Dexter: New Blood premieres Sunday, Nov. 7 on Showtime.
Revivals are commonplace these days, but given how poorly Dexter’s eight-season run ended, and how mocked and maligned the series became following that finale, it’s hard to see 10-episode limited series Dexter: New Blood as anything but an attempt at a do-over. Regardless, it’s not exactly the worst idea in the world, and considering New Blood’s fun opener, “Cold Snap,” there’s still some good, ghoulish story to mine from the world of Dexter Morgan.
Original Dexter showrunner Clyde Phillips, who oversaw the series’ first four seasons (aka the best o’ Dexter), returns to the fold to transport us back to what we loved about the show in the first place — albeit, with some new tinkering to the format, as this Dexter Morgan is a changed man. Or, at least, like an addict, he’s battling his urges every day and sticking to a routine in order to live a small, anonymous, murder-free life with “Bay Harbor Butcher” Miami very much in his rear view. It’s 10 years later (within the show) and Dexter’s done what he promised. He’s removed himself from everything and everyone, though it’s not as drastic as the solitary lumberjack existence we recall from the last aired episode.
No, Dexter, after a healthy stretch as that bearded woodsman, is now allowing himself a normie life in the frozen remote town of Iron Lake, N.Y. It’s here that we land back into Dexter’s story and… much of it’s familiar. In a good way. Going by “Jim Lindsay,” Dexter’s got everyone fooled again — though not in a sociopathic plot that allows him to secretly murder. He’s simply taken to wearing his “person mask” for real now, greeting townsfolk with friendly platitudes, working a customer service job in a hunting shop (fitting, as his interactions with most everyone have always felt like customer service), and dating the local chief of police, Angela Bishop (Julia Jones). Still very much the epitome of “guy you’d least suspect to be the killer next door,” Dexter’s doing nothing wrong (well, except for hiding from his past crimes, et al.).
With this era of “Jim Lindsay” comes a slightly changed series too. Aside from the frostbitten location, complete with crunching snow and icy breath, also comes the ditching of the famed opening credits, the Dexter narration, and a few other hallmarks of the original run. That’s not to say these things can’t return (and be meaningful when they do) but New Blood is out to deliver a mix of old and fresh, and it lands really well here at the start. Still intact, however, is the comic panel vibe of the old show.
Dexter: New Blood: Cold Snap Gallery
When “Jim” is out and about, the bouncy cartoonish mood returns, once again acting as the lens through which Dexter sees the people around him. Jim is a superficial persona because it’s mostly what he sees in others. His mirror neurons are working overtime once again. It’s one of the elements that made the first series so unique and groundbreaking.
Now, there are a few surprises we won’t go into here for this first episode, and the more you can avoid, or forget about, the New Blood trailer the better (as it gives away some moments that work really well if you head in as spoiler-free as possible). One thing that’s kind of inescapable, though, is Jennifer Carpenter’s return as Deb, who now looms in Dexter’s psyche in a similar manner to James Remar’s ghost of Harry in the original.
Deb’s presence is very much a sad and heavy phantom in “Cold Snap.” She doesn’t act like old Deb, as Dexter’s projection is not her bold, vulgarity-firing self. At times it feels more like a Victorian-era haunting. It’s just another slight twist of the old formula that helps give New Blood a crisp sheen.
Naturally, for New Blood to work, there has to be some disruption to the status-quo; some shaking of Dexter’s snowglobe. “Cold Snap” gives us a lot to chew on — while also not even revealing all the new characters who’ll ruffle Dexter’s feathers — but the most pressing pain is the arrival of spoiled stockbroker Matt Caldwell (Steve M. Robertson), a s***ty son of privilege who yearns to party and shoot up the woods as an irresponsible hunter. It’s textbook Dexter collision course stuff, sure, but that’s part of the comfort food we crave from this new series. It’s a holdover element from the early days that still works because of how easily Michael C. Hall is able to slip into these shoes and take us back to the simple days of Dark Passengers and anti-hero avenging.
Given how this episode ends, and the choices made (which, again, we won’t spill here), all eyes will be on New Blood to see if lessons were learned from Dexter Season 8 and, in turn, if Dexter himself is still as fallible a creature as he once was — meaning, to the degree where, many seasons in, his mind seemed to reboot each year, having not absorbed any wisdom from his previous mistakes. “Jim Lindsay” is Dexter as a man who actually changed himself. Obviously, he’ll have to unravel, but will this second chance ending unravel with him?