Dexter Returns in a Chilling Reboot

Dexter and his Dark Passenger reckon with ghosts of the past and fiends of the present

Dexter and his Dark Passenger reckon with ghosts of the past and fiends of the present

When morally murky crime drama Dexter came to an end in 2013, many of its fans were left disappointed. The Miami P.D. blood spatter analyst moonlighting as a serial killer (or maybe vice versa) ended up, somewhat inexplicably, as a lumberjack in Oregon—a conclusion that seemed neither plausible nor satisfactory to those who had followed Dexter’s journey from lone sociopath to husband, father and perhaps even human.

When it comes to that final chapter, even star Michael C. Hall no longer argues its merits. “I think the way the series ended has a great deal to do with why we’re revisiting the show and the character,” he says. “A lot of what was mystifying or dissatisfying to people is a lot of what creates the appetite that we’re hopefully satisfying now. The show did not end in a way that gave anybody a sense of closure. A big part of our motivation was to answer the question, ‘What happened to this guy?’ ”

A 10-episode limited series from original showrunner Clyde Phillips (who left the series after season four) aims to not just fill in viewers of the first instalment on Dexter Morgan’s whereabouts but expand the scope of the drama with new blood: Dexter’s now-teenaged son Harrison (Jack Alcott).

The kid that Dexter had with late wife Rita (Julie Benz), and gave up at five years old, has spent most of his life believing Dexter Morgan died in a boat crash. After learning that’s not the case, he finds the man he believes might be his father in Iron Lake, New York, a small town of less than 3,000 people, where Dexter is living a quiet life under the name Jim Lindsay. Jovial Jim is in a relationship with the town’s chief of police, Angela (Julia Jones), and, apart from the occasional imagined argument with his dead sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), life in the idyllic ‘burgh is normal as can be.

The new and improved Dexter connects with nature as a way to keep his Dark Passenger—that is, his urge to kill—under control. “Tracking an animal, not killing it—that ritual for him is one that’s therapeutic,” says Hall. “It represents some aspiration to goodness, to purity, one that he wants to cultivate and wants to come closer and closer to. It’s also a way to push himself to physical exhaustion and to maybe exercise the muscle of restraint. That’s his new sense of power, at least when we meet him. It’s like methadone to the heroin of killing, maybe.”

But, as co-star Carpenter is quick to point out, good intentions don’t carry a lot of weight in Dexter’s life. “It’s a friendly reminder that everything beautiful that Dexter touches always ended up disfigured or deformed, in spite of himself,” says the actress.

For Carpenter, whose character was buried at sea in the 2013 series finale, the idea of revisiting her character was unnerving. “It was unclear to me exactly what was being asked of me from the start,” she says. “I decided my work was to go to the bottom of the ocean and collect her and see if she wanted to be a witness to watching an unmedicated, decoded, unpunished, unchecked serial killer experience himself. And I wanted to say, ‘Yes,’ because I think Mike is one of the greatest actors I’ve ever worked with.”

Although he’d often wondered what might have happened to his character over the years, Hall experienced the same kind of hesitation in stepping back into Dexter’s shoes, eight years later. “It was somewhat daunting, the idea that this person who you said goodbye to had been living a life for all these years, and they were going to turn the camera back on, and you needed to embody him once they did. I didn’t know how it would feel,” he says. “But, once we started, we were off and running, and there really wasn’t that much time to check in and assess how it felt. He was still there, you know? I spent a great deal of time with and as him, and it was kind of eerie to have that experience, like ‘Oh, there he is.’ ”

The creative team behind the reboot will neither indulge in nor deny the potential of future seasons of Morgan and Son. For now, they just intend to return to base, shining a light on the man who tries to channel his instinct to kill into something good. “He will find himself struggling with the urge, struggling with his Dark Passenger, struggling with the fact that he was born in blood, and finally give into that struggle,” says Phillips. “The whole point is to put him in this tiny town, so that he’s really got to do the work to find who deserves for him to take a stab at it.”

Dexter: New Blood airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Crave1