We had a yellow lab when I was growing up, and my mom loved that dog. We all did, but my mom loved it a little bit more than the rest of us, because she spent a lot of time at home. Everybody knows that's how pets work; we love them because their needs are so clearly defined and simple, and they're always around when you need them. Even cats. (Everybody slags on cats as cold and aloof, but I find they make for good advance preparation for most adult relationships—and really, only the truly lucky can find anyone else willing to sit in their lap.) We love pets because there is a trust between us and them which is seemingly impossible to break. That yellow lab never came home drunk or made time with another family or stole petty cash out of my mother's purse.
I'm also pretty sure the dog never changed into a naked homeless man, or watched my mom in the shower with anything more than dim curiosity. If that'd happened, I'm pretty sure we would've stopped calling it "Princess" at the very least.
"All Dogs Go To Heaven" served a change-up—at first, everyone thinks that a werewolf is killing local sleazebags, but when the Winchesters investigate, they eventually discover it's actually a skinwalker, aka Lucky, a former homeless man who's glommed on to a single mom and her son. (Well, there's a boyfriend, but he doesn't last very long.) Like the vampires with their system of drawing in young people to turn, Lucky is part of a grand scheme to create an army of skinwalkers; his orders are to hang out with Mandy and her boy until he gets a signal, then turn them. Then they'll turn others, and so on down the line. As armies go, this isn't a terrible idea. Werewolves are forces of pure chaos, but Lucky has control over his actions. He's sad and pathetic and more than a little creepy, but his kills are made with intent, and we never see him lose control or threaten the people he wants to protect.
Which is interesting, blurring as it does the line between monster and a person. One of the defining qualities of monsters on Supernatural has always been an essential lack of choice. Oh sure, they can talk a good game, and some of them have tremendous power. But when you get down to it, these are creatures who are defined by their worst impulses, which is why Sam and Dean have always been so resolute in taking them down. You can't train a vampire to function in human society, at least not these vampires, and werewolves are even worse. "Heart," one of the best episodes of the first couple seasons of the show (which, much as I love Supernatural, could get pretty dire) and an episode that was directly referenced in this one, had Sam first falling for and then being forced to kill a woman who'd been turned by a lycanthrope. She was still a sensible person in the daylight hours, but once the moon rolled around, she was all razors and fur, and that created a tragic dilemma: The boys couldn't leave her to kill, and they couldn't afford the time and effort it would take to keep her from hurting others.
Contrast that with "Dogs," where Lucky is allowed to go free at the episode's end. This was a little bit too far, really; I appreciate that Sam and Dean have to go for the gray area more often than they used to, and I think it's one of the series latter season strengths. But Lucky murdered three people this episode, and while those people may have been inconvenient, that doesn't mean they exactly deserved to die. Still, his final talk with Mandy before he left for good was very well done, acknowledging both his feelings for the family he'd briefly been a part of and Mandy's utter loathing of him. It's an awkward, brutal scene, and it doesn't give us the easy out of either making Lucky a complete villain, or (far, far worse) having Mandy forgive him for his crimes. He's a creepy, messed-up guy, and if that final shot is any indication, he's going to keep doing this. And that's either horribly tragic or tragically horrible, I'm not sure which.
There wasn't much movement on the big story arc in "Dogs." The skinwalker plot was smart, but it wasn't all that much different from what we've been able to pierce together from other monster attacks, and we didn't meet any new alphas. We do, however, get to know a little bit more about Sam. Or whatever the hell Sam is now. After so many seasons of Winchester in-fighting, it's good to see a new twist on the old dynamic; now, it's Dean who's the softy and Sam who's the hard bastard. Sam's willingness to bag the most likely suspect in the killings, regardless of whether or not they have any real "proof," is telling, and he seemed especially callous throughout the episode. During the traditional post-game wrap-up chat, Sam tells Dean he doesn't really feel much of anything, and I find that interesting. Mopey Sam was getting old, to tell the truth, and this new version, who has to keep reminding himself to give a damn about things, has possibilities. Plus, his commitment to getting his soul back makes sense. He's not obsessed with it,or despondent over the loss because despondency is part of what he lost. He just thinks, screwy as it is to care, maybe he should get to place where he can do that again. If we're lucky, that won't happen for a while yet.
- Lucky's plan to switch back into dog form during the final confrontation wasn't all that smart, but Lucky never struck me as a smart guy. He'd made all his earlier kills in dog form, so that follows, but I wonder if the main reason he switched over while Mandy was watching was so she could see the truth. No matter how pathetic or misguided or buried our desires are, some small part of us always hopes to reveal them to object of our obsession.
- "Oh, we're specialists. They call us in to answer the questions of mouth-breathing dickmonkeys." I like new Sam.
- "Dogs and cats, living together—mass hysteria." Ghostbusters!
- "Thanks, Dexter. That's reassuring."
- Last shot of Lucky: Littlest Hobo reference?