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Dexter Wiki

Dark Passenger:

Dark Passenger: Dexter's Need to Kill

""I just know there's something dark in me. I hide it. I certainly don't talk about it. But it's there. Always. This ‘Dark Passenger.’ And when he's driving, I feel...alive. Half sick with the thrill of complete wrongness. I don't fight him. I don't want to." ~Dexter ("An Inconvenient Lie")"

Dark Passenger is a concept used within the DEXTER Universe.

It's Dexter Morgan's name for his overpowering "need to kill."


Dexter's Dark Passenger was born during his mother's brutal murder by chainsaw at the hands of Santos Jimenez and two other men. From an early age, Dexter was trained by Harry Morgan to focus his dark urges on other killers, instead of innocents. Although Dexter had a preferred modus operandi, he would frequently improvise. Although he received some pleasure in dismembering his victims, its main purpose was to more easily dispose of the bodies.

The TV Series

Season One

The Dark Passenger is a general term for the burden Dexter carries as a result of his childhood trauma. His repressed memories of the event begin to surface.

Harry confronts young Dexter after he finds the graves of animals he has killed. He asks Dexter if he ever wanted to kill a person and Dexter says yes, but no one in particular.

When Harry takes teenage Dexter hunting, he tells him to stab a deer and says, “For now, this is how we’ll control the urges you feel and channel them.”

After Harry prevents teenage Dexter from killing Joshua, Dexter says he still wants to kill him and wants to know when it will go away.

Season Two

The Dark Passenger is referred to as an addiction.

While he's bowling, Dexter thinks to himself, “I really need to kill somebody.”

In the same episode, teenage Dexter and Harry are at a shooting range. When Harry tells Dexter he has to postpone their boar hunt, Dexter has a meltdown, insisting he can’t wait and really needs this.

Dexter allows Rita to think he is a heroin addict to cover his activities as a serial killer, and he attends NA meetings.

In a diner, Lila describes what it feels like to have a rising dark need, and Dexter is freaked out.

Dexter has Ken Olson on a kill table. Dexter believes that he’s in “recovery,” and tells Olson that he doesn’t feel the need that comes from within that always drives him to the table.

Season Five

Dexter's urge to kill takes over in a moment of anger, and he brutally murders an obnoxious man.

Season Six

After Dexter breaks a promise to Brother Sam and killed Nick, his dead brother, Brian Moser appears as a representation of his inhumane side. "Brian" pressures Dexter to forgo the Code of Harry. Although tempted to succumb to a life of killing without constraints, Dexter concludes that The Code protects him. He opts to return to Miami and follow Harry's rules.

Dexter believes that Travis Marshall has a Dark Passenger but unlike his, it can walk, and talk, and breathe...and be killed. He later realizes that Travis is mentally ill and suffers from hallucinations.

Season Seven

Dexter tells Debra that Harry found him sitting in his mother’s blood and understood why he had these urges. He says he has a need deep inside him that he calls his Dark Passenger.

Debra reads an article written by Lundy that claims serial killers have an addiction; Dexter tells her it’s not untrue. (Back in Season Two, he also referred to his need to kill as an addition.) Debra thinks that if Dexter can channel his urges, he can control them.

While staying at Deb's house, Dexter imagines a conversation with Harry, who says he was correct in channeling Dexter’s urges, not suppressing them. During dinner with Debra, she asks what his need to kill feels like, and he solemnly describes it:

“It starts with blood...the image of it. Trickling down the back of my eyelids. The trickle becomes a stream and then a flood. It fills me up... all my empty spaces. But then the blood isn't red anymore. It's black. And pressing. It feels like my head is gonna explode. The only way to relieve the pressure is to open the floodgates and let it spill out.”

Because Dexter hasn't been able to kill for a time, he imagines himself slicing the throat of a postal worker and stabbing Masuka in the throat. He also attacks an uncooperative suspect as Deb watches.

He tells Debra that if he doesn’t control his need to kill, it will control him. He says he can only control it by channeling it -- not suppressing it. He reminds her that when he had the urge to kill Louis Greene, he called her.

With murder on his mind, Dexter tells Hannah that his Dark Passenger wants him to be some place else. She finds it ridiculous when told that is his name for his need to kill. He describes it as a thing living inside him, telling him has to kill. She laughs and says it’s only him, and he has a choice. He thinks his compulsion can’t be explained any other way.

It’s revealed that Dexter mentioned the Dark Passenger for the first time at age twelve to Harry. This was after Harry remarked, "It got into you too early in the shipping container." Young Dexter thought it meant an entity controlled him, but Harry was referring to his trauma.

Dexter, with the insight of Hannah, begins to view his Dark Passenger as an excuse for him to kill. This revelation is finalized when arsonist, Joe Jensen is on his table.

