WARNING: Contains spoilers for Dexter: New Blood and Breaking Bad!
Hello Jim Lindsey….goodbye Dexter Morgan….
And like that, he’s gone!
There was a period in my love for TV, DEXTER was the greatest show on the small screen. During its pinnacle of greatest, Jack Bauer was still hunting for another mole in CTU, Tony Soprano was yet to sit down and see his world go black, LOST as always continued to give out more questions than answers, while Walter White had just met up with a former pupil and jumped onto a RV to do some cooking.
There were many great shows, but for me, that wonderful intro, the foreboding end credits score (wonderfully kept for this series return), blood slides and killings, DEXTER was the ultimate “I’ve got to wait a week?” watch.
It had everything. A captivating performance from its lead star Michael C Hall equally supported by the back up quality of such faces like Julia Benz and Jennifer Carpenter. The first three seasons were just exquisite, with Dexter’s constant tension with Sgt. Doakes, his battle with a fellow serial killer The Ice Cream Truck Killer, to his affair with Lila – how could he do that to the lovely Rita? and of course striking up a friendship with Miguel Prado, that ends up in a fascinating cat and mouse game.
Then of course Season 4 came and with it the shadowy figure of TRINITY, a serial killer played memorably by John Lithgow that even now to this day, I’d argue and say that its one of the greatest 10 episodes any show has ever produced.
With a staggering heart breaking twist at the end, for many fans DEXTER the show ended there. The moment his life peaked and the rest of the seasons that followed never could live up to that standard, with each passing year the quality dipped further and further.
I agree to a certain extent. Season five is not half as bad as people remember, but its very grim which is understandable due to where the story picks up from, but Julia Stiles offered a new challenge in the shape of Lumen Pierce, a woman desperate for help and was exactly who our anti hero needed at that particular time and even on a re-watch Season Six is pretty decent.
Yes, the obvious twist which every fan spotted many episodes before its reveal is still annoying and I agree that the writing starts to dip away further from the quality that won the show an Emmy, but it does build up to a crazy and frantic final few episodes and that cliff-hanger!!! WOW!, it stunned fans back then and is still a great moment of the franchise.
The reason why after 10 years we are back in the world of Dexter Morgan is because of the last two seasons which, well, they are a travesty. Season 7 was boring and bland and the eighth and final run was even worse, leaving a final shot of Dexter being a lumberjack while the Monty Python song of “I’m a Lumberjack and its OK….” rang out during the closing credits. OK, I lied about that music track, but they might as well have added it to that that ending that was so polarizing, it had left a bitter aftertaste for every fan.
We deserved better! Michael C Hall deserved better! and so here we are.
Reunited with Clyde Phillips, the showrunner of the golden age of the first four seasons, New Blood’s main aim is to right the wrongs of that final run. Having swapped the sunny delights of Miami to the cold icy mountains of the fictional town of Iron Lake, its been 10 years since Dexter fought off the Brain surgeon and is now living as Jim Lindsay (a name nod to the author of the DEXTER books), and keeping his head down by working in a gun shop and having some naughty sexy time with the local Police Chief Angela Bishop (Julia Jones).
His dark passenger who has now taken the form of his deceased sister Debra (Carpenter) is still haunting his thoughts but he has managed to keep his murderous urges at bay, until an obnoxious spoilt rich kid turns up, starts to annoy and eventually fits the “Harry code” that Dexter strives for in a bad guy.
Soon the familiar room of plastic sheets and knives are out in force and that voiceover is back and red blood is spilled on the snow outside, but this time, unlike the many kills before, this will come at a price. Unknown to Dexter, this one killing will set off a chain of events that means past and present will collide and as soon as his long lost son Harrison (Jack Alcott) turns up at his door, the end is in sight for one of the modern day’s iconic TV characters.
The trend of bringing back a much treasured TV Show for a limited series after a long absence has not exactly brought huge success. Jack Bauer’s adventure in London started well but ended in an unsatisfactory aftertaste that fans still grumble to this day, while Prison Break had to do a DALLAS and create a boggling plot vice to bring one of the shows leads back from the dead and while I have never seen a single episode, my wife kindly informs me that the new Sex and the City revival should have really stayed in the glitzy 90’s.
DEXTER: New Blood breaks that trend and more so. The opening episode itself is one of the strongest pilots out there with Hall effortlessly slipping back into the role he was born to play. Having the guilt of his sister’s death meaning Deb now appears as his dark passenger is a fitting way to bring Carpenter herself back into the show and their exchanges crackle with electrical sparks that are so riveting with their “counselling scene” demonstrating just how funny this show can be among the blood and mayhem.
