Dexter Prequels and Spinoffs are Coming

Hollywood will never meet a dead horse it refuses to beat. The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Showtime is going to turn Dexter into a “universe,” with two prequels, a spin-off, and God knows what else in the works. (It’s doing the same for Billions, but I’ve never seen that, so go for it, Showtime.) Dexter, which began in 2006 and ran for eight seasons, plus the recent revival – titled Dexter: New Blood – starred Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, a Miami PD blood spatter expert who led a double life as a serial killer, but one who only targeted evildoers. The first prequel, which is already greenlit, is called Dexter: Origins and will be about… you know… Dexter’s origins. The other will be origin stories for some of Dexter’s enemies, with the Trinity Killer – a wonderfully complex villain played by John Lithgow – the only one named so far. The third series will follow Dexter’s son Harrison as he moves to New York City and wrestles with his own urge to kill.

All of those sound terrible. We don’t need a series about Dexter’s origin because we saw it, in great detail, during Dexter. We saw how his foster father Harry found him, the circumstances behind his psychosis that turned into what he called the Dark Passenger, the development of the Code of Harry (as well as its retcon in the awful season 8), how Harry trained Dexter to kill and to discern who to kill, Dexter’s fist murder – in other words, everything we could possibly want to know about his past. Here’s how Showtime describes Dexter: Origins:

“[Dexter: Origins] will dramatize young Dexter Morgan at the outset of his transition into the avenging serial killer he would become. Set in the Miami that was a hotbed of real serial killers of his time, the show will begin as Dexter graduates college to join Miami Metro, where he meets younger versions of many of the characters we came to know in the original Dexter. And, of course, the show will also focus on Dexter’s family, including a very-much-alive Harry and a very formidable, teenage Deb.”

Correct me if I’m wrong – it’s been a while since I watched it – but didn’t Harry die before Dexter joined the Miami Metro Police? I recall that he died shortly after one of Dexter’s early murders, when he killed himself after seeing the monster he had created. So they’re retconning the story to stretch it even further. (Although, again, season 8 already did that, making Harry all but irrelevant, so why not continue shooting the corpse of a once great show?) Moreover, if they’re starting with Dexter working at Miami Metro and moonlighting as a killer – how is this any different from Dexter? Aside from new actors and what will most assuredly be an obnoxious teenage Deb, this feels like an excuse to make more Dexter, to resurrect a story already told and wring every cent they can from it.

The same is true for the other prequel about the villains and their origins. We know these stories, too, because Dexter detailed them. We know where the Trinity Killer came from, why he kills the way he does, why “Trinity Killer” is a misnomer, how he balances being a family man with his life as a compulsive murderer. What more can we learn? Do we need to know who he took to his high school prom? And who else are they going to feature in this show? I assume the Ice Truck Killer, the villain of the first season, will be one, but we know everything there is to know about him, too, and he’d be even more egregious because his origins are inextricably linked to Dexter’s. It’s the same for whoever else they pick. These are stories that have already been told perfectly well.

And what’s Harrison, or whatever they call it, going to be if not a retread of Dexter with a less-interesting lead? One of two things can happen; either Harrison gives in to his impulses and becomes a poor man’s version of his father, or he overcomes them, in which case this sounds like a boring show. (“What if Dexter didn’t kill anybody?” Then he’d be lame.) Moving the action from Miami to New York is just slapping a new coat of paint on a car with no engine.

That missing engine is the key ingredient that made Dexter so special: Michael C. Hall. He was perfectly cast, bringing the quiet, dull, milquetoast Dexter Morgan to life even when he wasn’t showing his true self in a room with some doomed murderer. He had an ineffable quality, able to sound fascinating as he was droning on about his condition or the world he didn’t understand, creating a compelling character out of the mask of mundanity Dexter wore. Hall even made the later seasons watchable (although Yvonne Strahovski helped, albeit for different reasons); he was so in tune with the character that, even as the story crumbled around him, Dexter remained Dexter. How will they replicate that? If they try – and I’m sure they will – it’s just going to feel like a knock-off, a riff on Dexter rather than an original character. And if they don’t, Dexter’s soul will be removed, although I’m sure that’s hardly a concern.

We’ll always have those first five seasons, I guess.

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