Later, when Dexter kills Clint McKay, he accepts personal responsibility for his actions

Dexter: "The Dark Passenger has been with me ever since I can remember, pulling the strings, running the show, but as it turns out, I'm no puppet."

Season Eight

At one point, Dexter feels a stronger need than the need to kill -- to be with Hannah. Although Oliver Saxon is strapped to a table, he doesn't follow through on the kill. He opts to leave him for Debra to arrest and join Hannah. This leads to dire consequences for Debra.

Dexter: New Blood

Dexter has a dream in which Deb is pulled into an ice-fishing hole by an embodied Dark Passenger.

Harrison accuses Dexter of only using the Code to justify the fact he actually enjoys killing, after finding out his father killed Sergeant Logan. He further accuses him of only killing to satisfy his Dark Passenger, before claiming that it's not a Passenger for Dexter: it's driving him.

The Novels

Dexter referred to his homicidal urges significantly more frequently in the books.

Dexter in the Dark

  • Dexter in the Dark -- The Dark Passenger was revealed to be a independent entity inhabiting Dexter, possibly the offspring of the ancient god, Moloch. The idea was largely disliked by critics and fans alike and was dropped from future books. In 2013, the writer, Jeff Lindsay. stated that Dexter in the Dark was an experiment. As such, the storyline had been tested, and the idea was abandoned.

Dexter by Design

  • Dexter by Design -- During the beginning of the novel, Dexter was still feeling the somewhat weak and backseat attitude of his Dark Passenger, caused by the events of Dexter in the Dark.

Related Pages


Motives of Other Killers

Other murderers in the series are driven by their own distinctive dark desires, as described below.

Brian Moser

Brian and Monique's prosthetic arm

Brian Moser's attraction to body parts resulted from a childhood incident. He witnessed his mother's murder and dismemberment by chainsaw at the hands of Santos Jimenez and two other men. It fed his perverse fascination with limbs and prostheses. Brian had a large refrigeration unit in his apartment where he would drain his victims' blood and cut up their bodies into symmetrical pieces. He rarely made spur-of-the-moment kills and would, generally, plan them well in advance.

Brian displayed his dismembered, bloodless victims in public as part of his scheme to force his brother, Dexter, to remember his past. He also covered a hotel room with blood to make it resemble the shipping container where their mother was killed. Because Brian was jealous of the bond between Dexter and Debra (whom Brian viewed as Dexter's "fake sister"), he attempted to separate them with the death of Debra. Brian's ultimate goal was to reunite with Dexter so they could become a killing team.

Lila West

Lila sets fires in her loft

Lila West's fascination with fire fed off her negative emotions. When angered, she would spontaneously burn anything, even her high-priced works of art. The cause of her pyromania was unknown, but she once told Dexter that she had killed her ex-boyfriend (a drug dealer) by setting a house fire after he left her strung out on drugs. According to her, this event led her to attend NA meetings, where she met Dexter.

Lila used fire to get what she wanted or to manipulate Dexter. Killing people had little effect on her, shown when she murdered James Doakes in a fiery explosion. When Dexter (whom she considered her "soulmate") rejected her, she attempted to burn him, Cody, and Astor alive in her loft.

Miguel Prado

Miguel tells Dexter that he feels "fantastic" moments after he kills Billy Fleeter

Miguel Prado's desire for retribution arose early in life due to his father physically abusing his children. As an ADA, he was known for his harsh enforcement of the law. Over time, Miguel's rage built towards criminals who escaped what he believed to be an inefficient judicial system. He began to feel that murder was necessary to mete out justice.

Miguel was also power-hungry and would let no one stand in the way of his political ambitions. He found killing a useful tool to achieve what he wanted. After he killed Billy Fleeter, he discovered that he enjoyed it. Miguel presented a cheerful demeanor within hours of having murdered him, and later Ellen Wolf (an attorney who threatened to wreck his career). When Miguel realized that Maria LaGuerta knew he had murdered Ellen, he attempted to kill her, also. At one point, Dexter thought of Miguel as a friend, but he eventually recognized that Miguel had only been using him. When Dexter tried to exert control over him, Miguel sought to have him killed by The Skinner.

George King

George King skins Anton Briggs to gain information

George King's demand for respect originated in his violent history of torturing and killing people for a living in Nicaragua. It turned him into a control freak who insisted on being obeyed. King never really accepted that he was a serial killer, although he was feared by many who personally knew him.

King came to believe that Freebo had disrespected him, and he began a relentless hunt for him. Because King always used an excuse to justify his kills, he told himself that Freebo owed him money, despite actually caring little about the money. Whether he admitted it or not, it was mostly about the respect that Freebo failed to show him. While looking for Freebo, King would interrogate, partially skin, and kill those associated with Freebo. He then left their bodies in public, likely as a warning to Freebo and others.

