'Supernatural': The showrunners talk Sam and Dean's new dynamic and all those flashbacks

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Image Credit: Ed Araquel

Supernatural has a new showrunner, Jeremy Carver, returning to the show after some time away helming Syfy’s Being Human, and it looks like he is working to strike a balance between giving fans something fresh and staying close to the show’s roots. Supernatural wouldn’t be the same without classic rock, and tonight’s season 8 opener delivered on that musical note straight away with Styx’s “Man In The Wilderness.” Tommy Shaw croons in the 1977 song, “Another year has passed me by / … What kind of man have I become?”

Indeed, that’s the question Sam and Dean will be asking themselves – and each other – this season as they grapple with all that’s happened during a year spent apart.

Carver and fellow executive producer Robert Singer were on hand to answer reporters’ questions about the new season following a screening of the premiere. BEWARE OF SPOILERS if you haven’t watched tonight’s premiere (Supernatural‘s 150th episode!), titled “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” but read on if you want to learn about Carver and Singer’s take on the premiere and what’s in store for the season ahead.

Dealing with the death and return back to life of a brother is nothing new for Sam and Dean Winchester, but this time something’s different: Sam has quit hunting and didn’t go looking for Dean when he was zapped down to home of all dead monsters, Purgatory. Even though the brothers have always asked each other to promise to do just that should either one of them kick the bucket, Dean’s pretty pissed to learn that Sam has spent a year with a new lady friend and not saving people, hunting things.

Things are different this time around because Sam is, as Crowley said in the season 7 finale, “well and truly alone.” No Dean. No Bobby. Not even a supposedly trustworthy, blood-supplying demon.

“I don’t think [Sam] knew what he wanted to do, then he hit a dog, and that started something new for him,” Singer explained. “He got a taste of something he had never had before, and it had a really profound effect on him, one that he doesn’t really expect Dean to understand.”

That goes both ways: Dean doesn’t expect Sam to understand what he went through in Purgatory, to the point that he’s keeping his new buddy Benny a secret from his brother and he’s being vague about whatever happened to Castiel. But as soon as Sam opens up, Dean reprimands him about his decision to put hunting aside.

“The fact that he’s judgmental is probably not all that fair to Sam given what Dean’s not saying,” Singer teased.

“Might those tables turn in terms of who has to answer for what?” Carver said cryptically. Beyond that, the two showrunners weren’t eager to reveal anything about how Dean spent his past year and how that will impact the brothers relationship, but they did divulge plenty more about what fans can expect this season. Here are some other things reporters learned from Carver and Singer about tonight’s episode and what’s to come in season 8:

The flashbacks will not be in every episode.

Singer said they use flashbacks “where appropriate” this season, and Carver added that the writers are planning to have these jumps back to the Winchesters’ past year “play heaviest in the first 13” episodes of the season. Carver assured reporters that the story of how Dean and his new vampire companion, Benny, got so close will be revealed in the flashbacks.

The quest to close the gates of Hell will be a major season arc.
Carver confirmed that Sam, Dean and Kevin’s mission to trap all demons in Hell forever (yes, forever!) will be a major arc for season 8, but he also plans to have this quest influence Supernatural beyond season 8. “The questions that come up in this quest and the series of discoveries are meant to start giving us those underpinnings for questions and secrets and things that will be explored in future seasons,” Carver said.

As for just what closing the gates of Hell really means, fans watching this episode undoubtedly want a peek at that hidden tablet themselves, any clues to clarify whether this means Hell will also be closed off to human souls. On that subject, Carver only said, “That’s something that will be clarified later on, clarified or dealt with.”

Will we see Meg again and what she thinks of this demon-banishing plan? The showrunners wouldn’t say, though Carver acknowledged, “That would be an interesting conversation.”

Castiel’s fate in Purgatory will be revealed gradually.
Cas was nowhere to be seen in the season premiere, and his whereabouts since he disappeared from Dean’s side upon their arrival in Purgatory are unknown. But Carver promised that the show will start revealing what happened to the trench coat-donning angel soon. “We’ll be telling that story of Purgatory pretty steadily through the first seven or eight episodes,” he said. “By episode seven or eight you’ll start to get a really good understanding of what happened in Purgatory to Cas.”

The Supernatural team was very intentional with the contrasting looks of Sam’s and Dean’s flashbacks.
Singer, who also directed the premiere episode – his 24th time directing for the show – explained the thinking behind the looks of Purgatory and of Sam’s year topside: “[Purgatory has] a real lack of color and high contrast, a desaturated look to help [convey] the harshness of the place,” Singer said. “We wanted to contrast that with Sam’s flashbacks, which are diffused and have filters and are a little more dreamy, so you get a sense that Sam’s past year was kind of nice and warm and Dean’s was cold and stark.”

Episode 4 of the season will be a found footage episode.

The showrunners told reporters a bit more about the upcoming found footage episode, “Bitten.” Carver promised that it will be “pretty unlike any episode that this show has ever done before,” with a group of college students played by guest stars Brandon Jones (CSI) and relative newcomers Britni Sheridan and Leigh Parker carrying the episode. He explained that it differs from season 3 episode “Ghostfacers” in that “it ain’t for laughs.” Singer added, “Tonally, it’s 180 degrees away from ‘Ghostfacers.’”

There’s no need to worry that the dog Sam saves is another monster in disguise.
“Yes, it’s really a dog,” Singer said, adding that the canine will soon be known as Riot.

Why wouldn’t you take a joint from a guy named Don?

No dogs in the Impala, and never take a joint from a guy named Don – those are the rules, as we learn from Dean in this episode. Singer told reporters eager to hear more about the Winchesterian advice, “Just so you know that you’re not alone, when we were on the set shooting [that scene], I had at least 50 percent of the crew come up to me and go, ‘Who’s Don?’” Carver, who wrote the episode, wasn’t forthcoming with any story behind the line. He simply said, “That’s just one of those lifeisms that I think we can all agree to.”

To learn what Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and, yes, even Misha Collins had to say about the new season, check out the scoop EW’s Sandra Gonzalez got on the Supernatural set last week. And stay tuned for the next edition of The Spoiler Room for more teases of what’s in store for the Winchester brothers.

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyNRome

Read more:
‘Supernatural’ season 7 DVD clip: Jensen Ackles talks directing
‘Supernatural’ Comic-Con 2012 panel: We live-blogged it!
‘Supernatural’ changes showrunners: Sera Gamble departs as Jeremy Carver takes the reins

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