Recap & Analysis | Dexter: New Blood Season 1 Episode 3 “Smoke Signals”

DexterDaily's recap & breakdown for episode 3, by Nick Henderson!


SPOILER WARNING! The following contains MASSIVE SPOILERS for the third episode of ‘Dexter New Blood’ titled ‘Smoke Signals’ - Proceed with caution.

After last week’s shocking revelation about the true danger that Dexter has found himself in, “Smoke Signals” is an episode devoted to confronting the dilemma head on. He is spread as thin as he has ever been as he races against time to throw the police off his trail and find a proper means of body disposal. Unfortunately, his struggling relationship with Harrison (and his sleep schedule) often pays the price as he scrambles to keep a lid on the situation. While the episode moves the story forward and deepens the relationship between Dexter and Harrison, it does also suffer from some unfortunate pacing issues.


“All because I made one tiny little mistake… and killed someone.”

In Dexter’s opening monologue, he expresses his frustration with the chaos that has befallen his property and his desire to reclaim his life of privacy. Not only is this the theme that propels the episode this week, it is also a shadow that looms over Dexter’s every decision. On the surface, it seems straight-forward but by the end, we are left wondering if Dexter is truly longing to return to his life of abstinence or return to form as one of the most prolific serial killers to ever live.

Despite being forced into action and inconvenienced at almost every turn, the playful nature and calm demeanor of the old Dexter is in full effect. He thinks on his feet and remains calm despite the overwhelming pressure. At times, he even appears to be enjoying the cat-and-mouse nature of it all. As the massive search unfolds, new kinks in Dexter’s plan bubble to the surface. Aside from Matt being buried directly beneath the search team’s basecamp, Dexter is surprised to discover that the Seneca Nation territory is littered with infrared wildlife cameras. To his dismay, his encounter with Matt wasn’t quite as private as he thought. While the camera’s can’t provide a positive identification on either party, it certainly starts to paint a clear picture of what transpired.


To make matters worse, a sharp new CSI arrives and starts unraveling his forensic countermeasures for all to see. Damian (played by Aaron Andrade) comes across as a likeable but clumsy investigator that Dexter clearly hopes is no match for him. As he starts to sweep the crime scene, he quickly establishes himself as more than capable. Dexter even comments that he is doing exactly what he would have done if their roles were reversed. He untangles Dexter’s clever blood ruse with ease and then proceeds to spin a fairly accurate theory about how the crime unfolded.

Quite honestly, I found Damian to be among my favorite new additions to the show thus far. The character is funny and serves as a clever foil to Dexter who no longer has the crime scene access he once had. Without the ability to directly influence the direction of the investigation like he once could, we are left with a severely handicapped Dexter. Watching him fall victim to someone else's competence was somewhat satisfying and makes for a nice new wrinkle in an otherwise familiar formula.


Things continue to snowball when Angela calls in a canine unit to sweep the woods for Matt’s scent. With the clock working against him, Dexter is forced to take drastic measures. In the dead of night, he digs up Matt’s remains and then runs through the woods and uses his hunting vest to spread his scent; Hoping to confuse the dogs long enough for him to find a permanent solution.

About Dexter’s Decisions: The very nature of this show has always (perhaps unintentionally) begged the audience to scrutinize every decision that Dexter makes. In Smoke Signals, he makes several questionable decisions in his efforts to keep his crime scene under wraps. As expected, this has (rightfully) invited some criticisms; Especially since the writers make little effort to explain or justify his decisions. It’s not super common but when it happens, it’s hard to ignore. We are left to our own devices and expected to justify his actions when we should just be along for the ride.

It took some time but I was ultimately able to justify a lot of what he did here. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that inaction is simply not an option for him at this point. As a result, a lot of what he’s doing should be seen as a last resort. He remains calm and collected throughout though so it’s easy to forget that. Decisions made in desperation are often mistaken for cold and calculated.

Running through the woods at night seemed problematic to me at first but not so much when I consider how contaminated the crime scene already was at this point. Footprints no longer mattered since a massive search party had already trampled the area for days. The wildlife cameras, which we already established are infrared only, wouldn’t be checked again unless they suspected something shady was going on amidst the search. It’s disappointing when I have to seek these explanations myself but it’s good to know that in most cases, acceptable reasoning can be found if one cares to dig a little deeper.


The “mystery” surrounding the “Big Bad” reveals a little more of itself in this episode. Lily remains trapped in the fake hotel room but is lured into a trap when the door to the room suddenly opens. As anyone with a sense of self-preservation is likely to do, she runs for it; Eventually emerging from a basement cellar and sprinting across the snow. A masked hunter emerges from the cabin, takes aim with a large rifle equipped with a laser sight, and shoots her in the back. As she lies motionless in the snow, we now know that the villain we are dealing with this season is ruthless and more concerned with scaring his victims than displaying good sportsmanship.


A few scenes later, things get weird (in a good way). After being gunned down in the snow like a wild animal, Lily now lays on some sort of autopsy table. The killer strips her down (and neatly folds her clothes next to the table… wtf), wipes her skin completely clean, and then proceeds to embalm her; Inserting large metal tubes into her neck and pumping in fluids that start the process of draining her body of blood. What exactly he is doing here is anyone’s guess but whatever it is, I am sure it is not going to be pretty (human taxidermy perhaps?).

