Recap & Analysis | Dexter: New Blood Season 1 Episode 8 “Unfair Game”

DexterDaily's recap & breakdown for episode 8, by Nick Henderson!


SPOILER WARNING! The following contains MASSIVE SPOILERS for the eighth episode of ‘Dexter: New Blood’ titled ‘Unfair Game’ - Proceed with caution.

In what is sure to be remembered as one of the most emotionally charged episodes of the season, “Unfair Game” - formerly known as “Big Game - ratchets up the action and character development in equal measure. It is an episode that is both literally and metaphorically about a father and son trying to find their way back to each other. By the end, all of the cards appear to be on the table (with a few notable exceptions) and the emotional tapestry of the season finally feels complete. The result is a brief (the shortest episode in the show’s history) but thrilling episode that is nothing short of powerful.

“Hey Psycho!”

We open this week with what might be one of my favorite scenes of the season. Dexter lies unconscious in the back of Elric’s truck after being ambushed at the diner. Serenaded by Elric’s soothing country music, Dexter dreams about an intense and nightmarish showdown at Dexter’s cabin between Harrison and the jocks who were seeking revenge in the last episode. The music fades to the background but remains ever-present throughout the sequence to give it a dreamlike quality. Harrison, clearly excited by the opportunity to let loose, equips his straight-razor and dispatches the two intruders with violent efficiency.


Despite the pure violence on display, this is a beautifully realized scene thanks to some stellar editing and a visceral and convincing performance from Jack Alcott. The camera moves quickly throughout the scene but keeps the action well within view. Harrison cripples one of the attackers with a well placed (and familiar) swipe at the leg and disorients the other with a frying pan in a brilliant homage to season 2 (Dexter hitting Paul with the frying pan). Despite having the upperhand, Harrison gleefully cuts one kid’s throat and then ruthlessly bashes the other with his own baseball bat until the blood spatter covers his face. The camera pans to find Dexter standing in the doorway, watching in horror as his worst nightmare becomes real. As Dexter slowly awakens, he finds himself momentarily confused by his predicament but laser focused on getting back to his son.

Not only is this scene a masterclass in editing, it is perhaps our most compelling look at whether or not Jack Alcott is equipped to carry on the Dexter legacy if a spin-off were to happen. As someone who has been endlessly impressed by the young actor, I still wasn’t sure how to feel about the potential of a spin-off (especially if Michael C. Hall isn’t involved).

Despite my hesitation, this scene may have brought me on board with the idea of a spin-off. Alcott is a remarkable actor who, in this sequence, embodies the charisma and quiet darkness of Dexter with great ease. Like Michael, so much of Alcott’s delivery and performance is communicated with his facial expressions and movement. When the scene ended, my jaw was on the floor and all I knew was that I wanted to see what else he could do with the character.

“Easy as pie.”

As Dexter awakens in the back of the truck, he overhears a phone conversation between Elric and Kurt. Things go from bad to worse when Elric indicates that everything is going according to plan and then asks if Kurt is taking care of Harrison. Dexter manages to stretch the zip tie constricting his wrists just enough before springing into action. He throws his arms over Elric’s head and then pulls the zip tie into his mouth as hard as he can, slowly weakening the tie and splitting Elric’s mouth open at the corners. In a panic, Elric loses control of the truck and crashes into a telephone pole which send’s Dexter flying through the side window and into the snow.

Dexter regains his faculties despite some injuries and prepares to dispatch Elric. Before he has his chance, Elric regains consciousness, exits the truck, and takes aim at Dexter with a high-powered hunting rifle. Dexter, being the smart person that he is, retreats into the woods but takes a bullet to the leg in the process.

There are a couple things I think are worth noting during the phone conversation with Kurt that may hint at what’s to come. When we see Kurt on his end, he is clearly working on cleaning and embalming a body that is intentionally off camera. Given that we last saw Kurt outside the tavern where Angela was talking with Molly, I think it is safe to assume that Molly has been killed. The fact that this isn’t shown certainly seems to imply that they are holding that back for a big moment in the coming episodes; Perhaps her fate will be used to finally fill in the missing pieces in the big Kurt puzzle.

Secondly, I took notice of how Kurt and Elric spoke to each other as though they were co-workers doing a job. I may be barking up the wrong tree here but I am still convinced that Kurt and Elric are both working for someone else (Edward Olsen still seems like the most likely candidate). This was reinforced at the end of the episode when Kurt flips on Harrison and says that he “Wishes it didn’t have to be this way” - a comment which seemed to imply that he was just following orders.

“Sometimes it feels good to be bad.”

