Crocodile Rocks! Looking at Dexter’s Second Episode (102)

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Dexter — Courtesy of Showtime

“Crocodile,” Dexter’s second episode, delves deeper into the complications of leading a double life.  It turns out you can build an entire show around it!

I can kill a man, dismember his body, and be home in time for Letterman. But knowing what to say when my girlfriend’s feeling insecure… I’m totally lost.” — Dexter Morgan

Dexter and a Fridge Full of Surprises

Sometimes it’s not easy to summarize a TV experience. Dexter‘s second episode is a perfect example of this problem. So much happens here that it’s difficult to even start! For one thing, viewers were still getting to know Dexter (Michael C. Hall) — what he does, who he is, what matters to him and why, etc. This alone offers a great deal to discuss.  Also, this is the first time we were treated to Dexter‘s iconic opening sequence, where mundane aspects of his morning routine are edited to appear murderous.

Then you have concrete events, like the burgeoning Ice Truck Killer case and its obvious relation to Dexter and his sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter). It’s obvious that the killer is breaking into Dexter’s apartment, placing doll parts in his fridge. As a greater clue, each fingernail on the doll’s hand is painted in different colors. Why would he do this? Plenty of serial killers taunt police, but why Dexter in particular?

Matt Chambers — Not Your Average Drunk Driver

After appearing in court to offer forensics testimony, another “opportunity” presents itself to Dexter. Namely, it’s Matt Chambers (Sam Trammell), a sleazy, repeat offender drunk driver, who’s in court after being accused of hitting and killing a teenager. He’s a different kind of killer, but Dexter immediately recognizes Matt’s chameleon-like nature. After researching the subject, it’s clear to Dexter that Matt’s done this a few times before. n this latest case, Chambers lies that his car was stolen before the teenager’s death, and says he’s actually been sober for months. Well, Dexter’s skeptical of that, and sets out to prove it (to himself, not the court).

Dexter meets Chambers in a bar, lifts the man’s print from a glass, runs it through a database at his job — and Bingo! –, the verdict is clear: Chambers has killed before, escaped conviction with his charm, and moved to new cities to drive drunk again. It’s a weird cycle, to be sure. In fact, the episode apparently gets its title from Matt Chambers’ “crocodile tears” in court. After reaching his verdict, Dexter springs to the penalty phase, setting his kill room up in advance.

Gruesome Guerrero and Matt Chambers’ Fate

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A quirk of Dexter (the show) is that its story includes investigations largely outside of Dexter’s, let’s say, “jurisprudence.” This episode’s example is the death of officer Ricky Simmons, whose body is found around the Westbound Causeway. What makes this death freaky? Well, Simmons somehow has a piece of human flesh in his mouth!

Then, as is protocol, Lt. Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez) and Sgt. James Doakes (Erik King) set out to notify the next-of-kin. Unfortunately, they find Simmon’s wife, Kara (Maureen Muldoon), dead in her home. Obviously, these are signs of organized, targeted killings. Soon enough, though, the skin from Simmon’s mouth is linked to Norberto Cervantes (Cristos), an associate of drug lord, Carlos Guerrero (Rudolf Martin). Apparently, Simmons managed to take a bite out of crime before his own career was brutally cut short. If that’s not enough, later on in the episode, Cervantes is killed in jail by someone impersonating a police officer — and right when you were probably thinking, “Gee, wouldn’t it be great if Norberto got his own spin-off series?!”

Sadly, the aforementioned Kara dies of heart failure, but Kara’s relationship with Doakes becomes a soap opera moment. You see, Kara and Doakes had been having an affair, thus complicating the case. Still, rather than barring him from the investigation, LaGuerta decides he’s still the best man for the job.

Meanwhile, worlds collide through coincidence. While following Matt Chambers, Dexter actually encounters Guerrero in the men’s room, and considers killing him. For various reasons, Dexter decides to follow through on his Chambers plans, and kidnaps the deviant drunk, taking him to the kill room and stabbing his cold, unfeeling heart. Then, as is his regular trademark, Dexter cuts his victim into different pieces, puts them in trash bags and throws the bags into the ocean.