Teen Wolf season 3 episode 6 review: Motel California

Review Ron Hogan 9 Jul 2013 - 07:45

Teen Wolf's horror is impressively handled, even if its romance is somewhat corny. Here's Ron's review of Motel California...

This review contains spoilers.

3.6 Motel California

Teen Wolf continues to wear its love of creepiness on its sleeve, and this week's episode is a good example of how well the show can do menacing when it's not preoccupied with eye candy. Motel California is a pretty effective locked room horror, what with the kids being stranded at a creepy motel and all. The motel itself feels very California, which makes sense since the show is being shot in LA this season, rather than last season's central Georgia. It contributes to the Psycho feel of this week's episode, which features various cast members in peril throughout the episode in a variety of cheap motel rooms via a variety of interesting means. 

This information is mostly conferred via various werewolf characters mumbling along to ADR or Lydia looking concerned by things that only she can hear. However, when Teen Wolf did show us the various methods of possible wolfy suicide, the results were pretty good. It was a bit like Final Destination, albeit without the gore. There was never any real danger, but there was a successful creation of tension thanks to director and writer Christian Taylor (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Six Feet Under). He doesn't have many directing credits to his name, but clearly he's been paying attention, because he makes good use of his camera this week. 

Pretty much every scene where a werewolf has a break with reality looked great (even the gay twin's mystery stomach-face thing worked well in a cheesy sort of way). Very creative use of the camera, some clever movements, and great scene construction as per usual. Teen Wolf can be a very dumb show, but it's usually really good-looking (kind of like the actors in that regard; they may not be the best but they're all really good-looking). There were no real stand-out moments, but Scott's peril was the most well-executed and gave off the strongest Final Destination vibe, right down to the awesome shot of the rolling flare heading towards the puddle of gasoline.

The speech that Stiles shares with Scott, and their whole moment of potential immolation, was a great moment for those two characters. As usual, Dylan O'Brien is proving himself to be the show's best player in both the comedy and dramatic moments. Tyler Posey's speech isn't the best-executed thing on the programme - though he is under the influence of some sort of malevolent mind control - but O'Brien really makes it work and the two work much better together than they do apart. A close second for episode MVP might be Holland Roden, who has really become one of the show's better actors, thanks to her incredibly expressive eyes, and inhabits what might be the show's second-best character. It was nice to see Teen Wolf get some mileage out of Lydia's... suggestibility when it comes to supernatural things, and it suggests that her weakness might end up being her strength after all. 

Allison has her combat skills, Stiles has his detective skills, Lydia has her spirit powers, and everyone else is a werewolf, apparently. All Derek and his new English teacher girlfriend have are a desire to make out despite Derek nearly being dead for the bulk of the episode. I like that the teacher brings up his supposed death as a strength (giving me Lone Ranger flashbacks in the process), but the pairing seemed a little pointless, at least for this week. Their coupling did nothing for me aside from occasionally make me chuckle, and I would have much rather spent that time with the A plot of the Teen Wolf kids trapped in the creepy hotel room (even if we did get entirely too much making out between Danny and Ethan to go with the entirely too much making out between Derek and Jennifer). 

All in all, for a self-contained episode, it was a fine edition of Teen Wolf. Not without its flaws, but nothing bad enough to damage the show's surprisingly good reputation. When it worked, it was brilliant, and for most of the episode, Teen Wolf was pretty great as a TV horror experience. The romance might be a little clunky in season three, but the frightening stuff is on point.

Read Ron's review of the previous episode, Frayed, here

US Correspondent Ron Hogan hasn't seen this many road flares used in a single hour of entertainment programming since the fictional Road Flare Theatre went off the air. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

Please, if you can, support our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.

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What I want to know is why Isaac was only hiding under the bed. There were four werewolves there. The other three were trying to off themselves but not Isaac. Why were only three more deaths marked? Three sacrifices, four werewolves. Was it luck of the draw or is there something else going on?

I think it goes back to the abuse he faced from his father which is what his scenes focused on. If you go back to season 2, his dad used to abuse him and just lock him in a fridge on their basement. It's something he's faced for so long that instead of committing suicide, he just reverted back to his old self --scared and helpless.

Lol I don't care that this is an epicly late comment, I just wanted to make it. The creepiness of this episode had me freaking out and I really did enjoy it. I loved the Stiles/Scott scene as well, but I disagree about the Derek scene. This may be my teenage hormones talking, but seeing him get with someone<3. I mean, eeep! I think that sort of scene appeals to a lot of the teenage girl audience (a lot of jealous teenage girls, even if on-screen makeouts aren't actually romantic or hot). Oh I wish...... ;)

Well done review. While I disagree completely with your view that there was entirely too much making out between Danny and Ethan. Given the time slot TW has I hope that they will push the envelop even more in developing Danny's character. I certainly think there is more potential to Danny than Isaac and definitely resent Isaac's leapfrogging Danny's screentime and status. I think the Scott/Stilinski flare + gas segment is among the most dramatic scenes I have ever seen on TV and feel that it should be submitted for Emmy consideration. As Scott's character is the catalyst for the segment, I can't understand how anyone could rate Stile's performance superior to Scott's. For me, Motel California is still the best episode of Season 3. Even the supernatural aspects of the episode is kept to a minimum. It deserves an Emmy! I can't understand why sci-fi doesn't get the Emmy consideration daytime soaps do.

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