Having the son he abandoned turn up on his doorstep creates a new challenge to Dexter as in the original run, Harrison was just a young child who was easily kept away from the plot by the lazy use of a babysitter. Now a teenager and someone who can actually test his father, the dynamic of the two, thrusts the show into an interesting new direction and yet another reason why the ten year gap works perfectly well and further proof that this comeback series was the right idea.
As always, with Dexter Morgan around there is always another threat lurking by and while we were provided with a red herring in the first two episodes with that multi millionaire appearing in a few minor scenes, as soon as Clancy Brown appeared in the shape of Kurt Caldwell then every fan knew that he was this season’s big bad.
Now with the tag name “The Runaway Killer” it took a while for both he and Dexter to cross paths and while there were some cracking scenes and a few moments that nearly matched the menace of Trinity – including a great scene where Harrison was in danger, overall it fizzled out towards a weak cat and mouse battle that eventually led to only one outcome and winner.
Dexter may have got his man and in what was one of the shows all time darkest scenes, in which he showed his real true face to his son who watched on, episodes 1 to 9 was following the blueprint from what worked in the past, Dexter getting the bad guy, survives a few scenarios where his secret may have got out, but eventually rises like a phoenix from the flames, to fight another day.
But with one episode to go…..us fans finally realized where the real danger came off and exactly who was the “real bad guy”.
The finale has been met with a lukewarm reaction and at first I hated every second of its hour long running time. I couldn’t even write this review as I knew it would be very negative as I would have poured scorn on the writing and what they have done to a character I cherished.
But, I took some time, waited a few weeks and then re-watched the entire rung again without the sentimental feeling I had when I sat down originally. Going in, I knew that this was probably the last time we see Dexter Morgan. I knew there was talk on that final week of a perhaps season two which got many excited, but reading between the lines, you just had that feeling that this limited season was a chance for the writers and Michael C Hall to finally end this show, instead of the open ending we had many years ago.
Dead or arrested was the only way this was going to end, so when Harrison stood there with a rifle in his hand and Dexter having run out of all options, I knew that at any moment that snow they stood on would be turned to red.
But lets not get ahead of ourselves and talk about Angela, an officer of the law who when we are introduced to this character, she arrests DEXTER – a great foreshadowing by the writers – only for it be revealed as a horny sex game and soon they are making love at the back seat of the truck as us fans realise that Dexter has moved on from the beloved Rita and the poisonous murderous Hannah.
Having Angela as this “seasons big bad” came as a nice surprise towards New Blood’s end game as despite the best intentions of Clancy Brown who to be fair in a few scenes with Dexter brought some delightful thrills and intensity needed for the role, as always through the looming shadow of Trinity will forever haunt any new nemesis of a new plot and that was acknowledged more so by the writers when they included Lithgow in a cheeky minor cameo.
Moving the focus to Angela who began to suspect that her boyfriend was not who he seemed was a nice thrust of a change of plot direction, giving something that us fans had not seen before. Yes, Dexter’s crimes have been threatened to be uncovered many times in the past, but Angela was beginning to put all the clues together much more than many before, including that of season two’s Lundy, even though its quite laughable that she managed to uncover everything about The Bay Harbour Butcher in a mere few days, but yet struggled for many years to realize that the guy who owns the local diner, loved to shoot women as they ran and then basically preserved them as trophies in a creepy lair.
Its the last episode that ultimately felt like once fans had been let down at what was happening onscreen. With Dexter arrested and being pushed by Angela who was showing him all the clues she had gathered to suggest who he really was, the tension should have been unbearable for us, but instead it all felt a bit rushed.
There were are some questionable plot developments that occurred during the last hour that stung and will no doubt hurt fans of this character forever. Lets clarify, I have no issues about Dexter Morgan getting arrested for his crimes or if the punishment is death, the guy deserves it, the people he has hurt, most notably the loving Rita needs justice for his actions so I am not disappointed in where the obvious direction was going.
I also believe having the final shot of Dexter and Harrison drive off into the sunset for another caper in another town would be even more laughable than the original ending in 2011 as how many times can our favourite serial killer get away and leave behind death and carnage?
The issue I have is that it all felt rushed. As soon the problem with Kurt was resolved, we headed straight into Angela and we only had one episode to see Dexter face his biggest threat. The result of the hurried plot ended up in a personality change for our lead who became more cocky to those around him and unforgivably we witnessed him killing an innocent man, something which I will never forgive the writers for.
Yes, I have read the arguments and even talked to fans about why Dexter became this unrecognizable monster, I mean its the first time we have seen him caught like this and its quite easy to dismiss his evil talk and savagery when those who are facing it are usually people worse then him, so I agree that it feels quite uncomfortable as a fan of the character for him to be leery and menacing towards Angela as this is basically the first time we have seen him in this position, but what did she really have on him? Even Dexter himself basically tells her in one scene “what you have, will not hold up in court” and even the threat of his returning old friend Batista, which by the way, thanks writers for giving us hope of a long awaited reunion, but denying us that much wanted moment, really should not have been the threat the plot suggested it could be. Batista was always an ally of Dexter and it makes sense why Dexter decided to move away from Miami and wanted to start afresh under a new name, having seen Rita and his sister Deb both die from the hands of a serial killer.