Arthur Mitchell

Arthur holds the remaining ashes of his sister, Vera

Arthur Mitchell's compulsion to re-enact family deaths was linked to his sister's death, his mother's suicide, his father's abuse -- and his father's brutal murder (likely by Arthur himself). While on a road trip, Arthur showed Dexter the bathroom in his childhood home "where it all started." When he was ten-years-old, Arthur watched his sister take a shower. He startled her and she slipped, suffering an accidental death. His parents blamed him for her death and he always felt responsible, although he tried to convince himself that it wasn't his fault. He said that it led to the loss of his "innocence."

Labeled "The Trinity Killer," Arthur killed in cycles - first a young boy (who represented himself), a young woman (who represented his sister), a mother (who represented his own), and a man (who represented his father). Each was murdered in the same way that each had died. After getting away with murder for thirty years, Arthur decided to commit suicide. He even constructed a coffin and let himself fall from the roof of a building. However, Dexter managed to save him (to his later regret). It should be noted that the suicides of Arthur's mother and both of his daughters, Christine and Rebecca, were all tied to his actions. While on Dexter's table, Arthur claimed that he could not control his "demon," took no pride in his kills, and was just following his "path." Knowing that Dexter was going to kill him, he accepted his fate as "God's plan."

Lumen Pierce

An angry Lumen kills Jordan Chase

Lumen Pierce was driven by a need for revenge that stemmed from her torture and rape by Barrel Girl Gang. Dexter noticed her watching him when he killed Boyd Fowler (Lumen's captor). Although she was fearful of Dexter at first, he was slowly able to convince her to trust him.

Lumen was determined to kill the men responsible for raping her but, because of her inexperience and mistakes, she sought Dexter's assistance. At first, he tried to dissuade her. However, by Dexter's standards, these men deserved to die, so he eventually agreed to help her. They formed a partnership and took them out one by one, with Lumen herself killing two of them. After she watched Dexter set up a kill room, she realized that he had killed many times before. Instead of this fact frightening her, she started to rely on him even more. Their friendship grew stronger and, after she killed Alex Tilden, Lumen initiated an intimate relationship with Dexter. When they killed the last member and leader of Barrel Girl Gang, Lumen's darkness suddenly disappeared. Unlike herself, she knew that Dexter could not stop killing. To Dexter's dismay, Lumen then left him to return to her previous life.

Jordan Chase

Jordan realizes that Dexter tampered with Emily's vial of blood.

Jordan Chase began to exert his need for abusive power and control when he was a teenager. While at a summer camp, he befriended Cole Harmon,Dan Mendell, Alex Tilden, and Boyd Fowler. One day, Jordan drugged an older girl, Emily Birch, and persuaded his friends to gang-rape her while he stood back without participating. Emily survived the ordeal and Jordan subsequently kept a vial of her blood as a reminder of the occasion.

Borrowing ideas from Plato, Jordan became a famous motivational speaker who relished the influence he exerted over his fans. Although he outwardly appeared as a normal and inspirational man, he was responsible for at least thirteen sadistic rapes and twelve murders that were committed upon his orders. He himself avoided sexual contact during the crimes, receiving his gratification by directing the abuse and verbally tormenting the victims. Jordan proved to be a very dangerous antagonist for Dexter.

Walter Kenney

Walter stares at an attractive woman

Walter Kenney was compelled to rip out lateral incisors. This need originated from abuse by his mother. When he was nine years old, his mother had repeatedly hit him in the face so severely that she knocked out a lateral incisor. Kenney later became a serial killer, who over several decades killed at least fifteen prostitutes. Because he would rip out their lateral incisors, he was labeled "The Tooth Fairy Killer." A young Dexter found him inspiring and kept a scrap book containing news articles of his exploits.

When Keeney retired, he moved to a retirement village in Florida. After five years, he became bored and so killed another prostitute. However, after several attempts, he was unable to remove her tooth. Dexter noticed at the crime scene the specific damage in her mouth and he wondered if the murderer was The Tooth Fairy Killer. Dexter tracked him down to learn that his name was Walter Keeney, now an ill-tempered old man. After Dexter befriended him under the alias of Dan, he broke into Kenney’s storage locker to find his trophies – a box of teeth. Kenney soon discovered Dexter’s true identity and tried to murder him, but failed. As he was about to be killed by Dexter, Kenney grumbled that all he ever cared about was killing but, in his old age, he couldn't do it right, anymore. This caused Dexter to ponder his own future.

