Dexter flashback: Thankful for season 4’s Thanksgiving episode!


Dexter, season 4 had a Thanksgiving episode that featured one of the most dysfunctional family scenes ever. I could just gobble gobble it up!

Dexter, season 4 is definitely my favorite one overall. However, one episode comes close to outshining the rest: Hungry Man (episode 409). In fact, it can be broken down further into one great scene of the episode, where psychopathic family man Arthur Mitchell (John Lithgow) finally drops his nice guy act in front of his guest, Kyle Butler (AKA Dexter Morgan, played by Michael C. Hall).

A Little Family Trouble Goes a Long Way

In case you haven’s seen the season, I won’t spoil every detail. Suffice it to say Arthur Mitchell is not only a psychopathic character, but also quite obviously a seriously damaged person. While every psychopath could be called damaged, it’s obvious that his life really was tragic, and that he was obsessed with a certain ideal of perfection. In fact, he was sort of an obsessive type in general.

His crimes had a rather precise (and unique) order of operations, he had to present himself as an accomplished, generous and religious man in his community. His crimes have much to do with his unique background, and at times don’t even seem animated by hate (as strange as that sounds). Then, of course, comes the domineering patriarch role he feels he must play.

He has reverence for all of these aspects of life. They are sacred to him, and become an aspect of his psychopathic pattern.

However, watching the episode might feel awkward for another reason: We all know someone a little like Mr. Mitchell. Sure, they (hopefully) don’t take things to such extremes as to harm or injure others, and sometimes its not even a man approximating Arthur’s role.

The point is, it’s a character most of us have seen in real life, in one form or another. It makes sense because, according to a variety of sources, Mitchell was modeled after real life murderer Dennis Rader, better known as the BTK Killer.

The Dinner

Over time, Thanksgiving Day (AKA “turkey day”) evolved from a storied peaceful meal between Pilgrims and Native Americans to being about family togetherness. However, as many can attest, these meals don’t always go as planned, as family life often falls short of ideals.

When Arthur Mitchell sits with his family and Dexter, we initially don’t know how bad things will get. However, lets just say things escalate quickly after no one says they’re thankful for Arthur Mitchell. It’s not just a few harsh words uttered between bites, either.

Lithgow won both a Golden Globe and Emmy award for his portrayal of Arthur Mitchell, and he deserved them both. The actor is simply brilliant in this dinner scene. You really get a sense of his character’s anger at not being recognized for his accomplishments (real or imagined).

His anger is linked to his tragic past, and he desperately needs the appearance of normalcy and success. If he can’t get that, he may just need a new family.

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So, in some respects, this reminds me of another great film, The Stepfather, which has a similarly chilling sequence of a stepdad freaking out in his basement over his new family’s imperfections. Nevertheless, Arthur Mitchell will always be my Thanksgiving Day horror villain!

What are your thoughts on Arthur Mitchell and Dexter? Let us know in the comments