Many television shows start strong and trail off in the middle as the story gets unnecessarily padded, side stories begin to dominate, or the series drags on. Dexter: New Blood undoubtedly started strong, with many comparing the opening three episodes favorably to the best of the original series. So will New Blood come crashing down in its second act?
With Matt Caudwell’s body disposed of, things appeared to be looking up for Dexter as he seemingly got away with another murder. However, the imposing presence of Matt’s father Kurt lingers, and the distraction of Harrison has begun to make Dexter act out of character…
Episode 4: “H is For Hero”
Ever since Harrison walked back into Dexter’s life, he’s been a harbinger of doom, a ticking time bomb that threatens not only those around him but the quiet existence that his father has carved out for himself in Iron Lake.
With the threat of discovery ended by burning Matt Caudwell’s body, Dexter could be forgiven for thinking he’s once again gotten away with murder. However, he dismisses the question of why Kurt lies about his son being alive far too quickly.
We learn why Kurt doesn’t want the police sniffing around his business by the end of the episode. Angela and Logan are two rarities in television drama and on Dexter in particular: cops who actually seem good at their job. And while Molly Park can undoubtedly be irritating, there is no doubt she’s competent. It’s hard not to be reminded of Hannibal‘s Freddie Lounds. We’re far from the days when Dexter could win over a police department with a box of donuts, and nobody is willing to simply let Matt’s disappearance go.
While the department shows plenty of intelligence in dealing with the Caudwell case, their handling of the incident at the high school is subpar. When Harrison attacks Ethan, the excellent forensics work we saw earlier in the series is absent, and Ethan’s story is seemingly dismissed out of hand. That Harrison was in some way disturbed was never in doubt, but as the episode progresses, we learn how deep it goes. Harrison is seemingly well aware of how he was “born in blood” and has an unhealthy interest in the Trinity Killer.
As “H is For Hero” ends, Dexter is secretly pleased that Harrison has his “dark passenger.” After all, being a serial killer is a lonely business. However, there’s a problem: We have seen that Harrison is very manipulative. Initially he rejects his friends to support Ethan, which wins him the favor of Audrey. Then, slashing Ethan made him a hero throughout the school. His willingness to violently end relationships for his own advancement shows that Harrison is a psychopath, and if Dexter believes that he is immune to his son’s manipulations, it may be a fatal mistake. After all, we only have Harrison’s word that Hannah died of cancer.
Episode 405: “Runaway”
As Debra rightly points out, Dexter’s desire to “guide” Harrison is entirely selfish; he doesn’t want to be lonely anymore, and wants to stop hiding who he really is. However, Harrison utterly rejects his father’s attempts to find out what really happened at the school. He walks away distraught and ends up suffering an overdose at a party. This leads Dexter to see red and is nearly caught twice by Logan while trying to exact revenge on the drug dealers responsible for Harrison’s condition. In many ways, Logan is the ghost of Detective Doakes: intimidating and entirely on his game. Eventually, Dexter gets another kill, yet his ritual is broken.
While Dexter doesn’t let that hitch bother him, Kurt’s reaction to Chloe couldn’t be more different. The episode shows us the similarities and differences between Kurt and Dexter in very subtle ways. Both have their victims to stalk, both have their rituals, both are distracted by their children, and by the end of the episode, both are vying to be a father figure toward Harrison. If Kurt ever realizes that Dexter killed his son, Matt, as the vision of Debra predicted, then Harrison is undoubtedly in grave danger.
Dexter, of course, saw Kurt with Chloe at the diner, which seems like a good place for him to start his investigation. Meanwhile, the police investigation will center on what Angela and Molly find surrounding Matt Caudwell’s disappearance.
In a typical police procedural cliche, Angela threatens a hotel manager with bringing the law to his establishment, and he, of course, caves immediately, breaking every protocol to allow the cops precisely what they want. It’s lazy plotting, but not the worst of the episode.
The return of Detective Angel Batista to Dexter is a fan-pleasing moment, with Batista having changed very little since last we saw him. However, once the pleasure of his cameo has subsided, the idea starts to fall apart. Of all the cops in the United States who could have been in the same place at the same time as Angela, it happens to be Batista, who gives Angela just enough information about his life 10 years ago to advance the plot. The major twist of Angela discovering who Dexter rests on this massively unlikely coincidence.
“Runaway” is the weakest episode of Dexter: New Blood so far and typical mid-season fare. It leads us from one place to another. It shows us the similarities and differences between our three key players: Dexter, Harrison, and Kurt. Dexter is desperate to forge a relationship with his son, even if it’s a relationship bathed in blood. Harrison, meanwhile, is looking for acceptance…or is he simply scared off by how close his father is to knowing the truth? With Kurt blowing his ritual, his own fragile mental state is revealed, and it seems all three are on an explosive collision course.
Episode 406: “Too Many Tuna Sandwiches”
By the latest episode of Dexter: New Blood, the new series has fallen into the tried and tested formula familiar to fans of the original show. The deck is stacked against Dexter and it appears there’s no way he can possibly survive, and then he pulls a rabbit out of his hat in the final episode. However, there’s a sense that things are very different for Dexter this time, 10 years on and a world away.
Not only is Iron Lake’s police far more awake than anyone was in Miami, but the presence of Molly Park adds an unknown X factor to Dexter’s new (not so secret) life. Dexter has become unusually jumpy, particularly when Angela finds out his true identity. He’s also unable to manage his issues during a very awkward therapy session with his son Harrison. However, his bond with Angela may be genuine, if a little creepy; it’s no coincidence that Angela is confident, good-looking, brunette and a police officer, just like Debra.
The lack of real connection between Dexter and Harrison has led the young man to seek a father figure elsewhere. He and Kurt, who himself is looking for someone to replace his son Matt, seem like a perfect match. Kurt urges Harrison towards violence and thinks he shows “potential,” which sounds worryingly like he’s looking for a protege or even partner in crime.
But Kurt’s career as Iron Lake’s number one killer appears to be drawing to an end. His arrogance in believing he could fool Angela and the police backfires, and police discover Iris’ body at the caves. Meanwhile, both Dexter and Molly are onto him to the point where Kurt is unwisely trying to remove the meddlesome podcaster.
As New Blood looks to move its pieces into place for what showrunner Clyde Philips has promised will be an unforgettable finale, we don’t know how allegiances will shift when Dexter finally confronts Kurt. Angela has no reason to trust Dexter yet must now surely know the respected Kurt Caudwell is a monster. Meanwhile, Kurt commands the respect of many, including Logan and the other townsfolk. Molly seems one deduction away from realizing Dexter is the real Bay Harbour Butcher, and while Harrison may be Dexter’s biological son, he’s feeling validated by Kurt. As events begin to spiral, whether it’s too late to save Harrison from himself and those around him remains to be seen. It may be too late for him, and for Dexter Morgan.