Who Is The Better Serial Killer: Dexter Morgan Or Joe Goldberg

- Dexter -
Who Is The Better Serial Killer: Dexter Morgan Or Joe Goldberg

Joe Goldberg and Dexter Morgan have a lot in common. Not only are they both calculated serial killers, but they both have sons they abandoned, and they both have inner monologues that really love to talk. It feels almost unfair to pit them against each other, but alas, the question of who is the better serial killer, Joe or Dexter, demands to be answered. And so, we must.

The Dexter vs. Joe discourse came out in full force Saturday, Nov. 6, when @_RobJay on Twitter celebrated the premiere of Dexter: New Blood to ask this very important question: "Joe vs Dexter. Who yall got???"

A lot of fans online said Dexter would absolutely win in a serial killer battle, no question. One fan called Joe "the dollar store version of Dexter," while podcaster Wellington Boyce noted that "Joe is literally the kind of person Dexter hunts." He added, "Dexter has a CODE. Joe has a BONER." Tough to argue there!

If we're asking who would win in a death match: Dexter or Joe, I definitely agree it's Dexter. As Boyce said, Dexter hunted men like Joe for decades and he always got them on his slab eventually. Joe, on the other hand, is a slightly more opportunistic killer. Yes, he's a stalker and an expert at abducting people and holding them hostage in a glass cage, but his lack of forethought would definitely put him at a disadvantage against Dexter. Add in the fact that Dexter looks like he could snap Joe like a twig if he wanted to, and this match is so uneven it's almost sad — almost. That said, which one would win in a fight isn't the same thing as determining which one is the best serial killer. For that, we're gonna need some specific analysis.

First, we have to break down what makes for a good (fictional) serial killer:

  • Planning: As we learn from Dexter and You, the key to being a successful serial killer (i.e. not getting caught) relies in the planning.
  • Righteousness: In theory, serial killers must be able to kill with little to no remorse so that they can keep killing. And they tend to have an inflated view of their own importance.
  • Murder Skill: You'd think that serial killers should be good at actually killing people, but I'm not so sure that's the case. If I've learned anything from all the true crime docuseries I've watched in the past few years it's that just because some murderers don't get caught doesn't mean they aren't sloppy. So, in this specific case, murder skill will be graded on how good they are at executing
    (pun intended) and covering up their crimes.
  • Pizzazz: I wouldn't normally want any killers to have any kind of pizzazz, but when it's on TV, it's definitely a good quality to have. If you wanna be the best serial killer on TV, you gotta have some flair.

Now that we've established the categories, let's get down to business.

Joe Goldberg: Righteousness & Pizzazz

Image: JOHN P. FLEENOR/NETFLIX

Joe is meticulous. And I would argue that he gets more pleasure out of stalking than killing. The anticipation, for him, is the fun part, especially because he doesn't think of himself as a murderer. That said, he is not great at planning actual murders. In fact, most of his murders are fairly impulsive, at least he thinks so. He didn't necessarily intend to kill Beck, or Henderson, or Gill. He's also not great at the actual murdering part. Sure, he's had his clever moments, like when he used Beck's boyfriend's allergies against him in Season 1, but most of his kills are spontaneous, and, since he's not exactly the most buff guy out there, many of his victims end up leaving him with some injuries too.

That said, what Joe lacks in planning and murder skill, he makes up for in righteousness and pizzazz. You can't deny that Joe's kills are fun to watch, partly because, unlike Dexter, he doesn't stick to a routine. As for his righteousness, I don't think you can get any more righteous than a serial killer who doesn't think of himself as a murderer. Dexter feels guilt for killing, or at the very least, he feels guilt for how his lifestyle has affected those around him. But does Joe? As we see in Season 3 with Love, it seems that Joe seems to think all these murders happening around him are happening to him. Even the ones he is responsible for, he considers it the victims' fault for putting him in a position to kill them.

Dexter Morgan: Murder Skill & Planning

Image: Randy Tepper/Showtime

As far as actual serial killer skills, Dexter has Joe beat by a mile. Unlike Joe, who fled across the country to avoid being a suspect in Beck's murder and then faked his own death and moved to an entirely new country altogether, Dexter was able to stay in Miami for a decade, killing dozens of criminals, without having to start a new life or fake his death. And that's because he was good at planning his kills. Instead of putting all his effort into stalking a victim, like Joe, Dexter focuses more on the execution and how he can murder someone safely without leaving evidence — hence the plastic wrap, gloves, murder henley, etc. He also has way more skill than Joe when it comes to harming another human being. He's stronger, smarter, and he knows human anatomy, which makes him way more dangerous.

Bottom line: both Joe and Dexter excel as serial killers in their own ways. Joe is righteous and has a certain "wow" factor, but Dexter is actually...good at what he does. So, sorry, Joe, I have to say, Dexter is the better serial killer. And he would definitely kill your ass.

Image: JOHN P. FLEENOR/NETFLIX; Kurt Iswarienko/SHOWTIME

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