When we catch up with Harrison, he is still fuming from his heated argument with Dexter when he receives a call from Kurt. The two talk about the argument and Kurt jumps at the opportunity to subtly paint Dexter in a bad light and then offers to cheer him up with an appropriately ominous sounding surprise. As it turns out, the two venture out on what appears to be a day of father and son bonding.


They sneak into the high school where Kurt surprises Harrison with a chance to use the school’s fancy new mobile batting cage. Kurt shows off his Baseball skills and then offers to give Harrison a quick lesson; A lesson that Kurt is quick to point out was never given by Harrison’s own father. What follows is another brilliant and touching scene that is cut with incredibly dark undertones. Kurt once again steps into the role of caring father and respectable mentor for Harrison. With a few quick tips and some reassuring language, Kurt has Harrison hitting the ball in no time.


In this moment, it’s easy to forget what Kurt really is and instead picture him being the dad that Harrison has always deserved. He is supportive, kind, and empathetic. For the briefest moment, Harrison appears to feel like things could be better but things take a turn when Kurt starts pitching curveballs. Harrison takes a ball to the ribs and the pain seems to remind him that he doesn’t deserve to be happy if he can’t connect with the one person in his life that truly matters. He continues to take hit after hit until Kurt finally steps in and stops the machine. Recognizing the pit of self-loathing that Harrison finds himself in, Kurt tries to lift his spirits with the promise of freshly cooked Venison and Scotch.

I expect that I will look back on this scene in the batting cage as a major development for Kurt as a character and a villain. Up until this point, I have enjoyed Clancy Brown’s performance but I haven’t felt particularly or sufficiently intimidated by his character. As far as Dexter villains go, he has been fairly reserved up until this point. While that has started to shift in the past couple episodes, this was the moment I feel Kurt finally developed into an effective and Dexter-worthy adversary.

Much like John Lithgow, Clancy Brown is fantastic at playing a two-faced villain. Not only is he going for the jugular by targeting Harrison to get back at Dexter, he’s torturing Harrison psychologically by becoming the father that he has wanted his whole life. In fact, I think this is the scariest he has been all season because of how utterly kind and supportive he appears to be. Throughout the entire sequence, you can catch small glances when Harrison isn’t looking that hint at Kurt’s true nature. He’s like a predator taunting his prey before going in for the kill and it’s chilling.

“Stupid mother fucker took a knife to a gun fight.”

Meanwhile, Dexter continues to run from Elric in the woods around Iron Lake. Despite putting some distance between his attacker, the wound in his leg and the snow on the ground is making him easy to track. He does his best to throw Elric off the trail to no avail. When he stumbles across an abandoned summer camp, he decides it’s time to make his final stand. He enters one of the cabin structures and intentionally covers the outside door handle with blood.


Inside the cabin, we finally get that iconic shot of Dexter pulling the kitchen knife from the knife block. He examines the knife as the light from a singular window reflects off the blade and illuminates his face. Sometime later, Elric takes the bait and pursues Dexter into the cabin; Completely unaware of the fact that the tables have turned.


Elric proceeds cautiously into the back room but is surprised when he turns a corner and finds himself staring at his own reflection in a large standing mirror. The words “You are Beautiful” are scrawled across the top as he stops to examine the hideous wounds Dexter left on his face back in the truck. With his guard completely dropped, Dexter lunges through the mirror and tackles him to the floor. Elric immediately recognizes that he underestimated his prey and does his best to talk his way out of being killed. Of course, Dexter promptly, and unceremoniously, plunges the knife into his chest. With the immediate threat finally dealt with, Dexter steals his jacket and phone, shoots a reassuring text message to Kurt, and starts the trek back to the truck.

“I’m here to ask you about your encounter with Jim Lindsay.”

While all of the craziness is happening with Dexter and Harrison, Logan casually tips Angela off to some of the facts surrounding Harrison’s overdose and the investigation that followed. As expected, she is quite shocked to find out that not only did Jim assault the drug dealer who sold the pills, the supplier who made them wound up dead less than 12 hours later. With her suspicions already aroused, she sets off to see if there are any dots to be connected.


Her first stop brings her to the bar where Miles operates which leads to a fun little interrogation scene in the men’s bathroom. Miles divulges what he knows (which isn’t much) and cues her into two perplexing details: 1.) Jim / Dexter asked for drugs and then poked him in the neck with a needle when he got him alone and 2.) Jim started beating him the moment the police arrived on the scene. Angela takes a photo of the needle mark on his neck and leaves even more confused than she was from the start.


