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Dexter: New Blood is Yet Another Master Class in Failure

Showtime fails its second attempt at giving a worthy ending to the horrific and exhilarating exploits of Dexter Morgan.

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When Showtime announced Dexter was getting a second chance to make right its laughably bad series finale that upset fans almost a decade ago, I was both cautiously optimistic and understandably indifferent. The bar was set so incredibly low by the writers, producers, and showrunners that I thought it seemed virtually impossible for Dexter: New Blood to fail at concluding the Bay Harbor Butcher's story with some sense of satisfaction.

Holy moly, was I wrong.

The travesty that was the latter half of the original series put an end to a fatigued show that began as an adequate adaptation of Jeff Lindsay's early novels. With the titular character faking his own death in a hurricane and relocating to the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, Dexter was able to figuratively wash his hands of the show's abysmal writing and technically start anew. However, sporting a poorly applied Hollywood beard and lumberjack attire did nothing to abate the dissatisfaction of fans.

Dexter: New Blood tries to correct this, taking place a decade after the events of the series finale in the fictional, woodsy town of Iron Lake, New York. Gone are the sunny skies and tall palm trees of Miami, as well as the vicious metaphors seen in Dexter's breakfast that made up the original show's clever title sequence.

We're ignorant of the details leading up to Dexter's new life, but he's managed to settle in quite nicely as "Jim Lindsay." Instead of bringing baked goods to the oblivious police officers of Miami Metro, he now brings them to his coworkers and customers of a small sporting gear store. He's fondly known around town, has a girlfriend, maintains a small goat farm at his cozy cabin in the woods, and has remained hidden from the permanent etchings of social media.

Like Dexter, the town has a dark past of its own. A litany of missing person cases that have amassed over a quarter of a century around Iron Lake remain unsolved, a chilling reminder through the various flyers of victims pinned to a board at the local police station that evil lurks about.

Michael C. Hall as Dexter in Dexter: New Blood (2022)

Michael C. Hall as Dexter in Dexter: New Blood (2022)


The show begins with a quick look at Jim's morning routine before heading into town. As he casually cruises along an empty stretch of pavement, he's pulled over by police. A female officer slowly walks up to his truck window, her hand already situated on her gun holster, and contentiously asks him for his identification. As she peeps into the interior of his truck, Jim foolishly stumbles to cover an open set of knives resting in plain sight next to him. He hands over his ID, she glances at him and the assorted blades, then immediately demands he exit the vehicle.

As the scene plays out atop daunting music, we're supposed to believe Dexter has been caught at the very beginning of the first episode. It's the first of many amateur twists that fizzles out as the two of them embrace and smack lips on the side of the road. Moments later, she's riding Jim like a stallion in the back seat of her police unit and thus is our introduction to Police Chief Angela Bishop, Jim's girlfriend. The couple's roleplaying sexcapade is cheap, contrived, and doesn't pay a single dividend. It sets the stage for an arc of misfires, sloppy writing, and terrible characters that are now commonplace in virtually every modern Hollywood production.

New Blood adheres to the same formula as its predecessor in the series: a quiet little town finds itself haunted by a serial killer, awakening Dexter's killer instinct that he fittingly refers to as his Dark Passenger. He skillfully maneuvers through absurd obstacles while concealing his true self, keeping up an unassuming facade to ensure his police officer girlfriend and the entire Iron Lake community remain unaware of his actual identity. This proves to be more challenging when he's confronted by his estranged, adolescent son Harrison who manages to track him down in hopes of getting answers as to why his father abandoned him.

On its face, this a solid platform in which to revive the series and try again, but New Blood doesn't bother to take advantage of it and repeats the same mistakes that ruined the original series. Characters, including Dexter himself, are incredibly stupid and cliché, plot elements are too derivative and rushed, and the show somehow manages to forget the importance of Dexter's meticulous training to temper his desires over the course of the last ten years. There is no indication that Dexter has killed anyone since faking his death and yet he seems to have lived his life quiet, comfortably, and without incident. If he can control his Dark Passenger by simply moving out into the woods and establish healthy relationships with the people around him, what was the point of the lessons his father Harry taught him during his upbringing in Miami?

New Blood plays out as messy and disorganized as the seasons that justified its existence. Dexter's ten-year hiatus of slicing and dicing ends after he meets and later kills local town asshole Matt Caldwell, a personality trait he apparently hasn't run into for an entire decade. Matt is a poorly manufactured idiot who excuses his ridiculous behavior to a bad upbringing, most notably referenced by a reckless boating accident in his past that killed five people, and only exists to put a series of unfortunate events into motion. Dexter's disposal of the body on his own property doesn't go as smoothly as planned because he's rusty, but it ends up being of no concern since Iron Lake's police dogs are unable to detect human blood hastily covered with snow.

