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The 'Dexter' revival has a lot of questions to answer

Showtime's do-over could fix one of TV's most hated finales

Written by
Andy Kryza

Dexter Morgan's days as a lushly bearded Oregon lumberjack appear to be over: This fall, Showtime is resurrecting Michael C. Hall's eponymous serial killer for a 10-episode revival series in which TV's most prolific serial killer has a chance to right his wrongs. 

We're not talking about the 100+ victims claimed by the Bay Harbor Butcher, either. We're talking about Dexter's notorious final season, widely considered to be one of the most disappointing finales of a major prestige drama ever aired. 

Fans were up in arms about the series' 2013 finale, which saw Dexter — a blood-splatter analyst for the Miami PD who moonlights as a serial killer targeting murderers who escaped justice — rides his boat into the eye of a hurricane to fake his death… and then reemerge as a lumberjack. Even Hall famously disliked the way the lauded series closed the final chapter. 

For the revival, original showrunner Clyde Phillips returns to usher in a new chapter. Phillips oversaw the show in its glory days of season 1-4, leaving the show after a beloved arc featuring John Lithgow as a sadistic killer became the series' high water mark in 2009. According to the producer, the revival is something of a do-over. 

"We don't want this to be Dexter Season 9. Ten years have passed by the time this will air and the show will reflect that time passage. In so far as the show's ending, this will have no resemblance to how the original finale was. It's a great opportunity to write a second finale for the show," Phillips told The Hollywood Reporter's TV's Top 5 podcast last year. 

With the revival set to premiere this fall, fans have many questions still lingering after that whiff of a finale. Here's what's top of mind for skeptics and superfine ahead of Dexter's return to screens.

What exactly will the Dexter revival be about?

Over the course of its nine seasons, Dexter built an interesting mythos around its central character. Dexter Morgan may be a killer, but he abides by a strict code instilled in him by his late father, a cop named Harry. Realizing Dexter's bloodlust — which he called his "Dark Passenger" — was a primal and uncontrollable urge, he channeled it into the greatest good he could muster, transforming his son into a vigilante avenger who targeted Miami's criminal world. 

As a result, Dexter operated in a gray moral ground and in plain sight of his sister, Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), herself a cop struggling with morality and her feelings toward her brother. He also had a toddler, Harrison, who he feared would go down a similarly dark path after witnessing Dexter's wife's murder at the hands of Lithgow's Trinity Killer. Throw in a pair of disturbed stepkids, an on/off fugitive girlfriend (Yvonne Strahovski) and a whole department of work buddies unknowingly investigating their friend, and Dexter had a lot going for it.  

It was all squandered. After eight seasons, Deb finally found out Dexter's true nature, only to be shot and put into a coma. His cop buddies witnessed him killing a murderer in their custody. At the end of the series, Dexter yanked his sister's life support, threw her body in the ocean, and drove into a deadly storm, all while his girlfriend and young son jutted off to Argentina to avoid arrest. 

Everything else was just left dangling. 

The new series seems to be giving Dexter a fresh start. Teasers show that he's now living in upstate New York under the alias Jim Lindsay. The plot details themselves are thin, but casting announcements provide some clues. 

Veteran character actor Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, Carnivàle) is said to be the show's big bad, a truck-stop owner and the "unofficial mayor" of Dexter's new home of Iron Lake. Alano Miller and Julia Jones have been cast as cops in Iron Lake, which points to a continuation of the show's more procedural elements. Jamie Chung (Lovecraft Country) is on board as a famous true-crime podcaster caught up in the "still-murky central mystery."

That's not a lot to go on, but chances are that the series will find Hall lured out of hiding to go up against Brown's killer, with Chung's podcaster connecting the dots between the Bay Harbor Butcher, the presumed-dead Dexter Morgan and this Bill Lindsay fellow up in New York… presumably while investigating whatever horrible things Brown's up to. 

Will any of the original cast return?

There have been no announcements about Dexter's extended family and friends returning, though that could be due to the secretive nature of the show. However, James Remar — who played the particularly loquacious ghost of Dexter's dad — recently posted a video confirming he will not return and saying that none of the original cast would be back.

Carpenter's character is dead, though some have speculated (without evidence) that her Deborah Morgan could replace Harry as Dexter's conscience, a thematic pivot the show already explored when Harry was briefly replaced by Dexter's deceased brother, who was revealed to be the rival serial killer of season 1 (Miami has a bit of a serial killer problem). 

