"I mean come on, it's like diet Hell," Ackles told the Comic-Con crowd on Sunday. "Much like the Hell situation, obviously Dean can't stick down there forever. He gets out. How he gets out — I can't tell you."
Luckily, fans won't have to wait long for Dean's return to the land of the living once the new season premieres (Oct. 10 at 9/8c on The CW). "His return from Purgatory is going to happen quite quickly," consulting producer Ben Edlund said. "And then the story of Purgatory and what happened in Purgatory is going to be something we track for a good, long time."
However, according to executive producer Jeremy Carver, "a significant amount of time" will have passed since the Season 7 finale, which means Dean will come back a changed man. Ditto Sam, who was left to fly solo. "He is able, in his opinion, to make a clean break and to go, 'You know what? I've given everything I've got. I've died,'" Jared Padalecki said. "So he's given it all and he finally uses this as an opportunity to make good on his goal from years ago to just try to live a normal life. Sam was able to leave the life and be happy enough. I think happy has an asterisk for the Winchester Brothers."
Added Carver: "When they were separated at the end of last season, it had a profound effect on each one of them. The relationships that they've made in their time off from each other will carry forward and will be very, very important in each one of their lives. They're going to have to come to terms ... with the new relationships."
These new relationships include Sam's new love interest, a veterinarian named Amelia (Liane Balaban), who Sam meets after he accidentally hits a dog. (Spoiler alert: The dog lives.) "She's also just gone through a loss, so I think Sam and her have that to hold each other together. They're kindred spirits so to speak," Padalecki said. "I know we're going to see a lot of their relationship. ... When the season starts, they're taking a break, but I think she's going to come back."
The big question is whether Castiel (Misha Collins) and Bobby (Jim Beaver) will be back. Both actors appeared on Sunday's panel despite the fact that Castiel disappeared from Purgatory and Bobby was most recently returned as a ghost after getting killed last year. Both were tight-lipped, Beaver joked that he had said the phrase "anything's possible" about 7,000 times over the convention's run. Meanwhile, Edlund hinted that Castiel's fate will be "complicated" and "difficult."
"I come back in a flashback first in the second episode," Collins said of his first Season 8 scene, set in Purgatory. "It's Dean, myself and a third important character."
Although a lot of time will be devoted to flashbacks of Dean's time in Purgatory, a good portion of Season 8 will also see the newly reunited brothers chasing after what Edlund calls an important "power source." "For the first time in a long time they are starting the season on offense," Carver said. "They want something, and it really ties into the deep mythology. [It's] something that is very near and dear to their hearts."
Or as Carver told TVGuide.com following the panel, "When we say this time it's personal, we mean it."
This special something will put them at odds with Crowley (Mark Sheppard), who will become "quite a Titanic" issue for the Winchester brothers, Edlund said. But more importantly, this chase will also establish a new storyline that Carver believes will set up the show well for years to come. "I think we're really building some foundations for a storyline that can carry us for at least a few more years," Carver said. "There's a notecard in my office [that says] the end of Season 10."
The new season of Supernatural premieres Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 9/8c on The CW. What do you think the Winchester Brothers will be going after? What do you think is next for Castiel and Bobby? Sound off below!