Travis Marshall

Travis is frightened by a message written in blood, not realizing that he had written it

Travis Marshall became a religious fanatic when he attended the University of Tallahassee and met Professor James Gellar who was forming a theory about how to bring on the End Times. Travis believed that he and Gellar were the "Two Witnesses" (two powerful prophets mentioned in the Book of Revelation). However, Gellar rejected the idea that they were prophets. Travis then attempted to prove that Gellar couldn't be killed by stabbing him with the sword of John the Revelator. When Gellar died from his wound, Travis hid his body in a freezer in the abandoned church where he set up his base of operations. Travis began to visualize interactions with the deceased Gellar as he planned and created his bizarre Doomsday Tableaus. Travis was soon labeled "The Doomsday Killer" by the police and media. Dexter came to be viewed by Travis as "The False Prophet" or "The Beast" - enemies of God mentioned in the Bible.

It's established in "Ricochet Rabbit" that Travis was mentally ill and suffered from psychological effects, such as delusions of grandeur, violent tendencies, and a lack of empathy, along with being a master manipulator. He was suspected of having murdered his parents. Travis also experienced periods of amnesia, especially during the commission of a violent act. His psychiatrist had prescribed Chloropromazine, an anti-psychotic drug used to treat schizophrenia. Since his psychiatrist had been dead for two years, it's likely that Travis was no longer medicated.

Joe Jensen

Joe as he is about to set fire to a bus filled with passengers

Joe Jensen was driven to burn people alive. When he was twelve years old, his childhood friend, Bobby, set their school's gym on fire, in which Bobby was inadvertently killed. After the incident, Joe was sent to a juvenile detention center for six years. Joe blamed Bobby for this and developed a deep anger toward him. In 2006, Joe was sent to a psychiatric facility for several years.

After Joe was released from the facility, he became a serial arsonist who was responsible for several deaths in Miami. He was dubbed The Phantom Arsonist, and it was suspected that he burned people alive just to watch them suffer. Joe mystified investigators with a clue that he left behind at each crime scene -- the word "Bobby.' Dexter eventually captured Joe but, instead of killing him, he set him up to be arrested by the police.

Isaak Sirko

Isaak waits in Dexter's apartment to torture and kill him.

Isaak Sirko was a ruthless and powerful crime boss. His history of violent behavior dated back to the act of him pushing his music teacher down a flight of stairs at an English boarding school. After that incident, according to Isaak, he didn't have much of a sensitive side left. He went on to become the leader of the Koshka Brotherhood, a criminal organization based in Ukraine. 

Isaak admitted to Dexter that he killed for revenge. After Isaak's secret lover - Viktor Baskov - went missing in Miami, Isaak tracked him down, only to discover that Dexter had murdered him and dumped his body at sea. Isaak was determined to avenge Viktor's death by killing Dexter, but he first wanted to know why Dexter had killed Viktor. Dexter and Isaak then played a dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Isaak proved to be tenacious and his quest for revenge hindered the operations of the Koshka Brotherhood. Isaak identified Dexter as someone similar to himself and even remarked that, under different circumstances, the two could have been great friends. Eventually, Isaak spared Dexter because he needed his help in killing Oleg Mickic and Benjamin Caffrey, two hit men out to kill Isaak. When Isaak was shot by a subordinate, Dexter buried him at sea where he had previously dumped Viktor's body. 

A.J. Yates

A.J. Yates had a fixation on women's feet, which resulted from growing up with an abusive mother. He would hide under his bed and watch her feet as she searched for him. He grew to hate his birth name "Albert," which his mother would call him during the abuse. He was a very careful and paranoid individual who had security cameras situated around his house.

Yates' M.O. was to capture a woman and hold her for days. During this time, he would break each individual toe on her right foot. After the woman died, Yates would bury her body in his backyard with her possessions (minus the right shoe, which he kept on display in his closet).

Oliver Saxon

Oliver notices that his mother is fearful of him

Oliver Saxon was consumed with jealousy. From an early age, he felt neglected by his mother who, unable to deal with his psychopathy, focused her attention toward his younger brother. As a response, Daniel drowned his younger brother in a swimming pool. In turn, he was sent away to a mental facility at age 14. While there, he was practically tortured by the staff who would tie him down to a chair and force-feed him medications. After three years, Daniel deliberately caused an immense fire that allowed him to escape. The fire killed seven children, one of whom was assumed to include him. A nurse was blamed for causing the incident.

After the fire, Daniel Vogel changed his name to Oliver Saxon and used his freedom to travel across two continents. Later, in his 40s, he settled in Miami where he continued to murder people. Saxon was soon dubbed The Brain Surgeon because he would carve into his victims' craniums and harvest a brain fragment (the anterior insular cortex). This was his way to draw the attention of his own mother, Dr. Evelyn Vogel, who was residing in Miami as well. After a long search for The Brain Surgeon, Dexter discovered that it was none other than Evelyn's (believed dead) son, Daniel Vogel. Evelyn and Saxon then secretly met at her house and he, at first, was somewhat pleasant toward her. However, due to Saxon's jealousy over his mother treating Dexter as a son, Saxon slashed her throat in front of Dexter. Evelyn was later avenged when Dexter killed Saxon by stabbing him in the neck.