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September 07, 2016 at 06:18 PM EDT

Supernatural’s eleventh season took sibling rivalries to a new level by introducing God’s sister, Amara. Fans learned all about how creation began, how God locked his sister away for billions of years, and by the end of the season, how two siblings could overcome all of it.

But where do you go from there? Well, considering you can’t go bigger than God’s family drama, new showrunner Andrew Dabb is refocusing on smaller family drama, but one that’s a bit closer to the hearts of fans — the Winchesters.

“Every time we do a big world-spanning story, we feel we’re really stretching our show,” Dabb tells EW. “What our show was designed to be and I think functions best as is smaller personal stories with a genre twist.”

And it’s hard not to tell a personal story when season 11 ended with the resurrection of Mary Winchester, Sam and Dean’s mother, who died in the pilot. “At the heart, the dynamic of the show is unchanged in that it’s always going to be about the brothers, it’s always going to be about the family they’ve put together,” Dabb says. “And Mary doesn’t so much upset that as complement it. When she comes in, it’s family through another lens.”

As Jensen Ackles puts it, “You’re going to see two brothers be sons. We saw that [with their dad, John], but when you’re a son to your father, it’s a different son than you are to your mother.” 

For Sam, it’s his first real chance to meet his mom, who died when he was 6 months old. “I think Sam has glorified mom so much in his head,” Jared Padalecki says. “It’s almost like a blind date and Sam’s already in love with the person he hasn’t met yet. It’s been fun for me, after 240-something episodes, to have a brand-new facet of Sam’s personality to play.”

And for Dean, it’s a chance to see how this Mary compares to the one he remembers. “There are very faint memories that Dean has of mom. Those memories have, in my opinion, been embellished over the years. Memories can evolve over time as you need it to relate to your own life,” Ackles says. “To have her back now, he’s pulling all these memories up, and obviously he’s a different person now. He doesn’t have the relationship with her that he had as a child because he doesn’t really even understand that relationship.”

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Mary will find herself in the bunker — which will make for some awkward family moments — and on the road, hunting. “She is their origin myth,” Dabb says. “At first, they’re really excited to have her back, but also aren’t quite sure how she’s going to respond to them because they know the last thing she wanted was for her kids to be hunters, and now she’s walking into a world where her kids are hunters. It’s a relationship that’s going to evolve over time as Mary herself comes out and she sees her kids and she doesn’t want to get into hunting but she of course lives in our world and you can’t turn your back on it forever. She gets kind of pulled back in and has mixed feelings about that.”

“[This season is] more Sam and Dean on the road. Mary is there. Cas is there. Crowley is there,” Dabb continues. “There’s more monsters of the week this year. It’s more about telling smaller stories that also impact more of our characters.”

And that includes a new friendship between Castiel and Mary. “He has a shared experience of feeling like an outsider with the brothers yet feeling connected to them,” Misha Collins says. “He is pushing them to confront the emotional bomb that is their mother showing up.”

As for how they’ll confront that “emotional bomb,” fans can expect Sam to take the more academic approach of trying to understand mom’s side of things, whereas Dean might react a bit more emotionally. So in other words, how they typically react to things.

Supernatural returns Thursday, Oct. 13 at 9 p.m. on The CW.

Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki star as the Winchester brothers, hellbent on battling the paranormal forces of evil.
type
TV Show
seasons
14
Genre
Rating
TV-14
run date
09/13/05
Network
Available For Streaming On
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