Darkly Dreaming Debra - A Look At Deb’s Haunting Purpose In Dexter: New Blood

This article includes spoilers from the first three episodes of Dexter: New Blood.

Kurt Iswarienko/Showtime

Debra Morgan was arguably the most important figure in Dexter’s life, and the other pivotal presence throughout the show's original run aside from the titular killer himself. Her foul-mouth, headstrong personality, and Jennifer Carpenter’s incredible performance won the hearts of fans. Deb’s arc during the original run was some of the best character development in television which only made her shocking death all the more gut-wrenching in the original series finale, ‘Remember The Monsters.’ For many, it was also the final nail in the coffin of the less than satisfying ending.

When Dexter: New Blood was announced one of the lingering questions on everyone's lips was if Jennifer Carpenter would return to reprise her role and thankfully she has! Though it’s in all altogether different light compared to Deb’s original appearances. Rather than retcon the original ending and miraculously bring her back to life or simply painted in flashbacks, in Dexter: New Blood, Deb has stepped into the role that Harry played in the original run - Dexter’s beloved sister now manifests as his voice of reason. It’s a striking contrast to Harry and even more so to Deb when she was alive. 


In the episodes that have aired so far, we’ve seen Jennifer Carpenter deliver a stunning, powerful, and at times terrifying performance that makes it clear this isn’t the same Deb we remember. Today I’d like to take a look at Deb’s purpose in Dexter: New Blood, the additional impact it provides for the series, and highlight the comparison between Dexter’s old conscious. 

In the original series, Dexter’s consciousness was projected in the form of Harry. The former cop and Dexter’s adoptive father would always encourage the dark vigilante to follow The Code, as the one who created the rules for Dexter to follow and channel his murderous urges through. While I could fill an entire page about the moral complexities of Harry’s parenting that’s a subject for another day and within this piece I’ll simply be using Harry’s manifestation of Dexter’s consciousness as a comparison against Deb’s in New Blood. ‘Ghost’ Harry was always cautious. A reminder to Dexter to always adhere to the code. He was Dexter’s moral compass, and largely an accurate representation of Harry when he was alive and still guiding Dexter. 


Deb in comparison is far more removed from her living counterpart. She’s brash, angry, and haunting. A constant reminder of the failures Dexter’s made and the losses that he’s endured as a result. Deb isn’t Deb at all. She’s a pure manifestation of Dexter’s guilt, pleading with him to stay abstinent and screaming to keep Harrison in the dark, terrified that the same fate will befall his son that’s impacted everybody else who’s ever gotten close to Dexter. 

To have Deb take this form in such an intense, heartbreaking way is not only great fan service for dedicated viewers being able to see one of their beloved original characters reimagined but it’s also a narrative decision that makes a lot of sense. In the opening moments of the series Dexter admits that ‘if I could have feelings at all, I'd have them for Deb.’ Aside from Harry, Deb was the most important person in Dexter’s life, and she was the most devastating death he ever inadvertently caused. This is exactly why her voice of reason is so tormenting compared to Harry’s. From her first scenes in New Blood, her presence is heavy and it intensifies further with Harrison’s arrival. The weight from the guilt of her death still looms over Dexter all these years later and he longs to keep Harrison safe from his dark passenger and the consequences of his killing actions. 


However, he’s also desperate to connect with his estranged son and is fighting against his conscious but the more he ignores it the more aggressive his hallucinations become. This is powerfully executed in the second episode of the season, 'Storm Of Fuck' (A phrase also coined by Deb herself) Throughout the season premiere Deb is calm, collected, and comforting in a spine-tingling manner - she encourages Dexter to stick to his routine and takes pride in the fact he hasn't killed in almost 10 years. Things begin to unravel in 'Storm Of Fuck' after Dexter murders Matt and brings Harrison home. Deb's presence is loud and commanding as she attempts to berate Dexter into keeping Harrison away - reminiscing on his failures and everyone who's suffered in his life, even forcibly making him swallow the bullet that killed her. It's dark and chilling, and perfectly reflects the haunting purpose Deb's fills in New Blood. She's there to keep Dexter abstinent and Harrison safely in the dark. 

There's also room for some light comedic relief under Deb's disgusted and demeaning attitude, when Dexter returns to the scene of the crime she delights at how ridiculous he looks visibly laughing as he's running through the woods to cover his tracks. In Episode 3 'Smoke Signals' Dexter is deliberating the best way to dispose of Matt's body and Deb suggests simply throwing the pieces into a woodchipper in an over the top sequence straight out of a dark comedy movie. These scenes not only give Deb's new character a bit more depth but also showcase Jennifer Carpenter's fantastic range, and act as a great contrast to Deb's lighter moments in the original show.


Overall, Dexter's relationship with his manifestation of Deb in New Blood is incredibly enticing. As a longtime fan, it's a joy to see the pair back on screen together. As a first-time viewer of New Blood, it's gripping to see how things will develop as the season continues, and judging from the recently released Episode 4 promo, it's about to get even more intense. 

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