Despite the fact that Supernatural stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles couldn't make it to San Diego Comic-Con this year (they're busy shooting the show up in Vancouver), we did get some serious quality time backstage at press-room roundtables with executive producers and writers Eric Kripke, Ben Edlund and Sera Gamble, and they spilled mondo secrets about the upcoming season five.
Read on to find out why Lucifer's a surprisingly nice guy, which two fan-favorite hunters are coming back and why Dean might be ditching Sam this season...
Erik Kripke, Creator and Executive producer
Erik Kripke, Creator and Executive producer
You've got a lot of explaining to do. What does "God has left the building" mean?
In the mythology of our show, God has gone missing.
Like in Dogma?
Maybe. There's a lot of cultural references that we could be paying homage to or stealing from, depending on how kind you are, but that god is missing. He is not in heaven. There is a bureaucracy of angels who don't necessarily have the most benevolent intent, who are running things in his absence and that's why Zachariah and his ilk have jump-started the apocalypse. I think they just got impatient and there was no one telling them not to.
Did God go on a vision quest into the wilderness or was there foul play?
I'm not going to reveal, and the reason is because—not anytime in the first part of the season, but God will be a character on Supernatural this season, which has led to no end of hilarity in the writers' room, trying to break God's motivation. We're like, 'Well, what would God do? What's his motivation in this scene?' And then we start laughing and we say Gossip Girl doesn't have these problems. But he will be a character. I'm not going to reveal how or where, and he's not going to thread in anytime soon, but this is the big season and we felt we couldn't bring on the devil without bringing on God, too, and again, it brings us no end of amusement that our little show has these characters and we're asking these kinds of questions. Hopefully we don't bore everyone silly this season.
You said a while ago that you had a five-year plan for the show and this is year five, and I know CW president Dawn Ostroff wants it to go longer. So...plans?
The real answer is we never dreamed it would go five years. At least I didn't, and so yes there was a five-year plan and we are in the fifth year of that story. This is the last chapter of this volume and we plan on telling it well and climactically, but we are certainly also batting around ideas and there's no reason there can't be another volume. There's no reason another new epic story can't begin. We're not going to stretch this one out past its expiration, we're not going to drag this one into a place it isn't. We're going to tell this one the way it's supposed to be told, and it's going to end, but another story can begin. And that's what we're preparing for and we'll just sort of see how the season goes.
And you would be on board with that story? You would not let that train leave without you, right?
I'm going to cross that bridge when I get to it. I'm breaking episode six of the season. My head is so far away from season six that I honestly have no idea.
Anything we can do?
I'm very interested and anything can happen and we'll see. I need to see how this season goes first.
What has the network told you about this season's explosion in critical acclaim? All these critics in season four all of the sudden being, 'Hey, this show's not so bad...'
They've been really supportive from the beginning, and in the key and most important way: They've always let us do exactly what we wanted to do. I mean, in the CW class, we're the goth kids sitting in the back row, and they don't try to pretty us up, which is great. They let us do what we want. They let us have episodes about suicide and death and gore and episodes about angels and God and angels that swear and are cruel, and so I appreciate that. I'll definitely take that. The creative freedom is great and they just let us work in our little mad laboratory.
Can you expand at all on Castiel's decision at the end to be defiant [at the end of season four]?
Castiel's totally, totally screwed in season five. You'll even see the clip at the panel. Things didn't end well with him and the archangel that came down. I can say that throughout episode one he is dead and exploded into gorey smithereens. And if you notice he's [right here], so I wouldn't sweat it too much. He's on the run, he's fallen, they're hunting him down, he's cut off from where he was, he's lost, alone and scared with the guys. Everyone's totally boned as they are trying to stop the apocalypse from happening. There's basically about four good guys against the universe, trying to stop the apocalypse.
Ben Edlund, Executive Producer
What crazy things are you bringing us this season on Supernatural?
We've got a lot of good crazy. The one I just finished—which is the first one I've written this season—it puts Dean way into the future. We get to see a slightly more developed part of the apocalypse, which I won't get too deeply into, because we're supposed to be coy...We're really dedicated to the notion of trying to go as far as we can in as many directions as we can. I think we've achieved a lot of that in terms of breaking the format and like the seven-foot-tall porno-reading, booze-swilling teddy bear hanging out with a girl. Horrible. Who would do that?
Sam's arc this season would seem to be recovering from his whole blood problem—
He will have some addiction issues, yeah.
What is Dean's arc this season?
We've been working on the notion that both of them have these massive responsibilities that they're going to step into. Dean's role has moved on from being the guy driving the car. He's gone from chauffeur of destiny to a sad participant in destiny. He's going to have important things to do—that's one of the areas I was supposed to be pretty coy about, though. Try another angle! Let's see if we can get at it!
What can you tell us about the devil?
