The big mystery of Supernatural‘s upcoming seventh season is how the boys will handle Castiel as the new God. And, even though star Misha Collins has been bumped down to a recurring star instead of a series regular, showrunner Sera Gamble isn’t saying much. At the show’s Comic-Con panel, she continued to keep a very tight lid on the fate of Cas as God, but there were plenty of other fun bits about season 7 to keep fans excited.

First, the show previewed scenes from the third episode, directed by Jensen Ackles. In it, Sam reconnects with an old friend (played by Firefly‘s Jewel Staite) and we get to see young Sam’s budding romance with her in the past. The clip revealed a very cool shout-out for sci-fi fans as Staite’s character uses the alias Amy Pond, a character from Doctor Who.

As for season 7, the big news is the impressive list of returning characters we’ll see in the first few episodes. Jo Harvelle, Sheriff Mils, Crowley and Death will all come back. With Crowley, Gamble revealed that we’ll learn very quickly what Castiel’s big plans are for him.

The rest of the panel was mostly fun fan questions and random jokes, with Ben Edlund talking about writing episodes featuring ninjas and spaceships (which may or may not be jokes, since nothing is off limits on Supernatural).

Fans also wanted to know how the show will top the meta insanity of “The French Mistake,” where the Winchesters traveled to an alternate dimension where they were Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, stars of a TV show called Supernatural. The short answer is that they can’t top it. But Edlund did express a desire to try more creative episodes that play with the format and structure of the show, similar to how “Ghostfacers” was an entire episode filmed as a mock pilot for a new reality show.

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With a slew of returning characters, Castiel’s rise as God, Sam dealing with the aftermath of the wall in his head coming down and flashbacks to young Sam, there’s a lot to be excited about when season 7 premieres Friday, September 23 at 9pm on the CW.

-Additional reporting by Rachel Cameron.

(Image courtesy of Warner Bros)