Supernatural @ Comic-Con: Sam and Dean's New Vulnerability, Lucifer vs. Cas and 'Old-Fashioned Horror Stories'

Supernatural Season 12

It was a family affair at Supernatural‘s San Diego Comic-Con panel on Sunday, with Mary Winchester’s return the hot topic during the session.

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Mom’s comeback “presents a dynamic that we haven’t had in quite a while — or ever,” Jensen Ackles previewed. “When mom left, Sam was a baby and Dean was a child. The children that she knew are now men, so the relationship is kind of nonexistent because there isn’t one. It’s an interesting situation, them trying to bridge that massive gap.”

Since Mary wasn’t around for most of the boys’ lives, “She’s been mythologized to them,” executive producer Andrew Dabb said. “[But] she has a lot in common with them [as hunters]. She’ll be coming back into that.” (It might not necessarily be a happy return to hunting, though. A teaser trailer for Season 12 featured Mary telling Dean, “I never wanted this for you and Sam.”)

Although having a mother “is something they deeply want,” the brothers “more than anybody else understand that family can be a vulnerability” and lead to an attack, the EP continued.

“We find out more about what family means and how you become family,” Jared Padalecki shared. “Sam and Dean with their mother are starting anew. Does blood make you family, or is it more than just DNA?”

Castiel, knowing how important Mary is in Dean and Sam’s origin story, also has a “very specific response to her” and “a very cool” bond with her of his own, Dabb previewed. Added his portrayer Misha Collins: “There’s an interesting little dynamic between the two of us because in a way, we’re outsiders.”

For actress Samantha Smith, returning as Mary has been a treat. “There’s a lot to consider — being dead, now alive with a big gap in the middle,” she shared. “My sons are now older and taller than I am…. I’ve always loved Mary and to be able to experience her from a whole different perspective is incredibly fun for me.”

Other highlights from the panel:

* Season 12’s family theme will also be explored via Crowley and Rowena. “There’s a hint that my family dynamic may be returning in a slightly more expanded scale, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that turns out — because it never turns out well,” actor Mark Sheppard said. Ruth Connell, who plays Crowley’s mom, predicted their relationship will go “downhill fast.” As for what the power-hungry witch is after next season, Dabb shared, “She’s gone in a different direction… She’s taking a step back [and asking herself], ‘Is this something I really want to do?'” But of course, “she gets drawn back into” in the mayhem. Meanwhile, Crowley wants “revenge” against Lucifer (hey there, Rick Springfield!) for humiliating him. (The scene with Crowley licking the floor was improvised!)

* On the topic of how you follow up a season featuring God and The Darkness, EP Robert Singer said, “We can’t top all that, so we’re going to try to get back to basics a little bit, tell smaller stories. Some good old-fashioned horror stories.”

* “We find out more about the Men of Letters and their worldwide society,” Padalecki previewed. “We’ll learn more about what [the British chapter] wants for themselves and from Sam and Dean.” But as seen in the Season 11 cliffhanger, in which Lady Toni shot Sam, “They’re not off to a great start.”

* “Cas is back to a little bit Cas from Season 4,” Collins revealed. “He’s got much of his mojo, not all of it. I think his wings are still broken. He’s angry. He’s in a fighting spirit. He’s after Lucifer.”

* Sheriff Jody, Donna, Claire, Alex and Crowley’s son Gavin will all be back.

* When asked about the birthday photo he sent to Padalecki, of their kids as the next generation of hunters, Ackles said his daughter called Padalecki’s sons not her friends, but “my boys,” so “we might not have a choice in the matter” regarding their offspring continuing “in the family business.”

Supernatural Season 12 premieres Thursday, Oct. 13 at 9/8c on The CW.