In 2006, when the original Dexter series first aired, the concept of a handsome white man killing under the tugging conflicts of a strained moral code seemed exciting and sexy. In late 2021, after all the hell we’ve been through, maybe not so much.
Dexter came into our lives as a welcomed salt lick to top off the saccharine likability of other popular shows of the time like Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock. While Tim Riggins was making memories and Liz Lemon was working on her night cheese, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) was stabbing bad guys in the chest with a huge knife to appease his inner bad guy, which he referred to in inner monologues as his “dark passenger.” Meeting up with him ten years later, having relocated from Miami, the city version of a smiley face sticker, to frigid Iron Lake, New York, his self-prescribed post murderer rehab has him in a place of buck hunting without the actual kill, like a weird murder edging (you can ask Harry Styles what edging means), and inside jokes alluding to his slice and dice days that all come off a little silly.
The original run of Dexter gave us something we’d never experienced before, and we looked forward to seeing what the title character would or wouldn’t do next. But then it dissolved into out-of-the-blue incest storylines, child abandonment, and sororicide. In episode 12 of season eight, a series finale that all but killed the fond memories of an otherwise great series in an epic Game of Thrones level way, Dexter enjoys the beach view of his apartment one last time before taking to the stormy sea, never to return, like Patrick Swayze at the end of Point Break. In an all too familiar inner monologue, he says, “For so long, all I wanted was to be like other people. To feel what they felt. But now that I do, I just want it to stop.” Maybe it should have actually stopped there?
The pull to correct the wrongs of a real stinker of a series finale caused showrunner Clyde Phillips to bring Dexter back to life. Living under the name Jim Lindsay — a little butt goose to Jeff Lindsay, the man who created the Dexter character in his 2004 novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter — he ends the first episode by committing his first murder in ten years. And as we see him plunge a knife into a man’s chest, center stage in his newly fashioned kill room, it barely resonates. This is either a sign that de-sensitivity has truly made monsters of us all or that maybe Clyde Phillips should have brought another one of his shows back instead. Parker Lewis Can’t Lose never really got its fair dues. How about that one?
The excitement of Dexter: New Blood lies in the actual newness of the continuation, more so than the revival of previous favorites in the way of ghost Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) or even Dexter/Jim himself. Witnessing Jim fix himself a snack while talking about the weather with the apparition of his dead sister who he flirted with, sexually, and then killed isn’t nearly as interesting as re-meeting his son, Harrison (Jack Alcott), now a teenager standing before his dead beat dad who pawned him off to live under the care of his equally murderous girlfriend Hannah as a child. What’s that gonna look like? And how far will we find this apple to have fallen from the tree, body count wise?
What we come to learn of Jim Lindsay in this first episode, “Cold Snap,” is that he works at a sporting goods store called Fred’s Fish & Game, is dating his new town’s chief of police, Angela Bishop (Julia Jones), and runs like Sasquatch in the now infamous Patterson-Gimlin clip while chasing white buck in the snow. Several times in the episode, we watch Jim, Carhartt clad with rifle on shoulder, track deer right up to the trigger pull point, and then stop. We’re supposed to see redemption in this, or at least restraint, but what we really see is inevitability. Dexter/Jim, after all, is an animal lover. He’s just not a people lover. That deer has nothing to fear in him. The loudmouth daddy’s boy who ends up actually shooting him? Well, that’s another story.
When not line dancing with his law-abiding girlfriend, or organizing knives and guns at work, Jim cocoons himself in a cozy enough cabin that he shares with his sister Deb, a woman in her watery grave for ten years now.
“It’s really cold today,” Jim says to Deb while shuffling around his cabin.
“You picked this place,” Deb replies. Eerie in its double entendre.
The killer formerly known as Dexter could be in Argentina. He could have a son that he watched grow into a young man. He could have a wife. But he’s left here, with his ghosts and secret desires. Same as before. Where he previously kept the council of the ghost of his dad Harry (James Remar) now, he has the spirit of Deb to constantly remind him that at his true essence he’s a killer who, with or without trying, snuffs out the flame of every living thing around him. Even wildlife.
In the most moving scene of this episode, Jim tracks down the large white buck he’s caught and released several times before. In a dramatic act that shows him symbolically begging for forgiveness from nature itself, he stands with his hand outstretched to the animal, gaining its trust until it gets so close that he can see himself reflected in the animal’s huge black eyes. At the moment of what looks a lot like inner peace, a shot rings out, and the animal goes down as blood inches out from around its fallen body in the snow. Matt Caldwell, the dick head son of a local money man, comes running up hooting and hollering to claim his trophy but instead becomes Jim’s first trophy in a decade. By any other name, this man is still very much Dexter Morgan.
Hunting is assuredly a terrible thing, but if it takes something as relatively minor as that to break Jim’s edge, then it seems like his dark passenger has an even stronger grip on him now than before. To take it back to edging, that’s the conflict with pleasure delaying. Depriving yourself of something you really REALLY want makes it all the better when you finally let yourself gorge. And then you just want more.
On The Kill Room Floor
• Watching Jim line dance feels so vulnerable. It’s like watching a good friend try out their stand-up comedy routine on you for the first time. All you can do is just awkwardly smile.
• Setting up a show where a “reformed” killer works with guns and knives all day and dates the chief of police is a bit too on the nose. It would have been more effective to have him running a daycare center out of his home or something. Or working in a library prison.
• It seems like Iron Lake has a bit of a missing person problem, and that girl at the bar who got treated to a hamburger and fries by Chief Bishop is probably the next to go missing. I bet Jim is going to have something to say about that.
More From This Series
- Dexter: New Blood Recap: All Things Considered
- Dexter: New Blood Recap: Blood Is the Body’s Truth
- Dexter: New Blood Recap: Like Father Like Son