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Dexter: New Blood Reviews Are In, See What Critics Are Saying About The Showtime Revival

It’s been eight years since Dexter’s original eight-season run came to an end on Showtime, as the titular serial killer sailed his boat into a hurricane and came out with a new identity, working as a lumberjack and vowing to control his Dark Passenger. The dramatic thriller's original finale is objectively one of the most reviled in television history, but in a climate where reboots and revivals are more a question of “when” not “if,” Michael C. Hall took the chance to reprise the role of Dexter Morgan in Showtime's limited continuation Dexter: New Blood. But can he possibly leave the character on a higher note?

Dexter: New Blood picks up ten years after the events of the original series. Michael C. Hall's former blood spatter expert has given up the warm beaches of Miami for the snow-covered Iron Lake, New York. Here, he works in a hunting and fishing supply store and is dating the town’s police chief, Angela Bishop (Julia Jones). Events soon trigger the serial killer’s old ways, naturally, as Dexter continues to be haunted by the actions — and people — of his former life. Critics were given the first four episodes of Dexter: New Blood to review, and now that those opinions are going public, let’s take a look at whether or not they think Showtime’s revived limited series is worth checking out.

The new series reunited Michael C. Hall with showrunner Clyde Phillips, who steered Dexter’s first four seasons. While those seasons are largely considered to be the best of the original Showtime series, it did make some question if this revival was simply a chance to redo the series’ ending, and if so, is that reason enough? Rolling Stone gave the series 2 out of 5 stars, saying clearing such a low bar was not worthy of celebration. 

'Sorry about the mess; I’m out of practice,’ Dexter quips after he inevitably falls off the wagon and gets violent again. It’s meant as a meta joke about how long it’s been since the original run ended, and perhaps even a comment on how rusty those later seasons could seem. But neither he nor New Blood come to feel sharp enough to justify his return as anything but a nostalgia play for a property whose finale likely preempted a lot of nostalgia. Whatever conclusion Phillips writes for this miniseries almost by definition has to be better than Lumberjack Dexter, but is clearing the lowest of bars enough to justify returning to our man and all his old rituals?

Collider appreciated the distinction between the original and the revived version, but also said Dexter: New Blood felt enough like the original that it “might be the apology that fans are looking for” after the disastrous Season 8 finale. 

Marking the fact that this show is coming out in the year 2021 is the fact that it's far less procedural than the original series — there's no victim of the week for Dexter to hunt down, with the action instead focused on the ongoing larger story. Does New Blood otherwise feel like the original series? Absolutely — to the point where, when I switched from watching the screeners to continuing my own personal viewing of the original series, I actually struggled a bit with some cognitive dissonance.

While the story itself doesn't seem to be winning anyone over entirely, the cast still won some reviewers over. Variety noted how nice it was to have Michael C. Hall and his on-screen sister (and off-screen ex-wife) Jennifer Carpenter reprising their roles. Carpenter’s Debra — widely considered one of the best characters in the original series — still employs that profanity-laced magic. The review stated:

Like old times, Hall’s performance is unsurprisingly good — it’s long seemed that he could nail the Dexter character in his sleep — even when things can be predictable. But Jennifer Carpenter arguably gives the most compelling performance of the series, somehow even livelier as Deb in death, while still being recognizable. (Jamie Chung’s turn as a true-crime podcaster also brings the liveliness in a much-needed way to the series.)

THR pointed out that Dexter set the stage all those years ago for similar anti-heroes and empathetic serial killers, perhaps most notably the Netflix series You and its killer Joe Goldberg. Joe has been compared to Dexter in his narration style and, specifically in You’s third season, wondering what murderous traits he might have passed on to his son. The review posited that You was “a sexier, sillier, more topical Dexter. It’s a Dexter that has evolved" which didn't suggest much of Dexter: New Blood's own evolution.

It’s bad luck that Dexter is returning to TV just weeks after You dropped a season in which its main character also wonders how he could be a good father and a serial killer. The similarities don’t stop there, as You engaged this season with Missing White Woman Syndrome, while Dexter uses Iron Lake’s proximity to a Seneca Nation reservation to acknowledge, in fairly bland form, the plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women. 

Dexter: New Blood’s attempts at social commentary — which the original series did not contain — fell a bit flat in the first four episodes provided to critics, per Vulture. However, the outlet's review did say the revived version is “intriguing” and still worth checking out.

The series also pokes around the edges of some timely social issues, particularly with regard to the class divisions between the rich and the middle class, as well as the divide between Iron Lake residents and the indigenous people who live on the adjacent Seneca reservation. It is not at all clear whether Dexter: New Blood will have something meaningful to say about any of this or if it’s simply attempting to broaden its prestige ambitions beyond its usual crime parameters.

IndieWire gave Dexter: New Blood a middling C+, saying that while there are plenty of red flags and unfortunate tropes, there are enough notes of the original series to attract viewers to this Showtime Original. The reviewer is still wary, though, since viewers also had optimistic attitudes going into Dexter’s later seasons, and wonders if they should have just left it alone after it took fans so long to get over the ending the first time around.

Supporting characters are thinly sketched. Nods to local customs and indigenous people seem superficial so far. The show’s disdain for journalists is alive and well, indulging once more in the ugly trope of a female reporter sleeping her way to a good story. And Dexter: New Blood goes out of its way to become another Dead Girl Show, introducing a mysterious side-plot about a local kidnapper who enjoys killing wayward women. Almost all of these red flags may be reined in (to various degrees) in the back-half of the season, but isn’t that level of unsubstantiated hope reminiscent, as well? Isn’t that the same misplaced faith that led so many to watch Dexter to the very end? Should audiences really reinvest in this character, after nearly a decade of much-needed distancing?

While everyone's mileage will vary for a show like this, with finale apologists no doubt ready to lean in harder than anyone, it sounds like Dexter: New Blood isn't completely absent of what made the original series enjoyable. Albeit it also sounds like the newest season still pales in comparison to the earliest years. But everyone will be able to give their own assesments soon enough. 

If what you need to get over that 2013 Dexter finale is more of Dexter Morgan, you’ll finally be able to get your closure as Dexter: New Blood premieres at 9 p.m. ET Sunday, November 7, on Showtime. Keep up with other premieres through the end of the year with our 2021 TV Schedule.

Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.