Warming up after a debut consisting of two relatively tepid and whiny episodes, Dexter: New Blood is chipping the ice on the fun of the original series in episode three. Not to drive a nail in the coffin in terms of both murder puns and Dexter Morgan/Jim Lindsay bashing, but it’s worth noting that the best episode out of this first batch of three is the one to feature its titular character the least. Just sayin’.
Where the first two episodes centered almost entirely on Dexter/Jim moping around the small town of Iron Lake, New York, crying into his sandwich about wanting to be a better man and a better father, and then almost immediately killing someone and dissolving into complaints about having to drive his kid somewhere — this episode, “Smoke Signals,” spends a good chunk of run time following Harrison who has, as far as we can tell, grown into a solid and respectable man in just a short amount of living, while also containing a thick streak of darkness, inherited from his dad. But while Dexter had a taste for blood, lurking around Miami and now New York, just waiting for an opportunity to enact his strained form of justice by killing. Harrison seems to be a happy-go-lucky guy, content with chatting up girls, hanging out with different social circles at school, and nerding out over drones until he needs to right a wrong by stepping up, in broad daylight, to take a bully by the throat. These character elements, these flashes of light and dark, are what we’ve been missing from Dexter. It looks like we don’t need Dexter to provide them for us when we have his kid.
When Harrison learns that his new schoolmate Zach is catfishing a loner named Ethan, he wastes no time letting him know. Breezing past the table of popular kids occupied by his crush Audrey (Johnny Sequoyah), Harrison makes a beeline to Ethan, sitting alone, and joins him. He tells him plainly, and fairly, that he’s being catfished and that the text exchange he thought he was having with a boobtacular blonde is actually with Zach, who’s tormented him since grade school, and then calmly eats his lunch which impressively includes a hot dog AND a hamburger.
To help Ethan get revenge on his bully, Harrison makes a GIF of Zach making passionate love to a goat which Ethan fires off in his text thread. When Zach storms over, chest puffed out underneath his letterman jacket, to beat some ass in a trademark bully-versus-nerd way, Harrison steps in and takes Zach by the throat, immobilizing him while threatening to do that to him every day if he doesn’t leave Ethan alone. Watching this happen was like watching a black and white movie turn to color. Now *this* feels like Dexter. This is what we’ve been missing.
While Harrison is annihilating his school placement exams, getting on the wrestling team, helping Audrey arrange a proper burial for the white buck that Matt Caldwell shot, and battling bullies, Dexter/Jim is fighting with ghost Deb about what to do with Matt’s remains. His girlfriend Angela, the chief of police, brought a crime scene investigator to town so he could shed some light on Matt’s disappearance. After analyzing the blood, he determined that someone (Dexter/Jim) tried to throw the police off the trail by mixing up deer blood with human blood. Now that it’s known that the blood in the snow was, in fact, Matt’s police dogs are being brought into the mix to hunt for him. Since he was most recently in small bits wrapped in plastic under Dexter/Jim’s fire pit, he’s going to need to be moved. While Dexter/Jim discusses options with ghost Deb, who still clearly thinks he’s filth, we flash to a fantasy scene of Deb putting Matt’s bits in a wood-chipper out front of the high school, spraying blood and gore over the heads of passing students and onto Dexter’s windshield. “A little Fargo, don’t you think?!” Dexter/Jim calls out like a cheeseball.
Dexter/Jim concludes that the best way to keep the police dogs from finding Matt’s remains is to dig them up, pull his hunting vest out of the bag, and wind dance around in the snow with it. He rubs it in the crime scene blood, wipes it on trees, and then lets it fall for the dogs to find, giving not a thought to the trail cameras that he just learned were all around that area. In his own words, he’s gotten rusty in his abstinence.
Having bought himself some time, he treks up to an abandoned mine with Matt’s body parts the next day with the intent to chuck them into the depths but gets scared away by a bear like a scene from Scooby-Doo. In the end, he puts them into an industrial furnace in the heart of town so Matt’s ashes can rain down on the head of his own father, drunk on beer and singing out whoo hoo on the sidewalk.
The most interesting element of this episode, which, surprisingly and happily had a lot of oomph to it, is the mystery behind the identity of the man entrapping and hunting young women in this town. We meet back with Hamburger Girl, still trapped in the hotel/cabin, she’s been held captive in since shortly after we met her in episode one, and get some clues as to who might be behind this. As she’s cowered in the corner of her room, we see a man dressed in camouflage pulling on a ski mask, gloves, and lowering the needle of his record player down on a 45 of “Runaway” by Del Shannon. He pushes a button that causes a door in the room to pop open and the girl, seeing an opportunity to escape, takes it. She doesn’t get far, though. As soon as she hits the snow, he focuses the laser sight of his rifle on her and takes her down like just another deer. That’s the fate of young women in movies and TV shows, problematically. While men get killed for murdering animals and other people, women just get killed for recreation.
Based on the eye color and build of this weirdo, it’s ramping up to either Edward Olsen (Frederic Lehne) or Kurt Caldwell (Clancy Brown). They both exhibit shady behavior in this episode that could point to either one. In one scene, where Audrey is stranded on the road with her broken-down car, Edward pulls up and asks if she wants to sit in his car with him where there’s TV and heat and sodas. Typical predator antics. She tells him to get bent, naturally, and he responds with the ominous statement, “one day you’ll understand how the world works. Stay safe.” And in Kurt’s case, he later tells Dexter that he face-timed with his son Matt, who we all know is beyond dead at this point. So what the hell’s going on there? It’ll be exciting to find out. And I’m excited that this show might end up being a worthy revival after all. Not because of Dexter/Jim, but in spite of him.
On the Kill-Room Floor
• Dexter/Jim keeps sighing over all of this wilderness, snow, and privacy he has, but anyone who’s ever lived in a small town knows that that’s not how small towns work.
• There’s something weird about the cop who keeps talking to Harrison about wrestling. It seems like that could be a possible pedo scenario, or maybe I’m just reading into things too much. There’s just something gross about it.
• Cute little Easter egg in the form of the paperback novels next to the kidnapper/killer’s laptop. As he’s watching Hamburger Girl, there’s a stack of books by Clyde Phillips shown in the room just before he kills her. Phillips is the producer of this show, many other shows, and also a novelist.