Supernatural just wouldn't be the same demon-hunting show if Sam (Jared Padalecki) really died after that fall into hell. The man he is now is a stark contrast to what we've seen over the last five seasons.
"I come back much less lovey-dovey," says Padalecki, "and more like, 'All right. I've been to hell a couple times, I've been to heaven. I've died, I've come back, I've done this, and I've done that. [Now] Sam's more no bullsh--."
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Sam's time in hell was much worse than what Dean (Jensen Ackles) had experienced there, according to Padalecki; Sam was in Lucifer's cage with an archangel battle erupting around him.
"Crowley (Mark Sheppard) says, 'I can't imagine what it's like in the cage, and I can imagine so many things,'" Padalecki says. "We get the idea that Sam was in the bad part of hell. He wasn't in the penthouse."
While Sam has become hardened by his experience, Dean had a year of playing house, which has softened him up a bit. "I had no idea what the hell I was doing," Ackles says of playing a domesticated version of the character. "Even the dialogue, the way it was written, being so soft and affected. I was like, 'This is not the guy I'm used to playing."
"I was not happy with it," Ackles says of not wanting to lose Dean's essence in the new season. "We spent five years with this guy being a tough, shoot-first-ask-questions-later kind of guy, and now all of a sudden he's gone soft on us? It read pretty soft on the page, but I think I toughened it."
Bringing the changed brothers back together will be a challenge this season. "When Sam shows back up unexpectedly, obviously there's surprise, but then there's also anger," Ackles says, promising that the glimpse in the trailer of Dean punching Sam is real and not clever editing. "How long has he been around, and why hasn't he told me? That's the first bit of friction."
Supernatural returns Friday, Sept. 24 at 9/8c on the CW.