15 years after the premiere of Dexter, you don’t need to be a forensic scientist to find the show’s blood-stained fingerprints across the pop culture landscape. One of the pioneering anti-heroes of the so-called “Second Golden Age” of television, Michael’s C. Hall’s Dexter Morgan—a serial killer who lives by an ethical code to only murder other serial killers—is one of the key figures in TV’s pivot toward darker, graphic, and more nuanced storytelling. However, Dexter is also a stand-in for one of the challenges facing successful TV shows, specifically the difficulty of knowing when and how to bring the story to a close.
SHOWTIME’s new 10-episode special event series Dexter: New Blood—premiering Sunday, Nov. 7 at 9pm ET—looks to reaffirm Dexter’s status as a progenitor of the TV anti-hero. Picking up a decade after the original series, Dexter is now living out his days under an assumed name in the quaint, snow-swept town of Iron Lake, New York. Dating the police chief, Dexter’s “dark passenger” has moved to the backseat; at this point, he can’t even bring himself to hunt animals for sport. But when his now-teenaged son and a new serial killer both arrive in town, Dexter will find out that his evil urges may not be in hibernation after all.
With the series finale having aired all the way back in 2013, we figured fans might need a refresher course on the first eight seasons ahead of the premiere of Dexter: New Blood. With that in mind, here’s a look back at the first 96 episodes of this killer show. To watch Dexter: New Blood, add SHOWTIME to your Sling TV package today.
This is the one where...We get to know Dexter Morgan, upstanding blood spatter analyst for the Miami-Metro Police Department by day, principled murderer by night. Over the course of the season, Dexter’s origin story is slowly revealed: His urge to kill stems from the buried trauma of seeing his own mother brutally dismembered as a small child, and his sociopathy was kept in check by a stepfather cop Harry (James Remar), who instilled a moral code in Dexter to help control his "dark passenger."
Who’s the other Killer? Dexter’s foil is another serial murderer dubbed the Ice Truck Killer. Eventually, we learn that the murderer is none other than Dexter’s older brother Brian (Christian Camargo), who also witnessed their mother’s horrific death but wasn’t placed in a family that could teach him to control his homicidal tendencies. After his brother kidnaps Dexter’s adopted sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) and proposes a super-evil teamup, Dexter traps Brian, kills him, and makes his death look like a suicide.
Rotten Tomatoes Summary: “Its dark but novel premise may be too grotesque for some, but Dexter is a compelling, elegantly crafted horror-drama.” 82% Fresh.
This is the one where…All the dead bodies that Dexter has been dumping in the bay are discovered, leading to an FBI investigation into their deaths. Meanwhile, Dexter’s girlfriend Rita (Julie Benz) discovers that he framed her drug-abusing ex-husband, sending him back to prison, where he is killed. Assuming that he too is an addict, she demands that Dexter join Narcotics Anonymous, where he becomes involved with the obsessive Lila Tournay (Jaime Murray). To top it off, Dexter’s colleague Sgt. James Doakes (Erik King) pieces together that he’s the “Bay Harbor Butcher,” leading Dexter to eventually kidnap and imprison him.
Who’s the other Killer? After Lila discovers Doakes and learns of Dexter’s dark secret, she burns down the cabin he’s being held in so that he takes the fall for Dexter’s crimes. But Lila refuses to let Dexter go after he reconciles with Rita, and she kidnaps him and Rita’s children, trapping them inside her house and setting it on fire. After they escape, Dexter follows her to Paris, where he gets his revenge.
Rotten Tomatoes Summary: “The Bay Harbor Butcher secures his nefarious spot among the great television anti-heroes in a taut second season that is both painfully suspenseful and darkly hilarious.” 96% Fresh.
This is the one where…Dexter becomes BFFs with assistant district attorney Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits). After palling around on some murders, their relationship deteriorates, and both men attempt to gain leverage over the other. Meanwhile, Dexter gets engaged to Rita, who is pregnant with their first child. Dexter also discovers that his stepfather Harry secretly had an affair with Dexter’s biological mother while she worked as his informant.
Who’s the other Killer? Miguel gets pretty into it for a while there, but the other murderer under investigation is The Skinner (Jesse Borrego). Dexter and Miguel’s friendship reaches its breaking point, but after getting rid of him, Dexter is captured by The Skinner, who Miguel had tipped off. Dexter escapes and dispatches with The Skinner, making his death look like a suicide, and the season ends with Dexter and Rita getting married.
Rotten Tomatoes Summary: “America's most amiable serial killer has lost some of his dramatic edge, but this third outing continues Dexter's streak of delivering deliriously twisted entertainment.” 72% Fresh.
This is the one where…Dexter struggles to balance his domestic life with his hobby. Luckily, he finds a role model in Arthur Mitchell (John Lithgow, who won an Emmy for his role), a devoted husband and father, church deacon, philanthropist, and ritualistic murderer known as the Trinity Killer. After Dexter’s sister Debra is shot, it appears to be the work of the Trinity Killer, but turns out to have been Arthur’s estranged daughter. Once the facade of Arthur’s perfect family life comes crashing down, Dexter decides to kill him.
