Published on January 25th, 2022 | by Kim Kurtenbach0
Dexter: New Blood (2021)
Kim takes a spoiler-free stab at endorsing the return of everyone’s favourite serial murderer, Dexter Morgan. More killing! Yay!
Once upon a time, just before everyone knew what an iPhone is, a new kind of dark hero arrived on television. He stalked, kidnaped and murdered people, dismembering their bodies before dumping them in the ocean. The audience, surprisingly, loved it. His name was Dexter Morgan, and he was a serial killer who targeted dangerous predators and murderers to deliver justice through death.
Cheering for the ‘bad guy’ is fun. A very complex dish of that was first served up by HBO just a few years before Dexter (2006), in the form of The Sopranos (1999) and it changed television forever. The key to Tony Soprano is that he has a depth of layers, like mamma’s home-made Bolognese sauce, while the key to Dexter is that he doesn’t. Dexter is a psychopath, so examining his inner conflicts doesn’t take years of therapy. He is all on the surface, both when performing a ritual kill or while being his blank, perfunctory daytime alter-ego as a blood splatter analyst for Miami Metro Police. There is very little to connect with concerning Dexter Morgan. He is a shell of a person, mostly empty on the inside, except for the mild buzz of mimicking the behaviour he sees in humans with actual feelings. But we like what he’s doing, so we cheer for him as he disposes of other monsters.
The allure of Dexter remains, even if the audience is more wary than they were back in 2009. From those award-winning opening credits that show Dexter turn the mundane (making breakfast, shaving, cleaning his teeth) into a haunting macabre dance, to the powerful performance of lead actor Michael C. Hall, it’s understandable that fans want just a little more. Plus, the season finale of Season 8 back in 2013 was/is a perplexing disappointment that didn’t make much sense. Not Game of Thrones (2019) disappointing but, then again, Dexter was never as complicated as GOT.
Dexter doesn’t need to be complicated to be enjoyed. In fact, when it tries too hard to do so, it falters. The most enjoyable part of original series is when they simply wind Dexter up and we watch him go. Dexter: New Blood returns to the cat and mouse games that made it so enjoyable when it was at its best. Michael C. Hall is still a serious talent. If you are not familiar with his role on HBOs Six Feet Under (2001), he was a stand-out on a drama that ranks as close to a 10/10 as you can find, and it’s where he picked up his first of six Emmy nominations. It’s probably one of the reasons Dexter had so many powerhouse guest stars over the years; there was always a need to put someone across from Hall that could really keep up. We can’t say that for the rest of the Dexter cast and, yes, I’m looking specifically at you ‘Deb’. I hated Deb. Not the character so much as I thought the actress (Jennifer Carpenter, ex-wife of Michael C. Hall) was limited, if not weak. Strangely, her intermittent appearances in New Blood are actually very good, primarily because she is served in small, yet important portions.
The trend of powerful guest stars continues in New Blood with the addition of Clancy Brown. You know him as the nasty, sadistic guard in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), but he was at his best as Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle (2001). Brown is an inferno of talent whose on-screen persona will make you seethe. Incidentally, he’s also going to foul a perfectly good Del Shannon song for the rest of your near future, but you’ll see what I mean.
It’s been eight years since we went creeping around the night with Dexter, and that’s given us all – the audience, producers, and writers – space and time to appreciate a fresh start. First is a change of scenery. Typically, it doesn’t work for shows to change locations but, for Dexter, moving from the perpetual summer of Miami to the snow covered isolation of a small town in upstate New York works. Dexter was interesting when he was free to roam the dark nights of Miami, a city with a presumably endless list of people for Dexter to butcher. Now that he has relocated to a small town as Jim Lindsay – store clerk, boyfriend to the Iron Lake chief of police, and recovering serial-murderer, his opportunities have become limited. He sharpens knives for the town butcher. He brings cinnamon buns to work. That is until the dark passenger begins to knock and urges need to be obeyed. You think quitting smoking is hard? Try being compelled to murder 138 people and going cold turkey. Sounds tough, and unlikely, since natural appetites can turn to hunger, and that leads to…well, you get the idea. The point is, there’s no such thing as a vegetarian panther.
Dexter always followed a pretty predictable road from season to season, and has its seemingly inescapable ruts. There’s usually another serial killer, a maybe-girlfriend, a background of characters that cast suspicion/harbour secrets, or a kidnapping. Dexter’s day-to-day alway seems to be chasing The Poisoner; The Skinner; The Ice Truck Killer; The Brain Surgeon; The Doomsday Killer; The Trinity Killer. Plus all the work murders! Dude, join a bowling team and meet some normal people. Wait, did he already do that in one of the old seasons? Never mind.
So, sure, I had some issues with how Chief Angela Bishop reached her pursuit of evidence and conclusions, but I’ll let you decide about that. Questions the audience used to muse about regarding Dexter’s son, Harrison (now a teenager), are flushed out well, and another familiar face from Dexter’s past emerges. Who that is shall remain a surprise until you watch, but the potential for that storyline was squandered. Why tease us with a character’s return if they aren’t really going to do anything?
Dexter: New Blood is a better looking and more thoughtfully shot than any season I can remember. Maybe it’s the Canadian-like setting, but there are some gorgeous shots both day and night that really capture how beautiful winter can be. A small town is a good setting for a story. It’s tight, but has plenty of room for all sorts of characters. If you’ve been to enough small towns to realize how subtly complex they are in their social fabric, you’ll find it exaggerated yet plausible.
All things considered, this was a very successful new season. Again, the ending is underwhelming, but the ride is full of thrills and chills. If you’re trying to convince a friend or partner to watch with, you won’t have to Saran-wrap them to table and force their cooperation. Just grab a blanket and the popcorn while Dexter prepares his syringes and sharpens his knives. Some people in town have really been pissing him off.
Dexter: New Blood is now streaming on Crave.