By Paul Doro
A little more than a decade ago, Dexter was flying high. In December 2009, the series’ fourth-season finale ranked as the most-watched original series episode in the history of Showtime (a Mike Tyson fight in 1999 was the last time more viewers watched a telecast on the network).
Critics responded as well as audiences did. The series received a plethora of accolades and widespread attention come awards season. It was nominated for over 20 Emmy Awards (winning four), 13 Screen Actors Guild Awards (winning one) and 10 Golden Globe Awards (winning two), and it won a Peabody Award.
After the universally praised fourth season, with its infamous ending and an award-winning performance from John Lithgow, the series went on for four more seasons and came to a close in 2013.
Despite the show’s years of stellar ratings, critical acclaim and awards recognition, the 2013 series finale was widely derided, and Dexter became something of a punchline (there was no shortage of lumberjack jokes). It seems that almost no one was satisfied with how things ended for the character or the series, something that Dexter himself, actor Michael C. Hall, acknowledges.
“The show did not end in a way that was definitive for people or give anybody a sense of closure,” Hall says. He adds that part of the motivation to revisit the series was to conclusively answer the question of what happened to Dexter.
Viewers will get to see what has become of Dexter Morgan this month when Dexter: New Blood comes to Showtime on Sundays beginning Nov. 7 at 9pm ET/PT. The 10-episode event series is set 10 years after the former blood-spatter expert for the Miami police department went missing in the eye of Hurricane Laura.
The recovering serial killer is now Jim Lindsay, a resident of the small town of Iron Lake, New York. The bright, hot and urban milieu of South Florida has been replaced by a frigid, gray, small community in upstate New York.
A different setting is not the only change viewers will notice. Showrunner/executive producer Clyde Phillips, who was a writer/showrunner/executive producer during the first four seasons of the original series, emphasizes that this is not a ninth season of Dexter. “This is a whole new embodiment of the show, a whole new imagining of the show,” he explains.
This fresh iteration after eight seasons and 96 episodes reveals itself early on. Dexter: New Blood begins slowly, quietly and coldly. Dexter/Jim lives alone in a cabin in the woods. He hunts, does some ice fishing and tends to his animals. There is very little dialogue for several minutes.
Just when it appears that Dexter/Jim maintains a life of solitude in the middle of nowhere, the action shifts to Iron Lake. In town, he knows everyone and is an integral, well-liked member of the community, working at Fred’s Fish & Game and dating the local chief of police, Angela Bishop (Julia Jones).
The “Dark Passenger” has been kept at bay for nearly a decade. Dexter hasn’t killed anyone in that time. He has even picked up new hobbies (line dancing, really?). His deceased sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), with whom Dexter frequently converses, calls him a changed man, though she won’t always be offering words of admiration.
“I think of Deb as sort of haunting and punishing and caretaking and provoking and loving Dexter,” Carpenter says.
But reimagining or not, this is still Dexter, and a leopard can’t change its spots. It does not take long for him to confront a temptation to kill again (in the form of a rich jerk who’s in town to hunt and party). Whether to commit homicide isn’t the only challenge he faces early on. His son Harrison (Jack Alcott), a teenager now, has somehow located him, and Dexter must decide if he’s going to be a part of his son’s life. Hopefully Deb can guide him.
While the aesthetic has changed to align with its small-town, winter setting, fans of Dexter will be pleased with New Blood. It’s funny (lots of blood and knife-related humor) and suspenseful, and Hall is just as good as he’s always been in the title role. Seeing Dexter Morgan onscreen again is a treat.