'Supernatural' Season 8: Showrunner Jeremy Carver On Purgatory And 'Maturing' The Winchesters

Though Jeremy Carver has been absent from "Supernatural" for the past two seasons, he clearly hasn't forgotten the value of a good tease, as I discovered when I caught up with the newly-promoted showrunner at the Television Critics Association press tour.

During his tenure in the "Supernatural" writers' room (Seasons 3-5), Carver masterminded some of the series' most memorable installments, including "A Very Supernatural Christmas" and the show's landmark 100th episode. It's safe to say that I'm intrigued to see where he'll take the show from here.

During "Supernatural's" Comic-Con panel, Carver revealed a little about the overarching theme of Season 8 (including comparisons to "Raiders of the Lost Ark") and elaborated on his plans during our brief press room interviews, so I was thrilled to speak with him at greater length to get further insight on what we can expect from Season 8. Though Carver spoke as vaguely as he could so as not to ruin any key plot points too early, spoilerphobes may want to tread lightly.

At Comic-Con, we talked a little bit about the broad-strokes of the season, but I wondered if you could elaborate on Dean's Purgatory storyline and whether we'll see that mostly in the first half of the season, or whether it'll be a season-long arc?
We explore it in most detail in the first half of the season, but a lot of the arc has to do, in terms of flashbacks, with memory and perception. So it’s always open that we could re-explore it at a later date. We never close the door on it, but it's most heavily explored in the first half of the season.

Does Dean's time in Purgatory tie into the main mythology of the season, or do you have another storyline that's concurrent to Purgatory?
I would say it ties into ... It becomes its own mythology of the season. In other words, it runs concurrently to what would be our more traditional mytharc, but, yeah, it’s something that certainly impacts the brothers’ relationship. I think that’s a fair way to address it, as a concurrent storyline.

While you were on the writing staff back in seasons 4 and 5, you wrote some of the best Castiel episodes of the series, so I know you've got a great grasp of his character. Can you talk a little bit about what we'll see for him this year?
Well, I can talk about it to the extent we spend a lot of time exploring just what happened in Purgatory between Dean and Castiel. I mean, when we last left, they were split. I think we will, through Purgatory, come to understand how they may have found each other down there, how their relationship may have been affected by the events in Purgatory, how each of them may have responded to Purgatory in a very, very different way and then throw in the addition of a rather strange bedfellow that joins them to make it a trio -- that’s the story we’re telling in Purgatory.

We know that this strange bedfellow is a "dangerous" vampire called Benny (played by Ty Olsson), but can you reveal anything about his character? Perhaps why Dean doesn't just kill him as soon as they're out of Purgatory?
I think why Dean doesn’t just kill him goes to the heart of what we’re looking at in this season. That’s one of the great questions we are asking ourselves. I think it becomes readily apparent why he’s not, but what he does with this vampire when they come up is part of this concurrent storyline that I’ve been talking about. So, it’s fun. It’s great. I feel like it’s a very challenging storyline and the actor that we cast in the role is wonderful and so it’s all paying off beautifully so far.

Can we assume that Dean and Benny leave Castiel down there when they escape, or will we be seeing him in more than just flashbacks in the first half of the season?
That ... is something we explore. [Laughs.]

At Comic-Con, Jared mentioned that Sam's love interest was going to be seen in flashbacks, but will we see her in the main storyline as well?
We explore that love story in pretty great detail in the past. And I can’t say if she’s coming back in the present or not only because ... I can’t say. [Laughs.]

Aside from his romance with Amelia, can you tell us anything about Sam's other storylines this season, either independently or as they relate to Dean?
I can talk a little bit about it. I think it’s safe to say that Sam never expected to see Dean again after they were separated after last year. And I think it’s safe to say that he was pretty lost, as Crowley, I think, says at the end of last season. For the first time he was truly alone -- there was no Bobby, there was no family. And what does one do in that situation, when the brothers, between them, had made so many pacts with each other about what they would do or not do when the other one disappeared? And so, when you’re struggling to find some meaning, what happens when that sort of circumstance falls on your lap and you find yourself pulled in a totally unexpected direction and living a wholly different life than you’ve experienced before? And there’s something quite illuminating and mature about it, in a word -- and that’s sort of an operative word that we’re playing with.

