Michael C. Hall on Showtime serial killer return

November 4, 2021
Small town life gets complicated Dexter moves in during "Dexter: New Blood."
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Michael C. Hall‘s calculating Dexter Morgan finds out early in Showtime’s “Dexter: New Blood” revival that even vigilante serial killers can fall out of practice.

When his killing starts, and it definitely starts, in the ninth season of the blood-splattered franchise (premiering Sunday, 9 EST/PST),  Dexter apologizes to his first (and entirely odious) victim for being “rusty in my abstinence” from committinghomicides.

“There’s going to be hiccups when you re-engage with anything — whether it’s shooting a bow and arrow, killing bad guys or making an omelet,” Hall, 50, explains from his New York home. “If you don’t do something all the time, it will take time to get up to speed.”

The important thing, as the long-anticipated limited series kicks off, is that Dexter is getting up to speed, eight years after the series ended with an infamous TV misfire. Fans and critics alike howled over the 2013 finale, when Dexter removed his sister from life support and faked his death. “A terrible end,” NY Mag’s Vulture decreed. 

“New Blood” has given Hall a new chapter and a chance at a second take.

“I totally get why the eighth season finale was dissatisfying, if not infuriating, for people,” says Hall. “But had it been some perfect ending, we wouldn’t be talking ‘Dexter’ right now. In a way, it set the stage for what we hope is a more satisfying return.”

Why Michael C. Hall:Came back to ‘Dexter’ after controversial finale: It’s ‘unfinished business’

Hall and “Dexter” executive producer Clyde Phillips, who returned to helm the new series, have made it clear: They definitely got the message about the finale, which still delivered the then-largest audience in “Showtime” history.

Dexter’s final act of wordlessly dropping his beloved sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) into a watery sea grave before faking his own hurricane death – and heading for a lumberjack’s life in the Pacific Northwest – left fans with “no sense of closure,” says Hall.

But the return visit set 10 years after the finale, moves him to a new rugged locale, the fictional upstate New York town of Iron Lake. Under the name Jim Lindsay, he labors lowkey to avoid detection – and a temptation for killing –  triggered by his former career as a blood-splatter analyst for the Miami Police Department.

As a local hunting store owner and enthusiastic weekend line dancer, Dexter is “taking baby steps to having a normal life,” says Hall. He even has a girlfriend (Julia Jones) who conveniently happens to be the local police chief.

For Hall, any lingering misgivings about re-entering the complicated world gave way to seamlessly stepping back into his twisted character.

‘I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. It’s not something I’ve ever done before –doing something for eight years, taking eight years away from that and then doing it again,” says Hall. “But he still felt familiar to me. He was still there. It was eerie how easy it was to slip back into it.”

Save for an unusually “dorky” haircut, the undercover Dexter looks remarkably well-preserved compared to the ruggedly bearded man glimpsed in the final scenes nearly a decade ago. The terrible haircut is Hall’s post-lockdown legacy.

“I was cutting my own hair in the pandemic, so we were simulating some version of my own haircut on myself,” says Hall. “My idea was he cuts his own hair because he wants to fit in, like an old shoe.”

No one in his new town can see the mild-mannered Jim’s inner demons. Nor can they see that Dexter’s sister Deb has followed him from the dead, at least in his head, serving as Dexter’s increasingly frustrated conscience and inner voice as he falls back into his lethal addiction. 

For Carpenter, the “Dexter” return was something she and Hall, her former husband (they were married from 2008 to 2011) discussed often over occasional coffees. “The Dexter of it all would always come up,” says Carpenter.

Stepping back on set to see Hall as his dark character required some time for mental adjustments, however.

“It was just strange to be looking at this character Dexter again in the flesh, because I kept thinking it shouldn’t be physically possible,” says Carpenter. “It was like looking at a corpse.”

Of course, Dexter’s “dark passenger” emergence leads to other corpses, starting with one particularly begging-for-it small-town baddie. Dexter reverts to his past code rationalization that its OK to kill murderers. By the end of Sunday’s premiere, he resumes his signature. duct-tape heavy, ritualistic villain-killing in a room made pristine by stapled plastic tarps. 

“It was like going back to a very twisted, one-person-congregation church,” says Hall. “When we finally got to the scene it was like, ‘OK, here’s the real guy.’ It felt like I went into a plastic-covered time warp.”

The killing sets Dexter in motion as he begins the silently desperate effort to cover his tracks for his girlfriend, investigators and the victim’s suspicious father. To add to the burdens of a serial killer in hiding is the appearance of his grown biological son Harrison (Jack Alcott) who shows disturbing signs of being a chip off the old serial killer.

Will the finale of this 10-episode limited series mark the true end to Dexter Morgan? Will Harrison inherit the killer mantel  (as the “New Blood” title implies)?  And how will dearly departed, fourth season arch-foe, The Trinity Killer rise? (John Lithgow, who won an Emmy for the role, accidentally leaked the once-secret return to reporters).Hall won’t say.  

But with the season already shot, Phillips says he plans to stick a season landing that’s “surprising” yet “inevitable,” vowing “people’s minds are going to be blown at this ending.”

Hall is hopeful for blown minds rather than fans screaming at the season’s end. When asked if he’ll need another “Dexter” redo eight years from now, he laughs darkly.

“Hopefully we’re not complete idiots,” Hall says. “I feel good about the final episode of this limited series and this re-visitation. It felt like we were brought to do something, not because we could, but because it was worth doing. I’m thankful for that.”

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