After the final SUPERNATURAL Comic-Con panel, the cast — Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Alexander Calvert and Misha Collins — and the executive producers — Bob Singer, Andrew Dabb, Brad Buckner, Eugenie Ross-Leming and Bob Berens — headed to the SUPERNATURAL press room to speak to reporters about what’s in store for the final season of the show.
Related: Read our live blog of the final SUPERNATURAL panel at Comic-Con
The Return of Familiar Faces. “I would say that the consequences of the finale last year and some of the old monsters that we saw, that’s very much of the front of the season [and] we’re dealing with that. But both as a consequence of that and just because it’s the last season – because of story reasons – we’re trying to bring back a number of characters. Rowena will be back. Ketch will be back. Eileen will be back,” Berens hinted. “There will be some familiar faces, even in the back half of the season, it’ll keep coming. Sometimes in unexpected ways. Not just traditional cases where it’s like ‘oh, it’s this old hunter that we’ve seen’, it’s gonna be some interesting twists on how we bring some of our characters back into the fold.”
“It’s not just the monsters [that Sam and Dean defeated that will return], it’s other characters – people who didn’t make it past season 4 or something,” Buckner said. “I think one of the fun things about this season is paying homage to what came before [and] honouring the past of SUPERNATURAL and bringing those people back. But not just in a token way, but to let them do things that maybe you haven’t seen them do before. Have them attempt to do things that you haven’t seen them do before. There’s a lot of fun in that.” And in terms of how they chose which characters should return, it was all about “emotional weight.” He said that the show isn’t just about capers, it’s character-driven. And they want to bring back characters who count emotionally for the brothers. There won’t be wave after wave of people, but “as they fit into the story they’ll come back and play a new role.”
Dabb said that the creatures that rose from Hell in the finale are “souls that were essentially condemned to Hell”, so the long list of characters or creatures condemned to Hell in the show could come back. “And I think you’re going to see some people who were there very fairly and some people who were there very unfairly.”
As for how the return of these monsters and characters will impact the brothers, Padalecki said that “It’s kind of part and parcel of what Sam’s dealt with for so many years. I think he’s kind of used to the idea that it’s going to be a fight every day. There have been scenes and episodes where they joke ‘well, one of these days, when we’ve solved everything and we’re just hanging out on a beach…’ They know it’s never going to happen, that life is a struggle and their life specifically is a struggle. And so I feel like Jensen and I almost take the same attitude – that they don’t have the time to talk about it. They gotta get to work. There’s work to be done and [they just] slam the trunk.”
When asked whether we might see any characters return who are more personal to Castiel’s story, Collins said “yes”, but couldn’t seem to provide any other teasers.
Dabb also hinted that both Richard Speight Jr. and Matt Cohen would be making a return behind the camera as directors for the final season.
Adam to Reappear. Poor half-Winchester brother Adam has been stuck in Hell since the failed Apocalypse at the end of season 5 and while Sam was rescued from Lucifer’s cage, Adam is still being tortured down there. Fans have been asking for years when we might see Jake Abel’s Adam again and the answer is: season 15! Dabb confirmed that Adam will return and that he’ll again be played by Jake Abel.
New Allies? We’ve seen the brothers ally themselves with unlikely characters in the past to achieve common goals. Now that God is setting out to destroy the entire world, will they do so again? “They will find unlikely allies,” Bucker teased.
The Question of Free Will. “I think [the finale was a huge game changer],” Bucker said. “The whole exploration of your belief system and what the nature of free will is. If humans have been given free will so they can essentially solve their own problems as things pop up and God might intervene if it was something [super big]. When you think then, that this God that you always had some kind of faith in is actually causing catastrophic events, then aren’t you kind of obligated to use your free will to do what you can to prevent that and stop him? The whole concept of free will takes on a new meaning. It’s not something that was granted, it’s something that you’ve got and that now you have to use somehow against the one that [gave] it to you.” Buckner hints that things in the world aren’t working like they used to. “There’s kind of a fun episode where everybody has to accept the fact that things aren’t working by the old rules. So all the things that used to work for Cas or Sam or Dean [don’t anymore] – nothing makes sense.
Padalecki says that knowing that Chuck/God isn’t a good being is “almost a parallel to what SUPERNATURAL has been dancing around with [in terms of] nature versus nurture. Is everything pre-determined because there is a God or is everything not pre-determined because there is a God? I think Sam and Dean are going to struggle with that and [ask] are we just hamsters on a wheel or rates in a maze? Hamsters on a wheel are doing one thing forever with nowhere to go, but rats in a maze can go this way, can go that way. Maybe the maze has seven different exits. But I feel like they’re going to have to come to terms with it and make peace and keep on trying to at least make other people’s lives better who don’t [know the truth about what they know]. And that’s what they’ve been doing for forever.” The Winchesters made the decision not to tell the wider world about zombies and ghosts and vampires and demon. They’ve gone through some terrible things, and so they’re trying to make other people’s lives better.
