The following article contains major spoilers for the Dexter: New Blood finale. Proceed with caution.
It’s over. The Dexter: New Blood finale is inevitably going to be controversial amongst fans, especially after one of the most widely debated series endings previously. While the return season was been largely well received (particularly last week’s all-time classic penultimate episode) there was simply no way we were going to get through the finale in a way that made everyone happy. Judging by reactions from Twitter, it seems people are mixed on their reactions, with many largely unhappy, and I completely disagree. The Dexter: New Blood finale not only made narrative sense, it gave us the true closure we craved back when the original series was ending. Was it perfect? No. Was it really good? Absolutely. We’re about to get into heavy spoiler territory so if you haven’t seen “Sins of the Father”, you’ve been warned.
The Good Cop (one last time)
One of the things I loved most about this return series was the commitment Clyde Phillips and team made to Angela. They never wavered with her. They never made her question her instincts or get caught up in her feelings. She was a good cop, through and through, and it almost read like an apology to the way police were written in the original series. Whether it was Angel or Maria or anyone else, they all allowed Dexter to do his thing right under their noses, often times coming across as clueless. Angela was not. She was good at her job and, ultimately, was the one who caused a serial killer to be stopped.
When Angela arrested Dexter within the first ten minutes of the episode, I had two immediate thoughts: one, she’s going to call Batista and two, Dexter’s going to escape. I’ve been calling for Batista to be a part of the finale for a while now and in hindsight, what I was calling for, which was Batista being part of the arrest, was a bit on the fan service side. The Dexter: New Blood finale handled it better. The phone conversation between Angela and Batista allowed for a powerful moment where Batista admitted that he always thought Doakes was the Butcher, but his deceased wife didn’t. She always thought it was a man named Dexter Morgan. It was a nice callback to Maria’s character and the pain on Batista’s face when Angela told him she had Dexter in custody gave Batista a real moment here in this finale. He was going to be on a plane and there in the morning to help Angela close this case down and avenge not only Maria, but so many others.
Angela questioning Dexter after he was arrested and not giving into his attempts to point the blame at Kurt really displayed a strength of character. In the show’s final hour, they continued to write her as a powerful, strong character who didn’t cave like so many before her. She doubled down, telling Dexter that not only was he responsible for the death of Matt Caldwell, she also knew that he was the Bay Harbor Butcher. When she told him that Angel Batista was on his way to Iron Lake to question Dexter, you could physically see on Michael C Hall’s face a change happening. Dexter knew that it was over and he needed to switch to survival mode.
What happened next was really a cruel form of torture on Dexter’s part. In an attempt to get Angela out of the police station, he played on her desire to find all of the missing women from the past several years in Iron Lake. He told her exactly where to find Kurt’s trophies without any warning of the horrors she was about to encounter. He knew that she would be shaken to her core at the museum of preserved bodies and he banked on that to give himself time to escape.
But his estimation was only half right. Angela was distraught at what she found. But, unlike many before her, she didn’t cave or crack. She would deal with her trauma later, after the Bay Harbor Butcher had been dealt with.
The Next Generation
Harrison, at the beginning of the Dexter: New Blood finale, appeared to still really be struggling with what he saw from his father in last week’s episode. He needed confirmation that they were only killing bad people. That these acts were part of a greater good. It became apparent that he was not a born killer like his father, just a boy who didn’t know how to deal with the trauma life has handed him. If his father, the man he so desperately wanted a relationship with, was saying that killing bad people was something they should do, then Harrison seemed to be willing to accept it.
The finale showed us that he craved normalcy. That he wanted to be a part of this small town community where people genuinely wanted to help each other. He wanted to pursue his relationship with Audrey, to be a part of the wrestling team and to finally get to stop running and be a kid. Sure he had pain and trauma to deal with but he wanted to deal with it. When Dexter told him in the opening moments of the episode that they would have to move soon so he could properly learn the code in a bigger city where they could blend in more, you could see the disappointment on Harrison’s face. Learning the code was not the life he wanted. He is not his father.
While Dexter was in jail, preparing for his escape, we saw Harrison on his own. He went and saw Audrey, again sleeping with her. He had dinner with his wrestling coach, Logan, who was splitting his time between watching Dexter and making sure that Harrison was taken care of while his father was in jail. The dinner scene between Logan and Harrison was simple, showing that Harrison really was a stereotypical teenage boy in many ways (like asking Logan if he was going to finish all of his fries) and that Logan really cared about Harrison.
Which made Dexter killing Logan almost directly after that much more tragic. Sure, we can justify it in the sense that if Dexter hadn’t killed him, then he wouldn’t have been able to escape and would be facing the death penalty when extradited to Florida. But we are being asked to justify the murder of a good man, someone who spent the entire season simply trying to help everyone around him. Someone who, week after week, was shown caring about the people in his life. Much like the commitment to showing Angela as a good cop, the show committed to Logan being a genuinely good man. It was reminiscent of Dexter killing characters like Maria and Doakes. Situations where Dexter killed these people who weren’t bad but died so he could survive. While “The Code” called for bad people to die, rule number 1 was always to not get caught and Dexter exploited that to the fullest. Here, he did again.