Who’s the other Killer? Lithgow’s Trinity Killer is perhaps the best person on the show not named Michael C. Hall. His story arc also has the most dramatically satisfying ending, even if it’s deeply disturbing. Dexter is able to catch him and put him down, but upon returning home, discovers that the Trinity Killer has murdered his wife and left their infant son Harrison alone in a pool of blood, a clever (if gross) representation of the cycle of trauma and violence.
Rotten Tomatoes Summary: “The inherent comedy of Miami's favorite psychopath contending with domestic bliss and the unspeakable horror of John Lithgow's Trinity killer coalesce into one of Dexter's most sensational seasons.” 88% Fresh.
This is the one where…Dexter is all bummed out about Rita’s death, but as we all know, a fresh batch of murders is all you need to get over your axe (sorry). In this case, Dexter is targeting a group of serial rapists with the help of one of their former victims, Lumen (Julia Styles). Another cop is close to uncovering Dexter’s secret, but all is forgiven after Dexter doesn’t pin the blame for a murder he committed on him (gee, thanks). Dexter and Lumen team up to get revenge on the ringleader, motivational speaker Jordan Chase (Jonny Lee Miller), but after he’s killed, Lumen decides to let her dark passenger out of the car, suggesting that Dexter might be able to quell his own desires.
Who’s the other Killer? It felt a little obvious to have a group of douchey bros at the center of this season, but Johnny Lee Miller did a good job of conveying the charm and entitlement of his character.
Rotten Tomatoes Summary: “Michael C. Hall's remarkable performance invites viewers into Dexter's heart of darkness in a sorrowful fifth season that explores whether a hollow man can become a real boy.” 84% Fresh.
This is the one where…Things kinda start to go off the rails. With Dexter considering sending his son to Catholic school, there’s a lot of religious themes, culminating in the Doomsday Killers (Colin Hanks and Edward James Olmos), who use religious imagery in their killings and think they’re bringing about the Rapture. There are some pretty surprising twists and some interesting attempts to connect the plot to previous seasons, but ultimately, season 6 of Dexter is a little too over-the-top.
Who’s the other Killer? The aforementioned twists include the revelation that Edward James Olmos’ character had been dead for years and was the “dark passenger” of Colin Hanks’ mind. Perhaps the best thing about this season is how it ends: As he dispatches with Hanks’ character, Dexter is caught in the act (blood) red-handed by his sister Debra.
Rotten Tomatoes Summary: “Heavy-handed symbolism, an unimpressive villain, and a redundant arc for America's favorite serial killer all conspire to make Dexter's sixth season its worst yet.” 40% Fresh.
This is the one where…Deb finally learns that her brother is a serial killer. So does Captain Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez), Dexter’s boss. Eventually, Dexter is arrested and brought in, only to frame her for planting evidence. LaGuerta won’t relent, however, and Dexter eventually decides she has to die, but his plan goes sideways when Deb shows up to stop the murder. As LaGuerta begs her to shoot Dexter, he drops the knife and surrenders to his fate. But when Deb squeezes the trigger, it’s LaGuerta who’s dead, and the season ends with a tearful Deb getting into the family business.
Who’s the other Killer? There are a few this season, including Issak Sirko and the Ukrainian Koshka Brotherhood (although they’re more shoot-em-up gangsters than serial killers) and Ray Speltzer, who dresses like a minotaur and traps his victims in a labyrinth. But the biggest new character is Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski), who picks poison as her, uh, poison. She kills a bunch of people but eventually gets thrown in jail by Deb, only to escape. Naturally, Dexter falls in love with her.
Rotten Tomatoes Summary: “Season seven represents a return to form for Dexter, characterized by a riveting storyline and a willingness to take some risks.” 79% Fresh.
This is the one where…It all comes to an end. After successfully covering up LaGuerta’s death, Deb quits the force and falls into a deep depression. Meanwhile, Dexter meets a Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) neuro-psychiatrist specializing in psychopaths and the woman who taught his father “The Code” that Dexter adopted. Dexter also reconnects with Hannah, and decides to give up his life of secret crime and move with her and his son Harrison to Argentina. But then stuff happens, Deb dies, Dexter drives his boat into a hurricane, fakes his death, becomes a lumberjack, and the series is over. Did we mention the ending was polarizing?
Who’s the other Killer? The Brain Surgeon, a former patient of Dr. Vogel’s who, you guessed it, cuts out people’s brains. As is his wont, Dexter finds and kills him except that, TWIST, the real Brain Surgeon (Darri Ingolfsson) is doctor Vogel’s son, who returns to kill his mother, then a bunch of other people, both intentionally and inadvertently.
Rotten Tomatoes Summary: We’ll spare you the details, it’s rough. 33% Fresh.
Find out what happens in the next chapter of the story when Dexter: New Blood premieres Sunday, Nov. 7 at 9:00pm ET on SHOWTIME. Sign up for Sling Orange below; new subscribers can get their first month of SHOWTIME free!