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'Dexter: New Blood' review: A serial killer's not-so-satisfying return

Michael C. Hall returns as the title character

Michael C. Hall returns as the title character in "Dexter: New Blood." MUST CREDIT: Seacia Pavao/Showtime Credit: Showtime/Seacia Pavao

SERIES "Dexter: New Blood"

WHEN|WHERE Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Ten years have passed since Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) faked his own death, and ended up in the north woods as a lumberjack. We now learn he has been running a sporting goods store in the northern New York town of Iron Lake and even has a girlfriend — police chief Angela Bishop (Julia Jones) who knows nothing of his past. Dex's demons appear vanquished: He hasn't killed once over those 10 years, while the memory of his beloved, long since departed sister Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) — think of her now as his conscience or better angel — manifests itself on occasion to keep him straight. Soon enough, his long-lost son, Harrison (Jack Alcott, "The Good Lord Bird") arrives in town on the run from foster care. This complicates matters, as does Dex's first kill — the local punk whose father, town heavyweight Kurt Caldwell (Clancy Brown) mounts a frantic search for him.

MY SAY Back in 2013 when "Dexter" wrapped, critics, fans, lumberjacks — really, anyone with a Showtime subscription — couldn't wait to unload their thoughts, which were mostly unkind. (Worst finale ever seemed to be the consensus opinion.) Then the years passed, worse finales came and went, and "Dexter '' was forgotten

But not by everyone. Wounded pride drew Hall back to this role, or in his own words, "unfinished business." He wanted closure and now he's about to get it. Well?

In fact, looking back it's now clear that "Dexter'' always was unfinished, with son Harrison and stepmom (Yvonne Strahovski) down in Buenos Aires, while Dex and his LL Bean scotch flannel shirt faced the camera in the closing shot.

Loose ends, mostly questions, with this as the big one: If those first eight seasons were "unfinished," what then does the finished business look like here? The first four episodes (those offered for review) hint that Alcott's Harrison is part of the plan. Like dad, he's smart, cunning, intuitive and almost certainly carries his own Dark Passenger too.

He arrives in Iron Lake because he can't fully know himself until he knows his own father. That's treacherous because to know Dex — really know him — can be fatal. But if the apple hasn't fallen too far from the tree, then Harrison may be the exception to that rule. Harry lives and Dexter dies? That sounds like a full stop (right?)

In fact, Clyde Phillips -- original showrunner, until the last season, and who is back for this ride -- long ago publicly mused that if "Dexter'' had ended on his watch, the finale would have culminated in Dexter's execution, with the eight seasons literally meant to have passed before his eyes. The serial killer of serial killers ends up as neither a tragic or heroic figure but some guy strapped to a gurney? That doesn't sound particularly satisfying either

"New Blood" instead feels like a fresh start as opposed to a reboot. As always, Dex's interior dialogue — a clever trick from the first run — binds him to us, and just like us, reveals (or betrays) a moral code, or beating heart. The return of Deb doubles down: She's the nag, and nattering nabob, the left brain to Dex's right brain, who appears when he needs her most, as a reminder of who he really is and who he must not become again.

As a device, she may be the most effective part of this reboot, maybe the only. Otherwise, this early part of the season feels like a tease — full of head fakes, doubletakes and red herrings that function as padding as opposed to elements that are building towards that endgame.

Hall's performance is good and couldn't be otherwise. He knows this character intimately — stoic, conflicted, secretive, angry, lonely and murderous — but from these early episodes, it's not clear that he knows how to end him. Or even whether he wants to.

BOTTOM LINE Not unwatchable, but not particularly satisfying either.

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