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‘Dexter: New Blood’ Offers the Showtime Series an Engaging, if Uneven, Return to Form

Michael C. Hall is back as serial killing vigilante Dexter Morgan.

Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter in 'Dexter: New Blood'

Few series finales have been as roundly despised as the final chapter of Dexter. The fan-favorite Showtime series, which followed the exploits of Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a Miami forensics expert who moonlights as a vigilante serial killer who only kills murderers, massively shat the bed in its 2013 finale. The final episode saw Dexter’s sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) die, and Dexter abandoning his son and girlfriend Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) to become an anonymous lumberjack in the Pacific Northwest.

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The finale was a slap in the face to fans who had stuck with the series despite the drop in quality in later seasons. Dexter reached its creative peak with season 4’s Trinity killer arc with John Lithgow, which was incidentally the final season showrun by series creator Clyde Phillips. And despite some strong episodes in later seasons, the show was unable to re-capture the magic.

Phillips returns to steer Dexter: New Blood, which finds Dexter living in the frosty small town of Iron Lake, New York. A decade after the finale, Dexter (who now goes by Jim Lindsay) works as a sales associate at a hunting and fishing store (making able use of his weaponry expertise). He’s dating empathetic local sheriff and single mom Angela Bishop (Julia Jones), and hasn’t murdered anyone in a decade.

Dexter: New Blood immediately feels like a departure from the tone and style of of the original series. The first episode is absent Dexter’s pervasive voice-over, and the chilly, grey forests of Iron Lake are a stark contrast to the neon-drenched humidity of Miami. James Remar’s Harry, the ghost of Dexter’s father who serves as his guide, has been replaced by Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) as the new voice in Dexter’s head. It’s hard to imagine Dexter without Carpenter, whose profanity-loving sister functioned as Dexter’s link to his own humanity.

Unfortunately for the series, Ghost Deb lacks the nuance and substance of the character as we remember her. While Deb was aggressive and volatile, she was also a shrewd and tenacious cop with a keen sense of justice and an enormous heart. Ghost Deb is histrionic and repetitive, reminding Dexter that he is and always will be a monster. Deb is also the subject of many cutaway gags and fantasies that feel jarring within the New Blood‘s subdued tone. It’s as if the new series distilled everything fans disliked about the character into this new form.

New Blood also stumbles into familiar territory, as Dexter’s first murder in a decade goes wrong and invites a massive police search into his own backyard. Other plot threads include a pattern of missing Indigenous women that goes unreported, a mysterious killer who traps and hunts women for sport, and a menacing industrialist stripping the land of its resources.

Other players include true-crime podcaster Molly (Jamie Chung), and shady local businessman Kurt Caldwell (Clancy Brown), whose son ends up as Dexter’s first victim. But the most important addition is a character from Dexter’s past who has come looking for answers. No spoilers, but if you’ve seen the trailers you know what’s coming (and if you don’t, all is revealed in the first episode).

Despite some uneven pacing and tonal shifts, it’s all too easy to get absorbed in Dexter: New Blood. The series remains an engaging and entertaining watch thanks to Michael C. Hall’s strong performance and the elegant, stylish direction. Fans looking for a redo of that legendarily bad finale may finally find the satisfying ending they always wanted.

(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.

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