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Back from the dead: can Dexter finally get the ending it deserved?

The series about a forensics expert who is also a serial killer started well before falling off a cliff, but now the original showrunner has returned to revive its fortunes

The last anyone saw of Dexter was back in 2013, staring off into the middle distance with a ratty nylon beard Sellotaped to his face, looking glum because he had just realised that he had inadvertently starred in the worst series finale of any television series in history.

But now, he’s back. Last night Showtime announced that it had signed up the star, Michael C Hall, and the writer Clyde Phillips for a brand-new 10-episode limited series Dexter revival. The new episodes will air next year, finally giving Dexter fans the closure they so sorely deserve.

That is, of course, if there are any Dexter fans left. Because you could spend years racking your brain and still not come up with a better example of a show crapping the bed than Dexter. Although it started well enough, its premise – what if there was a serial killer who was also a police forensics expert – quickly wore itself out. It was good for four seasons, two of which were genuinely excellent, before quickly falling off a cliff.

Between seasons five and eight, the storylines became silly and repetitive, the cast were sleepwalking through their scenes and, perhaps most damningly of all, Dexter’s colleagues had to become dangerously incompetent to keep letting him off the hook. The series quickly became less a TV show and more a weird human zoo where we could all go and look at the biggest load of absolute nincompoops in living memory.

I am one of the very few who, presumably out of a deep-set self-hatred, made it all the way to Dexter’s final episode. And how did Dexter repay me? With a scene of Dexter as a lumberjack moping around with some pubes glued to his face. It has been eight years and I’m still angry.

That said, of course I’m going to watch the revival. Call me an optimist, or call me deluded, but I truly believe that it could represent one of the all-time great reputation reversals. Let me explain why.

Most important is the participation of Phillips. Although Dexter ended up burning through showrunners like they were going out of fashion, Phillips ran Dexter when it was good. He departed at the end of season four, at the climax of the still brilliant Trinity Killer storyline, and has been fairly vocal about his feelings about the show after he left. During one Reddit AMA in 2013, he said that Dexter had left him “a bit confused”, that “it didn’t make sense”, that it “broke the code with the audience” and that, when told by one user that Dexter had gone from his favourite to his least favourite show, replied: “I share your frustration.” Getting the original showrunner to knock it back into shape is the best possible thing that Dexter could have done.

Also, a lot of the more frustrating elements of Dexter are no longer a problem. Debra Morgan – Dexter’s sister, played by Jennifer Carpenter, whom Hall married and then divorced while the series was ongoing – cannot return because she died in the finale. Charlotte Rampling’s irritating quasi-mother figure suffered the same fate. Dexter’s dead dad, who would regularly appear from beyond the grave to offer annoying tone poems about morality, ascended to heaven in the penultimate episode. True, many of Dexter’s idiot colleagues made it to the end tragically unmurdered, but at least the show can return without many of the elements that were holding it back.

Plus, you know, it’s not as if Dexter can get any worse. You could chain a million monkeys to a million typewriters and concuss them and the results still wouldn’t be as staggeringly dumb as Dexter at its climax. Even if Hall and Phillips lose their minds entirely and stuff these new 10 episodes with more senseless leaps of logic and more characters who change their personality completely from scene to scene and more long, dull monologues about the nature of death – even if these new episodes consist of nothing but 10 hours of Dexter staring into space with his little Oregon lumberjack armpit-hair beard still strapped to his face – then new Dexter scientifically cannot be as terrible as old Dexter.

Can it?

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