Can 'Dexter: New Blood' Paint Over the Show's Unfortunate Legacy?

Eight years ago, 'Dexter' fumbled its series finale. Will 'New Blood' change where the series stands with fans?

dexter new blood
Looks like Dexter saved his killing table. | Showtime
Looks like Dexter saved his killing table. | Showtime

It has been nearly eight years since Dexter ended its eight-season run—and, in case you need a reminder, the finale, which found Dexter turning to a lumberjack life in a self-imposed exile, left most fans with a bad taste in their mouths. Now, after a rather lengthy hiatus, our former favorite serial killer has returned to television in Dexter: New Blood, premiering Sunday, November 7 on Showtime. Is it too little, too late?

Dexter tells the story of a sociopath named Dexter Morgan who, to justify his murderous deeds, only targets criminals. Throughout the original show's run, audiences watched as he strived to fit in with the general population by putting on his "human mask." He got married, eventually had a son named Harrison, and worked a stable day job at the Miami police department, no less, to pull off that whole everyman vibe. But, much like Star Trek: The Next Generation's synthetic android Data, the progress to acclimate completely into society only got him so far (see: lumberjack life in exile).

While each season presented Dexter with a big bad to take down—John Lithgow's Trinity Killer is the absolute benchmark of this formula—he also found himself growing more and more into the empathetic person he'd been working at becoming for so long. But, you know, while also still strapping his victims down to his kill table, collecting his blood slide, and then dumping the severed body parts into the water off the coast.

dexter new blood
Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) and Dexter (Michael C. Hall) | Showtime

What made Dexter such a riveting watch was the tongue-in-cheek comedic elements of the series, which delightfully offset the gore, while also digging into the familial relationship with his sister, Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), and the deeper subtext surrounding the generational trauma that set Dexter on his murderous path to begin with. As a baby, he was found in a pool of his murdered mother's blood. It was police officer Harry Morgan (James Remar) who took him in and raised him as his own. And he was the one who, after discovering young Dexter's violent tendencies, introduced a code of murder ethics into the man's brain. He's why Dexter only took out society's worst. Basically, it was better for the bad guys to die, than the upstanding citizens of Miami, Florida.

That was a riveting concept when Dexter first hit the airwaves 15 years ago, and the decision to bring the series back is an intriguing one. But, a lot has changed: Studios don't make television like they used to, and consuming content took on a whole new meaning once the streaming model entered the fold. Dexter dropped during a time before shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Killing Eve continually broke the TV mold and reshaped it in their image. It's 2021. What new tricks does Dexter Morgan have up his sleeve?

Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, and original showrunner Clyde Phillips—who brought us the show's first four seasons (a.k.a. the good years)—are all back hoping to close some glaring loopholes and provide some closure by answering questions: What is going on with Dexter now? And do we even care?

When you consider how Dexter originally ended, it feels like an uphill battle to coerce viewers to tune back in and give him another shot. And one thing that has become quite clear is, the cast and crew are aware of the disservice the final season did to the show's story, and Dexter's end required something of a do-over.

Dexter: New Blood is not a do-over. And, for all intents and purposes, the ending of the eighth season is definitely canon. He's since moved from Miami, Florida to lumberjack it up in Oregon before settling in the fictional town of Iron Lake, New York. He's taken on a new identity, "Jim Lindsey," and has embraced small-town living. And, aside from one familiar face, his story features a whole new cast of characters who participate in the ongoing notion that Dexter, and Dexter Morgan, can truly achieve a fresh start.

dexter new blood
Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and his son, Harrison (Jack Alcott) | Showtime

Deb is that one familiar face, by the way, and she could be the lynchpin that unravels Dex's whole plan of keeping his human mask on for good. As you may recall, Deb died in the original series' final moments, prompting Dex to disconnect her from life support, take her lifeless body from the hospital, and dump her into the harbor before opting to drive his boat into the eye of a hurricane, as opposed to flying to Argentina where he'd supposedly live his happily-ever-after with then-girlfriend Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) and his boy Harrison in order to *checks notes* escape getting caught for doing all that murder and, instead, to fake his own death.

New Blood finds Deb taking up the mantle of Harry in Dexter's mind. She's his conscience now, helping to keep Dexter's "Dark Passenger" at bay. Her appearance in the series provides a brutal, blunt, and jaded connection to his past—and that of the show's as well. While the return of Harrison surely resurrects Dexter's deadbeat dad-like demons, one has got to wonder how he'll do as a father now. And while we're at it, is his whole "Dark Passenger" thing hereditary?

These are interesting topics, sure, but as we've already seen, Dexter Morgan's life is filled with a bunch of loose ends. Some of them, he cut off for good, and others will inevitably resurface to cause further complications. In the case of Dexter: New Blood, the jury is still out on whether the loopholes left open by the original really need closing, or if these new conflicts offer a fresh path to walk for the character.

Of course, there's also the saying that time heals all wounds. And for a serial killer premise that is far past its prime, it may be best to just let the blood run dry, dump the body in the lake, and finally move on with our lives.

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Aaron Pruner (@aaronflux) is a contributor to Thrillist.