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When last we saw the brothers Winchester, angel-turned-adversary Castiel (Misha Collins) announced that he is now God. Season seven of "Supernatural" then picks up directly after said proclaimation as fans will finally learn if Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) bow to their Lord, what kind of God is Castiel going to be and of course, what happened to their beloved Impala. To help tease those answers and more, executive producers Robert Singer and Sera Gamble took questions from the press following a screening of the season premiere and our Jim Halterman was there.
First things first, will the Impala live to drive the Winchester boys from one "Supernatural" adventure to the next or is it off to the scrap heap? The answer, of course, is yes. Gamble explained that the repairing of the vehicle serves an important purpose in tonight's premiere. "We figured it was a good way to show the passage of time, actually," she said, "because you're watching Castiel do all this amazing stuff and we didn't want it to feel like he did all that stuff around the world in one day so watching the Impala slowly be restored is a good way of letting you know that some time has passed." Singer also added with a grin, "Like the show, it's the car that won't die."
While it might be too spoilery to talk about exactly what Castiel does in the season opener, the EPs could talk about the always-enjoyable demon, Crowley (Mark Sheppard), and what the new season holds for him. "You'll see more of Crowley," Gamble teased. "Crowley is sort of the ultimate self-interested character. He always finds a way to bend whatever is happening to his own best uses and as the weather kind of changes he figures out how to insert himself in the situation. There's a reason he's lived this long and there's a reason he always finds the parachute under his seat. As things evolve this season we'll see him try to adapt."
Of course, with so much going on with the Impala, Castiel and Crowley, that doesn't mean in the least that there's not some major story stirring for the Winchester brothers. In fact, Singer revealed, Dean is in for some new twists and turns that we've never seen him immersed in on the show. "Dean will have lots of issues this year that's he's going to have to deal with. I think in the first 13 episodes he probably will carry a rockier journey in an odd way of how he feels emotionally and the things he has to deal with than any other season. He's in a rollercoaster ... Jensen has plenty of do and probably more than he'd probably want this season. Newly married, he likes his days off but we're not going to listen to that."
In one upcoming episode (airing October 14) Dean will literally have to defend his life, Singer explained. "[Dean] basically is on trial with an Egyptian God, Osiris, who weighs your heavy heart against a feather and if your heart is heavier than a feather, he does you in. It's all about carrying guilt and that sort of thing and not just 'Do I feel bad?' but 'Do I feel guilty?' That's a big turning point episode for Jensen's arc this year. And clearly the god doesn't kill him but... that's kind of a kick-off for a real kind of good run for Jensen where he is in a different place than he's been in previous seasons so stay tuned." Said installment also features the return of Alona Tal as the late Jo Harvelle.
Then there's Sam, who, in tonight's episode, says the words "I'm okay," which, in the world of "Supernatural" essentially means "I'm soooo not okay." Sam does his best to keep to himself what's happening to him but, as Gamble explained, "What's happening with Sam isn't anything he can hide for very long. It comes out pretty quickly that he is dealing with this awful wall-breaking hallucinatory situation, which escalates really, really dramatically in [next week's] episode, which Ben Edlund wrote. It becomes something that Dean is trying to deal with and Bobby is trying to deal with and it was an interesting thing to throw at them."
Unfortunately, the hallucinations may be indicative of Sam's state of mind, which isn't a huge surprise given everything he has been through since the series began. "Every now and then," Gamble continued, "a hunter will come into their sphere that has been hunting for so long that they've gone crazy and Ben wrote a couple of lines in the episode that it's one thing to get hexed and possessed but it's another thing to lose your marbles. The episode discusses how this is Sam facing that moment as a hunter where he's just been through so much he may just be losing his marbles for good. There's no amulet he can wear for that. He could try Prozac, maybe, or something really strong but that doesn't sound so good to him. It's just this very sort of intersection between the real world of what happens when someone is in an awful job for a long time and the supernatural, which was interesting to us."
With Sam and Dean working their way through their respective issues and dramas this season, does that mean the brothers might be working separately through much of this season as opposed to together? "There are some episodes where we separate them," Singer explained. "Not necessarily emotionally but just kind of where the story takes you. We're always sort of guided by where the stories take us and if they naturally take us where they'll split apart and come together, that's where we go. If the story idea is one that requires them to be locked at the hip, we do that. But we try to mix it up and try to have their own adventures on some episodes." However, even when they aren't side by side, Gamble stressed "It's really important to both of them to try to stay together because they don't have too many people and they're clearly better working together and they need each other in so many ways but we explore how over the seven years that we've just been watching them they've really developed in very different ways and they deal with things in very different ways."
With the new season starting off in such a dark place, can fans count on some more light-hearted stories interspersed with the demons, potential insanity and big bads? The simple answer is yes. "We have a couple of fun ones coming up," Singer said. "I think it's a pattern we've always followed by picking up the thread of what happened last year in those cliffhangers and I think we sort of have to get through some of these darker more mythology-driven episodes and then once we've established what the playing field is for this year then we let ourselves go and there's a couple coming up that are quite fun, actually."
One way to mix up the various story threads is to bring in entertaining guest stars like "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" alums Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) and James Marsters (Spike) playing a married couple in the fifth episode of the season that is titled, "Shut Up, Dr. Phil." How did the show manage to snare a casting coup that will generate a lot of buzz and, hopefully, high ratings? "The first idea floated by the network was 'Is there a real couple we could cast?'" recalled Gamble. "And then our very creative and savvy casting directors came back with this genre specific idea, which I think is great because I think it speaks really directly to our fan base and our casting directors really understand the people who watch this show."
Actor DJ Qualls will also appear in an upcoming episode, Gamble said. "Dean is stuck in an emergency situation and can't be with Bobby and can't be with Sam and needs a hunter and Bobby sends him this guy named Garth, who is going to be played by DJ Qualls, who is very quirky. We love him, too. You know what's really awesome is when you write a DJ Qualls-type and then you get DJ Qualls. That's very exciting!"
Finally, asked if they have an ending to the series in mind, Singer laid out how he, Gamble and all the writers plan each season out, insisting, "I don't think that we necessarily think in terms of a two-year plan or a three-year plan. We take it year by year. Last year, we wanted to do the sort of noir, 22-hours of a mystery. This year, it's something else so that's always our starting point - what is the form for the year and then the stories start to evolve and as we get further in we say, 'Oh, that will carry over into next year... ' We always seem to leave on a cliffhanger so until they tell us 'that's it, we're done' we'll always cliffhang something."
"Supernatural" airs Fridays at 9:00/8:00c on The CW.