I'm sure this pops up a few times over the course of the series, but referring specifically to Season 6, why does Dexter choose to exclude Miami Metro from his findings that would easily lead to the capture of the Doomsday Killer (DDK). This in turn would save the lives of more innocent people. This to me doesn't seem to fit the 'code' Dexter follows.

I find it hard for him to justify certain kills that end up endangering numerous people that could so easily be saved. In earlier seasons, and even in this one, there are instances where Miami Metro have closed cases and he has found other evidence to link a person to a murder. This becomes an understandable path for him to follow, seek to get his own justice. I also understand the bigger cases that each season needs to follow still need to have Dexter exploring his own suspicions, but surely they need to give a better reason for him to withhold evidence from Miami Metro. If he has been seen by the person(s) in question, then obviously it becomes hard for him to share what he knows with his department, but specifically in Season 6, an opportunity arises where he can give away DDK's location without the need for further loss of innocent lives. This just seems to make a mockery of the 'code' he follows. Surely he can't be satisfied that his 'need' to kill is at the expense of innocent people being killed.

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    There's nothing in the code about not putting innocents at risk, just about Dexter personally not killing innocents - dexter.wikia.com/wiki/The_Code_of_Harry
    – Paulie_D
    Aug 11, 2017 at 10:04
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    Dexter is not a hero. He's not interested in saving lives at all, he's only interested in not getting caught himself.
    – Steve-O
    Aug 11, 2017 at 13:16
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    @Steve-O there are plenty of occasions where he does actually show an interest in saving lives.
    – R_Avery_17
    Aug 11, 2017 at 13:25
  • Dexter spends a lot of time maintaining his cover as a "normal person," any expression of interest in saving lives is only that. I would argue that even his grief over losing Rita was mainly due to the damage it did to his own cover. He certainly seemed to get over it soon enough in the next season. The only lives, other than his own, that he cares about are Deborah and his son.
    – Steve-O
    Aug 11, 2017 at 13:29
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    According to "The Code," he's also only supposed to go after people the police can't get. It seems the writers forgot about this, as in later seasons he's actively sabotaging investigations so he can get the killer himself.
    – KSmarts
    Aug 11, 2017 at 13:48

6 Answers 6


The other answers seem close to me, but not quite on target. Dexter follows the code out of a desire to not be caught/out of habit (by the time in Dexter's life where the show takes place). It's not hard requirement in the sense that there are no necessary, mechanical consequences to breaking it (nothing prevents Dexter from killing a random person beyond his choosing not to do so, for example).

Dexter (as presented in the books and show) will kill. It's a product of his psychology that he doesn't feel the reservations about killing, or the remorse afterwards, that "normal" people would feel/do feel, and also that he experiences an irresistible urge to commit murder.

When Harry recognized that Dexter would almost certainly become a serial killer he devised the code, the purpose of which is explicitly to make sure that Dexter does not get caught. One element of that (which is also an effort by Harry to salve his conscience about the entire situation) is that Dexter should make sure that his targets "deserve it", interpreted in the franchise as murderers that would otherwise go unpunished.

So it's not about saving lives at all, but about constraining Dexter's inevitable behavior in such a way that he won't be caught. Dexter doesn't fight for justice, at least not directly, he chooses targets, in the same way that you know you will eat dinner but need to choose one specific meal over another. Descriptions of broader morality as related to the code may apply to Harry, but they don't apply to Dexter who isn't working out a personal moral philosophy so much as managing behavior that he will, eventually, engage in, no matter what.

As to Dexter's behavior in later seasons (5+), I feel that the show became sloppier overall, and this could account for violations of the code. But it's also the case that a major plot arc of those seasons (particularly season 6, if I recall correctly) is Dexter modifying or abandoning the code for various reasons. If the code can be changed or altogether discarded at Dexter's discretion, it obviously cannot be a hard constraint on his behavior.

Alternatively, if you don't accept any of the above, Dexter is not perfect. He definitely directly kills people he later discovers to be innocent of any crime as well as people who, while unpunished criminals, are not murderers.

  • And if I recall correctly; out of desperation, at least one person that discovered his secret and would have exposed him. (Others may recall more detail than I; it has been years since I last saw Dexter.)
    – Amadeus
    Aug 12, 2017 at 13:15

Dexter feels a pathological need to kill and his code is what Harry gave him to make sense of this need. If he gave information up to the Police about his victims and put them in to the justice system, he would not only be robbing himself of the kill which he so craves and needs to feed his pathological hunger, he also would not be able accept that they had received adequate justice in his own mind for the crime which they had committed.

He is meticulous in his choice of victims and ensures that each of them meets Harry's code. If they meet this code, then in Dexter's mind the only justice for them is death.

I can't remember every episode, but I am sure that he expresses at least once during the 8 seasons that it would be easy for him to pass one of his victims over to Miami Metro without giving himself away. But that he just couldn't do that to himself, due to the resultant lack of feeling that he gets from the whole process of investigating them, through to disposing of the bodies from his boat. But more importantly, because in his eyes they just wouldn't get what was coming to them in the criminal justice system.

