When last we saw erstwhile serial killer Dexter Morgan, he had faked his death, fled Miami, and was apparently working as a lumberjack in Oregon.
That was how Showtime’s Dexter originally ended, back in 2013. It was not a popular ending and yet, I don’t think anyone was expecting to be satisfied by Dexter’s finale. In retrospect, the highpoint of Dexter came during season 4, during the arc involving John Lithgow at the Trinity Killer. The four seasons that came after the conclusion of that storyline could never quite escape the shadow of the battle of wills between Lithgow and Michael C. Hall. Seasons 5, 6, and 7 all felt somewhat superfluous while season 8 seemed to go off the rails entirely. As a result, I think everyone was mentally prepared to be let down by however the show ended but still, people were hoping for a little more than Dexter in Oregon.
Fortunately, Dexter Morgan is back! Dexter: New Blood, which premiered last Sunday on Sunday, picks up ten years after the conclusion of Dexter. Dexter (played by Michael C. Hall, of course) is no longer living in Oregon. In fact, in the first episode, Oregon was never even mentioned. Instead, Dexter is now living in upstate New York. He’s using the name Jim Lindsay. He works at a sporting goods store. He’s dating the local chief of police, Angela Bishop (Julia Jones). He’s a popular citizen. Everyone like Jim. Everyone thinks that they know Jim. Of course, what they don’t know is that Jim is actually Dexter, a serial killer who once specialized in killing other murderers. They also don’t know that Dexter spends a good deal of his spare time talking to the ghost of his dead stepsister, Deb (Jennifer Carpenter, taking on the mentor role that James Remar played in the original series). Deb continually tells Dexter that he can’t get close to anyone. Anyone to whom Dexter gets close dies. Of course, even in death, Deb doesn’t seem to understand that Dexter isn’t capable of being genuinely close with anyone.
When Cold Snap, the first episode, begins, it’s been ten years since Dexter killed anyone, though it’s obvious that he still has the urge. Dexter’s ten-year break comes to an end when he meets Matt Caldwell (Steve M. Robertson), a spoiled rich kid who, several years earlier, was involved in a boating accident that killed five people. When Dexter learns that Matt intentionally smashed into the other boat and then when Matt later shoots a rare albino stag that Dexter had spent days tracking, Dexter’s Dark Passenger returns. Interestingly enough, it turns out that, despite being inactive for ten years, Dexter still has a perfect murderer’s lair inside his cabin’s shed. Before Dexter ritualistically kills Matt, Matt says that his father is going to kill Dexter. Who is Matt’s father? I’m sure we’ll find out soon. A part of me suspects that it might be Edward Olsen (Fredric Lehne), a billionaire who is planning on doing business in the town. I also suspect that Olsen is probably connected to the disappearances of several young women in the area. Wealthy businessmen often turned out to be serial killers on Dexter.
Speaking of fathers, Dexter is also a father. He abandoned his son, Harrison, in Miami ten years ago. Now, the teenage Harrison (Jack Alcott) has tracked Dexter down. At first, Dexter pretended not to know who Harrison was and he gave Harrison money to buy a ticket on the next bus out of town. However, at the end of the episode, Dexter, fresh from murdering Matt, showed up at the bus station, sat down next to Harrison, and said, “I am Dexter Morgan.”
It was an interesting ending and a bit frightening considering everything that we know about Dexter. Ghost Deb is right. People who get close to Dexter do end up dying. That said, we really don’t know much about Harrison. In the books, Dexter was often concerned that Rita’s stepchildren, Cody and Astor, had their own dark passengers. To the best of my memory, that wasn’t really explored on the television show with Harrison but what if Harrison does turn out to be a serial killer? Even worse, what if Harrison turns out to be a serial killer who, like his father, only targets other serial killers? Would Dexter have to kill Harrison or would Harrison have to kill Dexter? But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. As of the first episode, the only thing we know for sure is that Harrison managed to track his father down.
I was intrigued by the first episode of Dexter: New Blood, though I have to admit that most of that was due to the hints of what could happen in the future as opposed to what actually did happen in the episode. As I said at the start of this review, the first four seasons of Dexter were brilliant. The final four seasons were increasingly uneven. Just as it’s hard for Dexter to run the risk of getting close to anyone, it’s also hard for us viewers to run the risk of fully embracing this revival because we’ve all seen first hand that there are limits to how far Dexter‘s concept can be taken without things falling apart. It’s probably not surprising that the reviews for this episode were mixed. Variety liked it. The AV Club and Rolling Stone complained that it was too violent. The generic online reviewer of today often seems more concerned with hitting the right talking points and satisfying the online mob than with actually giving thought to such quaint considerations at to whether or not a show is entertaining or if it actually holds your interest. Dexter: New Blood held my interest and it was entertaining enough for me to set the DVR to record next week’s episode. To me, that qualifies as a successful episode.
So far, Dexter: New Blood feels like it could be a return to the Dexter of those first four seasons. Michael C. Hall remains a compelling presence. I’m interested to see how things develop with Harrison. I’m glad Dexter got the Hell out of Oregon. I’ll be watching.