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Dexter: New Blood creators want to redefine Dexter’s original finale with new ending that’ll ‘blow up the internet’

‘One of the things that we all agreed on [...] is that this not be Dexter season 9’

Michael C Hall as Old Dexter in a comic-con frame Photo: Kurt Iswarienko/Showtime / Frame design: Austin MacDonald for Polygon

The final day of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con featured a virtual panel for the revival of Showtime’s hit series Dexter, aptly titled Dexter: New Blood. Set 10 years after the show’s controversial ending, Dexter: New Blood picks up with Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) in his new life in the small town of Iron Lake, New York, having went missing during Hurricane Laura. The virtual panel for Dexter: New Blood, which premieres this November, featured Hall (star and executive producers), returning showrunner and executive producer Clyde Phillips, Scott Reynolds (executive producer), Marcos Siega (executive producer, director of 6 of the 10 episodes), and Julia Jones, who plays Angela (Dexter’s love interest) on the revival series.

Naturally, moderator and mega-fan Kristin Dos Santos’ first question was about the very concept of bringing back Dexter and why Hall thought now was the right time to do it. According to Phillips, who left the original series after the first four seasons. “About once every year or so, I would see a quote from Michael. Somebody would always ask Michael, ‘Would you do another year of Dexter?’ And he says, ‘Well, I’m not gonna say no.’ So I would read that and I would call them and we’d talk it through and we just couldn’t get the right take on it that would satisfy Michael and satisfy the fans.”

However, according to Phillips, things eventually changed about two year ago. “And then finally, I got a call July 1, 2019 from Gary Levine, who’s the president of Showtime. Saying, ‘We think now is the time. Can you come up with something?’” Phillips worked with his writing assistant and then flew from Martha’s Vineyard to New York to meet with Hall about the idea. “And we sat and talked for a couple of hours and ended up hugging it out and, and he said yes.”

Dos Santos also asked if this revival is to be considered a sort of “redemption” for a series that “frankly deserved a better ending.” The polarized reactions from fans was a huge part of it, Hall said.

“I think the ending was ‘mystifying’ at best to people. ‘Confounding,’ ‘exasperating,’ ‘frustrating’ — on down the line of negative adjectives. And I think this is a show that’s very important to all of us, and the chance to revisit it and, maybe in the process, redefine the sense of the show’s ending and the sense of the show’s legacy more broadly was certainly a part of our motivation.”

Before really getting into Dexter: New Blood, Reynolds further explained the much-maligned final scene of Dexter, which imagined the titular character as an off-the-grid lumberjack. “And so he ends up in Oregon, which during that time, when we were making the show … according to the FBI, there were like 14, 15 actual serial killers in that sort of stretch from Canada down to Northern California,” Reynolds explained. “And he went there to lumberjack — working with lumber — but he’s constantly surrounded by the sounds of chainsaws, which is very meaningful to Dexter because that’s how his mother was killed. And so, it was ambiguous: Is he here to be a part of the land of serial killers or is the sound of chainsaws that he’s surrounded by going to be the thing that keeps him abstinent? And those are the things that we answer in this new season.”

However, Dexter: New Blood does not simply follow the new adventures of lumberjack Dexter. As Phillips explained, “One of the things that we all agreed on — and Michael really insisted on and he was completely right — is that this not be ‘Dexter season 9.’ That we acknowledge that this is not the next moment after the lumberjack moment. That we acknowledge the truth, that time has passed, almost 10 years have passed, and we pick up Dexter in another place, in another world actually, as far away from Miami as possible.”

Dexter holding a syringe in Dexter season 8
Dexter in season 8 mode
Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime

The new series takes place in the fictional town of Iron Lake, New York, which the production faked in Shelburne Falls in western Massachusetts. The way the cast and executive producers talked about the location makes it sound like its own character in the revival. “We started shooting at the beginning of February because we needed a lot of snow, and we took advantage of that,” Phillips explained. “That frozen lake [from the first teaser] is a real frozen lake. That’s a single shot that Marcos did in real time. And we wanted it to be a small town—and population is something like 2,700—where everybody knows everybody else. People know things that happened two seconds ago.”

The climate situation proved to be one of the most daunting tasks for Siega, who’s credited with directing six of the 10 episodes of Dexter: New Blood. “We had to build the schedule around [weather]. Shoot all of the winter scenes, exteriors, at the end of January, February, March, whenever we started,” explained Siega. “And then work our way to interiors. So, the challenging part is we’re shooting a Dexter — “Jim” [his alias] — walking into a building and we shoot that out in the elements. And then in July, we’re picking it up with the other side of the door, when he steps inside. So it is a bit of a puzzle, keeping that consistent, keeping performances consistent.” According to Reynolds, “It was for sure the most intense 50 days of production I’ve ever been a part of.” Siega agreed, “Absolutely. But the most fun.”

As for Dexter’s new romantic relationship with Jones’ Angela, the town’s chief of police, history suggests things won’t go too well. According to Phillips, “She’s the first female police chief. She’s the first person of color police chief. She’s a part of the Seneca Nation. And there’s tension there between the town and her. And it also gives Dexter — once again, like we had in Miami — access to certain pieces of information. Information an ordinary citizen would not be able to get.” Reynolds follows up, “It’s that thing of, some thing’s change and some things stay the same, a little bit.”

Jones followed up on her character, “She’s challenging — I think that’s the biggest thing I would say about her. She’s got a lot going on. She’s in a wonderful arc, and she’s dynamic and she has a lot to overcome. There’s just so much to do and so much to play with. So it was just a really, really exciting opportunity.“

The actor also noted that she was excited to join such an established show. “It’s very rare that something comes up that is so beloved and has affected so many people and people feel so passionately about it. And that in and of itself is just extraordinary [...] And you kind of jump at those things because it just gives you an opportunity to be a part of something that’s ultimately connecting people, which is a big deal. Also, I had heard just such wonderful things about everybody involved. The fact that Clyde and Scott were coming back was really exciting. And Michael and Marcos.”

While the cast and executive producers were intent on not revealing too much about the new season of Dexter, Phillips teased a couple of things, one of which included possible returning cast members. “I have to be a little bit coy about this, but I will say that there will be some returning cast members from the original series that will make some people’s brains explode.” John Lithgow and Jennifer Carpenter have both already been confirmed as returning, though the context has yet to be given, considering both of their characters were killed in the original series.

Phillips also presented quite the promise for what to expect when it comes to how this season ends. “When we sit in the writing room, one of the first things we do is talk about, usually, what the ending will be,” he explained. “And we call that putting our nose against the ending and then walking backward and filling in all the either 10 or 12 episodes. The ending of this one will be stunning, shocking, surprising, unexpected. And without jinxing anything, I will say that the ending of this new season that we’re doing will blow up the internet.” Quite a promise, indeed.

Dexter: New Blood premieres on Showtime on Sunday, Nov. 7