Ruth Kinane
September 29, 2017 AT 12:32 PM EDT

Blue Bloods is back on Friday and ready to kick off its eighth season, but after that tumultuous season finale, will we be reunited with the same ol’ hotheaded Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) this time around?

After a drug cartel burned down his family home in the final episode of season 7, NYPD detective Danny is reconsidering his impetuous ways. “He’s looking at life through a different lens,” says the show’s executive producer Kevin Wade. “There’s an element of circumspection and a bit of introspection as he considers the residual collateral damage. This story line has been a new well we’ve found in the backyard and now we get to discover new sides to Danny’s character.” Wahlberg agrees: “Danny’s realizing this major shift in his life.”

That character shift is one reason Wahlberg still loves stepping back onto set after all these years. “I’m constantly surprised by the situations that they come up with to put my character in,” he explains. “There’s always something fun or surprising and that’s a great challenge.” It also has to be an interesting change of pace after spending the off-season on tour with New Kids On The Block. “It’s funny, my tour bus literally pulled up to the makeup trailer to drop me off,” says the actor/’80s pop star.

Wahlberg’s Danny isn’t the only one going through changes on the NYC-set cop procedural. The show’s longevity means exploring new sides to multiple long-running characters. “If you get through a hundred episodes, you’ve burned up most of the stories,” says Wade. “But then you go, ‘Okay, we’ve just got to write more and reveal more about these characters we’ve already established.'” Tom Selleck’s police commissioner Frank Reagan is also navigating uncharted territory as he deals with a new, unelected mayor (played by Lorraine Bracco) in office. “For seven seasons, Frank’s been telling everyone he doesn’t play politics,” says Wade. “But now he’s the longest-serving high-profile public servant and there’s a political novice in office so he finds that he’s having to weigh in and push on issues that heretofore he considered completely out of his purview. We’re just telling a broader swathe of stories now that he can’t help but be in the middle of the conflict because of his sense of duty. We’re having fun with Frank running New York City.”

So no Reagan family fatigue after all these years? “It feels like going back to a college that we love, but can’t seem to graduate from,” says Wade. “There’s still that don’t-want-to-leave feeling on campus.”

Blue Bloods airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.

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