By: Eammon Jacobs

A star rating of 4 out of 5.

Reviving Dexter was never going to be an easy task, but Dexter: New Blood is a welcome return for the self-righteous, contemplative killer. The season eight finale saw Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) leave his Miami life behind after the infamous death of his sister Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter). The ruins of his boat in a hurricane are enough to convince the authorities that Dexter is dead - allowing him to start a new life in Oregon as a lumberjack. It was a misaligned ending, one that many fans felt was a disservice to both Dexter and Debra. Thankfully, the 2021 miniseries is making amends.

It picks up a decade after the finale, as the former blood-spatter analyst now goes by Jim Lindsay (a nod to Jeff Lindsay, the author behind the original Dexter books), and lives a quiet life in the fictional town of Iron Lake, New York. Dexter’s killer edge is blunt after years of suppressing those bloodthirsty urges, and he can’t even bring himself to shoot a white deer in the forest on his morning hunts.

However, old habits die hard – because once again he’s hiding in plain sight, creating a friendly, inconspicuous persona to fit in with the townsfolk. Hell, he even still brings pastries to work for his boss at a Fish and Game shop. It’s this everyman guise which keeps Dex on the straight and narrow. Although it’s hard not to miss the hustle and bustle of the Miami P.D. bullpen, whether it’s the inappropriate comments from Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee) or Angel Batista’s (David Zayas) earnest fight to save Miami from itself. There is a little bit of heart missing, but Michael C. Hall’s performance keeps things on track.

The Six Feet Under and Safe star slips perfectly back into the role, relishing the chance to put Dexter back under the microscope one more time. There’s a moment of sheer devastation in the back half of the premiere which shows just how instantly ferocious the former Floridian can be when he needs to. Sure, he might be a little older and a bit out of practice - but his killer instinct hasn’t died just yet. And it’s a true return to form when he finally gets out those trusty white plastic sheets by the end of the episode.

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New Blood puts a heavy focus on how much Dexter has seemingly changed in the decade since his Miami escape, and it’s a fascinating exploration of who he is under the squeaky clean exterior. He even has a steady relationship with the local Sheriff, Angela Bishop (Julia Jones), which isn’t so surprising since law enforcement has always been a huge part of Dex’s life. Although it does feel like a predictable way of tempting fate, a former serial killer and a sheriff? Yeah, that’s going to end well. On the flipside, it’s undeniably refreshing to see him so happy. Well, at least for a little while anyway.

Audiences might expect a bloody affair from the very beginning – instead it takes the time to tease Dex with a new victim, holding off on the violence until he’s at breaking point. All blood things come to those who wait. He might preach about the importance of a routine and stability, but all it takes is one bad apple to push Dexter over the edge. The killer’s repressed nature is personified in the return of Debra, who acts as the ghost of Christmas past here to remind him that everyone close to him dies in one way or the other as a result of his actions. Unfortunately Jennifer Carpenter is a little underused in the premiere, only showing up to chastise Dexter about letting people get close to him - reminding him about what happened to her.

Michael C. Hall as Dexter and Jennifer Carpenter as Deb in DEXTER: NEW BLOOD
(L-R): Michael C. Hall as Dexter and Jennifer Carpenter as Deb in DEXTER: NEW BLOOD, 'Cold Snap' Seacia Pavao/SHOWTIME

The episode also toys with some intriguing few sub-plots which try to weave in some social relevance to the miniseries, as Sheriff Bishop laments about several Native American women who have gone missing around the reservation. It’s also interesting that the Sheriff’s daughter protests against a greedy corporate CEO whose drilling firm is harming the nearby land. It’s probably a safe bet that there’s some connective tissue there to allow Dexter to become an avenging angel once again. One compelling revelation can probably be spotted a mile away by long-time fans of the show, but at least it promises a surprising new dynamic that could drastically change Dexter’s quiet existence.

Overall, it’s brilliant to see Dexter back on our screens again and New Blood holds plenty of promise for what's ahead. However, the revival series might struggle to deal with the question some of the previous seasons tried to avoid… how do you solve a problem like Dexter? If he keeps innocent people safe by offing other depraved individuals, does he also deserve death – or should he get a happy ending? So far, New Blood suggests that he’s close to redemption, but let’s just hope it doesn’t flounder in a sea of sub-plots.

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Dexter: New Blood is available to watch in the UK on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW. Visit our Drama hub for more news and features, or find something to watch with our TV Guide.