Tony Soprano. Walter White. Dexter Morgan.
They were the Murderers’ Row of the New Golden Age of Television, creating indelible characters on “The Sopranos,” “Breaking Bad” and “Dexter.”
But while “Breaking Bad” had a truly great series finale, and you can count me among those who thought the notorious last scene in “The Sopranos” was pitch-perfect, I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who dug the infamous “Lumberjack” final episode of “Dexter,” with the title character fumbling about and making bad decisions, his badass sister Deb meeting an arbitrary end, a ridiculous hurricane backdrop and Dexter faking his own death, abandoning his son and the woman he loved and resurfacing with a glued-on beard and working as a truck driver in a logging town in the Pacific Northwest.
Come on, man!
Now, eight years after Dexter thrilled and repulsed and intrigued as the serial killer who killed killers, Showtime has given him a second act with “Dexter: New Blood,” a limited series reuniting Michael C. Hall as the eponymous character and Jennifer Carpenter as his sister Deborah.
And, no, she didn’t fake her death as well in the original series finale. We’ll get to Deb’s role in “New Blood” in a moment. (Though if you saw the original series, you can probably guess the manner in which she returns.)
The “do-over” seems even more promising with the presence of Clyde Phillips as showrunner, given that Phillips presided over the first — and best — four seasons of the original series.
Alas, while “Dexter: New Blood” is hardly DOA, based on the four episodes (of 10 total) I was allowed to see, it’s an uneven, borderline implausible, overwrought crime drama that asks too many smart characters to do too many dumb things and is curiously lacking the same electric and bloody energy of its predecessor.
Dexter Morgan nearly always carried himself with the distant demeanor of the unempathetic sociopath. But, even as his new life begins to unravel all around him, we keep hoping he’ll WAKE UP and get smart and take matters into his own hands with more conviction.
“Dexter: New Blood” picks up in real time, about eight years after the events of the series finale, with Dexter living a quiet, nonviolent life in Iron Lake, New York, under the name James “Jimmy” Lindsay. (We’ll continue to call him Dexter for the sake of clarity.)
Dexter hasn’t killed anyone in nearly a decade, and everyone in town thinks of him as this mild-mannered regular guy who works as a sales associate at Fred’s Fish & Game and is dating the chief of police, Angela Bishop (Julia Jones).
James Remar’s Harry Morgan is no longer lurking about as the spectral presence in Dexter’s life. He’s been replaced by the ghost of his sister Deb, and this, unfortunately, is a major drawback for “New Blood.” Deb is a one-dimensional presence who jumps out of nowhere to scare Dexter as if she’s in a horror movie and is forever yelling at him and berating him and telling him he’s a fraud and he can never have a normal life. The character, and the performance, are way, way, WAY over the top.
As for the bloodshed: Things start to heat up in Iron Lake when Dexter loses it after a number of unpleasant encounters with Matt Caldwell (Steve Robertson), an obnoxious rich-kid jerk, and he slays Matt in the woods. Matters are further complicated when Dexter’s now-teenage son Harrison (Jack Alcott) resurfaces out of nowhere and begins to display tendencies leading us to believe the apple might not have fallen far enough away from the rotten tree.
We also learn a number of young Seneca Nation American girls and women have disappeared, indicating Dexter might not be the only serial killer living in the area.
Not surprisingly, when Matt goes missing, the authorities spring into action, and there’s media coverage, and the whole town goes looking for him. The missing girls? Hardly anybody outside the reservation seems to even notice.
“Dexter” was set in Miami and filled with bright pastels and lurid neon colors; “New Blood” is all about the grays and browns of a snowy upstate New York town, with Dexter trading in his polo shirts for a parka.
At times, there’s a stark and beautiful bleakness to the atmosphere. This is a well-photographed show.
We’re introduced to a few intriguing subplots, including the arrival of a true-crime podcasting star named Molly (Jamie Chung) and the mysterious machinations of Matt’s father, who is played by ever-reliable character actor Clancy Brown.
Mostly, though, “Dexter: New Blood” could use a transfusion of excitement and edge.