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Dexter: New Blood Is a Surprisingly Welcome Return

When we left Dexter Morgan a semiremorseful half righteous serial killer based in Miami hed lost pretty much everything. The series finale of Showtimes Dexter rendered the titular forensic expert and furtive angel of death alone and on the run starting a new life out west. It was one of the most frustrating series of finales in memory full of kitchensink excess and narrative evasions that felt punishing to people like myself who had stuck with the show even through its wobbly recent seasons.

We figured Dexter was done for good a once richly compelling series that briefly skirted the edges of greatness but always seemed out of step with or a few steps behind the quality boom of TVs golden prestige age. But Dexter was not it turns out done with us. A boggling eight years after the original series ended a new version of the show is premiering on Showtime November 7 finding Dexter in a vastly different setting and rusty at his old tricks.

Dexter New Blood is a surprisingly welcome return to the franchises brand of heady nonsense selfconscious but not overly precious about its meta awareness. Michael C. Hall who plays Dexter looks much the same as he always did his feathery Caesar cut still intact his nerdy affect as deliberately hollow as ever. Its cold though. Not cold in the sense of his barely incheck sociopathy but actually cold — hes in small town upstate New York awash in snowy white and living in a humble cabin. The series is smart enough to make a Fargo joke pretty early on otherwise its studied aping of that series rather than the movie would start to seem like minor theft.

The show works well in this new milieu. The humid heat of Miami was an aptly grotesque complement to Dexters misdeeds it ickily heightened all the reek and squish. But the northern setting allows the series to move away from the ironic glare and into something more meditative. Dexter now called Jim works at a sporting goods store lots of guns and knives everywhere and satiates his appetite for murder by going on physically intense solo hunts in the woods behind his home. He has not killed a human in nearly a decade. Thats not all that changed for the first almost hour of New Blood Dexters grating voice over truly the original series chief sin is gone. It does come back eventually I am afraid but its not quite so loquacious. Age and time and relocation has slowed that internal monologue some.

Dexter has also rid himself of his ghost dad therapist replaced with vigor by Jennifer Carpenters Deb whose death was such a sour note in the original series finale. Dexters sister is used more sparingly than was his father Harry and she brings a more interesting emotional timbre. Deb or at least Dexters imagining of her does not encourage or help guide Dexters socalled dark passenger which is the shows pseud opoetic term for Dexters serial killing impulses. Instead she is an alarmringing doomsayer warning Dexter about his precarious position how steep his slippery slope will be he tumble back onto it.

That adds a nice note of tension to New Blood whereas the original ghost interludes quickly grew repetitive and extraneous. On the whole this version of Dexter is more artful and restrained — at least for a little while. Gradually over the four episodes made available to critics the familiar Dexter clutter starts to creep in a tangle of plot threads over complicating what was briefly trim and efficient. But that mess of story is also what defined Dexter. In the best seasons especially the Trinity Killer run of episodes the writers managed a grand convergence arraying all the disparate parts into satisfying causal relation. I have hope perhaps naively that New Blood will do the same with its thicket of threats and suspects and crimes.

Dexter has gone from working for a police force to dating a member of one local sheriff Angela Julia Jones. This is exactly the kind of dunder headed decision making that was a hallmark of the original series and the complications it presents vacillate between pleasingly tricky and outright annoying. A character from the past emerges to further disrupt Dexters new life while some shadowy H.H. Holmesesque figure is imprisoning and murdering wayward young women. There is also a new political consciousness seen in the shows tentative exploration of Native identity and in a menacing industrialist character whose poisoning of the environment is probably not the only bad thing hes doing.

How will it all come together By the end of the fourth episode I found myself desperately eager to find out. Though I thought Id moved on from this show and its terrible ending or at least what was framed as an ending at the time Ive gone and gotten myself ensnared by it all over again.

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