The end is near.
You get that sense early into the eighth season opener of "Dexter," the Hitchcockian thriller about a serial killer and his ability to almost control his fate.
Now estranged from his sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), Dexter (Michael C. Hall) has to figure out how to keep her from telling his secret. At the end of the last season, she discovered his other life and killed an agent trying to close in on him.
In Sunday's edition, she's a mess -- hanging with drug dealers and convinced she wants nothing to do with him.
Unfortunately, she's becoming a target in the process. Feeling the pinch (particularly from a new expert, coolly played by Charlotte Rampling), Dexter's a man grasping at very few options.
When Rampling's Dr. Vogel confronts him, it's clear one of the two is not going to survive the season. Like Helen Mirren in oh-so-many movies, Rampling toys with her prey, profiling the Bay Harbor Butcher as an intelligent, organized, proud man. She knows her serial killers and this one isn't above flattery.
Dexter's son, too, proves to be a likely fatal flaw. He gets in the way of dad's extra-curricular activity and could be the key to the series' end.
Hall hasn't wavered much in the eight years he's been in the show. His Dexter is just as conflicted as he was initially. Now, though, Harry's Code isn't his driving force. It's survival.
Carpenter -- a superb actress who deserves more acclaim for this -- wears the story's stress like a suit of armor. She's clearly the one who has the most to lose no matter how Dexter's fate is resolved.
In Sunday's opener, she gets to her brother in ways others can't. When he follows her to a seedy motel, it's clear something's going to give.
Director Keith Gordon does plenty with lighting and makes the motel seem so eerie you think it may be run by the family Bates.
Those Hitchcock comparisons aren't by accident, either. Gordon gives the opener plenty of heightened appeal and uses music in ways most "Dexter" directors haven't.
Hall directs the second episode of the season and it'll be interesting to see how his spin unfolds. Having lived in the character's skin for nearly a decade, he knows where clues can be planted -- clues that will help the faithful understand his course.
Interestingly, "Dexter" settled into a groove that suggested it could go on for years. "Breaking Bad" always had its eye on the end. Both series end this year but how will those endings be received?
If Dexter regains its eerie footing (and it appears it will), look for it to explode in the final weeks. Sunday's edition says the surprises have just begun.
"Dexter" airs Sundays on Showtime.