Writing for him is hard. He's supposed to be wicked smart. He's the oldest being we've written words for. We've mostly decided to make him as nice as possible. I think that's the solution! Just make him nice! He might actually be nice. The thing is, if you get away from a human-centric point of view, he's actually not a villain at all. I mean, I don't worship him, but I see him across a crowded room. Let's just say that.
Sam and Dean fought a lot last season and that seemed to abruptly end with Lucifer rising. Is there going to be fallout or are they going to bond together?
There's a lot of fallout. They really harmed each others' sense of family. It would be irresponsible of them to just say, 'We have this problem, let's band together and move forward.' There will be a lot of fallout.
When does John Winchester come back from hell?
We always talk about this. Where is he? Because he kind of jumped out of hell for a while and then he went who knows where and hell is also a distorted twisted space now, because its nuclear reactor left, basically. Because once you raise Lucifer...this is not plot-oriented or anything, but there's the notion that hell froze over because it lost its powers. These things are...we'll put it in at some point. I'll convince them.
So there's a power vacuum on both sides?
Everybody is dysfunctional on this show.
Can you tell us about the return of Meg?
[I can tell you that] she returns and that she is irascible. She comes back to make more trouble.
Sera Gamble, Executive Producer
What is Dean going to be working on, internally, next season?
Well, he has to come to terms with the fact that he has a lot of anger toward his brother, for one thing. And one interesting thing that we're watching with Dean in the first set of episodes is that he has always been so about his family and so about his brother, and we have put him in these situations where he is directly responsible for these groups of people, and it's like, "Save them or go after your brother?"
One thing that I love about what's happening to Dean this season is we're seeing him sort of man up and become a leader in a way we've never seen before. Not because he hasn't had it in him, necessarily, but because he hasn't been in these situations before, but because it's the apocalypse and many of these situations are kind of town-wise. There'll be a town under siege or there will be many people hiding in a basement or something.
So you kind of get to see Dean at full maturity in a way we haven't had the opportunity to show before and it's kind of like this flavor of Dean that we're exploring that he's uncomfortable with. Because all he wants to do his grab the shotgun and go after his brother—as we know, every now and then, Sam gets kidnapped. A demon's like, "I gotta grab Sam."
But now Dean's in situations where he can't necessarily just run off and do that right away and that's kind of what adulthood and responsibility is about. So that's one thing, and whether or not he can even look Sam in the eye after what he's done is also a big part of the first half of the season.
Can Sam take care of himself by now?
Whether or not he can, he should have to. That's always been my point of view about it—that was my point of view about it last season as well. That's what he always wanted, that's what he asked for, and part of his perspective about going down the road he did with Ruby and wanted to take on Lilith on his own, which kind of manifested in drinking demon blood was, "I'm a grown-up and this is what I'm going to do and you don't have to agree with my plan. This is what I'm going to do." It's classic sibling tension stuff, played out.
You're good at putting Sam through the ringer—what more can we do to the boy?
We have more to do Sam...and Dean. There are limits to what you can do to their physical selves—we've killed them and put them in hell and all that sort of thing. But psychological torture? There's no end. Supernatural's bread and butter is the psychological torture of the Winchester boys. And now we have Castiel on a fairly regular basis, and he is present in the boys' lives enough that we see a little of a humanizing of him. When an angel becomes more emotional and more human, then they become easier to psychologically torture as well. There's plenty of that to go around.
How do you keep the humor in the apocalypse?
It's actually be surprisingly easy. Last season was so dark, it was suicidal. Especially Sam went to this very, very dark place, but the apocalypse has been surprisingly amusing. We are having a great time with it. We've just been going bonkers with it. We're going into the future, the Horsemen have a sense of humor, Lucifer is a nice guy in many ways—I mean he's dangerous, everything is dangerous, people are dying by the thousands. Everyone on planet Earth could die, but...maybe it's gallows humor. Maybe the stakes are so high that—even people so hugely powerful that they've never had to have a point of view before, like, say, a trickster, would have to weigh in, and gods with a lower-case g will have to weigh in. And they're funny. So it's going to be scary and gorey and freaky and the melodrama between the boys is there, but I actually think it's a funnier season than the last season, in many ways.
Will we see Lucifer throughout the whole season?
He's definitely the big bad of the season. I would compare it to Lilith in that you saw her sometimes, you heard about her a lot, you met her minions, you met her right-hand man. You might actually see Lucifer a little more than you saw Lilith, the last couple of seasons. And we have a great actor cast, Mark Pellegrino, and I don't think Lucifer wants to go back to hell. I think that's the last place he wants to go, but he's walking the earth and causing trouble throughout the season.
Any other characters coming back, even if they're no longer living?
Jessica, Sam's girlfriend, has a role in an upcoming episode. We're bringing back all the hunters we can. Ellen and Jo [Harvelle] (Samantha Ferris, Alona Tal) are coming back for an episode, and Rufus (Steven Williams). We've just had this run of good luck where the actors were all available. And they haven't necessarily been at the time we wanted them.