‘Dexter’ and the Shows That Wouldn’t Die

“Dexter: New Blood’s” first victim is irony. The subtitle is the assassin’s tool of choice.

There’s blood, that’s for sure. What Showtime had promised from 2006 to 2013 was delivered in buckets in the first episode of this return of righteous-serial-killer series. Only four competent but redundant episodes were shown to critics, and none of them offered anything “new” in a series that had already been worn out for years before it was cancelled.

Newness isn’t really a factor in “New Blood,” as it is in so many of television’s reruns, though. With the use of the electroshock paddles and the reanimation of any property with a following, the goal is to offer consumers more of what they currently expect.

A “Dexter” revival might have been put on hold after the (alleged) series finale, a prime candidate for the television letdown hall of fame. When Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), who learned to control his bloodlust by killing only those who deserved it from their foster father, appeared to conclude his story by sailing into the hurricane off the coast of Miami with his dead sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) by his side. Before the final scene, which revealed our slayer still alive and working in a lumber yard, the conclusion and consequences had been set in stone.

Showtime’s “New Blood,” premiering Sunday, sees Dexter in a new life, but it’s not the one he left behind. He’s “Jim Lindsay,” an homage to Jeff Lindsay, the author of “Darkly Dreaming Dexter,” the series’ inspiration, and he lives in upstate New York as “Jim Lindsay.” Having a climate to match Hall’s characteristic cold delivery,

His girlfriend is the town’s police chief (Julia Jones), he works at a sports goods store selling knives and firearms as well as chops firewood. He was a forensic blood-spatter expert in the original series; “Dexter” is known for its funny job descriptions.

What if Jim/Dexter struggles to control the “evil passenger” that pushes him to kill? Is this a spoiler? That his connection with a law enforcement officer becomes as difficult as his relationship with the police officer Debra once was? Do you know how to put together a slaughter shack at home, still? Since “New Blood” only changes the temperature, you can consider all eight seasons of “Dexter,” which you’ve already seen, to be a spoiler.

So much so that it brings back Debra, who is now a taunting phantom in Dexter’s thoughts. As a colourful, flashy role for Carpenter, it does little more than rehash Dexter’s earlier torments and manically externalise his inner state, which is already sufficiently conveyed through the series’ narration.

Harrison (Jack Alcott), who was just a baby when he was last seen, makes a surprise visit. Teenager Dexter now has a thousand-mile look and an insatiable curiosity.

With Harrison’s sudden appearance and Dexter’s fear that he has acquired the black passenger, this story might get a lot more intense. Even though the season has been full of cat-and-mouse games, this is just another one. Symbolic Mystical Deer, a mainstay of melancholy television dramas, has also appeared in the area, along with a succession of missing young ladies.

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“New Blood” ends up being an illustration of the worst characteristics of two separate television eras at the same time: sanguinary and redundant.

Antihero shows like “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad,” which pushed their viewers to confront their moral dilemmas, were in full bloom at the time of the first season of “Dexter,” and the show’s success was a direct result. The worst that might have happened was that it provided a pretext for people to enjoy the schadenfreude of others’ misbehaviour.

“Dexter’s” first two seasons were marked by a storyline that was subtly controversial. A funhouse-mirror counterpart of grisly police dramas like “CSI,” Dexter was both spatter-analyzer and spatter-maker. What’s more, we were left wondering: Was Dexter a good guy or just an evil one with a clever trick?

However, as the show progressed, it provided its protagonist and its viewers with more and more slack. The show’s premise, which is effectively a permission mechanism for the audience to have fun with a vigilante murderer, would be ruined if the audience were to question it. You could appreciate Dexter’s gruesome workmanship and even cheer him on while he evaded the law, as the show made clear that his victims were bad, and that without him someone would have committed far worse atrocities.

It opens with a stalking sequence set to Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” (get it?) and introduces new cartoon enemies who practically beg to be serial-killed. This new series also appears to be mostly at ease as a darkly comedic adventure. Even on ice, the series’ promise of guilt-free gore hasn’t held up.

“New Blood” is the latest TV show to embrace the premise that fans always deserve more of the things they adore because they can, regardless of creative dead-ends and allegedly final endings. But at least this time, Dexter wasn’t the only one involved.

A well-made and pointless exercise in remember-when (as Tony once put it, “the lowest form of conversation”), “The Many Saints of Newark” from the “Sopranos” prequel series was released this fall. It featured well-known actors like Vera Farmiga and Corey Stoll impersonating their beloved characters while adding only a hint of sadness to the original story.

Regardless of how good, horrible, or adequate these continuations and extensions are, the combined impact of all of them is to rob finales of their finality. “The End” deprives both artists and spectators of the ability to believe that “The End.” Perhaps the “New Blood” season could serve as a second chance for “Dexter” after the first season’s unsatisfactory conclusion. It’s not like anyone would bet on it.

There is a danger, of course, of the next Godfather, Part III being squelched by critics arguing that John Updike should not return to Rabbit or Margaret Atwood should not return to Gilead; nobody wants to stifle the next “Godfather, Part II.” In certain cases, franchises have greater creative potential than previously thought.

However, sometimes it’s best to leave them buried. “Dexter had to die,” says “Jim Lindsay” in “New Blood,” justifying his rebranding as “Jim Lindsay.” And yet, here we are, brother. Just just one job.