Clancy Brown as Kurt Caldwell in Dexter: New Blood (2022)

Clancy Brown as Kurt Caldwell in Dexter: New Blood (2022)


Matt's buffoonery is amazingly outmatched by his father, Kurt Caldwell, who appears after Matt goes missing. He ends up being the series' antagonist that has a side hobby coaxing women into a guest room at a private cabin, locking them in, watching them freak out through a camera, then letting them go just before shooting them. Kurt is played by the talented Clancy Brown, but the character's malevolent rapport is unintimidating because of the baffling ineptitude of Iron Lake's police force. He's repeatedly allowed to deliberately lie and obstruct investigations without consequence. It's a non-surprise when he's exposed as the serial killer that's been terrorizing and murdering lost causes stranded in Iron Lake. His motivations are absurd, making blatant mistakes and obvious mannerisms that catch the ire of Dexter, yet fail to exercise the slightest wit of anyone wearing a badge.

This isn't the biggest letdown of the show, though. New Blood's ultimate flaw falls on Dexter's inability to bond with a son who is struggling to reconcile his troubled past. Both of them want to understand each other's lives and be a part of them, but the writers keep them each at arm's-length until the eleventh hour. Every scene of them together is forcibly brittle, whether it's Harrison angrily retreating to his room when Dexter wants to talk or Dexter desperate to know if Harrison copes with his own Dark Passenger. For all of Dexter's protestations of defending his progeny that went as far back as the Dexter season four finale, he watches his son suffering from antisocial behavior while doing nothing about it. It's uncharacteristic given the sacrifices Dexter has made and flies in the face of his own narration, but the show repeatedly justifies it by forcing him to contend with pointless distractions.

Jack Alcott as Harrison in Dexter: New Blood (2022)

Jack Alcott as Harrison in Dexter: New Blood (2022)


The lack of atmosphere in New Blood forces the show to carry too much dead weight. Dexter's consciousness in the form of his father Harry has been replaced with his sister Debra who insults and screams at him, offering none of the guidance and utility Harry once provided. The introduction of an Indian tribe adds a layer of significance to the town, but this element merely serves as a catalyst for characters to question Matt Caldwell's disappearance. Angela teams up with a true crime podcast host so utterly annoying that you root for her demise in the worst possible way. Harrison's relationships with fellow high school students are a constant rollercoaster of predictable stereotypes he can't relate to. And who can forget the oil tycoon clashing with environmental protesters in the early episodes? Everyone can, as he inexplicably disappears afterwards and is neither seen nor mentioned again.

Dexter's eventual downfall is frustratingly woven from coincidences that twist into strokes of sheer luck. Angela begins to piece together his true identity by just so happening to encounter Angel Batista, a former colleague of Dexter from Miami. He just so happens to mention Dexter's son's name during a conversation about the Bay Harbor Butcher at a police convention she just so happens to have planned to go to in New York City. It gives Angela the motivation to unveil Dexter's history, turn against him, and take the reigns as protagonist without genuinely earning it. These coincidences happen entirely too often across numerous plot lines and don't give the characters merit or credibility, detaching emotional investment for the good people of Iron Lake.

By the season's conclusion, Dexter finds himself once again on the lam, but his fate is sealed at the barrel of a gun. Harrison is compelled to pull the trigger on his own father, effectively putting an end to the Bay Harbor Butcher and quelling Dexter's quest for normalcy. The rationale behind this action does hold some logic; Dexter's code, which drives him to impose his serial killer inclinations only on those deserving of justice, can make some exceptions. Harrison discovers that his wrestling coach falls into this category during Dexter's escape, leading to a realization that he and his father are starkly dissimilar. Harrison comes to terms with the fact that his dangerous behavior isn't an inherited penchant for bloodlust, but rather a manifestation of anger and resentment stemming from abandonment. This crucial insight could have been explored much earlier in the series, yet it arrives too little, too late.

Harrison leaves Iron Lake with the help of Angela, closing a confusing and painful chapter of his life. The severe emotional scars he exhibited throughout the entire show notwithstanding, murdering his own father seems to have little impact on Harrison's disposition. It makes no sense and further demonstrates the severe lack of nuances and idiosyncrasies well-written characters typically convey.

Dexter: New Blood is yet another master class in failure. Despite the excellent work of Michael C. Hall as Dexter, Jennifer Carpenter returning as Debra as if she's been vacuum-sealed since the previous show, and the promising acting chops of Jack Alcott as Harrison, New Blood becomes an exhausting endeavor by repeating what didn't work before it. It's lazy by playing it safe, falling back on a lack of imagination because it doesn't have the confidence to deeply explore the dark, psychological enigmas it forces onto its characters. New Blood was supposed to give a worthy ending to the horrific and exhilarating exploits of Dexter Morgan, but instead continues Hollywood's track record of employing people who are terrible at writing people.

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