Dexter, after killing Logan, called Harrison to meet him for their great escape. Harrison, eager to please his father and to have his father be with him, did as he was told. Here’s where fans of the series will become divided, forever. Harrison saw the blood on his father’s face and put two and two together that it was Logan’s blood—that his father had killed someone who had cared for him. Had taken care of him. Who had made him feel a part of. He questioned “The Code”, asking how good people could die when it was supposed to be a way to rid the world of evil. This is where Dexter showed his hand. In this moment, his responses were all about him. “They wouldn’t comply.” “I’m your father.” This dialogue will seem simplistic at first but what Clyde Phillips was doubling down on here is that Dexter has always and will always be a monster at heart. The killing wasn’t about getting rid of bad people. That was the justification. It’s always been about feeding his appetite. Dexter wasn’t a redeemable character and some people will be upset by that, much like with Walter White from Breaking Bad.
Harrison, having largely been raised by Hannah and on his own, didn’t see things the way his father did. When Dexter said he killed Logan so he wouldn’t face the death penalty, Harrison was unmoved by that. Taking an innocent man’s life to save your own wasn’t an excuse. As Dexter told Harrison that he didn’t have to leave with him but he was leaving now, I felt furious. Here he goes again, abandoning his son again. But not this time. Harrison pulled the rifle his father gave him out and told him to freeze. Dexter was forced to think about the innocent lives he took, as flashbacks of Maria, Doakes, Frank Lundy, Rita and finally Deb, played through his head. The path of destruction he caused, hiding behind “The Code”. This is when it clicked with Dexter that this was a way out for both him and Harrison. He guided his son through taking the safety off the gun, told him where to aim and told him that he had to do this. That he had to end this. Dexter’s dying thoughts were ones of finally feeling love. His final words were “good shot” as he lay dying. The show ended with Angela finding Harrison over his dead father. She hugged Harrison, wiped the prints off the gun, gave him cash and told him to never come back here. She was giving Harrison a fresh start and we watched Harrison drive out of town, with the often referred to letter that Dexter wrote to Hannah finally playing.
What Was This All For?
I’ve spent the last several hours thinking about what the point of this return series was. The obvious answer is that it was a way to erase the memories of the show’s previous ending, which I think it did. But it was definitely more than that.
Dexter came out during the peak of the “anti-hero” movement on television, with shows like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Mad Men all lead by irredeemable male leads. Those shows, while debatable to an extent, all ended with some kind of statement about their main characters. Dexter went out with a whimper comparatively, choosing a route where their anti-hero still felt like he was being protected by the writers from truly being portrayed as the villain he was, resulting in a really lackluster conclusion.
Dexter: New Blood did take a stand. This season / series showed that attempts to redeem their main character were futile. Even after ten years of not killing, all it took was one slip up and the monster was back out. This unleashed monster clouded all of Dexter’s judgement. Deb’s assessment that Dexter wanted Harrison to be like him was spot on. A true monster ruins everyone’s life around them. Dexter had left a trail of destruction everywhere he went. Killing Doakes and blaming the Bay Harbor Butcher crimes on him caused pain. Killing Maria left Batista in pain for the rest of his life. His crimes caused Deb pain, before his actions indirectly lead to her death. His actions indirectly lead to Rita’s death, causing trauma for her three children for their rest of their lives. We rooted for Dexter to escape these situations and justified his actions as a viewing audience because he was our main character and him finally getting what he deserved means the show’s over. Well, sometimes the show has to end.
Dexter: New Blood and, in particular, the Dexter: New Blood finale, were a condemnation of Harry and “The Code”. A commentary on parenting and how easy it is to ruin our children’s lives with our mistakes. Could Harry have shown Dexter a different way? Are monsters born or created? We can debate that forever. One thing that isn’t debatable is that the cycle of trauma as we’ve seen play out so far is breaking. Harrison will have a lot to work through and deal with throughout his life. But he’s not going to follow his father’s footsteps and he’s not going to put the next generation through what he’s been through.
I was someone who loved the first four seasons of Dexter, strongly disliked Season 5, thought 6 and 7 were simply OK and really disliked Season 8. While I applaud Clyde Phillips and team for not only not ignoring the latter seasons but making them part of their narrative and making great use out of bad material, Dexter: New Blood finally allows me to get the bad taste from the second half of the original series out of my mouth.
Part of me wanted some redemption for Miami Metro, with Batista at the very least getting to be a part of the takedown. But that’s not what this story was about. This was a story about trauma and Batista had his moment, with us getting to see the trauma he’s forced to live with as a result of Dexter Morgan’s actions.
This was ultimately about generational trauma and we got to see that with Dexter and Harrison. It had to be Harrison that ended this, that took his father down so he could move forward. It leaves us wondering about Harry and why he made the choices he did. It leaves us wondering about Rita’s other children, Cody and Astor, who Dexter abandoned after their mother was brutally murdered.
Does this story continue from here? I hope not. The Dexter: New Blood finale gave me hope for Harrison. He craved normalcy and I hope he finds it. I don’t want a story about him trying to be an improved version of his father. The boy has been through enough. Let us create a narrative where he’s free of the “Sins of the Father” on our minds.
While this finale will inevitably be controversial for many, I find myself liking it more and more as time passes. Dexter as a series craved closure and redemption, and the Dexter: New Blood finale gave us both.