Last October, Showtime announced that Dexter, the most popular series in network history would be returning, which we all assumed would eventually happen when the series failed to kill off Michael C. Hall’s title character in the eighth season finale. Even at the time, Showtime executives refused to rule out a revival, and Michael C. Hall himself has left open the door for years. The only real surprise is that it took them this long.
What has been surprising, however, has been the location change — it’s moving from Miami to upstate New York — and the fact that it’s not bringing back any of the other original characters, according to James Remar, who played Dexter’s Dad and, arguably, his Dark Passenger in the original series.
Notwithstanding Remar’s comment, there’s still plenty of evidence to suggest that Jennifer Carpenter’s Debra Morgan will return, especially since Remar isn’t. Who else would embody Dexter’s Dark Passenger on a series where a Dark Passenger is part of the premise?
Debra Morgan, however, is likely to be the only returning character aside from Dexter himself, which would ultimately be a wise decision on the part of the series original showrunner, Clyde Phillips, who is also running the revival. The old Dexter series was broken — the wheels had started to come off in Season Five, and by the end of the series in Season Eight, it no longer had wheels of which to speak. Michael C. Hall was carrying the show on his back, and even he seemed disinterested in his own character by the end. Hall has recently conceded that the finale was unsatisfying, but a revival was never going to be successful if it returned to the same Miami location and attempted to pick up where it left off.
That’s because where it left off was a really bad place. Dexter had burned his bridges with the Miami Metro Police Department after he faked his death. There was no way the character could return and resume his job as a blood spatter expert. Besides, Quinn and Batista knew that Dexter killed Oliver Saxon in the finale, and while they were content to chalk it up as self-defense with Dexter leaving, it would’ve been more difficult to let that go if he was going to continue working for the police department.
Besides, there wasn’t enough glue to keep those characters together. Lt. Maria LaGuerta is dead, and Debra is dead, and both Quinn and Batista had completely exhausted their characters by the end. Quinn himself was largely defined by his relationship to Debra. The only other character that might have been worth reviving is Vince Masuka, but even he — with his sleazy sexist quips and self-deprecating jokes about Asian stereotypes — probably wouldn’t have held up well in 2021.
Truthfully, a new location is exactly what the revival needed, one very far away from Miami. However, it would have stretched credulity immensely to inject members of the Miami police department into whatever murders need to be investigated. Batista could have never gotten away with those short-sleeve button-up shirts in upstate New York, anyway.
In fact, the best thing the Dexter revival could do to remove the stain of those last four seasons was to distance itself from the original series and reboot not the show, but the character. Dexter himself is why we continued to watch long past the show’s expiration date. The idea of a serial-killing vigilante psychopath with a moral code still resonates, even in 2021. That’s where the focus should remain. Bringing the other characters back, alas, would be simple fan service. As we have seen with other revivals more interested in giving the fans what they want than telling new stories (Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls), it doesn’t work, except in the short-term to trigger our nostalgia. Dexter hasn’t been away long enough yet to appeal to nostalgia, and besides, the memories most have of the latter half of the series aren’t exactly fond.
In other words, the more the revival can be about Dexter the character, and the less it can be about the original Dexter series, the more successful it’s likely to be. Distancing itself from the original setting and most of the original characters, therefore, is probably the smartest approach Clyde Phillips could have taken.