Teen Wolf season 3 episode 5 review: Frayed

Review Ron Hogan 2 Jul 2013 - 07:35

Ron continues to be impressed by MTV's Teen Wolf, a show that has grown into itself beautifully. Here's his review of Frayed...

This review contains spoilers.

3.5 Frayed

As a genre show, Teen Wolf has covered a lot of ground. From the teenage romance/werewolf coming of age story in the first season to the more action-oriented second season full of creature battles, Teen Wolf is a show that displays an incredible amount of flexibility when it comes to just what sort of style it wants to be. The show has a talented crew of young actors with good support personnel, a limitless amount of music to choose from to set the mood, and skillful directors and writers working behind the scenes to bring Jeff Davis's vision Teen Wolf to life. This season, the show seems to be returning to the horror elements of the first season, albeit turned up to eleven thanks to the presence of multiple werewolves, druids, human sacrifices, and other terrible things. 

The centerpiece of this week's episode is a long-awaited werewolf-on-werewolf brawl featuring pretty much every character involved in the show this season. The set-up is a little convoluted, but the pay-off is pretty spectacular. Shot in a moody combination of darkness and blinding white light streaming in from all available windows, the fascinating snippets of combat we see told via flashback sequences are good appetisers for the episode's big brawl. The darkness makes it a bit difficult to determine who is who at certain points—successfully lamp shading the stunt doubles—but the wolves are so well-defined that we don't need to see a lot of faces. We know Scott, Derek, and the rest of them as well as we know Deucalion and his gang, and once again we get a good pay-off for the visual shorthand the show has been using with its new villains. 

The campiness of Teen Wolf's early wolf makeup, as well as some of its decisions on how to have the wolves move (galloping around the forest) in the first season have smoothed out by season three, thanks to the work of companies like Almost Human Inc. Almost Human's Rob Hall, a man with more experience with makeup prosthetics than the average drag queen, is the director of this week's episode and he manages to both direct the actors well, he also manages to increase the impact of the special effects sequences. I think there's something to be said for a make-up man turned director; they seem to have a knack for making the effects look their best, probably because they understand how the effects work more than the average director. 

This week featured one of the most impressive bits of Teen Wolf make-up, and ended up being gorier than expected from start to finish. The brutality was limited, but when blood was used, it was used to very good effect, with blood spray highlighting some of the werewolf fighting. It's nice to see blood on the show, even if the decision to make the time line fractured (jumping from scene to scene, matching flashbacks with real time, etc.) didn't add much clarity. However, it was entertaining and helped obscure some of the more obvious dramatic decisions, so I won't complain. 

One of the interesting things about this episode was the writer, Angela Harvey. She has basically worked her way up through the Teen Wolf ladder, first as an assistant to the producer then as a writer's assistant. This is her first script proper for the show, though she wrote the video game adaptation (basically it was a side quest powered by Facebook that tied into season two's events). She has a good grasp on characters, even if her dialogue could be a bit too direct. However, she also brought back Allison's dead mother in the form of a mean hallucination, which made me very happy as she might have been the most successful villain in the show's history. 

At its core, Teen Wolf is a show about navigating those years between childhood and adulthood where you learn your strengths, your weaknesses, and how to control this physical machine you've been put in charge of. Scott's journey of self-improvement this season has yielded rewards for him in ways other than his expanded vocabulary. He showed flashes of alpha-level power this week (betrayed by his glowing red eyes), but perhaps more importantly he showed both good judgment and leadership skills. Teen Wolf is slowly becoming a Man Wolf.

Read Ron's review of the previous episode, Unleashed, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan was glad to see someone remembers the Riki-Oh smashed head scene as fondly as he does. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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