Review: ‘Dexter: New Blood’ revives Michael C. Hall drama’s killer instinct
Beloved serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is back to slay another day with the arrival of Showtime’s 10-episode miniseries “Dexter: New Blood.”
The sequel, which premieres Sunday, is set 10 years after the last episode of the original series, “Dexter” — one of the most popular cable dramas of the 2000s despite its notoriously disappointing, eighth-season finale. Now we find Dexter in his new life, using the assumed identity of James Lindsay, resident of the sleepy, snowbound Iron Lake, N.Y. “Jim” is a clerk at Fred’s Fish and Game store where they sell big guns and knives. Unremarkably, he’s the go-to expert on all matter of weaponry. Remarkably, he hasn’t killed anyone in a decade. But for the sake of this new series, that’s about to change …
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Fans of the original show have voiced nervousness about a revival featuring the socially awkward antihero, a former blood spatter expert for the Miami police department who committed more heinous crimes than he solved. The series was devilishly clever in portraying Dexter’s moral bargain: Since he couldn’t quell his deadly impulses, he harnessed them for good, eliminating the bad guys and protecting the innocents of Miami like a murderous Robin Hood. Ghoulish as his deeds were, fans of the show often found Dexter more likable than his reprehensible victims. It’s doubtful any finale would have been good enough to cap eight seasons of “Dexter,” but blowing it all away with a hurricane was particularly lame. So can Dexter Morgan, the harbinger of death, bring the story back to life?
He can and does along with show creator Clyde Phillips and a cast that includes returning characters such as the memory of his surly sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), who was killed off in the finale, and creepy Arthur Mitchell, a.k.a. the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow). Fresh faces include Dexter’s now teenage son Harrison (Jack Alcott) and a new love interest, hyper-competent Police Chief Angela Bishop (Julia Jones). This miniseries revives old themes but drops in enough new conflicts — internal and otherwise — to pull the narrative forward into fresh terrain.
When Dexter moved to the woods he tried to leave his “dark passenger” back in Florida (home to many other prolific serial killers). He figured it would work if he just stuck to his daily routine — morning stop at the pastry shop, clock in at work, dinner with the girlfriend, then home. But when circumstances spin out of his control, he finds old habits returning.
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“I’ve gotten rusty in my abstinence,” he admits to himself after the first kill in ages. The miniseries, like the protagonist, feels out-of-practice as well but that clunkiness wears off by the close of the first episode. The pace picks up when the carefully orchestrated life of “Jim” falls apart and the real Dexter emerges. Tension and logistical nightmares (where do you bury a body when the ground is frozen solid and a bear is guarding the old abandoned mine shaft?!) create high drama as the story branches into several mysteries and crises: missing and slain Indigenous women, another potential apex predator and a new generation of killers in the making.
“New Blood” is tonally in line with the original series but strikes a different psychological note. Dexter is a single father of a snarky teen now. He needs to protect and guide his son, just like his late, adoptive father, policeman Harry Morgan (James Remar) did for him when he was a boy, so add mentor to the list of roles he plays while cleaning up body parts in his wake. Sadly for viewers, Harry is no longer the ghost and/or conscience who guides Dexter as he did in the former series. Now it’s up to his late sister, Deb. She prefers verbal rants and smacks on the head to measured advice and patience, and her intensity is grating at times, even on Dexter.
But he really doesn’t need much guidance these days. He’s a changed man, even though his dark passenger still compelled him to unpack, and use, the plastic tarps, duct tape and knife set. Now Dexter doesn’t need to gather a sample of his victim’s blood on a glass slide as he used to. “I don’t need trophies anymore,” he says. “I may be a monster, but I’m an evolving monster.”
‘Dexter: New Blood’
When: 9 p.m. Sunday
Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)
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