Later, Angela pays a visit to the morgue and asks to examine the body of Jasper Hodge, the supplier that Dexter killed back in episode 5. She questions the pathologist about the body to determine if there was anything out of the ordinary. While the circumstances of his death don’t seem to point to murder, she does notice another puncture wound on his neck and he confirms that Ketamine was found in his system. Again, she leaves uncertain about what she had found but armed with information that seems destined to force Dexter into the open.

I’ve seen a lot of people point out the inconsistency brought to light with Angela’s google search. Namely that Dexter used M99 in Miami and not Ketamine. While this certainly could just be a writing discrepancy, I must point out a couple things:

  1. Angela is merely using Ketamine as a search term because of what showed up in Jasper Hodge’s tox screen.
  2. Because of the way search algorithms work and because she used other keywords in her search, it is not at all unrealistic for her to have found that article about the Bay Harbor Butcher.

In other words, this doesn’t necessarily imply that Dexter used Ketamine in Miami. So far, I find her investigation to be quite plausible and I can’t wait to see where her gut takes her next.

“Sometimes a kid just ends up suffering for the choices of his father.”

Kurt takes Harrison back to his secret cabin and the two continue to bond. He offers him some sage advice about finding happiness and proceeds to drip feed him all of the sentiments and words that he desperately wished he could hear from his real father. They laugh over a glass of scotch, share stories, and Harrison opens up about what he hoped to find in Iron Lake in the first place - a real connection with his father.


When Harrison checks his phone to see a multitude of messages from his father, he hesitates for a moment and seems to consider leaving. However, Kurt turns on the charm yet again and Harrison mutes his phone and decides to stay. As the evening winds down, Kurt offers comfort to Harrison and even acknowledges that he never would have abandoned him if he were his father. It’s a monumental gesture but one that rings empty to the audience considering all we know about Kurt.


Kurt checks his watch and politely dismisses himself from the table only to return moments later wearing his camo gear and holding his hunting rifle. Harrison is briefly caught off guard but then realizes something is horribly wrong when Kurt loads a bullet into the chamber. In that moment, Harrison sheds his tough exterior and becomes a scared kid who faces the prospect of death. Kurt expresses some regret for having to do it but proceeds with his ritual anyway. He tells Harrison to get out and run.

The moment that Kurt stepped into the room, the brilliance of these two actor’s performances was made clear. The depths of Kurt’s evil are fully exposed in this moment because it is instantly clear that he either truly cares for Harrison and is a slave to his ritual or he feels nothing at all and was merely a predator toying with it’s prey.

On the other side, Jack Alcott’s transformation is equally impressive. His tough facade wilts away instantly and you can see in his eyes that he’s terrified. Despite not saying the actual words, his facial expressions in that moment screamed “I want my dad” and it was utterly heartbreaking.

“You never have to feel alone with your dark p- thoughts”

With Harrison running for his life and Kurt preparing to take the killshot, Dexter pulls up in Elric’s truck to save the day. He’s careful not to give away his surprise attack too quickly but as the gap closes, Kurt realizes that Dexter is behind the wheel and pivots to take aim at the truck. At the last moment, Kurt drops his gun and dives to safety before fleeing on foot. Dexter, now solely focused on the well being of his son, exits the truck and let’s Kurt escape into the woods. Harrison, realizing that he hasn’t been shot, turns and runs to his father. The two embrace in what can only be described as one of the most emotional and cathartic moments of the entire series.

The two depart in the truck and Dexter finally has his moment to come clean to Harrison. He assures him that he will tell him everything there is to know but emphasizes that he never has to feel alone because of his darkness ever again. For now, Dexter gives him the cliff notes version which includes being born in blood, having his own dark urges, and Harry teaching him a code. Before he can say any more, Harrison leaps across the truck and hugs his dad tightly. Dexter’s defenses come tumbling down and in that moment, it’s clear that there is nothing he cares about more than his son.

Where do we go from here?

Despite being another short episode, the storytelling here was incredibly tight and the landscape of the entire show has shifted dramatically once again. I think it’s safe to say that Dexter and Harrison’s relationship in the next two episodes will be nothing short of refreshing. I look forward to seeing what approach Dexter is going to take with these revelations to Harrison because despite how the audience may feel, coming clean means making some truly disturbing admissions to a teenage boy.

Angela is well on her way to uncovering the truth and Kurt seems destined for a kill table at some point. With that said, the next two episodes must bear the burden of delivering a more satisfying ending to the show and/or setting up a continuation that Dexter fans will want to get behind. Either way, it seems like a pretty big undertaking and I am extremely excited to see if they can pull it off. Given New Blood’s track record thus far, I would say that it’s looking pretty good.

My Score:  8.5 out of 10

Next Week:  The Family Business

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