Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

Dexter Michael C Hall Jennifer Carpenter Yvonne StrahovskiOn the eve of Dexter‘s Season 7 premiere, there is the palpable sense — at least inside Showtime — that a series that critics had come to believe was running on fumes is suddenly enjoying a second wind. Earlier today at TCA, the network’s programming chief David Nevins referred to this as “a game-changing year” for the serial killer series — still the highest-rated original program on Showtime — in the wake of an energizing sixth-season cliffhanger. In it, Dexter Morgan’s (Michael C. Hall) sister Debra (played by Hall’s real-life ex-wife Jennifer Carpenter) discovers for the first time that her foster brother is a murderer — the Miami police lieutenant finding him mid-kill. So excited is Nevins that while he acknowledged the two-year plan for Dexter that would find it wrapping after Season 8 remains the likely scenario, he added, “I’d be stupid if I didn’t leave the door open. Everything is getting rewired this season in an interesting way. We’ll see where that carries us.”

So does that mean that a ninth season is possible? During the Dexter panel at TCA featuring Hall, Carpenter, new castmate Yvonne Strahovski and exec producers Sara Colleton and Scott Buck, Hall was asked if he potentially foresaw extending the show’s run to a ninth season and beyond. “It’s difficult to answer that in the midst of shooting this seventh season, with at least sort of a vague sense that the eighth season will be the final one,” he admitted. “To imagine it going beyond that, I mean, we finished the first season and I thought we should just stop. What are we gonna do now? So I would never say never, but I think the sense is we’re moving toward a definitive end.” As for the idea that the show has been infused with a renewed creative energy at this late date, Hall agreed that in the wake of his sister’s uncovering of his horrible secret, “It’s been so invigorating to play these scenes and be preoccupied. To have that happen in the seventh season of a TV show is pretty remarkable.”

Hall also believes that it was finally the proper time for Dexter’s deadly handiwork to be uncovered by someone else. “I think (Debra) finding out does make an endgame feel a bit more palpable and imminent,” he said. “I think it is without a doubt the most fundamentally game-changing development that we’ve had since we started telling this story. One of the things that we’ve always been able to count on is that Dexter’s secret is his own — and it’s not anymore. Carpenter added that she’d been looking forward to this moment for a long time. “I was both curious and terrified of it,” she acknowledged. She was asked what she would do in real life if she’s accidentally discovered that her sibling were a serial killer. Carpenter said definitively and without hesitation, “Call the police!”

(Photo: Getty Images)