Warning: The following contains full spoilers for all of Dexter: New Blood, which is now streaming on Showtime. For more, check out reviews of each episode below:
Dexter: New Blood Premiere Review
Dexter: New Blood Episode 2 Review – “Storm of F***”
Dexter: New Blood Episode 3 – “Smoke Signals”
Dexter: New Blood Episode 4 Review – “H is For Hero”
Dexter: New Blood Episode 5 Review – “Runaway”
Dexter: New Blood Episode 6 Review – “Too Many Tuna Sandwiches”
Dexter: New Blood Episode 7 Review – “Skin of Her Teeth”
Dexter: New Blood Episode 8 Review – “Unfair Game”
Dexter: New Blood Episode 9 Review – “The Family Business”
Dexter: New Blood Finale Review – “Sins of the Father”
Vigilante serial killer Dexter Morgan returned to our lives, ready to suffer the consequences he wasn’t allowed to fully absorb at the end of series’ original run, in Dexter: New Blood. This frosty years-later revival was designed to be a follow-up season (at a leaner 10 episodes) that was both a fairly obvious attempt by Showtime at a finale re-do but also one that most fans welcomed after almost a decade of being bummed out about a once-great series being marred by a bad finish. Overall, aside from a few meandering episodes that dabbled in the show’s old frustrating delay tactics, it worked really well and its new, improved ending was poignant, fitting, and haunting in all the ways the 2013 one wasn’t.
So what all went down? Well, apparently a few years after Dexter’s (thankfully off-screen) lumberjack life, he made his way to snowbound, isolated Iron Lake, N.Y., for a humble small town life free of murder. Yes, Dexter did give up his killer ways in honor of Deb and all those he’d inadvertently hurt, while spending much of his alone time with a solemn, mostly-quiet phantom version of his late sister. The series never quite explained how Dexter, now “Jim Lindsay,” was able to tamp down his Dark Passenger, as the old series seemed to make it clear it was a craving that would always return, rather forcefully, but perhaps the lack of temptation in this frozen postcard of a town was the key factor. We were also given a Dexter who was — like we found him way back at the beginning of Season 2 — unable to kill (as demonstrated by an inability to pull the trigger while hunting).
Dexter: New Blood Episode 10 Gallery
The use of Jennifer Carpenter’s Deb now as Dexter’s new ghost, his revived conscience if you will, was mostly effective. Yes, there were times she just acted the same way Ghost Harry did and was a source of constant warning/nagging, but other times she was used to make a huge impact. Like the way she existed in the first episode, just lovingly by Dexter’s side most of the time (which was repeated during his death), or how she helped Dexter work his own son’s high school crime scene in Episode 4, “H is for Hero.”
Plus, there was the terrific beat in Episode 9, “The Family Business,” where Deb said “please don’t” right before Dexter told Harrison about the murders. For the most part, Ghost Deb was well executed. It was better than, say, John Lithgow’s return as Trinity for the quick Season 4 bathtub flashback, which, when you think about it, was all done for misdirection purposes. It was meant to hammer home that Harrison had a similarly styled Dark Passenger, when in fact he didn’t (and it wound up being a crucial tipping point in the finale).
Setting Dexter up in a completely new environment, with a whole new supporting cast (plus some well done moments with David Zayas’ Batista), was a great choice, though only a few members of the ensemble got to squeak through as actual characters while the rest just played the quirky backdrop game. The original Dexter series had grown stale from a cast standpoint and eventually the various stories of the people surrounding Dexter grew to become one of the most tiring, and weakly executed, aspects of the show, so giving everything a fresh coat of paint was awesome. Bringing back Harrison, though, ten years later, now a troubled teen looking for answers, was the certified linchpin for New Blood’s success.
Yes, there were a couple of things introduced near the beginning that never paid off (billionaire Edward Olsen, that bear by the cave, Harrison’s mystery gap years, etc.) but the strengths of New Blood were bold and present enough to push those into the realm of minor consideration. On top of this, despite this being a tighter and more focused season than usual for Dexter, with fewer episodes, there were a couple of mid-level straggler episodes where we had to sit with Dexter and his inner monologue for too long while he made assumptions and choices we knew to be mistakes. That’s kind of a hallmark for the series as a whole, for sure, but this was the type of nostalgic callback we didn’t need. It was enough that the entire season of New Blood was Dexter making one grand mistake in thinking that Harrison could, and should, be molded into a serial killer the way he was. That’s all we needed.
Dexter’s “cat and mouse” game with Iron Lake’s own hidden monster, Kurt Caldwell, had its moments, but Caldwell didn’t really come together as a formed, complete villain until Episode 8, “Unfair Game,” when we realized his kindness toward Harrison stemmed from his hatred of Dexter for killing Matt. Still, Dexter having to compete with two other father figures in town — Kurt and Deputy/Coach Logan — made for a strong enough thematic thread that Kurt’s shakiness sometimes as a character was fine in the end. And given that the last time EP/showrunner Clyde Phillips worked on Dexter was in Season 4 when Dexter’s foil was “family man” Trinity, whom Dexter thought held the answers to a “having it all” lifestyle, it’s great that Phillips was able to revisit this angle in a fresh way here in New Blood.
There were several convenient coincidences driving the New Blood story, the biggest being Harrison showing up in Dexter’s life moments after Dexter fell off the wagon and killed Matt Caldwell (it seems all he really did need was someone who fit the Dark Passenger/Defender’s profile), but it resonated mostly as serendipitous doom than anything. Dexter wasn’t just about to fail with his son, he was about to have his entire life crash and burn around him. Julia Jones’ Angela Bishop was the Deb we didn’t get in Season 8. That (then) final season was set up as Dexter vs. Deb, given the way Season 7 ended, but their combativeness only lasted four episodes. Afterwards, Deb got on board with Dexter’s “calling” and the best possible ending for Dexter at that time was taken from us. Angela, despite having loved “Jim,” wasn’t going to buckle. She was going to stay firm and resolute in the face of Dexter’s lies and charm. She was the hero we needed to take down the Bay Harbor Butcher.
Likewise, Jack Alcott had some terrific moments as Harrison once it was established in “H is for Hero” that the boy had dark, violent (and manipulative) tendencies. New Blood played things close to the edge with Harrison as an occasionally annoying teen complaining about a situation (living with his estranged dad) that he put himself in, but ultimately Harrison’s search for direction, meaning, and connection moved this series toward its devastating conclusion where Harrison got to stand as the one person who could point out the biggest flaw in Dexter’s (and Harry’s) ideology: that you don’t kill innocent people even if you’re cornered/caught. Dexter killing Deputy Logan was us getting the answer to a huge question that lingered from way back in Season 2 and it cast a massive, necessary shadow on our beloved anti-hero.