'Dexter' Gets a Villain ... In a Self-Help Guru

By John Hendel
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Showtime

Nothing strikes fear into the heart quite like...a self-help guru? Well, sure, why not. The character of Jordan Chase has been shaping up into the closest Dexter has to a nemesis this season, and while not quite the Trinity Killer, Chase does exude a sense of bizarre and damaged danger behind a handsome face and polished veneer.

Who exactly is our great foe? Jordan Chase is tall and elegant, famous and rich, an able treadmill-runner and vexingly full of inspirational clichés ripped from, as he confessed in last week's episode, both Plato and his own noggin. His classic mantra of "take it!" encourages his horde of followers to tap into their primal selves. How wonderfully liberating, yes?

Not quite, especially if "take it!" is a personal license to kill. Because as this season of Dexter revealed, Jordan Chase is a sadistic mastermind in a cult of personality responsible for torturing (with careful numbered videotapes of each) 13 young blonde women, a tally which includes Dexter's vigilante protégé Lumen. The choice of victim, we learn this week, is modeled after Chase's former camp counselor-in-training Emily Birch. Dexter had traced her DNA from the blood in Jordan Chase's pendant, and unlike most other victims, Birch remains alive, a few DUIs worse for the wear and fearful for her security, but alive. In this episode, she recounted her own past torture at the hands of Chase's four lackeys, the same abusers we've met in previous episodes this season. Chase told them to "seize their desires" with Emily, naked in a cabin, as the five men would later do with more than a dozen other women.

In this episode, Dexter and Lumen kill the fourth of the five abusers, leaving only Jordan Chase. All signs point to him as the ringleader among the five. The latest to die, a banker named Alex, protested that he and the others would have never acted on their own, would have never abused all those women: "It's all Jordan! He has this way." Karma comes sharply for Alex, in this case by Lumen's own hand as she sinks a knife into his heart, her hands adorned in the leather gloves Dexter purchased for her.

"They were just like everybody else," Emily Birch tells Lumen under pressure. "Except Jordan. Only he wasn't called Jordan then." Apparently the professional guru once went by the name of Eugene and happened to be both pasty and overweight as a teenager. Believable enough, given the tight-faced smiling desperation of his practiced success.

But should Dexter even fear this self-help freak? There's no terror quite like a former fat kid, but let's consider the facts. Jordan Chase has yet to actually harm anyone on screen. The man may don a blood-filled necklace, but his toughest offense has been words—his ominous "tick, tick tick" phone call to Lumen, his cool threats to Dexter about the "toxic" nature of Lumen, and his oh-so-sneaky call to Officer Debra Morgan in an attempt to botch the murder of his banker friend and abuser Alex Tildon. Even Emily (with whom he seems inexplicably still in contact with) admits that Chase himself never touched, only watched in fascination while his goons molested her.

A huckster offers empty words, and as this episode revealed, perhaps empty threats. Jordan Chase may be wealthy and connected, moreso than any of Dexter's past targets, but he inspires not pounding hearts so much as head-scratching, his bizarreness compounding with each episode. Like his little chat with Emily? What was that? After Rita's murder, Dexter is taking no chances. His fear of Chase compels him to send Harrison away to his grandparents, and he seems genuinely rattled when telling Lumen to stay put in his apartment.

But the hot air of a cult leader may also blind Dexter from real impending threats—rogue cop Liddy, for instance, who has observed Dexter dumping bodies and showing off his kill tools to Lumen.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/11/dexter-gets-a-villain-in-a-self-help-guru/67105/