A Key Moment In John Wick: Chapter 4 Brings The Series Back To Its Roots

This post contains spoilers for "John Wick: Chapter 4."

The best franchises in cinema history are usually the unlikeliest ones. Movies like the first "Mad Max," a DIY action cacophony of carnage, or the grounded indie drama "The Fast and the Furious" about stealing VCRs. These started out as small-scale stories that eventually spun out into gigantic franchises with equally gigantic budgets and stunts, and expansive mythologies.

Likewise, it is hard to believe "John Wick: Chapter 4" comes from a movie that almost went straight to video and followed a simple (and honestly kind of silly) story about a man killing dozens of people to avenge his dog. But that was 2014, now we've moved on to bigger, bolder, and more violent things. Granted, there were always hints of a much larger universe even in the first film, with the mythology around the Continental hotel and the rules for this world of assassins being so intricate they were begging to be expanded in more movies.

This is all to say, "John Wick: Chapter 4" is simultaneously a clear continuation (and a very clear and definitive conclusion), and also a movie that's nothing like the first "John Wick." Most characters have bulletproof suits, and John Wick himself can resist being thrown off three-story buildings and getting hit by multiple cars. This is a film with an hour-long action scene that is simultaneously the best action scene since "Mad Max: Fury Road," and a scene that feels straight out of that franchise's cartoon physics.

But when it counts, the film does go back to the roots of the franchise in one key element: "John Wick: Chapter 4" lets the dog steal the show.

What a good boy

In a movie filled to the rim with incredible action legends and memorable characters, from Donnie Yen's blind assassin to Scott Adkins playing essentially a video game boss in the film's trickiest fight scene and Bill Skarsgård as a very punchable rich a***hole. But a standout character in the film is Shamier Anderson's Mr. Nobody, also known as The Tracker.

Mr. Nobody is accompanied by the single best performer in the whole "John Wick: Chapter 4," his faithful companion, a German Shepherd. This is a fantastic throwback to the first film's love of and fascination with dogs. Mr. Nobody's dog is more than a pet, he is a companion, and a deadly weapon who scouts, tracks, and tears people to shreds.

Indeed, in a way this dog fulfills the promise of Poochie from "The Simpsons," as every time the dog is not on screen you may be tempted to ask "where the hell is the dog?" And when the dog gets hurt and some absolute garbage person tries to throw the dog at a moving car, we want to see the world burn just like in the first film. Finally, when John Wick saves the dog by shooting that same garbage person, it feels like a full-circle moment that calls back to the inciting incident of the franchise at large.

The "John Wick" franchise is full of fantastic dogs, whether it's the puppy from the first film, the pitbull in "Chapter 2," and Halle Berry's Belgian Malinois Shepherds in "John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum." This is a franchise that doesn't just use dogs for cheap emotional manipulation, but they serve hugely important roles in the story, and they are given the chance to be absolute badasses.