Warning: the following contains spoilers for the series finale of Dexter: new blood.
In the series finale Dexter: new blood, Dexter Morgan was forced to face the truth.
Although he had successfully evaded his police chief girlfriend, he couldn’t escape the fact that his code, the one he had followed in the book for years, was undoubtedly broken. As a result, a heartbroken Harrison pointed his rifle at his own flesh and blood and pulled the trigger. A direct hit later, the former Miami Subway blood spatter analyst, and the city’s elusive Bay Harbor Butcher, finally died. (Click here for a full summary.)
Below, showrunner and executive producer Clyde Phillips talks to TVLine about respecting the legacy of Right handed, the return of Ángel Batista and why the murder of Sgt. Logan changed everything.
TVLINE | Did Michael C. Hall know from the beginning that Dexter would be dying, and if so, what was his initial reaction?
CLYDE PHILLIPS | This all happened about two and a half years ago, so I’m not sure if it was the first or the second meeting, but he knew all along that Dexter was going to die. He understood that this was the correct decision. If Dexter keeps getting out of a tight spot every time, then we’ll do a superhero show. We wanted to bring as much humanity as we could to the end of the show and say goodbye to the character with dignity and integrity.
TVLINE | Were other endings ever discussed or considered?
No other endings were discussed. We always knew that it would always be Harrison pulling his father out. How it got there was the product of 10 great writers in a writing room for a year and a half with all the nuances and all the psychology of it. It’s a very brutal and intimate moment when this happens, but I think it ends as it has to.
There is a certain inevitability in this. Harrison is badly damaged. Living with a serial killer in Argentina. She dies. (In fact, there are people on the internet who think he killed Hannah. There are also people who think that Harrison is not Harrison. There are all these things out there, I’m sure you’ve seen it.) arm, cut the school shooter with a razor blade and lied about it. He was in the room watching his father kill Kurt. He saw all the death around him in Kurt’s grave. He teamed up with his father in cremating Kurt. It is not without darkness.
TVLINE | Was there ever any pressure from [Showtime’s President of Entertainment] Gary Levine or any other superior to leave things open or to keep him alive?
Not currently. Gary and [Showtime Chairman and CEO] David Nevins and Michael C. Hall all agreed. And Michael is an executive producer on the show, and it’s not a vain title. It is very active. He’s at music and casting meetings, he’s seen all the tracks and given notes on them. Saw all the schematics and scripts. We practically knew from the beginning where we were going with that, what you do in each season, otherwise you don’t know how to write the in-between episodes. What is the psychology and subtlety you want to add? What is the easter egg you want to put there? What is the justification you want to put there? In all the shows I do and when I write my books, I know the end. That doesn’t mean that if we’re driving across the country, we can’t go to Canada or Louisiana, or wherever the characters take us, but we’re still going to cross the country and get to that end.
TVLINE | That final scene between Dexter and Harrison is full of emotion and so heavy. What was the atmosphere like on set that day?
I’ll tell you a few things behind the scenes. First of all, the vibe when writing it, it was a disaster. Marcos Siega, who is a brilliant director and a great friend of Michael and myself, we were chasing the snow everywhere. If it snowed, we would run to that town and shoot any scene that needed snow. But we also knew that we needed an important and heavy scene between Michael and Jack. [Alcott], between Dexter and Harrison, so on a very snowy day, we filmed the therapy scene inside. We wanted to film a very heavy scene between the two of us so that Michael could test Jack, and Jack could go to a Michael C. Hall masterclass and really get them going.
The following Saturday we did a rehearsal in our studio in Massachusetts. Due to COVID we weren’t able to do it in my office, we had to do it in the bullpen so we cleaned it up so people could be far enough away from each other. I had a baseball bat, for some reason, in my office, and Harrison used it as a prop for the rifle. We rehearse the scene several times. They had questions. Marcos did a staging and I rewrote some things. They had some ideas and we agreed on them.
