Before you read on, there are spoilers ahead for this week’s review of Dexter: New Blood. Eight years ago, one of Showtime’s most acclaimed TV dramas dropped off our radars with one of the most disappointing series finales of all time. Dexter’s beloved sister Deb perished to a gunshot wound that left her comatose. In the final harrowing scenes of the finale, Dexter took her body to be one with the ocean and rode his boat into a hurricane, apparently taking his own life. Until we find him working as a lumberjack in Oregon, and that was it.
Now, Michael C.Hall is back with Showtime’s limited revival series, Dexter: New Blood. Right from the start, we know this series is an entirely new animal. The iconic title sequence and theme music are gone, sadly. The sunny beaches of Miami are a distant memory, thankfully swapped out for the vast and beautiful snow-laden landscapes of Iron Lake, a small homely town in Upper New York, and most surprisingly, Michael C. Hall’s iconic narration, but more on that later.
Hallmarks of the original series, however, do remain. The wonderful Jennifer Carpenter reprises her role as Dexter’s sister Deb, but not in the way you’d expect. This time, she serves as Dexter’s afterlife angel on his shoulder, providing inner monologues as he navigates through the rituals of life as a former serial killer. It’s a smart choice, and it works effectively given how close Dexter and Deb had been during the show’s original run. More surprisingly, we’ve got Dexter’s son Harrison, now all grown up, returning into the picture. Despite’s Deb insistence that he abandons his son to protect him, Dexter confesses to being Harrison’s father and brings him home.
We pick up the action ten years after the events of Season 8. Dexter is now living a life in solitude, suppressing his Dark Passenger alter ego and living, quite remarkably, kill-free as Jim Lindsay (a sweet throwback to Darkly Dreaming Dexter author Jeff Lindsay). Outside of his work life, he’s dating the town’s local Sheriff, Angela Bishop, takes up line dancing, and works at Fred’s Fish & Game, a business dealing in weapons, naturally. It’s the picture of innocence.
He’s an ordinary, humble, honest working man, but we all know the wolf in sheep’s clothing facade will falter from the word go. He’s haunted by the sight of blood and blades while his lizard brain secretly works overtime. Beneath the unsuspecting facade, Dexter contends with the pressures of temptation, worsened by a sinister subplot involving missing women and a rich frat boy.
Enter Matt Caldwell, an irresponsible and obnoxious wild card who dedicates his time to sleeping with random women while high as a kite. Dexter refuses to sell Caldwell a rifle until an FBI background check is completed, and the former blood spatter analyst later learns of a mysterious boating accident that left dozens dead as a result of Matt’s recklessness.
You just know this guy has got to get got, and his impatient arrogance is already testing Dexter to the limit, tempting Dexter’s murderous tendencies to rise to the surface. This is summarised with one of the best lines in the show’s history, in which Dexter remarks, “You’re looking at the guy where secrets go to die”. Literal chills. Predictably, by the final act of the episode, Dexter snaps.
Throughout the episode, Dexter makes attempts to hunt down a white stag, perhaps in a bid to abate his murderous desires. There’s a tender moment that follows as Dexter reaches out to the stag and pets it. The moment is shattered by a gunshot that kills the stag, and we all know who’s behind the trigger. In perhaps the best moment of the episode, after Dexter succumbs to his Dark Passenger alter ego, and we hear Hall’s chilling narration for the first time, in which Hall proudly declares, “It’s been a long time.” Dexter prepares a kill room in his shed outside of his cabin and kills Matt.
Dexter: New Blood, for the most part, retreads old ground, and for the seasoned viewer, the formula remains mostly the same. If we’re treating this series as the show’s definitive swansong, the season to bring well-needed closure to Dexter’s story, then it’s far too early to say if New Blood will honour these wishes. “Cold Snap” is a solid, honest pilot.
I do, however, as many others will likely agree, have my concerns. Firstly, there’s the return of Harrison. There are a limited number of narrative directions the showrunners can pursue with this character, most of which we’ve seen many times before. I believe by the end of the series, one of these four storylines would have played out. We’ve got Harrison becoming a killer, Dexter taking him under his wing to become a killer, Harrison learning the dark truth of his father’s past and bringing him to justice, or Dexter’s son is bumped off in a devastating Rita-style twist.
Episode 1 has been hugely enjoyable. I’ve no shame to admit Dexter is a guilty pleasure of mine and has been for many years. Hall’s performance has been electric, and it’s so good to have it back on our screens. My concern stems from the simple fact that this is Dexter, and despite the fact we’ve still got nine more episodes to go, the opener felt as routine and predictable as Dexter’s ten-year sabbatical from serial killing.
With Clyde Phillips serving as showrunner once again (who parted ways with Dexter after Season 4), there’s renewed hope they’ll bring closure to Dexter’s story. There’s a palpable sense that this revival will redeem the show’s past shortcomings and complete Dexter Morgan’s story once and for all, giving us the payoff we truly deserved. What do you think of Dexter: New Blood so far? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!