It was quite clear that with the evidence Angela had uncovered and how Dexter is a smart guy, he could easily have talked himself out this situation, but instead by adding the needless scene in which he kills Logan for no apparent reason, meant that the plot could only go one way, a point of no return which infuriated me more than anything this show has ever offered.
What we needed was patience! There was no doubt that this show would be huge success. Despite the low critical reception for the final two series, Showtime still had a huge hit on their hands and the popularity of the character always meant that any return would be a huge hit, so why didn’t they agree to a two season arc? the first being a typical Dexter caper in which he faces a nemeses – Kurt- only for that season to end with Angela now suspicious of her boyfriend and making a call to Batista. Can you imagine that as season cliff-hanger?
We then would have had a final season in which all of Dexter’s future, past and present collide in dramatic fashion with everyone closing in on him and we finally get the pay off this legendary TV Icon deserves.
Instead, after 8 seasons and a re-boot, we had just under a hour to see Dexter Morgan face his fate! How frustrating and what about poor Harrison? Yes, Dexter meeting his fate thanks to a gunshot from his own son, may be soaked in symbolism but surely Dexter himself would have known how much emotional damage his kid will have to live with for the rest of his life? Am I the only one unhappy in seeing Harrison drive off, wrecked with guilt that his only living parent has now died by his hands? With the knowledge of what really happened to his Mum, having witnessed the death of his Step Mom Hannah and now basically murdering his own father, forget any spin off, Harrison is only heading one way, the mental trauma on the poor kid must be horrific and it makes a mockery of Dexter over the last few episodes wanting to save his son from the damage he suffered as a child.
What is the answer then? Well once more a certain Mr. White shows the way!
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEXTER MORGAN AND WALTER WHITE
When the original finale of DEXTER was aired on June 2013, it was met with wide criticism from fans and critics. Nearly three months later, Walter White served up his final Breaking Bad with an episode that has gained much acclaim from nearly everyone who has watched.
Much as been made over the two final imagery of both characters as its virtually identical, so why has one show gained much more positivity to the other?
Its because Vince Gilligan the creator and writer of Breaking Bad had a beginning, middle and end to the story. There was never a sense that the world of Blue Meth was becoming guess work while DEXTER has been scrambling for some sort of direction ever since the end of Season 4, with each following run becoming stale and offering the same old plot vices.
Its no coincidence that the quality of Dexter began to wane after Clyde Phillips left after the Trinity run and he revealed a few years back that his original idea was to have a season of Dexter finally getting caught and with the final shot being of him tied to the gas chamber while all his victims watch on. Now that would be a stunning final imagery of this great character and would no doubt appease long time fans.
Breaking Bad works on a continued re-watch because the story always moved forward, something that Dexter failed to do and when it finally gets brave to do it, its all crammed in one final episode so it loses the punch we need and the heart to go with it. I shed a tear every time the tune of Baby Blue starts playing and Walter finally succumbs to the gun shot having finally did right for Jesse. What did Dexter do? Have a last minute change of thought and then asked his own son to shoot him?
It all comes down to the fact that we badly needed a New Blood season 2 to get the narrative depth from all involved. We never get the chance to “appreciate” the death of Dexter Morgan because the need to bring closure in such a hurried fashion. There was no tension to the scene, no feelings of sorrow that we knew that this would be the last time Michael C Hall would play this character.
Instead a single gun shot rang out and after so many years our favourite blood splatter serial killer was no more and for many we were left with a “is that it?” instead of a scream of despair that this was the end!
Hall said before the airing “be careful in what we wish for”, no doubt implying the constant annoyance of being asked for years from everyone if he’d ever play Dexter again. New Blood seems to be more created for himself so that he can finally lay to rest the character of Dexter Morgan, but while he will no doubt be happy to say goodbye, us fans will forever be haunted by the fact that the writers had two opportunities to end this show in spectacular fashion, but the fact remains, they failed miserably on both occasions.
Its quite fitting that much like the original season run in which seasons 1-4 were spectacular, while 5-8 the quality dipped, for episodes 1-9, NEW BLOOD was a contender for one of the best shows in years, but episode 10 will be remembered as a finale in which perhaps the character ending up as a Lumberjack wasn’t exactly the worst idea after all.
With a True Blood re-boot in the works and growing talk to a return to the corridors of CTU in a brand new 24 day, this will not be the last time we’ll see Dexter Morgan again as the inevitable remake will no doubt rear its head in a few years time.
Lets hope they’ll land the ending for new generation on a third time of asking….