Eight years after the awful lumberjack finale, Showtime's Dexter is back with a "limited series" that no one asked for — but hey, at least it's not terrible.
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There may be no second acts in American lives, but in Hollywood, successful IP gets as many chances as money can buy. And thus, eight years after Dexter limped to its death with an infamously dismal "series finale," Showtime has resurrected the Emmy-winning serial killer drama with Dexter: New Blood (premiering Nov. 7). Billed as a 10-episode "limited series" — which reunites star Michael C. Hall with Dexter's original showrunner, Clyde Phillips — New Blood is not Trinity good, nor is it lumberjack bad. Based on the four episodes made available for review, the revival is a solid effort at creative redemption.

Ten years after faking his death and disappearing into the woods of Oregon, former vigilante murderer Dexter Morgan (Hall) is living a quiet life on the opposite coast, in the snowy upstate town of Iron Lake, N.Y. Everyone knows him as Jim Lindsay, the personable clerk at Fred's Fish & Game and boyfriend to Iron Lake's police chief, Angela Bishop (The Twilight Saga's Julia Jones). But Dexter's only true companion is the hallucinatory vision of his dead sister, Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter), a one-woman Greek chorus and ever-present reminder of Dexter's violent past. When we meet him, our antihero has been kill-free for nearly a decade — until an infuriating encounter with an obnoxious customer (Steve Robertson), who happens to be the wayward son of a local businessman (Clancy Brown), prompts Dexter to fall off the murder wagon. Complicating matters, this bloody backslide coincides with the unexpected return of Dexter's teenage son, Harrison (The Good Lord Bird's Jack Alcott), who tracked down dear old dad after learning he didn't die in a boat accident all those years ago.

In his previous life as a forensic blood spatter analyst for the Miami P.D., Dexter had no problem finding criminals to murder. In Iron Lake, the crimes are more of the "someone stole the pecan pies from the church potluck" variety — but it's also a tourist town, one that relies on the money brought in every winter during "rich a--hole season." The first two episodes set up an uneasy tension between the haves and have-nots of Iron Lake, and Angela is continually fighting for resources to investigate why women around town — including some from the nearby Seneca reservation — keep disappearing. (Hint: Dexter might not be the only serial killer in residence.)

DEXTER: NEW BLOOD
Jack Alcott, Michael C. Hall, and Julia Jones in 'Dexter: New Blood.'
| Credit: Seacia Pavao/SHOWTIME

The relationship between Dexter Morgan — whose demeanor lands somewhere between deadpan and dead inside — and his volatile, foul-mouthed sister was always the heart of the original series. Phillips and his team put a compelling new spin on the dynamic here: Unlike Dexter's adopted father Harry (James Remar), who served as his moral guide from beyond the grave, ghost Deb is more tormentor than mentor, prone to jump-scare attacks and expletive-filled rants. She's particularly agitated over Dexter's decision to rebuild his relationship with Harrison, who — totally obvious plot development alert — may have inherited some of his dad's "dark tendencies."

Newcomer Alcott brings a melancholy allure to Harrison, a self-sufficient outsider who both resents Dexter for abandoning him and longs for his love and approval. The actor is tasked with carrying his own storyline — as Harrison settles into Iron Lake High School, he befriends a bullied loner (Christian Dell'Edera) — which he does with a winning confidence. Though the teen drama elements feel a little out of place in the Dexter universe (and it's unclear what purpose they'll ultimately serve), Alcott is charismatic enough to make them work.

The original Dexter finale was bad, and fans were understandably disappointed. Still, I think it's fair to say that most of us were able to move on. Was the world clamoring for more Dexter? No. But it's also hard to fault Phillips, Hall, Carpenter, and company for accepting Showtime's offer to burnish the tarnished legacy of this once-great series. Without seeing all 10 episodes, it's impossible to say yet whether New Blood succeeds. The revival wrestles with some of the same problems that plagued the original, from a penchant for toothless "will Dexter get caught?" fakeouts, to lazy logistical cheats (go ahead and stroll right into that crime scene, Dexter, even though you now work in retail). There's a decided and familiar lack of subtlety, too. The opening sequence is set to Iggy Pop's "The Passenger," an on-the-nose reference to Dexter's so-called "dark passenger," and the writing has its share of groaners. "Humans have always dealt with death through rituals," muses Dexter in one of his many grave voice-overs. "I guess mine are just a little unique."

They were, and maybe still are. It's kind of fun seeing Dexter again, with its serial killer-meets-dad jokes charm. As far as nostalgic do-overs go, this one may not be perfect, but at the very least it's not dead on arrival. B

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Dexter: New Blood (TV series)

Eight years after the much-maligned 'Dexter' finale, Michael C. Hall's serial killer reemerges for a new event series on Showtime.

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