About the Slow Villain Reveal: The villain setup in this episode was the highlight for me. The embalming scene specifically sent chills up my spine and I was reminded of how it felt to see Trinity in the opening scene of season 4 without any context to his character at all. Similarly, the music that plays in this scene gave me flashbacks to Trinity listening to ‘Venus’ - by Frankie Avalon - when he was thinking about his sister.

At this point, the identity of this man seems fairly obvious but the details of his motivations and his psychology still feel very much out of reach to me. It’s the magic of a good Clyde Phillips villain slowly unfurling before us… and I am excited to see where it goes.

My Theory: I was asking myself the other day: How in the world did this poor girl end up staying in this dude’s basement?! Then it hit me. I think Lily passed out in a motel room after being drugged by champagne and chocolate and then woke up somewhere else entirely. Is our “Big Bad” working with someone who owns a local motel and then abducting girls from their rooms and stashing them in a replica in his basement? It would explain why Lily woke up and the doorknob was suddenly missing (not to mention her phone) or why she didn’t immediately recognize that she was trapped.

“Are you Dexter Morgan or Goldilocks?”

Of course, the big focus of ‘Smoke Signals’ is finding the answer to a question fans have been asking since New Blood was announced: How will Dexter dispose of his victims? In ‘Cold Snap,’ it was suggested that his first instinct was to dump the body in the ice fishing hole on the lake. Of course, fans were quick to point out that this idea seemed risky at best. At the end of ‘Storm of Fuck,’ we learned that he eventually came to the same realization and buried the body under his fire-pit as a temporary solution.


I am glad they chose to spend some time addressing this question but I am still not sure if an entire episode was necessary; Especially when the answer ends up being fairly obvious: toss the remains in the town incinerator! With that said, they do get some mileage out of this by gifting us an unforgettable Deb scene involving a wood chipper and bringing Dexter face-to-face with some of the local wildlife. All in all, it makes for some great television but with the season already 2 episodes shorter than usual, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the writers were wasting time.

“Guys Like Zack Shouldn’t Always be at the Top of the Food Chain”

With Harrison now committed to starting a new life with Dexter, he takes his first steps toward officially joining the community. He takes the placement exam at the local highschool and wastes no time making a name for himself as both a loyal, and kind-hearted person, and a force not to be reckoned with. It’s here that we get our first real hints that Harrison is more than meets the eye. Not only does he prove himself to be incredibly intelligent by setting a record for highest test score in the placement exam, he lets some of his father’s signature darkness out when Zack ruthlessly bullies another student.


We see that same darkness again a few scenes later when Ethan calls Harrison at home to thank him for standing up for him. He shows Harrison violent drawings depicting him murdering the bullies and Harrison somehow looks both affected by and indifferent to the violence. It’s still too early to tell what form this darkness will take but at this point, there is no denying that it’s there.


A lot of what happens in the high school in this episode is clearly setting the foundation for Harrison’s story that will play out in the episodes to come. While nothing significant really occurs, it is nice to see glimpses of the story that will unfold after the Matt Caldwell debacle has concluded since it has dominated the story for these first 3 episodes.

Flashes and Big Cuts

Perhaps the most striking thing about this episode is what is missing. The pacing issues I mentioned earlier exist because it seems that some major story moments were either heavily edited or cut from the episode entirely. For instance, we know that at least one major scene featuring Molly (the True Crime Podcaster played by Jaime Chung) was cut from the episode. As someone who was looking forward to this character a lot, I was disappointed to see her play such a small role in this episode.


Most notably however, is the glaring omission of the scene with Dexter and Deb at the incinerator. After returning the body of the white deer to the Seneca Nation and witnessing a ceremony featuring a bonfire, Dexter finally considers burning the body at the local incinerator. From the trailers and the various stills released by Showtime, we know that this scene originally featured a dramatic conversation with Deb in the glow of the fire. With that missing, this whole scene felt rushed and relatively unimportant considering how hard he had to work to get to this point. While I don’t know the exact details of what was cut, I can’t help but feel like the episode would have felt more complete if it remained intact.

“What’s Wrong with this Picture?”


As Dexter drives through town after burning Matt’s body, ashes from the Smokestacks slowly drift down upon the town like snow (As someone who has never lived in a small town, I have to ask… DOES THIS HAPPEN?!). He passes the local bar and notices a VERY DRUNK Kurt Caldwell walking towards his car in what appears to be a joyous celebration. With his curiosity piqued, he approaches Kurt and offers to drive him home. In a drunken stupor, Kurt reveals to Dexter that he knows his son is alive because he Facetimed with him. They both get into Dexter’s truck and head home as Dexter (and us) are left to wonder… “Why would he lie?”

Where do we go from here?

I would describe ‘Smoke Signals’ as a bit of a scattershot episode. It moves a lot of different plots forward and sets the stage for the rest of the season. I was left with so many questions and it will be up to the episodes that follow to do the heavy lifting. While this may ultimately not be my favorite episode of ‘New Blood,’ it did kick start a lot of different theories that I am excited to explore.

Harrison appears to be on a collision course with a tragedy waiting to happen and the “Big Bad” (when will they give us a catchy name to call him?) will eventually need to be dragged into the light for the season arc to firmly take hold. The only question now is WHEN will the broader narrative really get started. If I had to guess, we might have our answer next week.

My Score:  7 out of 10

Next Week:  H is for Hero

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