  • I understand that, but don't feel it satisfies my feeling that certain aspects of the show's plot have not been executed well. edited post for a more comprehensive view of why i think the plot is suspect.
    – R_Avery_17
    Aug 11, 2017 at 8:31

Dexter is a psychopath and a sociopath, utterly lacking in empathy or care for other humans, except maybe his family. He really, really doesn't care about whether the innocent live or die, for the most part.

The reason why his "code" targets criminals, serial killers and sick twists, for the most part, was by the design of his father. His father knew that if left to indiscriminate killing on the whims of a sick person, many innocents would die, Dexter would eventually get hunted down, and it is his father that feels the need to protect the innocent.

The code was his (father's) way to not have to intervene and arrest or even kill his own son, while giving his son an outlet for his urges that can actually be a benefit to humanity, by making the targets those who deserve to get snuffed out.

Dexter's personal priorities are to sate his urge to kill, and to not get caught. The code is merely a tool to help him achieve both priorities, but it is not some kind of moral code born from the beliefs and morals within Dexter. He really doesn't have morals.

Dexter, himself, is not all that concerned with saving innocent lives, as much as understanding that targeting innocents reduces his chance of long-term survival. To the degree that harm to innocents raises his profile and brings scrutiny to his activities, it violates his code. Their lives are immaterial.

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    Possible spoiler: I think we see evidence that Dexter actually DOES have empathy for some people, and he actually DOES care about the innocent, but he also has his "dark passenger" and so he has convinced himself that he can't feel anything because that makes it "ok" for him to murder. Remember he more than once risks everything to help other people, which doesn't make sense if he really feels nothing for anyone else. Aug 11, 2017 at 21:23
  • @ToddWilcox Agreed, but that may apply only in the immediate moment; it may not apply in the abstract sense of possible future victims he has never seen and doesn't know. For example (and I am not even a sociopath), intellectually I know there are people in foreign countries starving, in pain, dying of diseases that could be cured with a simple antibiotic. If that were a co-worker and truly in need, I would likely donate \$100 or more to save them. Thousands for a family member. But I don't donate much at all to foreign aid; that is more of an abstract issue that needs some other solution.
    – Amadeus
    Aug 12, 2017 at 13:11

Surely he can't be satisfied that his 'need' to kill is at the expense of innocent people being killed.

That is actually wrong. He has a real need to kill people. And he does so following the code that his stepfather set out for him. The 'Harry Code' however does not speak of him having to save innocent peoples lives.

As Dexter is incapable of feeling (and in the books at least only mentions having some sort of feelings for his daughter), he would not feel remorse or feel bad about the innocent lives that are lost.

His primary concern should be to not raise suspicion about his own investigations. When he informs the Miami PD, he would actually be risking part of his cover. Which is a terrible idea if you're a serial killer.

Perhaps more importantly, Dexter wants to kill the people himself to satisfy his need. He kills the 'bad people' primarily for personal gain, not to help the 'greater good' or whatever. He kills because he has to and wants to. Especially if a person has done something particularly bad (threatening his foster family or real family). Dexter will, in those cases, prefer to kill the person than to just have him captured.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the justice system would allow for people to go to jail and be released at a later time. It has happened (at least in the books, can't recall in the series) that Dexter kills someone who has been released. Thus killing them just seems to be the logical option.


I don't really find any reason why this would conflict with the 'Harry Code' of 'Not killing innocent people'. He does not do the killing. Aiding in the murder of innocent people is not the same as killing them. Keep in mind, Dexter has no feelings.

  • no feelings...... i wouldn't say that was accurate.
    – R_Avery_17
    Aug 11, 2017 at 13:26
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    @NealS He actually mentions that several times (in the books) - he understands emotions but can not actually feel them. The few times he did show emotion was related to his daughter - and his sister. Other emotions he understands as more of a thing he 'studied'. No feelings was not accurate, that is true, but certainly no feelings towards random strangers :-) Aug 11, 2017 at 14:36

Strictly abiding by the Code is not Dexter's #1 priority. Getting to kill the most guilty murderers is.

Dexter isn't too bothered by murderers murdering more persons (to some extent he actually likes this because this makes them even more guilty and so more eligible for his knives).

Dexter is probably more bothered when murderers are actually caught and so fail to come under his knives.


There is a difference between acts of omission and acts of commission (see the Trolley Problem). Are you spending all your free time investigating crimes and trying to bring murderers to justice, or do you accept that you don't have a positive duty to save as many lives as possible? If we view his Code as simply demanding that his overall effect on the world be positive, and that he not actively kill innocent people, then none of what you cite is in conflict.

If Dexter were to deprive himself of the kills by putting the killers in jail, then his Dark Passenger would demand that he kill someone else who is innocent. That might result in fewer net deaths, but it would directly killing one innocent person, rather than indirectly allowing multiple innocent people to die. Besides the deontological issue with that, this could be a slippery slope to him just killing whoever's most convenient.

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