They always say that a hero (or anti-hero in this case) is only as good as his villain. And 'Dexter' has seen his fair share of villains over the course of the show's now 8 year history. Each individual season has boasted a "big bad," a main killer whose story arc is spread across the entire 12 episode run. In season 1, it was the Ice Truck Killer (Christian Camargo). Season 2 was technically Dexter himself as Miami Metro was after the Bay Harbor Butcher. Season 3 gave us Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits). Season 4 is arguably the biggest of the big bad’s and unanimously a fan favorite the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow). Season 5 was a group of killers led by Jordan Chase (Johnny Lee Miller). Season 6, things got biblical with the Doomsday Killer (Colin Hanks). And last season brought the Ukrainian mob into the equation with Isaak Sirko (Ray Stevenson). And while we’re not sure which direction this final season will go in, nor who the "big bad" might be, Dexter always finds some eclectic murderers to put on his kill room table from episode to episode. So, let’s look back (in chronological order) at 10 of the most memorable Dexter killers thus far (that weren't "big bad's").
Mike Donovan (Season 1, Episode 1 "Dexter") Played by Jim Abele
The very first Dexter victim we meet in the opening moments of the pilot is most definitely worthy of his blade, not to mention the ideal candidate to introduce us to exactly the type of characters Dexter’s code is programmed to go after. Father Donovan was a pastor that has molested and murdered 3 boys (that we know about). Dexter digs up their bodies to get Donovan to confess, who through tears admits he "couldn’t help himself." Dexter tells him he understands, and that he can’t help himself either. And hence this gives us a great introduction to our title character and exactly the type of people he specifically targets. Hard to not immediately side with Dexter when compared to the horrible human being that Father Donovan was.
Nurse Mary (Season 1, Episode 3 "Popping Cherry") Played by Denise Crosby
One of my favorite aspects of the show is when they flashback to something prominent from Dexter’s past. In episode 3 of Season 1, we get to see Dexter’s very first kill; the one that Harry gives him the OK to conduct. It was in fact Harry’s nurse Mary who was slowly overmedicating him and in essence killing him. Once a pattern in Nurse Mary’s previous patients/victims makes itself clear, Harry simply says the words "stop her" and for the first time unleashes the "monster" he created to take out another monster. Seeing a fumble-y & messy version of Dexter for this particular kill adds a certain bit of levity to an already dark subject, which in my humble opinion has always been one of the keys to Dexter’s success as a series; that comedic dark tone.
Dr. Emmett Meridian (Season 1, Episode 8 "Shrink Wrap") Played by Tony Goldwyn
Man, Dr. Meridan was a sick bastard. Dexter uncovered that the good doctor would prey on depressed women and through intensive therapy, he'd convince them to kill themselves. And so while he didn't directly kill his victims first hand, the methodical way he pushed his patients to suicide was twisted. The fun of this particular victim was that Dexter actually enjoyed and learned from his therapy sessions with Dr. Meridian. Admitting out loud that he is in fact a serial killer and then saying, "God, that felt so good to just say it" has got to be one of the highlights of season one. Also, Tony Goldwyn played the good ol’ doctor and he’s doubled as a frequent director on Dexter throughout the years.
Little Chino (Season 2, Episode 2 "Waiting To Exhale") Played by Matthew Willig
After the closing events of Season 1, the second season of Dexter opens with him feeling completely off his game. Sgt. Doakes is tracking his every move and Dexter hasn't felt like himself since he killed his brother. He even botched a kill with a blind man! So when Little Chino (in actuality a giant gang leader) comes within his sights, he sees it as an opportunity to get back on the right track, although it doesn't exactly work out so well at first. Not enough tranquilizer or plastic wrap allows Little Chino to escape fairly easily during Dexter’s first kill attempt. But demented determined Dexter does finally manage to nab his big trophy kill after a double dose of tranqs. What do they always say? The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Freebo (Season 3, Episode 2 "Finding Freebo") Played by Mike Erwin
While the character of Freebo was essentially a low level drug dealer (and pimp), his importance in Season 3 of 'Dexter' can be felt throughout several episodes. When Dexter sneaks into Freebo's place to kill him, he stumbled upon Freebo in the middle of a struggle with another man and Dexter accidentally ends up killing this person while Freebo flees. It turns out his innocent victim was Oscar Prado, brother of famed ADA Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits). Eventually, Dex tracks down Freebo and stabs him in his garage when Miguel shows up and finds them. This particular kill links the two together and sets up the “big bad” dynamic for the remainder of Season 3.