Collins said that “the prospect of understanding the we didn’t have free will until this time….that makes you feel really worthless. But it also gives us an opportunity to take the bull by the horns and maybe break out of that cycle.”
Chuck as the Big Bad. “What we come to find out is that he’s been playing with the boys more than they would have thought. Free will has always been a sort of staple of their existence. What they sort of have to deal with this year is they have free will within the maze – you can go here, you can go left, you can go right – but what they really come to realize is they’re still in a maze created by Chuck. So their whole approach to Chuck and how they go about things are different this year,” Singer teases. “There’s a certain sadness in the beginning – we spent all this time, we’ve saved lives, we’ve done good things, but we’ve just been puppeted by this guy. And who would think that God is the ultimate villain?”
“It’s funny, I would say that at the top of the season, that’s certainly a WTF thing for them to be grappling with [in terms of the familiar old faces and monsters returning]. But I think it’s almost like, that’s the fun of the first couple of episodes – taking on these familiar foes. I think emotionally what’s really hitting them more broadly is the God of it all, and the fact that he’s been puling the strings for so long. Like what does it mean to be a hero when you don’t have complete free will? And them struggling with that is sort of the question that they’re really grappling with emotionally. And I think there’s some interesting differences between how Cas is processing the finale and how Sam and Dean are processing the finale,” Berens said.
As for how present Chuck will be as a big bad throughout the season, Berens hinted that that questions and whether he can even been killed “will be grappled with in time. At the outset of the season, it is a little bit of a hands-off situation as far as [Chuck is concerned]. I think Chuck lit a fire and then walked away. And so at the top of the season it’s really our heroes cleaning up yet another mess that Chuck left behind. We’ll get to the question of how do you beat God in the first place?”
The question of how the brothers might choose to deal with Chuck given they have argued about how to deal with problems in the past came up. Padalecki said that “in a triage situation first we have to get away from all the undead that are after us. Then I think as they start to kind of decompress and realize the situation at hand, I think they are still on the same page about we have to do what’s best for others, even if we feel like we’re hamsters on a wheel, maybe we’re helping somebody. Maybe we’re helping one person who never finds out that God is kind of a punk. I think we believe that God is gone because he vanished and said ‘this is the end’.” So now they’re left with a question all of us contemplate if we live long enough: “is what I’m doing worth a damn? Does it matter if God is a joke or he’s amazing? If the Devil is funny and quirky or evil and conniving? I think they’ll find a place where they just keep their feet moving and keep fighting.”
Meanwhile, Ackles said that Dean is “certainly a different approach than Sam is. Oddly enough, it’s probably an approach that seems more Sam-like and Sam is seemingly taking an approach that I think feels a little bit more Dean-like. And I like that. We’ve seen this throughout the whole series of SUPERNATURAL – the kind of flip-flopping motivation, like seasonal motivation. I think it’s great because it gives us different notes to play. It makes the characters as complex as they are. Dean’s really going to try to pick his brother up and get them back on track and get them moving and get them doing what they do best. And you’ll see that theme throughout the first half of the season.”
Jack’s Story. Jack may seem very far from the action after dying and waking up in the Empty in the SUPERNATURAL season 14 finale, but Ross-Leming says that his story is “very much connected” to what’s happening with Chuck and the boys back on earth. “It’s a very big A-story.” Calvert said that he’s looking at Jack’s ending from the perspective as to “how Jack can be useful to help drive the Winchesters towards the end of their show.” Calvert also hinted that “we’ve seen that Jack is easily swayed due to his gullibility. But I think there might be a reluctance this time to want to go back [to earth] right away. Just because he knows the damage that he’s capable of. On the other hand, I think Jack always wants the Winchesters to be okay and to succeed and hopefully be a part of that.” And Jack harbours no ill will after the events of last season – he accepted his fate and that he had gone too far, which is why he gave himself up.
Castiel’s End. When asked how he would like Castiel’s story to end, Collins said “I would like Castiel’s story to end with finality.” He explained that whenever a guest star comes on the show and gets killed, they always say that they’ll be back somehow. “But I would like to see both Cas and the show end with a degree of finality that feels like it’s not going to be unraveled or couldn’t easily be unraveled by some supernatural trick. Like I get it, this really is the end and I want the show to feel like it’s over when they’re done, rather than there’s the prospect of another iteration or it continuing without the viewers watching it. So likewise, with Castiel, I want his ending to feel final. And ideally heroic. Like he’s made a big sacrifice and he’s gone because of that.”
Episode 4. Ackles is directing the first episode to be filmed this season, which is set to air as episode 15.04. When asked about the story for it, he hinted that “it’s a bit of a one-off. The brothers head out to basically solve a case. They’re doing that while a lot of other stuff is going on, but it’s one of these like ‘we can’t just sit in the bunker all day [type of situations]. We’ve got to go do something, we’ve got to keep our skills sharp. But there’s some other storylines within the script that are playing with mythology a little bit more.”