The day we were filming the scene, we knew we were doing something important and we were very excited, but it quickly became… not bleak, but sacred. They were all very quiet, busy with their business. The walkie-talkies were silent, and then we let the actors have it. Marcos would say, ‘Okay, the cameras we’re using are here, here and here. Be aware of them. Play the scene. ‘
Another discussion we had was: How does Dexter fall when Harrison pulls the trigger? We didn’t want him to fall like Christ and sacrifice himself. We didn’t want her to fall like an angel. Michael, because he’s such a great actor, just said, ‘My body will disconnect from my brain and I’m not going to have control over how I fall, so let me fall.’ He fell a little sideways, and one leg was on the other, and it felt like a natural death, a natural murder. He had to be in that position all day because we had to shoot all of Angela and Jack’s stuff while he was there. It was a big decision on his part to do it like this.
The set was very respectful. And this was at the beginning of the shoot. This was the first month of a six-month shoot, because again, we needed winter. It was doubly challenging for Jack, who was still assuming his role. Thank goodness for Michael’s help. It took us all day to shoot and we got it in the last moment of sunlight, and then we were done. Usually when it’s over, everyone starts yelling, but everyone is still very quiet. They were still in the moment. That’s the shady part. We were all very touched.
TVLINE | It was great to see David Zayas return this season as Ángel Batista. What was David’s reaction to finding out that you wanted him back, and what was it like working with him again?
His reaction was pure emotion, he said yes in a second, just like Lithgow. But having him there, he’s a great guy. I just saw it at the premiere. I have kept in touch with him all the years. David plays such an important role in the ending, he’s a perfect circle, in a way. Plus, he’s the perfect threat for Angela to tell Dexter. That Batista is on his way here and, ‘I may not be able to keep this Matt thing going, but you, Dexter Morgan, are the Bay Harbor butcher.’ And he knows he’s screwed.
TVLINE | Finding out that Dexter killed Logan changed everything for Harrison. Can you talk a bit about why Harrison chooses to take down Dexter rather than run away with the father he eventually connected with?
Dexter’s code is so irrevocably broken that it seems silly to Harrison. Harrison unconsciously realizes that Dexter is an addict. Dexter is a murderer. When Harrison talks about killing, he thinks, “Look at all the lives we can save if we take out this serial killer.” Dexter never thought like that. Harrison thinks like Batman. Dexter is thinking, ‘My code is I kill people who do bad things.’ Dexter tells Harrison, ‘I want to be a better man. I want to be a better father, and I can do it with your help, ‘and Harrison says,’ I’m not your fucking caretaker. ‘ That is what you say to an addict. It’s too late. You have cracked the code, and your code is not like taking another drink or another drug, your code is murdering people.
Then he yells at him, which is a pilot’s Easter egg, says, ‘Open your eyes and see what you’ve done,’ and then we flashback Logan, Lundy, Doakes, LaGuerta, Rita, and Deb. , and that’s when Dexter realizes he’s right. Then there is a long, long pause, and Dexter says to Harrison, ‘You have to remove the insurance, just like I showed you,’ giving him permission to do this. Urging him, almost, to do so. Harrison is crying, he does, Dexter falls down and says, “You did well.” It is absolving it.
And then there’s Deb, holding Dexter’s hand, that last piece of consciousness Dexter has. The way he had written it was that Dexter takes his hand out of Deb’s, but Jennifer Carpenter [who plays Debra] the day said, ‘Can we try just one where I take my hand off of him?’ showing that his conscience is leaving. She did it and it was great and we used it.
TVLINE | Harrison finished off the Bay Harbor Butcher. Was there ever a chance that Angela could have protected him from the law and that he could have possibly stayed at Iron Lake?
Imagine a 16-year-old whose mother was murdered and who just shot his own father. Where are you going to live? That’s 100 years of counseling in a city of 2,700 people. He needed to go, and Angela covered for him. Angela, who has worried about that murder ring in her office for her entire career (and then found out because Dexter sent her there), is so filled with death and sadness. You have the opportunity to do something human, kind and graceful. She takes the responsibility off Harrison, puts it on herself, and fires him. She is a hero at the end of the series.