“All Dogs Go to Heaven” was a return to form for Supernatural, a straight-up monster of the week case with only the slightest dash of overt G vs. E. In short, I was all over it. It was written by Adam Glass, who also scripted “Two and a Half Men” this season. The episode begins at night with a smarmy looking chap getting gutted inside his luxury auto (after what sounded like a well-being update phone call about his dog from a caretaker). Cut to the next day, and Dean and Sam are at a roadside stand grabbing a meal and talking smack about Crowley when he suddenly pops up and assigns them a case about what seems to be a werewolf. Dean pushes back, Crowley counters by burning and then healing Sam to make his point that it wasn’t a request – Sam is his hostage – and then he flits off back to Hell.
The boys argue about the yays and nays of it and then get going, driving through the night. They arrive the next morning (dressed as Feds) at the crime scene of a dock worker who’s been killed the same way, and Sam’s very emotionless with inappropriate comments to the detective, which makes Dean twitch a little bit. The next morning at the motel, Dean’s slept in his clothes on top of a made bed while Sam, who hasn’t slept, has done research on how the victims were related and is dressed to go. Dean processes that for a minute and then gets up to get dressed, too.
They head to the home of Cal and Mandy, their young son, and their dog, a German Shepherd named Lucky. They have to roust Cal out of bed because he’s sleeping off a bender, and Sam, who’s apparently an alcohol-meter now, calls the guy on sweating more than the beer he confesses to drinking the night before. The dock worker was his brother, and there was some bad blood there because he’d manhandled Mandy on a previous visit, but they beg off having had a hand in his death. The first victim was also tangential to them because he was their slum landlord and they were behind on their rent.
Sam and Dean decide to watch Cal that night while he’s on yet another bender and when day breaks and he’s done nothing, they head back to the motel. We stay on Cal, though, and as he comes around his truck to get in, he’s met by Lucky, who lunges, crunches, and munches and then shape shifts into a man (played by Andrew Rothenberg, who’s now in AMC’s The Walking Dead). The man Lucky then goes home and stands sort of creepily at the foot of the bed where Mandy is asleep, before shifting back into the dog, climbing into bed, nuzzling her, and falling asleep beside her. When she wakes up, she’s annoyed that Cal’s not home and tells Lucky he’s the only good boyfriend she ever had. We then get a dog’s eye view of her getting in the shower.
The boys now realize Cal wasn’t their guy, so they go see Mandy, who’s not even been told her boyfriend is dead (which bugs Dean). No-soul Sam is just eager to get her in the car and hand her off to Crowley but Dean’s not there yet. When she tells them she was up all night with her son, Dean confirms that with the boy and then tells Sam to wait. They split up and Sam stays to watch the house overnight from the park across the street. He sees Lucky shape shift, get dressed, leave the house, and argue with a man in the park. He watches him with his gun drawn for a while but doesn’t take the shot. Lucky smells him and takes off running (as the dog) and Sam pursues him right into the path of a van, but the family who hits him scoops him off to the vet, leaving Sam standing in the street.
The boys realize they’re not dealing with a werewolf after all, so they go fetch Lucky from what looks like a shelter instead of a vet, and Dean offers a friendly leash or a choke chain. Lucky goes quietly and they later have him tied up at the motel (dressed again, so somehow they let him get dressed and then tied him up?). He tells them he was recruited and bitten to be part of a sleeper doggie cell (TM Dean) who would bite and turn their families when they were commanded to by their Alpha. He’s gone rogue by dispatching anyone who’s been a threat to his family (Mandy and her son).
Lucky sets up a meet to get the Alpha out in the open, where Dean plans to kill him, reneging on Crowley. When the Alpha shows up, though, he’s got Mandy and her son with him and he’s angry about Lucky killing the randoms. He tells Lucky to bite and turn his family now. Lucky hedges and then when Sam and Dean intervene, everything goes to Hell as the men start shifting into dogs. Lucky ushers Mandy and her son to safety, and then she sees him change into a dog. The boys start shooting (thankfully we don’t see bullets hitting dogs, just bullet-ridden men hitting the ground). After everybody’s down, Sam sees dog Lucky on the ground and rounds the corner to kill him, but when he gets there he finds only blood.
Mandy and her son return home, and Lucky, as a man, comes to see her. He thanks her for being kind to him and the only true family he’d had, and you can see that he really, really wants to come back home, but she’s not having it. She calls him a freak and tells him to leave, slamming the door on him as he goes. She watches from the window as he changes into the dog, and there’s the slightest look of regret about what she’s done. We watch a very sad German Shepherd walk alone up the road toward the highway.
The boys close things out with Sam telling Dean he realizes he’s not really Sam anymore, even though they’d had an earlier discussion in the Impala that he was still Sam because he retained his memories. He’s realizing now that’s not enough, that he doesn’t feel anything, doesn’t care about Dean, or Lisa and Ben, but he wants to. Dean finds that interesting, that it’s a good first step. He quietly nods and says “We do what we gotta do” to get his brother back. So they’re going to play ball with Crowley.
I’m a huge animal person so I was empathetic with Lucky that he’d sort of fallen into the half dog/half man gig and his primal instinct to protect his family had gone overboard. I really thought the girlfriend would take him back, but I’m also logical enough to realize for safety’s sake she couldn’t because, hello, grown man alternate personality. I wonder if he can still be “activated” even though his group’s leader was wiped out. I’m not convinced they killed the Alpha because Crowley didn’t show up wagging fingers at the boys about losing him.
I was so glad to see the case, and not the overarching issue of Sam’s soul, be the episode’s focus. So glad. I’m fine with it getting a mention every week, but I don’t think we need to be beaten up about it as the “be all” of every episode. At the end of the day, hunting is what the boys do, so let’s have some of that. We’re still going to get recurring Crowley because they’re now his contract employees, but let them go back to work. This episode balanced those elements out very well. I know there will be folks who found this one to be a filler episode. That’s cool. For me, it gave me glimpses of the show I miss.
And a quick observation about how Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are playing this new relationship with the brothers. At the outset of the series, Sam was more fragile (until he went wholly into demon territory) than Dean, so it’s an interesting thing to do to an actor to turn “off” the mannerisms he’s used to play a character, especially five years in. Padalecki is doing a bang up job. This leaves Ackles with the more emotional work, because he’s the only one who can be emotional. The last scene in this episode works really well because Sam is trying to be expressive about wanting to feel something but he can’t really get there. When Dean hears it, it crosses his face and his body as everything sort of tenses up and then relaxes, but Dean doesn’t tear up. He’s resolute that they’ll do this thing that goes against everything he believes in and stands for if it really will bring Sam back to him. All that in a two-minute scene. The dialogue was on the page, but the selling of it was all over the actors. This is why I keep watching this show.
Next week, faeries!
Image Courtesy of The CW