For a die hard fan like me another season is very exciting. While heading to San Diego Comic Con this year, though, I realized I was still dealing with how season six left me a little perplexed. I didn’t hate it by any means, but the tonal change, it was just... different. Just like with other seasons, I came away from it with more questions than answers. I went into the Supernatural press room and panel hoping to get some of those answers.
This time last year everyone proudly touted a series reinvention for Supernatural. After all, they had just ended the demons and angels myth-arc that dominated the first five seasons. Season six was going to be a bold new chapter with new themes. Particularly noir.
Everything would pick up a year later. Dean would be still retired and living with Lisa and Ben, and Sam would be out of hell hunting without telling Dean. Castiel was fighting a civil war in heaven and monsters would be coming to the forefront. Oh, and they had a new theme. Did I mention the noir?
Here it is, one year later, and season six, if anything, proved to be ambitious. It was hard to imagine things getting worse for Sam and Dean, especially the way season five ended with Sam falling into Lucifer’s cage in Hell and an overwrought with grief Dean going to live with Lisa and Ben, but they did. Sam spent the first half of the season soulless and dangerous, and the second half dealing with an unstable “wall” in his head protecting him from all the damage done by his soul burning in hell.
Poor Dean had way too much to juggle. He had to deal with a sociopathic brother that harmed others (including him), the constant pressure of keeping Lisa and Ben safe while trying to maintain a relationship with them (which imploded by episode five), and then the struggle to get Sam’s soul back.
Once he managed that, he had to deal with Sam’s delicate condition only to find out along the way his BFF angel Castiel had a secret deal with new King of Hell, Crowley, behind his back. In the process, Castiel gained enough power to proclaim himself the new God.
Got all that? And that was me scratching the surface.
I did learn one thing. I’m not a big fan of noir. Consulting Producer Ben Edlund explained to us how noir makes a crappy date movie. “Last season was actually a very dark season. That was a ride that people had to go through. Everyone had murky character shit going on. I think it’s a description of someone’s preference in taste but I think it’s pretty sad sometimes. They’ve had a horrible hard life. I don’t know, I think that Supernatural is about catharsis and vicarious torment. You watch them and there’s no happy time.”
So, will season seven be less... oh what’s the word, depressing? “It’s a tough ride. I think this season for people who felt last season was maybe too depressing, it’s going to be depressing also but it’s not noir. Last season was noir and that’s a whole commitment to a certain kind of mirth. Very few noirs are uplifting.”
Got it. No noir. Okay, what will season seven be all about then? That’s when I learned something else. Everyone in that room was an incredible tap dancer. Most questions asked about what’s happening in season seven never earned a direct answer.
Take for example the big question of the day: What’s going to happen to Castiel? How could such a fan favorite turn so dark so fast?
“I’ve been getting that question every minute of every day for the last year about the change and Castiel,” said Executive Producer Sera Gamble in the panel. “The reality is that we want to tell you everything we can tell you about Misha because we love Misha as much as you do, and we want to tell you everything we can about Castiel because we adore the character as you do. But, you saw the cliffhanger and it’s very cliffhangery. We want you to tune in and be anticipatory and we can’t say past what you know which is he’s due to be in the first couple of episodes. So watch those and we can do it again and can tell you a little more.”
“Well, that was really informative,” Jensen Ackles (Dean) joked.
Misha Collins (Castiel) certainly had his sharp witted yet vague answers ready, but that’s what makes him a fan favorite. “To be perfectly honest with you, I have been as an actor surprised that no one has written a God role for me yet in my career. It seems like such a natural fit and obviously in getting to know me Sera saw that and just rolled it into the story. It kind of fit.”
Ben Edlund offered this great dodge. “The first piece for Cas is obviously he’s our new God. His story is about stabilizing his God complex. I can’t really talk too much about it because the cliffhanger is so about Cas and so about where his character is going to go and the ramifications of what he’s done. In a sense I almost feel like the beginning of the season, the first episode of the next season, is almost the 23rd episode of last season. It’s another crescendo thing. So we can’t really talk about it because it’s another big set of shoes dropping. There’s like eight shoes dropping in that one. I just have to be evasive. Ha!”
What about Crowley and his shaky alliance with Castiel? “I’m in season seven?” Mark Sheppard asked jokingly.
My favorite answer about Castiel’s fate though came from Jim Beaver (Bobby). When I asked him about Castiel’s impact on his character (after he told me that he felt secure about Bobby surviving) he had this to say. “I can’t...The question about how long Bobby’s going be around, if I answered this question I can tell you how long he’ll be around. About another ten minutes.”
Alright, Castiel will remain a mystery until the season seven premiere. So who are they up against this year? “I can tell you what I know, not a lot,” said Jared Padalecki (Sam).
