Don't Ignore the Potential In Prequel Series, 'Dexter: Original Sin'

Dexter: Original Sin is finally happening, and you shouldn't ignore its potential.

After over a year of waiting, an agonizingly long (but necessary) writer’s strike in Hollywood, and an abundance of production rumors swirling around the Dexter prequel series, we finally have some of the answers we’ve been waiting for. Of course, the initial response from the community after the reveal and casting announcements for ‘Dexter: Original Sin’ is divided thanks to the pervasive response to the controversial finale of Dexter New Blood and of course, the uneven run of the original series.

But one thing that I see come up ad-nauseum is this idea that there is somehow very little potential in a prequel series at all. This seems to stem from the belief that the original series already covered Dexter’s early years and anything they do now would be retreading the same story beats. So with that in mind, I wanted to dive a little deeper into what little we already know and explain why I think this is perhaps a short-sighted assessment, or at the very least, a premature judgment.

The original show only covered the broad strokes of Dexter’s youth

The most pervasive argument against this prequel (or any prequel for that matter) is that it has already been done in the original series. In reality, the series dropped in key moments but spent very little time elaborating on them or giving them the attention they truly deserved. They were nuggets at best and the focus was always shifted back to modern-day very quickly because that’s where the focus was. It was always brief and it was always to provide weight and context to things happening in the present.

As cool as it was to see Dexter kill the nurse in the season 1 flashback, it was fleeting at best and we were expected to fill in the blanks in our heads using what we already knew. There was no buildup, tension, or drama involved when there absolutely should have been. This is their opportunity to fill in the gaps and provide some gravitas to these important moments (without distracting us with terrible wigs). I don’t expect much time to be spent on the moments that have already been shown but I think there is a lot of potential in that negative space and in showing what effect it had on the character during this defining time period in his life.

It’s a period piece!

Perhaps most importantly, this prequel is set a full 15 years prior to the original series; Making this a full-blown period piece. Setting the show in 1991 has huge implications on the character and the stories they can tell. Think about it. We’ll be following a budding serial killer at a time when DNA forensics is in its infancy and law enforcement technology (by today’s standards) was incredibly basic. Not only that, Dexter himself is just starting out as an intern with Miami Metro which suggests that not only is he going to be learning and perfecting his craft while working at the department but also spending his time as a student on a college campus.

All that aside, just think about the potential in the portrayal of a post 1980’s Miami. They have the opportunity to once again play with the tone and ambiance of the show in a pretty significant way. Music has always been a huge piece of the Dexter puzzle so I can’t wait to see who they tap to score the show and how they plan to capture the spirit of the 90’s with familiar music and of course, that Cuban flavor that made the original so iconic. I imagine the end result will be a return to a more generous mix of darkness and comedy like the original series. With that said, I hope they continue to fold in elements of New Blood because the vibes in that show were immaculate. This production has the potential to be a Dexter melting pot and that has me very excited.

Two words: Big Bad

While casting announcements for the 3 main leads have been made already, there are still a lot of important roles to fill; Chief among them is the villain. The best seasons of the show almost always had a central villain that squared-off against Dexter and challenged him in unexpected ways. While we have seen Dexter’s first kill before, we have never heard the story of Dexter’s first tough adversary. I’m going to go out on a limb here but I presume the season arc will tell the story of Dexter learning to adapt and react to a target who, at the time, probably outclasses him with experience and cunning.

Outside of Dexter himself, the casting of a good villain is perhaps the most important. Christian Camargo, Jimmy Smits, John Lithgow, Ray Stevenson, and most recently, Clancy Brown, have served as huge and unforgettable foes in the past so it’s always exciting to see who they tap to fill this role from season to season. Of course, there have been some missteps in the past so needless to say, there is a lot riding on this role. With all that in mind, I can’t wait to learn more about the season arc, Dexter’s first big-bad, and who they cast in this pivotal role.

It’s a chance to make good on missed opportunities

Like many of you, I consider the final season of the original series to be its weakest. It showed promise early on but then fell victim to some questionable decisions and an unflattering finale. With that said, it did introduce a brand new character from Dexter’s past that I would love to see play a role in the prequel.

Dr. Evelyn Vogel played an integral part in helping Harry develop his code and guiding Dexter on his path. While it was suggested that this relationship started early, we never got to see much of it. While she never met Dexter directly in his younger years, I suspect she could be a major character involved with Harry’s storyline; a sort of puppet master guiding Dexter from the shadows. This one is a bit of a reach at this point but I would love to see them revisit this character so that she can be developed into something more than just a side-note in a poorly received season.

Young Dexter is pure psychopath

Admittedly, I had my own doubts when this show was announced over a year ago. My main concern has always been that Dexter’s main avenue of development as a character has always been his struggle to find his own humanity. It’s the draw of the character and the main journey he goes on in those original 8 seasons. New Blood even took it one step further and reminded us of the futility of that struggle while giving the character one final opportunity to do something selfless. In my opinion, it was a beautiful arc. So what is the draw of a show that starts 15 years before that journey of self-discovery even begins?

People love to lift up that first season as one of the show’s best. This is largely thanks to the fact that Dexter as a character was operating at his most basic level. For most of that season, he's a pure psychopath; putting on a mask for the rest of the world and enjoying his freedom. It was fleeting but it was compelling. In Original Sin, I expect we are going to see Dexter struggle to find his place in the world before he ever even entertained the idea that he can be anything other than “empty.” Basically, he’s going to be the Dexter we met in the pilot. The Dexter who enjoyed what he did and wanted nothing more than to be his unrestrained self. The Dexter who found pleasure in the taunts of a “fellow traveler.” The Dexter who, for all intents and purposes, died the moment he chose Deb over his actual brother in the first season finale.

Speaking of which, young Deb (played by Molly Brown) should serve as the key to Dexter’s growth as a character. When we first meet Dexter, he has learned to love Deb in his own way but we never got a good look at how she earned his love and respect in the first place. I have a feeling she will be the human heart of this show; The character that tethers Dexter and Harry to the audience.

It’s a big day for Dexter fans so I had to get these thoughts out. More details and announcements are sure to come soon but I wanted to push back against this shallow notion that there’s no interesting story left to tell. In time, we’ll find out whether this new chapter resonates with fans but I feel confident that there is plenty of wealth to be plundered in the world of Dexter Morgan.

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