Clemson Galt, Neo Nazi (Season 3, Episode 6 "Si Se Puedo") Played by Blake Gibbons
Later in Season 3, once Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits) expresses interest in joining Dexter’s extracurricular activities, Dex decides to toss a name at him that would be so difficult to nab that it'd dissuade Miguel from the vigilante lifestyle. So he picks Clemson Galt, an incarcerated white supremacist, which much to Dexter’s surprise, Miguel is able to get transferred locally and then help stage a fake jail break. Clemson thinks he’s hoping into the van of a fellow neo-nazi but instead he’s jumping straight for Dexter's table! It’s a little hard to feel bad for this character once he starts spewing racist comments before his death; hence he’s one of Dexter’s most deserving targets.
Zoey Kruger (Season 4, Episode 4 "Dex Takes A Holiday") Played by Christina Cox
Quite frankly, of all of Dexter’s victims, this one could be my favorite that he’s ever played a game of "cat & mouse" with. Zoey Kruger is a fellow police officer that lost her daughter and husband to a home invasion blamed on drug dealer Darius Rey, someone Kruger had provoked verbally prior to the attack. With all the parties except Zoey dead, it's a closed case. But the blood report doesn't match. And sure enough, Dexter finds evidence that Zoey had staged the crime scene and killed her family herself. What follows is a nice volley between the two characters. Once Kruger discovers that Dexter has been snooping around her case file, she pulls him over and threatens him. Dexter keeps antagonizing her until staging up his own perfect trap. He lures Zoey to his house where she expects to kill Dexter and make it look like a burglary gone wrong when "surprise," he nabs her. She confesses that she killed her family because she "couldn't breathe" which makes Dexter realize just how much he truly cares for his own family.
Boyd Fowler (Season 5, Episode 3 "Practically Perfect") Played by Shawn Hatosy
One of the more comedic stalks Dexter has ever gone on is without doubt Boyd Fowler, a sanitation worker who specializes in dead animal pick-up. Dexter expresses an interest in getting in that line of work and does a drive through with Boyd. He eventually discovers that Boyd’s victims are all females stuffed in barrels and tossed in the lake. When Dex goes after Boyd, he’s unprepared from when Boyd hits him with a tranquilizer dart! The two men wake up in an ambulance claiming they tranqed each other by accident, yet never once breaking the 'evil eye' they’re giving each other. Eventually, Dexter finally does get Boyd and uncovers that he’s only one of a group of men responsible for the barrel girl’s murders which opens up the overall arc for Season 5’s "big bad."
Walter Kenney, The Tooth Fairy (Season 6, Episode 3 "Smokey and the Bandit") Played by Ronny Cox
It's very rare we get to see a serial killer retired and well past his prime, so Walter Kenney aka the Tooth Fairy was an interesting addition to the show. The Tooth Fairy was a notorious serial killer in the 70’s that preyed on prostitutes in Oregon and took their lateral incisors as his trophies. When a similar murder takes place, conveniently near an old-age home, Dexter suspects it could be the long lost killer. And sure enough, he finds Walter Kenney played by none other than the ultimate late-80’s bad guy Ronny Cox! (Robocop, Total Recall… and OK, he was the president in the 1990 Captain America movie, so he wasn't always bad.) When Dexter goes in for the kill, Walter wants the world and more importantly his son to know he was the Tooth Fairy to cause them pain, and instead, Dexter suffocates him with a pillow leaving him to die a sad old man. His trophies taken by Dexter and tossed into the sea never to be discovered.
Ray Speltzer, the Minotaur killer (Season 7 Episode 4 "Run") Played by Matt Gerald
One of the most bizarre serial killers we've ever witnessed in the history of Dexter has to be Ray Speltzer, a gravedigger that dressed up in a Minotaur horned mask and stalked his victims in mazes before beating them to death with his bare hands. Much like Little Chino, Ray is a large physical presence and once Dexter identifies him, he doesn't get him on his first attempt. There’s a bit of a “cat & mouse” game between the two and although the police are aware of what Speltzer is, they let him go on a technicality. There's a fun bit where he leaves a little note for Dexter that simply reads "Run" to which Dexter complies when he sees Speltzer in Minotaur mask barreling towards him with an axe! In a fun reversal, later Dexter leaves a note for Ray that reads "Stay" before clocking him in the head and putting him on his kill table. Moments before his death, Speltzer swears "I’m going to kill you!" To which Dexter replies, "now that… would be a twist." While Deborah is still having a difficult time processing the discovery of what her brother really is, her first step towards acceptance is when they both watch Ray’s ashes burn and rise into the clouds.
Who are some of your favorite Dexter killers? Are you excited for the one's we have yet to meet in Season 8?
And remember, it's 'Dexter' week leading up to the premiere of the 8th and final season this Sunday June 30th here on FEARnet, so check out some of these other Dexter-centric pieces.
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