Jack Alcott, Michael C. Hall, and Julia Jones in 'Dexter: New Blood'

Dexter: New Blood Finds Redemption by Finally Holding Dexter Accountable

The do-over season delivers an ending that Dexter Morgan deserves.
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***SPOILER ALERT: This post discusses the series finale of Dexter: New Blood.***

Dexter: New Blood had one job and one job only: to redeem the god-awful 2013 series finale of Dexter that left fans furious and disappointed. As you may recall, the original Showtime series saw Dexter Morgan toss his sister Debra’s body into the ocean and drive his boat into a hurricane, faking his death. The final shot found Dexter somewhere cold, living life as a lonely lumberjack. Thankfully, New Blood delivers a satisfying capper to Dexter’s career and to the series as a whole.

When Dexter’s estranged teenage son Harrison (Jack Alcott) resurfaces in Iron Lake, New York, he is hoping to reconnect with his father. And as soon as he showed up, audiences knew there were only two ways for this saga to end: either Harrison follows in his father’s footsteps and joins him in a life of killing bad guys, or he kills his own father and stops the violent cycle once and for all.

And up until the finale, it seemed that the series was choosing the former. Dexter finally reveals Harry’s code to his son, and brings him along as they capture and kill Kurt Caldwell, the season’s Big Bad. Through it all, Dexter is quietly thrilled, not only to have revealed his true self to his son at last, but to have a companion in his darkness. Dexter is already planning to uproot his son (who has finally found a home and community in Iron Lake) and whisk him off to Los Angeles, with sunshine and serial killers aplenty.

After all, Harrison has shown his own violent tendencies, by slashing a kid at school and breaking his wrestling opponent’s elbow. He’s filled with anger, no doubt due to being abandoned by his father and fending for himself for so long. The series parallels this relationship with Kurt Caldwell, who gained his own dark passenger after witnessing his own trucker father beat and kill sex workers. So when Kurt takes Harrison under his wing, Harrison is given two murderous examples to follows.

The finale episode is aptly titled “Sins of the Father,” and who better to hold Dexter accountable than his own son? As police chief (and Dexter’s ex-girlfriend) Angela Bishop (Julia Jones, playing the one competent cop in the entire series run) closes in on identifying Dexter as the Bay Harbor Butcher, she arrests him in her own kitchen. As Dexter kneels to be cuffed, he glances at his reflection in the toaster, and then looks longingly at the kitchen knives. Would he kill his own girlfriend, a good person, to break free?

Dexter has long justified his serial killing by adhering to Harry’s code, making sure he only kills people who deserve it. But soon after he is arrested, Dexter breaks out of jail by killing Sergeant Logan (Alano Miller), another good, innocent man. He not only violates the code, but he kills his son’s wrestling coach.

It’s this turn that forces Harrison to realize that Dexter truly has no code. It’s all a charade invented by Harry and maintained by Dexter, a desperate attempt to justify and valorize the violence. In the previous episode, Harrison compares his father to Batman, delivering vigilante justice to those who deserve it. But Batman doesn’t kill people (not if he can help it).

In their final confrontation in the woods, Harrison aims his rifle at his father, the same rifle Dexter gave him for Christmas. Harrison calls him out for hiding behind his brand of justice, reminding him of all the innocent people who died because of what he was. We see quick flashbacks of Doakes, LaGuerta, Rita, Lundy, and Debra, all of whom would still be alive if Dexter didn’t exist. And while the Trinity Killer killed Harrison’s mother, it was Dexter who put his family in harm’s way.

The later seasons of Dexter suffered due to their inability to hold their protagonist accountable. As the series progressed, Dexter Morgan became more untouchable, the cops who surrounded him got dumber, and the series writers and network brass were too enamored of their charismatic killer to actually hold Dexter accountable. The character reached God-tier plot immunity and was always able to evade punishment.

That lack of accountability is what made the original Dexter series finale so unsatisfying. It takes Harrison calling out his father on all the ways in which Dexter failed, and all the innocent people he left for dead, for Dexter to finally realize his own monstrosity. And when Harrison shoots Dexter in the heart, it’s a violent act of closure for both of them. Dexter is forced to confront the truth behind his superhero fantasy, and the ways in which he failed everyone who loved him. And while it’s ironic that Harrison breaks the violent cycle by murdering his father, it plays as more of a mercy killing. In killing Dexter, he does what Debra could never do.

As Dexter lies dying, ghost Debra kneels and holds his hand for a moment, but pulls away. As Harrison drives off to start a new life, we hear Dexter’s voice reading the letter he sent to Hannah so long ago, where he says, “let me die so my son can live.” He was referring to his fake death in the hurricane, but it’s all the more poignant when Dexter gives Harrison permission to murder him. He knows his death is the only way for Harrison to have a shot at a normal life.

And for once, just once, Dexter sacrifices himself for someone else. He calls the moment his first experience with real love, and he’s right. For the briefest of moments, the monster becomes human.

There are no plans yet for a sequel, although given the record-breaking ratings New Blood received, it feels inevitable. There’s a version of this reboot where Harrison does pick up his father’s mantle and goes on delivering his own violent justice, with Ghost Dexter at his side. But I think that would undercut the impact of this finale and Harrison’s growth as a character. I hope this is the last we see of the Morgan men, and that Harrison is able to live now that Dexter is dead.

(image: Showtime)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.