DexterDaily's Spoiler-Free Review For Episode 1 of Dexter: New Blood ‘Cold Snap’ - by Nick Henderson

DexterDaily's Nick Henderson was in New York City and watched the premiere!

Nick Henderson/DexterDaily

As a long-time Dexter fan, I never would have dreamt that the show would be making a triumphant return after nearly eight years off the air. Furthermore, I never could have envisioned that I would be lucky enough to attend the world premiere in New York City and get a chance to watch in a huge theater full of cast members, writers, crew members, and fans! With the show still a few days away from its official Showtime premiere (on November 7th), I have cobbled together my thoughts into a SPOILER-FREE review of this first episode, titled “Cold Snap”.

(Look for my spoiler-filled recap / analysis of the episode next week after the episode airs on Showtime).

Seacia Pavao/Showtime

What’s Old is New Again

Almost immediately, it is apparent that Dexter New Blood is going to be different. While the show is not unrecognizable by any means, it boldly skews the formula in some pretty noticeable ways that give it a confidence that it lacked in the later seasons; Perhaps more specifically, with the departure of original Showrunner, Clyde Phillips, after season 4. Of course, the show has always been much more than just the creative machinations of a single person but there is simply no denying that the show was at its best with Phillips at the helm. 

With Phillips steering the ship again, it is hard not to notice just how... alive the whole production feels again; Like the eight year hiatus is exactly what was needed to reinvigorate all of the creatives involved in bringing Dexter to life. This new-found energy and vigor is apparent from the opening shot which is beautifully crafted and completely unlike anything that came before it – A promising sign for what is still to come.

Throughout "Cold Snap", it is hard not to smile at all the clever ways that the writers are taking advantage of audience expectation - Both subverting it or playing into it in equal measure. In the original series, the writers gleefully played with the idea of giving the audience a window into the mind of a killer. 

While that obviously remains true in this revival, there is now the added nuance that comes with the audience also knowing how the original series ended. Rather than shy away from those controversial choices, the writers have seized the opportunity to develop them into exciting new storytelling tools – in some cases, squeezing every last drop of narrative potential out of even the most divisive plot developments from the original finale. This is sometimes accomplished with something as simple as a line of dialogue or the framing of a scene. At other times, it is deeply ingrained in the tapestry of the story itself. 

After years of dwelling on those unsatisfying narrative choices myself, this episode alone makes great strides towards making them mean something. As a fan, that was the biggest question mark looming over this project for me since day one.

Seacia Pavao/Showtime

The Same, yet So Very Different

Dexter may have moved on from his brief stint as a lumberjack but his recontextualized life, coupled with his path of self-imposed exile and abstinence, is immediately captivating. With Dexter doing his best to better himself, the window through which we view the character has effectively shifted in a big way and the show plays with that concept to great effect. 

As his old life steadily catches up with him, New Blood takes on a darker tone despite also being as wickedly funny as the show has ever been. It leans on many of the same narrative devices that the show is known for but it feels like the writers are constantly messing with the audience in clever ways; Luring us into a sense of comfort before hitting us with quick doses of reality to remind us of just how troubled the character of Dexter truly is. 

I would go as far as to say this one episode has more fun with one particular Dexter trope than it ever did in the original series (I will elaborate in the Recap article next week). The whole thing feels familiar, fresh, and a little gross (like it should) just like it did back in the original pilot.

With that said, Dexter New Blood is first and foremost, a love letter to the fans. I don’t think it's spoiling anything to say that the performances of both Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter are central to the success of both this episode and the series at large. 

During the original run, even as the other pillars started to wobble, their on-screen chemistry and electric performances kept the series afloat. In this episode, Hall delivers one of his most intense and rewarding performances of the entire show. His enthusiasm for playing the character seems completely refilled and Jennifer’s role, for obvious reasons, is wildly different but no less compelling. It is this clever blending of new and old that makes even the most obvious “fan service” moments really land. 

At several points during the premiere, the theater erupted in cheers and applause because those moments feel earned and are trickled out at the most opportune and impactful moments.

Seacia Pavao/Showtime

Not Your Average Revival

To avoid spoilers, there isn’t a ton I can say about the story or general direction of this episode. What I can say is that a fair amount of the first episode is used to establish the new setting of Iron Lake and the new people that Dexter has surrounded himself with. Thankfully, I feel that they did an admirable job at this task in a relatively short amount of time. 

There are a few characters that don’t get a lot of screen time but I am eager to see how Dexter’s life is going to ripple outward and impact everyone. Angela definitely feels like a standout but that isn’t surprising considering she stands to lose the most when she eventually gets sucked into the Dexter whirlwind. When it is all said and done, the episode covers a lot of ground but not at the expense of the pacing, writing, or editing.

One of the major benefits of being unshackled from the previous seasons is that they were free to steer away from previously established methods of filming and editing. The result is a show that looks and feels new in almost every imaginable way; effectively using modern techniques to frame characters, concepts, and themes in new and interesting ways. 

Thanks to the carefully constructed production road map and the intense eight month filming schedule, the cinematography is bold and technical in ways that the original series never was. I wish I could elaborate but so much of what I am referring to is most noticeable in the most exciting moments of the episode. What I can say is that visually speaking, I found this to be the most interesting episode in the history of the entire show; A trend I hope will continue until the very end.

Seacia Pavao/Showtime

What the episode doesn’t do is reveal too much about the underlying conflict that is going to fill the remainder of the season. There are obviously several MAJOR catalysts for what is to come (a couple of which you can probably guess) but they stop just short of revealing the bigger picture. As someone who has tirelessly followed the production of this revival and kept up with all of the reveals and marketing, I was shocked at just how much of this first episode felt unfamiliar and genuinely surprising.

As an episode of television that serves as both the re-emergence of a beloved character and the foundation for a bold new series, it accomplishes both with welcome efficiency and does more than enough to wet the appetites of rabid fans. 

While it is obviously too early to make any bold statements or predictions about the trajectory of Dexter New Blood, it is undeniable that the first impression was going to be incredibly important. Luckily, “Cold Snap” is a finely tuned episode that delivers both technically and narratively. Like many of you, I felt that the original show had lost a lot of its edge by the end so I am excited to report that for this Dexter fan, the revival feels like an aggressive effort to reclaim it.

The episode, “Cold Snap”, airs on Showtime starting on November 7th.

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