‘Dexter New Blood’: Correcting the past?
The mini-series, if not perfect, gives the vigilante serial killer the closure he deserves
‘Dexter’ is known as one of the best and worst shows in TV history, due to its strong start and lackluster finish, but ‘New Blood’ sets out to give a satisfying conclusion to the fan-favorite serial killer.
But the question is – does it succeed?
Ever since it first aired in 2006, ‘Dexter’ has long been one my favorite TV shows of all time. Following a mass serial killer hiding amongst normal people and trying to blend in, it was one of the first dark and gritty series I can remember watching and, over the years, a part of it has always stayed with me. Unfortunately, that memory also includes the lackluster final seasons and the dreadful finale. So, does ‘New Blood’, coming almost a decade later, rectify the wrongs of its predecessor and live up to serve as a true series finale? Well, surprisingly, yes. For the most part.
The original series ran from 2006 to 2013 and the first four seasons were simply spectacular. The whole concept of a serial killer being the main protagonist of a show, and one we were expected to root for, was unusual (for its time), to say the least, and raised a lot of interesting questions about morality, death, vigilantes, murderers, the justice system and much more. What made it feel so real and relatable was that it wasn’t your typical superhero-like story, in which such themes are often prettied up in a PG-13 manner. No, this was gritty and bloody. Dexter stabbed his victims (most of whom were violent criminals) in the heart in a messed-up ritualistic fashion, then chopped up their bodies and dumped them in the ocean.
“Dexter” by James Manos Jr., 2006-2013. © Showtime Networks
But despite his brutality, Dexter Morgan still felt like a real person, albeit a psychopath with an unusual urge for murder, who tried to cope with his demons the only way he knew how and ultimately wished to be ‘normal’. It was somewhat conflicting to be rooting for a mass murderer, but his personality and his inner monologue brought a unique insight into the character, and it was hard not to sympathize with him and not to hope he managed to get away with it all.
While the first four seasons were TV gold, unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the second half of the series, as the show took a significant dive in quality, which culminated in one of the most disappointing and poorly-written finales in TV history. Luckily, the showrunners seem to have heard the fans and acknowledged the lackluster ending, so now, almost a decade later, we unexpectedly got a new one-off season, intended to give Dexter the finale he truly deserved.
The biggest concern that many (myself included) had with the initial announcement of ‘New Blood’ was that it would be yet another cash-grab sequel to a long-dead series. But the show manages to shatter those low expectations. Instead of a soulless uninspired sequel, of which there are too many to count these days, ‘New Blood’ actually feels like a passion project, determined to bring back the fan-favorite serial killer and give him an ending that at least makes sense. The show manages to hit all the right nostalgia notes, while delving deeper into the titular character’s mind, reflecting on his past, and exploring his developing relationship with his son, Harrison, whom he abandoned almost a decade ago. In fact, the father-son dynamic ends up taking center stage throughout the season and ultimately leads to the series finale.
Suffice to say that the final episode of ‘Dexter: New Blood’ is miles better than what we got at the end of the original series and the final season overall is arguably much better than the entire second half of the original series. However, I can’t say it is perfect.
To be fair though, ‘New Blood’ is a sequel, so the showrunners had to do this off the back of the original finale, and given how unpopular it was, they couldn’t be certain there would even be much public interest in a new season. So I can sympathize with the fact that their options story-wise, and probably budget-wise, were quite limited, which is also likely why we only got a single 10-episode season.
But while the story did manage to come to a logical conclusion, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the writers could have done a lot more. The main issue is that the season sets up numerous ways that Dexter’s journey could potentially end, but ultimately chooses the one that offers the least amount of closure for the show as a whole. Most fans have always understood that Dexter either had to die or be captured, but the way his story ends in ‘New Blood’ is not something most fans were really hoping for. (SPOILER WARNING) While I understand that a nation-wide man-hunt would have been beyond the scope of this season and would have arguably not felt like ‘Dexter’, the show’s decision to tease the possibility of him coming face-to-face with his actions and the people he has hurt over the years makes the lack of these scenes all the more noticeable.
Ultimately, the final episode, although logical when you think about it, felt a bit rushed and choppy, lacking the oomph it needed to become a grand-slam finale audiences will fondly remember for years to come.
“Dexter: New Blood” by Clyde Phillips, 2021. © Showtime Networks
Another contributing factor to the bound-to-be-divisive finale is that the setting and scope of ‘New Blood’ as a whole feels infinitely smaller when compared to the original series. The events of the season feel like they’re happening in a void, and part of me wished for a slightly more grandiose setting to the final chapter of the serial killer known throughout the country as the ‘Bay Harbor Butcher’.
While the new season manages to be intriguing and thrilling and feels authentic as far as Dexter Morgan goes, it’s a big departure from the original formula of the series. Instead of a busy metropolitan area like Miami, the show is now set in the small, cold, and gray rural town of Iron Lakes, with no crime to speak of. Instead of being at the heart of criminal investigations, working as a blood splatter analyst, Dexter just works the counter at a local shop. And instead of killing bad guys, the main issues he has to deal with are the problems of raising an always-angry teenager. And although he does end up killing a couple of people, it just seems to lack the gravitas it used to have.
“Dexter: New Blood” by Clyde Phillips, 2021. © Showtime Networks
Another issue is the supporting cast. The side characters were always a very big part of what made the original series feel alive and vibrant. Some of them were just as memorable as Dexter himself. Of course, since we’re in a new location, it’s logical that almost none of the old cast members made a return (apart from Dexter’s sister, Deb, who now lives in his mind as a voice of conscience) but the problem is that the inhabitants of Iron Lakes are not nearly as interesting or memorable as the Miami PD crew. In fact, most of the new cast feel like nothing more than token diversity characters without any memorable traits or development. In fact, the very first episode of ‘New Blood’ probably ticked every single box in the woke guidelines, introducing a bunch of minority characters and evil billionaires, as well as some climate change themes.
But, then again, the inclusion of woke topics seems to be the only way for a show to get on air these days, so in a sense, the showrunners, intentionally or not, did the audience a favor by writing these characters and themes so lazily, briefly, and inconsequentially that none of it really mattered, took up screen time, or had any impact on the overall story. So the underdeveloped world of ‘Dexter New Blood’ could be construed as somewhat of a compromise by the writers. Nevertheless, it still feels like a missed opportunity that could have taken the show to a whole new level.
But, gripes aside, overall I’m satisfied with the new final season. The showrunners managed to preserve the most important element of the show – Dexter Morgan. He was exactly how I always remembered him, and one of my prevailing thoughts throughout the first couple of episodes was, “This is awesome, I’ve missed Dexter, so cool to see him again.” The things he went through in this season made perfect sense, and we got to see all of his sides – the good and the bad – and the writers delivered a satisfactory, albeit not perfect, conclusion to one of the best shows to ever be put on TV.