Meanwhile, the show's relocation to New York means that the Miami crew — including David Zayas' Angel Batista and CS Lee's Vince Masuka — could be left behind. However, there are about 100 loose ends still floating at the bottom of the harbor that could send some of the crew up north. The most logical candidate would be Desmond Harrington's Joey Quinn, a former love interest of Deb's who was investigating the Bay Harbor Butcher and also had a chip on his shoulder against Dexter.

Will Dexter's kids return?

A recent teaser has fans riled up about the return of now-teenage Harrison, last seen comically wiping out on a treadmill (and becoming GIF royalty).  

The cryptic footage, released on Father's Day, shows somebody burning a picture of Dexter and Harrison on a log. It's caused fans to speculate that Harrison has tracked his father down as an adult, and could point to Dexter's biggest fears being realized: That his own son will soon follow in his bloody footprints. 

There's also the matter of Cody and Astor. Seasons 1-4 saw Dexter fall in love with Rita (Julie Benz), who began dating to appear normal before forming very real bonds. Rita, unfortunately, fell victim to Lithgow's Trinity Killer, leaving her two young children in Dexter's care. Astor and Cody exhibited typical tween- and teenage rebellion against their stepdad — exacerbated by the several instances when other killers targeted them to get to Dexter (as is the Miami way) — which escalated when their mother was found in a literal bloodbath. Then the show shipped them to Orlando to Orlando and barely discussed them again (as is the Dexter way).

The stepchildren could provide an interesting link between Dexter's past and present were they to learn that their stepdad's secret life led to their mother's demise. In all likelihood, though, the show will continue to ignore their existence unless it becomes convenient for the plot… perhaps through Chung's character doing a little fact-checking while investigating the Butcher. 

What about Dexter's girlfriend?

Strahovski's Hannah McKay was introduced in season 7 as a potential foil: she's a botanist with a long history of self defense-related murders who was pursued by Deborah. Eventually she became Dexter's lover and confidante. Through a series of contrivances not really worth thinking about, she eventually fled to Argentina with Harrison, presuming that Dexter would meet her.  

She was last seen in sunnier climates, reading an article about Dexter's disappearance and presumed death. But Hannah's one of Dexter's biggest loose ends and liabilities. As the caretaker of his son and one of the only surviving people with whom the sociopath had a real connection, she's perhaps the only person he'd reveal his survival to. And given the series previously ended with Hannah giving the slip to a dogged private investigator hot on her trail, any outreach on Dexter's part — or any revelations discovered by Hannah and Harrison — could result in Dexter's comeuppance.

Can Dexter Morgan really be anonymous in 2021?

The walls were closing in on Dexter Morgan back in 2013, and that was before Instagram. Based on the above teaser, Dexter's Bill Lindsay is a pretty well-known fish in his little new pond. 

It wouldn't take a lot for the apparently well-liked and well-known Mr. Lindsay to get spotted in the era of Instagram and Google Images: A simple social-media post from a community event or a local newspaper story would be enough to put Dexter on the radar of anyone looking for him.  

And given the very public life Dexter lived to mask his dark private life, it stands to reason that anyone in New York wondering about Mr. Lindsay's past could very easily find out that he looked a lot like this Dexter fellow whose disappearance 10 years ago was front-page news in one of the nation's biggest newspapers. 

Even in 2013, Hannah McKay got word of Dexter's presumed demise all the way down in Argentina pretty quickly. Ten years worth of social-media savvy means that there's really nowhere to hide.

How did Dexter get to New York?

Honestly, Dexter's boat, The Slice of Life, doesn't look like it's sturdy enough to cruise through a hurricane and all the way around to Oregon. How did Dexter get from the middle of the Ocean to his new digs in Oregon? And how did he end up in New York?

Will we see Dexter's lumberjack skills put to good use?

There's not a strong likelihood that we'll get Michael C. Hall in a quiet meditative drama about life in the Oregon woods a la Kelly Reichardt, but it stands to reason that a serial killer who ditched his scalpel for an axe will eventually get to put his inner Paul Bunyan to good use. Probably on Clancy Brown. But we'll know for sure when Dexter is resurrected this fall. 

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