How do you “fix” a finale like Dexter’s? The widely reviled 2013 episode saw Miami serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C Hall) fake his own death and move to Oregon to become a lumberjack. Then, last year, came a reprieve, in the form of 10-part revival series Dexter: New Blood. The show’s creators relished the potential do-over. So, too, it seems, did fans: the 10-part series has become Showtime’s most-watched of all time.
But where do you go from the original baffling endpoint? The answer, somehow, was Iron Lake, a small, snow-covered town in New York State. The new locale brought Dexter into contact with a roster of new characters, and a couple of familiar faces – most significantly that of his teenage son, Harrison. This week’s conclusion brought Dexter’s story to a definitive, satisfying end. There was to be no lumberjack ex machina here. Praise be.
The episode, entitled “Sins of the Father”, saw Dexter finally reckon with the moral inconsistencies of his killer’s code, after murdering a police officer to escape jail. Calling him out for his transgressions, Dexter’s son, Harrison (Jack Alcott) then shoots him dead, at his father’s behest. The killing is an act of love and liberation, for both father and son. The last we see of Harrison, he is driving optimistically towards a new life. But fans were nonetheless rattled by the conclusion. Some dubbed it an “anticlimax”. Others were frustrated at the lack of a showdown between Dexter and his former colleague, detective Angel Batista (David Zayas). (The episode halfway teases a climactic confrontation between Dexter and Batista, which never transpires.) “They really went and screwed up two Dexter finales,” wrote another viewer. I suppose the pithy moral here is to be careful what you wish for. But the truth of it is, this finale was incomparable to the original. It gave fans exactly what they claimed to want: closure; justice; some semblance of redemption.
Too often, reboots and sequels regress to what is safe and recognisable to win over their fans; from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Ghostbusters: Afterlife, familiarity is the name of the game. The easy thing for Dexter: New Blood to do would have been to return to Miami. Place Dexter in his old haunts. Indulge big showdowns with all his former friends and adversaries. But in opting for a slightly more adventurous, esoteric premise, New Blood showed it didn’t just want to apologise for the original finale. It wanted to redeem it. Within the context of the new series, Dexter’s season eight retreat to the boonies isn’t just an arbitrary last-minute twist, but a decision that has lasting and meaningful consequences.
As for the disappointment of the no-show showdown with Detective Batista, that’s another call that the New Blood finale absolutely got right. It would be disingenuous to pretend all of a sudden that Batista and Dexter had some sort of special relationship. Because he spent so much of the original series successfully concealing his murderous habits, Dexter seldom built up a real antipathy with the show’s many law enforcement characters. The significant adversaries in Dexter’s life were, more often than not, simply other serial killers. Or else it was usually family members, such as Dexter’s sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), who appears regularly throughout New Blood as a vision. It’s why New Blood was able to completely change the locale and supporting cast and still feel, more or less, like the same show – a rare feat in the world of TV, where consistency is king.
New Blood’s finale was by no means a classic or essential piece of TV. But in the greater scheme of things, neither was Dexter. Even its best seasons were always a little pulpy, a little daft. When it comes to creative ambition, originality and purposefulness, New Blood pales drastically in comparison to Twin Peaks: The Return – the other high-profile revival series that Showtime have produced in recent years. But as salvage jobs go, this was a sure-fire success. Dexter has been expunged from the annals of television disasters. Finally, mercifully, it can be laid to rest.