“Supernatural has a habit of having what we call our Big Bad. First it was yellow-eyed demon, then it was Lilith, then Ruby and then it was Crowley. So each and every year we have some ultimate bad guy, or it can be a bad girl, it’s usually a bad thing. We’re going to encounter another big bad creature, or set of creatures, I don’t know exactly what they’re going to do. But we obviously have a Big Bad. Of course I’m trying to dance my way around saying what it’s called,” said Padalecki.
Okay, marking down “unknown Big Bad.” What about the brothers then? How about “things keep going from bad to worse” Sam Winchester? He did not look very good in the season six finale after Castiel took down his “hell wall” and he woke up from his coma in time to help Dean and Bobby with Crowley and Castiel. I went to Sera Gamble for that answer.
“He will start to see what that really means, that the wall is down," she said. "We were pretty specific what the repercussions of that wall coming down would be. Cas listed the terrible list, basically like you’re going to be a drooling mess, hallucinations, things cannot be fixed and Death also (warned) don’t even scratch the wall. We’re not going to let him off scot free of course and it becomes a pretty major story line. What’s wrong with Sam’s head?”
As any fan knows, Sam strife usually has a bad effect on Dean. Sera Gamble had a good answer for that too. “Something that Dean points out when it starts to happen is that this is like not being attacked by a witch or something. This is a true break in Sam’s psyche and maybe it’s something that cannot be fixed. So it’s a different sort of problem than the boys have faced before. [It’s] the thing that Sam has now earned in a certain way over years and years of being pummeled with more than pretty much any other human being on earth.”
Pummeled or not, Jared Padalecki certainly likes his character’s new challenges. “There’s a lot that Sam has seen and can see again now that the wall has fallen. I for my part am really excited about playing Sam that doesn’t know which reality he’s in. For those that haven’t watched the show Sam had some hard times last season. Now we get to play with Sam’s healing.”
Then there’s Dean, who was devastated at the end of last season when he had Castiel wipe all memories of him from Lisa and Ben’s minds. “I think that goodbye to Ben and Lisa, tough as it was on Dean, it was a necessity,” said Jensen Ackles. “He comes to the realization that’s never going to be his life, no matter how much he dreams about it, no matter how much he’d love it to be, he’s a hunter and he’ll always be a hunter and that’s the way it’s going to be. That was a must and it happened and it was a tough scene to shoot for me as Dean. It was a sad goodbye but now we’ve got a bigger problem on our hands.”
Sera Gamble revealed that Dean is up for some reality checks. “Dean has suffered an enormous amount of loss this season. If he wasn’t running and gunning to try to save the world at all moments he would just collapse under the weight of it... We find him in place where he’s got a lot of soul searching to do and he has to ask himself why does he do what he does.”
Wow, I’m starting to get what Ben Edlund meant about “depressing.” From the other comments I’d gotten throughout the session, it definitely sounds like there will be a continued pattern of things going from bad to worse for the Winchesters. “A lot of things that Sam and Dean and Bobby have counted on, a lot of things that the audience have counted on, are going to get reshuffled,” said Jim Beaver. “A lot of what the guys have counted on in the past isn’t going to work the same way. They’re gonna have a lot of figuring out something new that does work.”
After all the horrible things that have happened to the brothers in the last six years, season seven could also just be another day at the office. “This season is about challenging them as hunters,” said Edlund. “Previous seasons have often been about challenging them as brothers or as humans or as men. They’re going to have some professional difficulties because the world is going to try and eat them again. Well that happens every season.”
Jared Padalecki offered a different analogy. “Sam and Dean are kind of going Thelma and Louise, I guess Butch and Sundance is probably better, can we cut the Thelma and Louise part and say Butch and Sundance? (laughs). So we’re off on our own again.”
Just like prior seasons, too, the comedy and offbeat episodes will continue. Last season had some real strong ones with “Clap Your Hands if You Believe,” “The French Mistake,” and the western themed “Frontierland.”
Who better to go to for information than the master of the screwball script himself, Ben Edlund? “I don’t that have that one yet that we’ve gone, ‘We’re definitely doing that,’ but I’d like to start one here so that people hear about it and then I go ‘Oh yeah, I started that I think we should do it.’ We’ve got to put them on a spaceship this year.”
Once the laughter died down at the table, Edlund made it clear they weren’t going to stop the traditional comedy episodes. “I want to make sure we keep doing bizarre things.”
All in all, this years visit turned out to be productive, despite the amusing game of dodgeball everyone played. They’re setting up season seven to be full of surprises. Oh, the agony! God, I love my show.
Supernatural season seven premieres on September 23rd at 9pm on The CW.