Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki

It's been a helluva summer for Supernatural fans waiting for the seventh season of their much-loved series to begin. Now, with just a few more days to go until the Winchester boys are back — Friday at 9/8c on The CW — TV Guide Magazine has a special treat. We've been given an exclusive peek at some previously unseen gallery photos of series stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki.

Click here to see all of the shots.

As for plot scoops, we've been given very few specifics, only that Dean (Ackles) and Sam (Padalecki) will face off against their most challenging threat yet. It all starts in the season premiere, which opens a few minutes after last May's finale, when the brothers' ex-angel ally Castiel (Misha Collins) opened the door to Purgatory, releasing the world's monsters, whose souls he promptly absorbed before declaring himself a vengeful God. As he warns the boys, "I am not the Castiel you knew.... If you rise up, I will strike you down." (Like that's gonna stop the Winchesters.)

Much to the dismay of his many fans, Collins has been reduced from series regular to guest star this season and is so far promised for only two episodes. Exec producer Sera Gamble admits being "cagey" about the actor's future appearances "for plot reasons. We know the fans love that character so much, but so do we," she insists, revealing "the arc for the season develops out of what happens with Cas in the first episode." Let's just say that in gathering Purgatory's denizens, Castiel may bite off more than he can chew.

If you thought last season's Purgatory escapee, the murderous shape-shifter Eve, was bad, "these old creatures that have been locked in Purgatory are even worse," Gamble warns. And they want to kill Sam and Dean. "These bad guys know their tricks, so they have to go deep off the grid." Adds Ackles, "All of the [gambits] the brothers used to exist, credit-card fraud, gambling, those are now ways to track them down." And that could mean — horror or horrors! — no more road trips in their beloved '67 Impala. "It's going to be hard," says Gamble, "but putting Sam and Dean in boiling water brings out the best in them." (Read our full interview with Ackles here.)

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