Can a new season redeem a finale that infuriated loyal fans?
When Dexter ended in 2013 with a hugely unsatisfying finale, Michael C. Hall’s character was determined to fade into obscurity as a lumberjack in Oregon.
With one last knowing look direct to camera, we knew he was still a killer at heart.
Jump to 8 years later and being a lumberjack was clearly not ok for the writers of Dexter: New Blood.
Instead he has switched coasts to the snow-laden town of Iron Lake, New York where he works in a gunshop under the name of Jim Lindsay. Showrunner Clyde Phillips makes no attempt to explain how or why Dexter has shifted from his lumberjack obscurity, nor why we didn’t return to sun-drenched Miami given we are embarking on another chapter.
‘Jimbo’ is quite the town favourite, chummy with the locals and dating local sheriff Angela (Julia Jones). Skilled at living up to peoples’ perceptions of him, Jim leads a double life. A smiling charmer and line-dancing boyfriend one minute, a most solitary existence the next.
For starters there is a white deer in the woods that draws him out on a daily chase… like Ahab’s white whale it seems to peer into his soul, perhaps to see his flaws. But its beauty is something Dexter can’t kill off even though it’s literally within his optical crosshairs.
Then there is his conscience personified by his late sister Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), as Dex struggles to contain his ‘dark passenger’. This is a genius move by writers given Dexter was forced to bury her at sea, wrapped like an angel in a white shroud. It brings back the chemistry between the two leads which was so pivotal to the original (get out the swear jar for Deb).
Yet in the two episodes I’ve viewed I’m largely underwhelmed by the choices: the knee-deep snow isn’t exactly escapist, yet it is the inciting factors that have awoken Dexter that leave me colder. 8 years of no killing and all it takes is a local crime, which isn’t exactly personal, to see him lose his inner battle? I get that he was always a killer wanting to right injustices, but the stakes are just not high enough.
Thankfully they are indeed raised when his teenage son Harrison (Jack Alcott) makes a surprise appearance. Dexter fans know how he had learnt base instincts from his foster father Harry (James Remar) so the question now arises: has Harrison inherited the same? This is a great dramatic question to explore.
Amongst the other characters, none come close to the previous faces James Doakes, Angel Batista, María LaGuerta or the eccentric Vince Masuka, but the series maintains its diversity with a gay gunshop assistant and a police receptionist who uses a wheelchair… there’s even a local climate change protest. I’m encouraged that actor Clancy Brown (Carnivale, Billions) is in the mix and that John Lithgow is set to return as ‘Trinity Killer’ Arthur Mitchell.
There will be more killings, more moments of nearly getting caught, more struggles with his ‘dark passenger’ -all the things we loved in the original- added to a new father / son dilemma. These are enough for me to keep watching, albeit cautiously.
But after that dismal finale I sorta expected a more compelling reason for Dexter to awaken from his slumber, and me to be so forgiving.
Dexter screens from today on Paramount+.