest in Dexter. It's never mentioned again. (This was a plot point from the first "Dexter" book, which the show dropped.)
    • Angel's interest in vague mysticism in season two was quietly dropped before his character came to the fore.
    • Rita's teenage marriage is introduced as if it will be a major plot point. Then it's forgotten.
    • The murder of Stan Liddy and Dexter's obvious connection to it never comes up after again after Season 5.
  • What If the Baby Is Like Me: Of course, it's too early to tell how Harrison's going to turn out.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Discussed via Dexter's monologue quite a bit. One notable line comes from Dexter's father:
    Dexter: Who are any of us, really? We all have our public life, our private life...
    Harry: And your secret life. The one that defines you.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?:
    • Liddy snarks about what a stupid name "Dexter" is, as does Quinn even earlier.
    • Several people remark that "Lumen" is a weird name.
    • Dexter himself does this to "Miles" Castner.
  • Working Out Their Emotions: Dexter's adoptive sister Debra survives a kidnapping from a serial killer (who was also her fiancé and kidnapped her as a bait for Dexter who is his long-lost biological brother). After that, she can't be alone and she's unable to do anything except working out obsessively.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Dexter explicitly calls Lundy this, and views some of the various seasons big bads to be this. The barrel girl gang are a notable exception, Dexter is simply appalled by their actions.
    • Trinity considers Lundy one and refuses to harm him since he wants to be caught by him.
    • Isaak Sirko is a mafia man who considers Dexter an equal and holds him in high esteem.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • In the Season Two finale, Lila kidnaps Cody and Astor - both young children - and locks them and Dexter in her loft before setting it on fire. Thankfully, they escape.
    • In the fourth season, it is shown that the Trinity Killer has no qualms about kidnapping ten-year-old boys, holding them prisoner, drugging them and then killing them by BURYING THEM IN WET CEMENT. WHICH THEN SETS. This is also why he went uncaught for so long. The killer's name, MO, all of it, was an accidental misnomer, because nobody ever knew about the FOURTH victims in each set representing himself.
    • Travis Marshall, the sixth season's villain, proved he was more than willing to kill a child.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: Dexter himself, who is usually more careful and not prone to Evil Gloating, plays this on Isaac Sirko when the latter confronts him in public, admitting that he hunted down his friend Viktor and crushed his skull. Also done to the Skinner regarding Freebo when Dexter is captured.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Dexter takes a special interest in those who harm children.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit:
    • Lila's tactic. She burns her own apartment/art studio to gain sympathy from Dexter.
    • Dexter provokes Doakes to attack him in front of their colleagues. It makes it look as if Doakes simply has an unreasonable and irrational hatred of him. Not that it took much work, as everyone already could see that Doakes clearly hated Dexter well before he had a reason to.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: In season 6 Dexter thinks he understands what type of killer Gellar is and how to best get to him. Turns out that he completely misinterpreted the situation and is in fact in a completely different serial killer story. It puts him in serious danger and gets multiple people killed.
  • You Killed My Father: It takes several decades, but Dexter ultimately manages to track down and kill all the criminals who were responsible for his mother's murder by chainsaw (and, indirectly, Dexter's own obsession with murder), including the guy who wielded the weapon and the boss who ordered the hit.
  • You Monster!: Dexter not only believes this of himself, but occasionally directs it at other killers whose evil is not restrained by any code.
    Dexter: [to George King aka "The Skinner"] Oh, I have my excuses and justifications, but really I just... need to. Like you. You have your excuses, finding Freebo, getting your money. But you know he's dead. You know there's no money, so really you're just... a killer. A monster. The stuff of nightmares.

    Dexter: [to Arthur Mitchell aka "The Trinity Killer"] You were a very special kind of monster. You destroyed your own family.