Look, no one likes the juvenile bathroom jokes more than me on the show, but one thing we are trying to look at a little bit differently this season is that these brothers have had pretty formative experiences apart from each other and they’ve each matured and grown and they're not necessarily hiding that from each other this season. And they are each going to have to learn how to deal with the fact that their brother might not be the same person, maturity speaking, as the guy they hopped in the car with seven years ago. And everyone on the staff seems to be united in feeling like it’s time for these guys to start growing up a little. I mean, God knows they’ve gone through so much, you know what I mean?

How is Sam’s relationship with Amelia going to compare or contrast to Dean and Lisa's in Season 6? After all, Dean severed those ties because he felt like he was endangering Lisa and Ben -- isn't Sam going to have the same issue?
Well, I feel like -- and I could be wrong -- but to me at least, it felt like even when Dean was with Lisa, he never really left the life behind. And I think that this is just the opposite. I don’t think it was in Dean’s genetic makeup to leave the life behind whereas I think for Sam, [maybe it was]. I mean, that’s probably the most striking difference there. And it doesn’t mean that … well, no, I’ll leave it alone. You almost got me again! [Laughs.]

We know that the boys have lost an enormous amount over the past few years. There have been times when it's been pretty bleak, seeing every single person they care about being been ripped away from them. Are you going to try and repopulate their world and bring in new recurring characters to fill some of those voids?
Yeah. I mean, there’s no question the boys are the heart and soul of the show, but I think one of the reasons the show has existed for seven or eight seasons is because of the wonderful supporting characters that they built up around them. And, it’s a great challenge, because there can be resistance on certain fronts when you introduce certain types of characters, certain types of relationships, for some reason, I don’t know why ... [Laughs.] But absolutely, we are introducing new characters and we’re bringing back some old beloved characters and so it’s going to be a healthy mix of both.

Speaking of which -- Jim Beaver was at Comic-Con, and there are few characters as beloved as Bobby. He had an emotional send-off but also returned and left again in a way that could invite speculation. Can you comment on what your thoughts are for bringing the character back?
As a writer on the show, I love Bobby, and I can’t comment as to whether we are or are not.

It seems like Crowley [Mark Sheppard] is playing a much more integral part than he has in previous seasons. Can you expand on his endgame this season, or at least how his story and Kevin's story ties into the mythology?
That's true, yes. I think that you’re going to see that Crowley and the boys are finding themselves much more at loggerheads this year, both finding themselves in want of something that is dearly precious to each of them, for different reasons. And there’s a certain element of ... what had been somewhat of a business-like, sarcastic relationship, that is stripped away to sort of reveal something more of a bold want on either side, and a little less tolerance for the nice stuff, I think is an accurate way to say it.

The show has often focused on the "profound bond" between Dean and Castiel, while Sam and Cas have had a more strained relationship that gradually seemed to be improving last season. Have those dynamics changed at all, and can you discuss how Castiel might relate to both brothers this year?
Well, the only dynamic we’re seeing here is Dean and Castiel, down in Purgatory, and like I was saying before, that relationship ... You know, Castiel, I think it’s fair to say, ended last season a little bit, "I sing with the bees" or whatever the line was. And I think having been sent down to Purgatory has sobered him up a bit. These two ... one thing that we’re going to see in Purgatory, again, is that it has a different effect on different people. And that effect will not always be apparent but it will have great effect on their relationship. Sorry, that’s a weaving way around it.

Lastly, just for the sake of curiosity: How much input did you have in crafting last season's finale? Were you brought on early to consult and get your ducks in a row?
Nope. I had no input. The baton was passed and they said "Good luck, kid." That was pretty much it! [Laughs.]

"Supernatural" Season 8 premieres Wed., Oct. 3 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW. Check out more CW premiere dates, and read Mo Ryan's recent interview with Misha Collins.