Supernatural” is going “back to basics” in Season 12, executive producer Bob Singer promised at Comic-Con – with a focus on family reminiscent of the first two seasons, as Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) must deal with the return of their mother, Mary (Samantha Smith), the escape of Lucifer, and the apparent threat presented by another branch of the Men of Letters organization.

“You don’t get bigger than God, we can’t top all that,” Singer pointed out, admitting that they’re aiming to “tell smaller stories — some good old fashioned horror stories” in Season 12. “We’ve introduced the British Men of Letters, they’ll be part of what we’re doing. And we’ve still got Lucifer out there, so there’s a hunt for Lucifer.”

Since Lucifer is on the run – or attempting a “vacation” from the politics of trying to take over heaven or hell, per Singer — he’ll be “trying out a few new vessels,” including a fading rockstar who is attempting a comeback. To add authenticity, the show has cast real-life rocker Rick Springfield in the role, and the “Jessie’s Girl” singer is currently in Vancouver filming his first appearance.

After being used as Lucifer’s vessel last season, Misha Collins says Castiel is reverting back to his Season 4 iteration in terms of attitude, having got “much of his mojo back… he’s angry and he’s in a fighting spirit and he’s after Lucifer. And now that Mary’s back, he’s tattletaling a lot.”

The biggest change for the Winchesters in the new season is undoubtedly the return of their mother, who was resurrected by Amara as a gift to Dean in the final moments of last season’s finale.

Smith was on hand on the panel and admitted that she’s looking forward to playing Mary as a “fully actualized” character instead of the idealized version that has appeared in ghost or dream form on the show previously.

“It presents a dynamic we haven’t had,” Ackles pointed out. “When mom [died], Sam was a baby and Dean was a child… The children that she knew are now men, the relationship is kind of nonexistent, so it’s going to be an interesting situation of them trying to bridge the gap that occurred over the last thirty-some years.”

Her return will present new challenges for both Mary and the brothers, Ackles added: “How is she going to plug herself into their lives? Is that going to leave the brothers vulnerable? For the longest time, the way to get to one of them was if you trap or make one suffer, the other comes running. Now there’s a third element in the mix that could make the guys more vulnerable.”

Padalecki pointed out that while the Winchesters have forged a makeshift family over the years, they haven’t had such a close family member to relate to since Season 1. “It’s going to be an interesting dynamic to have someone 100 percent our blood; we find out more about what family means and how you become family. It’s not always blood, it’s pain, it’s triumphs. Now Sam and Dean, with their mother, they’re starting anew, it’s going to be fun to explore that dynamic: does blood make you family, or is it more than sharing the same DNA?”

For Sam specifically, Padalecki said, “These guys, even though they grew up with a father, they kind of grew up on their own, they never really had a proper family dynamic as far as them being sons. We’ve seen them being heroes, we’ve seen them sacrificing for each other… even when we saw Sam with his father, he had a very contentious relationship. Seeing his mother, someone he loves and looks up to, and getting to be a boy again, is very interesting.”

Newly promoted showrunner Andrew Dabb noted that for the boys, Mary’s “been mythologized to them; Dean’s memories of her are spotty, Sam’s are nonexistent. It’s not someone they really know. It’s about reforging that connection. She has a lot in common with Sam and Dean, she was raised a hunter, like they were… It’s interesting how Sam and Dean both respond to her — this is something that they deeply want, but they know family can be a vulnerability, so there’s some protectiveness [over Mary]. We wanted to get back to family; this is the closest we’ve been to that since Season 1,” he added.

Castiel will have “a very specific response to Mary,” knowing how important she is to Sam and Dean, per Dabb, and a “cool dynamic” with her moving forward. Collins said that the fact that Castiel and Mary are both outsiders will give them an interesting bond.

Ackles admitted that he’s hoping “to see the hunter side of Mary” in the new season, and the Season 12 teaser trailer shown during the panel saw Mary demonstrating that she still has the hunting reflexes that she had in her youth. “It’ll be interesting to see the similarities in how she deals with the supernatural and how the boys deal with it,” Ackles said.

Unlike John, it’s unlikely Mary will approve of her sons going into the family business — the teaser also showed Mary telling Dean, “I never wanted this for you and Sam.”

Before Sam can have a happy reunion with his mother, he has to get out of the sticky situation he ended up in during the Season 11 finale, when he was attacked by a woman from the British arm of the Men of Letters. Padalecki reassured fans that obviously, Sam is alive (if not safe) in the Season 12 premiere, and that we’ll learn more about Lady Toni Bevell and the organization’s position as a “worldwide society” in episodes to come. The trailer revealed that Sam is in a tenuous position in the Season 12 premiere, bound and gagged and being tortured with a blowtorch by Toni and a mysterious associate.

Crowley (Mark Sheppard), meanwhile, “wants revenge” on Lucifer for the events of last season, and Dabb promised that we’ll see an expanded focus on the demon’s family, including mother Rowena (Ruth Connell) and long-lost son Gavin early on: “that will be a driving force, the family stuff. Crowley’s relationship with the guys has evolved nicely over the course of the last two seasons too, so we want to continue that.”

“Supernatural” Season 12 premieres Thursday, October 13 at 9 p.m. on The CW.