Heaven and Hell. Ross-Leming said that they’re currently writing episode 8 or 9 right now and what’s happening in Heaven hasn’t made an appearance yet. But what’s happening with Hell will be more prominent in the beginning of the season. “There’s a component [of the story] that’s more obvious that involves Hell [rather] than Heaven. Obviously the whole crisis of Hell having been unleashed on earth involves a conflict with Hell. So yes, you will see Hell.”
Drama, Not Comedy. SUPERNATURAL has always been skilled at balancing drama and comedy, but there’s going to be less of the latter this season. According to Buckner, “There’s not a lot of comedy episodes planned because the stakes are so high this season. So there’s levity where levity can live, but no really farcical episode.”
Writing the Final Season. Knowing that the show only has 20 episodes left does affect how they’re approaching the final season. “I think it shakes out when we’re breaking the season,” Berens explained. “When you realize ‘oh, we don’t have time for this story that we would like to tell. And how do we make space for that story when we’ve got certain beats?’ I think even more so than episode order [what matters is] when the midseason break falls has a very big ripple effect in either direction for what the story is. You don’t always know that when we start breaking the season – when we are actually going on hiatus though – because you want to end on a cliffhanger there. In this season, it was a case where we didn’t know if it was 8 or 9 – when we found out, when it changed, we had to rethink some things and had to adjust to that and start moving some story forward and maybe start excising story and stuff like that, so you just have to adapt to that stuff.”
Achieving a Balance. In a show whether the main characters have constantly sacrificed themselves to save the world, Berens said that “We have some really interesting and fun ways to play around with that expectation [of whether Sam and Dean should live or die]. Not just in the final stretch but throughout the season. I think that question will be raised in a number of ways. And Sam and Dean will be struggling with that in a number of ways. I think we’re very conscious as writers that this is not the Game of Thrones type [of situation] – just shove everyone’s face in the mud kind of downer. It’s a balance of pain and uplift that we have to hit perfectly that feels fresh and doesn’t feel like something we’ve done before. And I think that we have some ideas that we’ve very excited about that will stick that landing for us.”
Dabb said that you’ve got a 15 year show and some people have been watching from beginning to end, while others may have just binged it all a year ago but “you want people to feel it was worth their time. Because this show is a big time investment. Three hundred and twenty seven hours [is a lot]. You don’t want to leave people feeling hollow, you don’t want to leave them feeling cynical. You don’t want to make them think we don’t take very seriously the amount of time and effort they put into this show and the amount of time and effort we put into this show. So that doesn’t mean the ending is always happy and everybody is high-giving. But it means the journey was worth something and came to a place that makes everyone feel it was worth taking that trip.”
Ackles and Padalecki and the End. According to Ross-Leming, after “[the writers] came up with what they wanted to do, [Jared and Jensen] came down and we had a meeting and we told them ‘this is what we’re doing’. And they had some questions, and they asked for some modifications. So it was a very easy afternoon. And they thought about it some more and there’s been some phone calls. It’s a very open relationship with them. We live inside a writing bubble, they’re using their bodies to do this, so they have an instinct about the characters that we don’t have. And they’ll say ‘what if we such and such, will that work with [your plan]? And we say ‘yeah, that’s a good idea’. And we also wanted this last season….it’s important to everybody, so we wanted everybody to be invested in it. You’re not just punching a clock. You wanna feel that you’re making the statement that you want to make as an actor or as a writer or as a director. So the best way to do that is to get everybody on board.”
When asked how he felt about the ending, Ackles said that he does feel satisfied about what’s going to happen. “But it took me a while to get there. When we were in the room and the idea came down the pipe and everybody kind of signed off on it, my reaction was more like ‘okay, okay’. I’d struggled with it for about a week or so snd I realized I’m just too invested, I’m too emotional, I’m too close to this character. To see anything with finality on it is just hard to digest. And I talked to a few people about it and got some clarity on it and I’ve tried to look at it from a different perspective and I now have come around to being ‘oh, this is a really good ending. This is satisfying’.”
How close was the ending to what Padalecki envisioned? “I feel like what I envisioned for Sam and Dean, I always said I wanted them both to die. I think what I was saying is whether or not they die [I really just wanted them to achieve peace]. Now they’ve questioning whether or now their struggles have been in vain, now that they know God has been pulling the strings the whole time. So I want Sam and Dean to find some version of peace. And I feel like Sam and Dean find some version of peace. Whether that’s alive or dead, I feel like they find more peace in the end than when the season starts.”
In addition, SUPERNATURAL creator Eric Kripke has also been told about the ending. Singer said that he and Dabb are having dinner with Kripke next week. “He has been told the ending and he kind of likes it.”
Finally as a tribute of something that Kripke first began as the showrunner, Buckner explained that the last 15 years of SUPERNATURAL scripts have always said “to be continued…” at the very end. But the final script – that Andrew Dabb will write – will be the first script in SUPERNATURAL history that will have “The End” at the bottom.
The final season of SUPERNATURAL premieres on Thursday, October 10 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.
(Check back tomorrow for video coverage of the panels)