The announcement of Dexter’s return to the airwaves sparked a round of feverish speculation, as series reboots are wont to do. Who would return to join Dexter Morgan’s relatively principled murder spree? Would James Remar reprise his role as Ghost Harry? Why is Jennifer Carpenter back? How can they possibly bring back John Lithgow, whose character was last seen busting the seams of a Glad lawn-and-leaf bag? Hell, if dead characters are on the table, might we see Erik King return for a surprise “Surprise, motherfucker?”
In all the scuttlebutt that trickled out as New Blood went into production, I don’t remember seeing a single headline about David Zayas’ involvement. There have been no Batista rumors, no sightings of Zayas milling around the set, and no ultimatums from Angel’s Angels, which I assume is what his biggest fans call themselves. The reason for the dearth of Batista news is simple: No one cares about Batista.
That’s no offense to Zayas himself, who’s just a professional who shows up and performs what’s on the page, which usually involves plotzing any time someone voices the faintest suspicion about Dexter. But Batista symbolizes the absolute dumbest impulses of a show working to restore its goodwill with the audience. And yet, here he is in “Runaway,” a disheartening follow-up to the unexpectedly solid fourth episode and the closest New Blood has come to full-on self-parody.
The episode picks up from last episode’s tantalizing cliffhanger as Dexter poises himself to interrogate Harrison, who is either a hero or a budding vigilante depending on whom you ask. Dexter is still inclined to believe the explanation that dovetails with his own heroic origin story, but Harrison isn’t ready to be anyone’s dark defender. He bristles at his father’s insinuations, then gets whisked off to a party where the theme is apparently “We’ve Learned Nothing.” Rather than attempt to include some of the people they’ve shunned and tormented, “Zack and those guys” turn Ethan’s kill list into a guest list. Stay classy fellas.
Harrison pretends to enjoy himself at the party thrown in his honor, but inside he’s spiraling, ill-equipped to handle the adoration of people now convinced he’s single-handedly responsible for their survival. He starts taking pills handed to him by grateful party guests, and before long Harrison is SnorriCam wasted and loses consciousness. Logan is able to bring him back, but Harrison was only moments away from dying just like more than a dozen other people in the area who have died after ingesting these particular party favors.
So yet again, as before with Matt Caldwell, we’re introduced to an ancillary character designed to be such a cartoonish menace that Dexter has to drop everything to attend to a clear and present danger to the community. Never mind that Kurt Caldwell is still acting incredibly weird, including his habit of sauntering into the bar already tipsy and dancing to Del Shannon as if his missing son is the furthest thing from his mind. Just like old times back in Miami, Dexter has to risk it all to stalk and kill a random who has offended his delicate sensibilities.
This time, the random is one Jasper Hodge, who likes to season his illicit pills with fentanyl and is entirely unrepentant even when he’s strapped to Dexter’s kill table. In fact, Jasper goes so far as to insult Dexter’s parenting, because that’s just how glib and monstrous he has to be in order to justify spending even a moment’s time on this exhausting detour. (It still didn’t work.) Rather than stab Jasper and incinerate his body as usual, Dexter instead forces Jasper to get high on his own supply, then apparently returns and poses the body so it’ll look like Jasper accidentally overdosed on his own dangerous concoctions. Another threat has been eliminated in the unassuming little hellmouth that is Iron Lake, New York.
When all the dust finally settles, I wonder if Dexter will feel great about how he spent his time given that Kurt Caldwell has continued apace with his killing spree while he’s been fighting the war on drugs. Kurt escorts Chloe, his latest unfortunate boarder, down to his subterranean guest room, which apparently isn’t as instantly creepy in person as it looks on the show. Chloe attempts to use her sexuality to throw Kurt off his game, which works all too well. Kurt melts down because Chloe is refusing to hit her cues as he attempts yet again to hunt the least dangerous game. He hastily shoots Chloe in the eye, then again in the chest, telling her she “ruined everything.” Everything I’m not so sure about, but any residual menace or gravitas Kurt was hanging onto is for sure ruined.
Which brings us to the Batista of it all, as Angela and her new podcast bestie Molly are the only people focused on unraveling the disappearance of Matt Caldwell. Angela is so annoyed upon learning Matt’s credit cards were used at a Manhattan hotel that she decides to head into the city to confront him, giving her a chance to drop in on a missing persons convention she had her eye on. And who does she run into but the one and only Angel Batista, who happens to be the keynote speaker of the session Angela attends and naturally has lots of insights into mysterious disappearances and apex serial killers. He even insists on giving her the names of everybody involved with the old case he worked including Deb, Dexter, and even cute little Harrison.
The end result is that Angela is now armed with the knowledge that Jim Lindsay isn’t who he claims to be, which is confirmed for her after Audrey mentions Harrison’s intoxicated confession. And that’s a fine place for New Blood to be in as it enters its back half. But man alive, getting to that point requires accepting a Jenga tower of goofy contrivances that harkens back to Dexter’s very worst storytelling impulses. “Runaway” suggests there may not be any new blood running through this franchise after all.
- There can’t be anymore plot points that hinge on someone glancing at a document they aren’t supposed to have access to. There just can’t be.
- I sincerely hope Harrison is going to evolve into the villain of the season, because that murder scene with a flustered Kurt Caldwell took every bit of the wind out of his sails.
- Molly Park is irritating and I can’t imagine why Angela has taken such a shine to her. But her boyfriend is Dexter, so who knows.
- Ghost Deb doesn’t seem to have much sway over Dexter. It’s pointless to have her constantly show up to convince him not to do things he’ll invariably do.
- Under no circumstances would an employee of an upscale New York City hotel buckle under threats made by the sheriff of a small town upstate. Just… no.