The ‘Dexter: New Blood’ Dissection: ‘Tonight’s The Night’ That We Need To Talk About Debra

Dexter: New Blood returned on Sunday night, and in the process, we got to know a whole “new” Dexter Morgan, and we briefly grew reacquainted with the old Dexter, too. These days, he’s living as Jim Lindsay in frigid Iron Lake, NY, where line-dancing to Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” is a good way to spend a night. The revival has turned out to be, at least in the four episodes that I’ve seen so far, a bloody good time, even if it is pretty strange to see Dexter, you know, enjoying sex and romance. Well, he’s at least attempting to enjoy these things, and maybe he really does like sex (with non-fellow-serial killers) these days? Or perhaps he’s mostly keeping a foot in the door of law enforcement while dating a cop who likes to get busy in the back seat.

Yet I’m already veering from my primary objective here, which is to discuss how Dexter’s dealing with the ghosts of his past. And although his son, Harrison, does make a return in the season premiere after tracking down dad, I want to talk about that literal ghost in Dexter’s cabin home: Debra. Showtime didn’t make a secret of Jennifer Carpenter’s return to the show, although the details of how she’d return were kept under wraps. We didn’t have to wait long at all because New Blood whipped out the Deb right away in the premiere episode, “Cold Snap.” In Dexter’s mind, she looks pretty good, about eight years after being eaten up by fish at the bottom of the ocean.

Dexter New Blood Debra Ghost

Actually, this episode carried a lot of promise in the “do not delay the inevitable” department. By episode’s end, we received confirmation that Dexter killed again. “Tonight’s the night,” he declared (which is a nod back to that same inevitable phrase from the O.G. show). Jim Lindsay’s already no more, at least in spirit (even though Dexter will have to keep up appearances for everyone but Harrison), thanks to Matt Caldwell being enough of an irredeemable ass (by killing that innocent deer) to trigger Dexter’s code. Throughout, Debra was there with commentary for her struggling brother. The “reunion” at the beginning (and I mean the reunion between Debra and the audience) was a sweet one. She’s taken the place of Harry, and she’s giving Dexter emotional support and encouraging him to keep clean. She gently gives him hell, even, and pointedly, the camera shows that she’s not really there after a brief gesture of physical closeness at Dexter’s dining table, and I do find that amusing for the following reasons:

– Do we need to be explicitly shown that Debra’s not really alive? Probably, yes. Because otherwise, there’d be at least a few people (serious or not) who are far-too-online and would go nutso with speculation that she somehow, you know, survived being taken off life support and dumped into the ocean as a hurricane approached. Seriously, you know that someone would imagine some “clue” and roll with it. By showing that Deb’s only there in Dexter’s mind, we don’t need to be distracted by total silliness.

– Did Debra need to be a “domesticated” ghost, so to speak? Hmmm, maybe. Does that skeeve you out a little bit, to see her hanging out in a house robe? Don’t be afraid to admit it. These are adoptive siblings, but the Season 6 “incest” arc was still wildly gross, with Debra deciding that she was in love with Dexter, and the way that the writers handled the situation felt almost random. And to see Debra in this revival, hanging out in bed with Dexter, telling him, “You’re a changed man, almost 10 years without a kill, and I love you for it,” well, it’s a little bit evocative. Still, this happened after Dexter’s nightmare that Deb rose from ice water while he fished, so I can see why he conjured up some imaginary comfort from her. He should feel like sh*t about dumping her into the ocean.

– Should Debra have turned into a party pooper at the end of the episode, when Dexter killed again? Hell yes. Not everyone was a fan of Debra during the O.G. show, but I enjoyed it when she got punchy, so this is faithful to her character. I wish she would have lectured him over the dumb hurricane sh*t in the finale, too. Maybe that would have been too meta, and the whole “pulled into the icy grips of death” nightmare was enough to get the point across. And she did her best to intervene with Dexter reconnecting with Harrison (“You can’t. Everyone close to you dies. That’s why we’re here”) while the kid was standing in Dexter’s damn home. Through Deb, at least, Doakes got a shoutout, but I do question one aspect of what the writers did with Debra…

– There’s no way that Debra, in her alive state, would have told Dexter that Harrison would be safer with Hannah, given the whole Xanax ordeal and how Debra always wanted Dexter to be as far away from Hannah as possible. So there’s an inconsistency in character there, but we’re also seeing the manifested version of Debra here, not the real one, so I guess this is a Dexter POV thing. He knew all that Hannah was capable of doing, and he still believed that Harrison was better off with Hannah than with Dexter in his life while growing up. From here though, we know that Dexter’s going to try and be a real father to Harrison and care for him and try to guide him away from his own Dark Passenger, should it emerge. Godspeed, Harrison, and welcome back, Debra.

Dexter New Blood Debra

Showtime’s ‘Dexter: New Blood’ airs on Sundays.