Spoiler Alert: The following contains details from Sunday night’s finale of Dexter: New Blood, “Sins of the Father,” Stop reading if you have not watched the episode.
Even if you are one of the Dexter: New Blood viewers who started to get a bad feeling about the season finale when Dexter (Michael C. Hall) gave son Harrison (Jack Alcott) a rifle for Christmas – “Chekhov’s rifle” as showrunner Clyde Phillips cleverly refers to it – those last moments were still a shocker: Dexter and Harrison’s reunion and brief period of bonding came to an end with Dexter staring down the business end of his son’s rifle.
Harrison, after revealing some violent tendencies of his own, was initially understanding when he learned about Dexter’s “dark passenger,” seeing the altruistic side of his dad’s taking out the bad guys. But when Harrison’s wrestling coach, Logan (Alano Miller) — definitely one of the good guys in their upstate New York town — became one of Dexter’s victims, Harrison demanded his father’s turn himself in to the authorities. Dexter refused, and volunteered to allow Harrison to shoot him, lest he get the death penalty or a life sentence when his crimes — new and old — would inevitable come to light.
Yes, Dexter Morgan, one of the great antiheroes of the premium television era, is dead, and, in this longtime Dexter fan’s opinion, gave the character (and viewers) the ending we all deserved.
If this is the end, that is. Alcott, one of the best young breakout TV stars of the last two seasons after his turn in Showtime’s The Good Lord Bird limited series and now on Dexter: New Blood, is alive and trucking on down the highway to somewhere, and Phillips tells us Harrison’s story is one he’d like to continue telling. After all, though he may be less awkward with his social skills than his dad was, Harrison definitely had a pretty easy time taking his anger out on his peers, too. Could his own dark passenger still be developing? And could Showtime be looking towards Harrison as its next big series? Phillips chatted with us about all this and more.
(Photo by Seacia Pavao/Showtime)
Kimberly Potts for Rotten Tomatoes: It’s great to talk to you after this amazing season and, as you promised, the shocking, but inevitable finale.
Clyde Phillips: Thank you, I’m really proud of it.
When we talked before the season began, you talked about this great meeting with Michael at his apartment in New York. You said when you laid out for him what you had in mind, he was pretty much on board right away. How detailed, how specific was the story you shared with him? Did he know, for instance, that that the story would evolve towards Dexter making the ultimate sacrifice?
Yes, he understood that. I don’t remember specifically (the details) … that meeting was two and a half years ago. A lot of the emotional underpinning of what happens evolved in the in the writers’ room and particularly for Harrison’s character and the relationship between Dexter and Harrison, and, to use your phrase, for him to make the ultimate sacrifice for his son. I mean, that’s the last line of the whole show, “Let me die so my son can live.”
Had you already decided how exactly Dexter would make the sacrifice? He could have chosen to turn himself in and risk the death penalty or a life sentence. He could have tried to run until a certain point. Or did you specifically want Dexter to die in the end?
Yes, we needed him to, I think. As I think I said to you before, Dexter is an antihero, which is [still] a hero that we like, but he is still a psychotic. And he kills people, and you’re not supposed to kill people. So it’s, in a way, it’s just desserts. In a way, it’s what has to happen. And as for the specifics of the method of how it happened, that evolved in the writing room. We had great writers, and it’s what we call “best idea wins.” And once again, once you introduce what’s called Chekhov’s “rifle,” people who are paying attention to that kind of stuff … it’s kind of a foreboding, a breadcrumb. And then the trick was to make it honest and authentic, dignified, have its own integrity. And also, I must admit that we were hell bent to redeem the show from the ending of season 8. I personally think we’ve succeeded. I just watched the show again this morning in preparation for this interview, and I was crying all over again.
It was a very emotional ending, and it felt right, Though obviously, Dexter Morgan is one of the big iconic TV characters of all time, and I’m sure no one took it lightly to kill him off.
That’s true, thank you. I believe Dexter, and I emphasize the words “I believe,” because I may be wrong, but I believe Dexter is Showtime’s No. 1 asset, and to kill that character, it’s a huge decision and a mutual decision on the part of Michael, myself, and Showtime.
I really respect my audience. We didn’t want this to be Dexter season 9. We want to acknowledge that 10 years have passed. We didn’t want to pretend that season 8 never happened. We didn’t want him waking up from a dream. All of that was discussed, but all of it was pushed away in the interest of doing the most respectful and authentic show we could for the audience.
(Photo by Kurt Iswarienko/Showtime)
Harrison, “born in blood” like his dad, certainly has his own violent episodes, but he also is different from Dexter in some big ways. He doesn’t have to fake his emotions, his affection for people like Dexter did. Harrison very easily shared his affection for Audrey (Johnny Sequoyah), and Logan, and even Kurt (Clancy Brown) when Kurt was acting in a father figure way towards him. When he found out Dexter was a serial killer, the idea that by killing bad people, Dexter was saving the lives of others also meant a lot to him.
Harrison looked at it with the optimism of a teenager, and that was a bit of a surprise for Dexter and, I believe, for the audience.
But he also revealed himself to be capable of violence towards other people. Although that seemed to bond father and son in a weird way, Harrison seemed to conclude that he didn’t have a dark passenger, that his violent tendencies came, instead, from his anger about being abandoned by his dad. That makes sense, and he does have this caring side that he isn’t faking. Do we know yet, for certain, if Harrison has a dark passenger?
No, we’re not saying completely that Harrison doesn’t have the dark passenger. I mean, he breaks that wrestler’s arm, he slashes (Ethan), he commits patricide. There’s somewhere deep in my therapy, there is the notion that all sons, regardless of how healthy their relationship is with their father, they have to kill their father mentally, metaphorically, in order to move forward with their lives in business and marriage and life. And so, this is that writ large.
As you said, Dexter realized that Harrison was really fixated on Dexter’s killings as this noble action, especially when they talked about leaving Iron Lake and the people Harrison had come to care about for Los Angeles and the serial killer life. In the end, with the rifle pointed at him and Harrison demanding that he make a choice, was that the thing that really allowed Dexter to make that ultimate sacrifice, the idea that with him gone Harrison might have a chance to live a different life?
Yes, that’s really perceptive, because that again comes out in that end voiceover, where Dexter says let me die so that my son can live.
(Photo by Kurt Iswarienko/Showtime)
Well, playing off of that, we followed Dexter’s story for nine seasons, across 16 years, There’s certainly more to Harrison’s story, which, in a way, has just begun. Is there any chance that we could see a new drama called Harrison?
No decisions have been made, but I personally am wide open to it, would love to do it, but this is Showtime’s decision, and I think part of what’s going to drive that is not only that it’s a show that is hugely successful right now … but people — I know I do it: when shows drop weekly I save them up and then I binge them. So I think there’s going to be a big boost near the middle of January, as people, after the holidays and whatever else they were watching, sit down and watch all 10 episodes.
And the ending is not only satisfying, but even in its finality for one Morgan man, it leaves us wanting more from the other.
Right, there are a lot of ways that final scene could have gone. (Harrison) could have let his dad go. So there’s something bubbling beneath the surface there. And if Showtime allows me to go forward with it, I can’t wait to explore it.