The actor and producer discusses Sunday's premiere and the messy future ahead for Dexter Morgan.
Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Sunday's premiere of Dexter: New Blood.
Dexter: New Blood kicked off a new era on Sunday for the not-so-reformed killer, who, for the better part of a decade, had remained abstinent when it came to striking a fatal blow. But that all turned on a dime when Iron Lake, Minnesota's resident troublemaker, Matt Caldwell, made ultimate sin: making Dexter angry.
During a trip out into the snowy forest, Dexter -- going under the assumed name Jim Lindsay -- came across a white elk while out on a run (coincidentally, the day after his estranged son Harrison shows up on his doorstep). For a second, it seemed as though he'd take the shot. Instead, he walks up to the elk and they share a moment amidst the calm of the wintery woods. But that moment turned out to be a fleeting one, as Matt -- always one to arrive at the absolute worst time -- shoots the elk dead, blood splattering on Dexter's face as he sits there stunned. Up until this point, the tension between Dexter and Matt had been building up to a boil, and this, it turns out, was the very last straw.
Rusty after not having killed for 10 years, Dexter first knocks Matt unconscious before bringing him to into the makeshift kill room at his cabin in the woods. There, he finds himself back with his kill ritual -- taking a blood sample, mentally (and physically) torturing his victim. When all was said and done, Dexter -- who lives on the outskirts of town -- opted to bury Matt's body somewhere near his cabin. Not exactly the best location to hide the evidence. And so begins the return of Dexter Morgan.
ET spoke with Dexter star Michael C. Hall about the inciting moment Dexter completed his first kill in a decade, reuniting with Deb and his teenage son Harrison, and what this means for Dexter moving forward.
ET: In the first episode, we see Dexter have his first kill in 10 years. Were there any discussions with what that first kill would be, as it has be impactful enough and there has to be a turning point for Dexter to come do the inevitable?
Michael C. Hall: Yeah, I think it's reasonable to think that he's had his moments of temptation before now. Why is it that in this case he gives in? And I think it's because, the morning that he goes out running after the deer and kills Matt, is the morning that follows his son showing up. And I think Dexter's tried to kind of disappear himself, kill off his old self, forsake his son, pretend that he's dead. He's also tried to stop killing and bury that monstrous part of himself. His son shows up and it activates or reactivates some sense of humanity in him. But you can't just open one door, and he feels obliged to push his son away. The internal turbulence that that creates comes out when Matt... I mean also Matt kills this deer that has come to be this centerpiece of Dexter's ritual and rehabilitation and managing his impulses. And the deer is representative of some aspiration to purity that he feels like he's getting closer and closer to. So yeah, he loses it.
That scene on Dexter's kill table was intense.
Yeah, and he almost goes into a trance that he can only come out of once he completes the kill. But yeah, doing the kill itself was wild. It was wild for me as an actor to go back into the kill room and do this thing that I didn't know I'd ever revisit. I think it was even crazier for the fictional character to do it. He says he's rusty, he's out of practice and he is out of logistical practice. He doesn't have everything he needs, he's having to improvise. He didn't even know that he was going to do this. He's sort of trying to catch up to himself. But I think he's also out of practice in terms of the experience of doing it. The experience is different on the other side of eight years of committed sobriety. Revisiting your addiction is not going to be quite as uncomplicated as it might have once been.
That segues into my next question. What are these kills that he's going to do now different from before? Clearly he has a very different perspective, and obviously he wants Harrison around to protect himself as well his son.
Dexter is trying to cobble together this new definition of what it is to be a killer and what kind of killer he is. I think he longs to go back and experience himself in the more pristine and perfect way that he once did. But I think in part necessitated by circumstance and in part necessitated by who he is now, his relationship to killing is more personal. More personally motivated by more human impulses. Like I said, I think he longs to get back, but he keeps getting snagged on his own humanity. And so it's more chaotic. His whole world is more... He was a guy who very much prided himself on the order that he created and controlled. Now he's in a state of chaos.
At the end of the episode, we hear Dexter's inner thoughts where he says he's vowing to protect Harrison, teach him, keep him alive. What does that mean for Dexter though? And how does he go about that because that's going to be very difficult for him to accomplish?
Yeah, it is. He's no longer making proclamations about himself. He's saying things and trying to will them to be true. He wants that to be the story because that's the story that's presented itself to him. I don't know that he totally believes in his ability to do that or has any idea how he's going to pull that off. I think we're watching a guy trying to catch up to himself or trying to catch up with the circumstances of a life in which he's now killed someone and a life in which he's now once again a father. He's saying what he aspires to as much as what he knows he will succeed in doing.
The line between Dexter Morgan and Jim Lindsay is fracturing. How long before it implodes?
What is going to happen over the course of the season is maybe not as in doubt as how it's going to happen. We can intuit that the line between Jim Lindsay and Dexter Morgan is going to fracture or blur or disintegrate, but how is that going to happen? What are the ramifications going to be? I think that's what will keep people tuning in, and will Harrison find out the truth about Dexter? Well, probably. But how and when and what will he do? And how will Dexter reveal it? I think that's a part of what's fun about the landscape of this new version. Like, there are all kinds of dominoes that we. For example, the first episode starts and we know that Dexter hasn't killed anybody in eight years. They turn the cameras back on, he's probably going to kill somebody. But what are the circumstances going to be? How's he going to respond? Is he going to be able to do it? Is it going to be different? A part of the fun of the show is not what happens, but how things that we intuit are inevitable will happen.
I was also thinking, is this a case where the cops are capable enough to catch him? Are they able to figure this out?
In spite of whatever claims he's made about the life he wants to live and his abstinence, he has chosen to get involved with the chief of police in this small town. He just can't help it.
A highlight of the episode were the Dexter/Deb moments. Very different from what we've seen of their dynamic from before. Can you talk about working with Jennifer Carpenter again in this different context and see these two characters interact in such a violent and emotional, but very crucial way?
Whether it was just a conversation or maybe something more substantive, when the possibility of going back to the show came up, I would often get hung up on like, "Yeah but his fundamental relationship was always with Deb." And once we realized that she could be a part of a new show in this way, it immediately felt crucial. And yeah, it was fun to simulate a relationship that... I think it was fun for Jennifer as an actress, to be in no way bound by who Deb was. Obviously she looks like Deb and Dexter's internal energy is embodied as Deb, but the performance is more about the mercurial nature of Dexter's internalized voice. The fact that he's very much at odds with himself and Jennifer, of course, has the facility to execute that and be so many different things from moment to moment and be unrecognizable and be soothing. When we first meet them, we get a glimpse of how things have been -- very soothing, comforting, lived in. Sort of like this nice domestic cohabitation, which is part of the fruits of his abstinence that he has this internalized relationship that's very placid. But obviously that changes when he commits the two big sins: letting his past back into his life and killing again.
What can you preview for this next episode now that Harrison's under his wing, he's killed Matt and the cops are starting their search...
He makes this statement at the end of the first episode: "This is what my father did for me and this is what I'm going to do for my son." At the beginning of the second episode, you see him try to put this conviction into practice. And it's all a lot easier said than done.
Dexter: New Blood airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime. For more, watch below.
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