Teen Wolf season 3 episode 13 review: Anchors
Teen Wolf's third season makes a welcome return with a handsome, nightmarish episode. Here's Ron's review...
This review contains spoilers.
Teen Wolf is one of the most visually interesting shows on television, not just in its genre, but as a whole. When the show wants to be horror, it can be spectacularly horrifying. Witness the cold opening to the return episode, Anchors. There's a fly-through into Stiles' bedroom, where Stiles is having a bad dream. When he wakes up, he finds himself trapped in a claustrophobic nightmare (also called a locker). He wanders through the deserted school, finds the Nemeton in an abandoned classroom, then wakes up next to Lydia. Cue another nightmare, and another, and another still until Stiles wakes himself up screaming in spectacular fashion. As it turns out, there are a lot of nightmares going around Beacon Hills.
The sheer dedication Teen Wolf's creative crew put in to crafting the nightmarish details each of the three kids experiences in the early stages of this episode helps not only to make skin crawl, but also to provide insight into what truly scares Scott, Stiles, and Allison. Stiles' nightmare is knowledge; he knows something he shouldn't know, and it terrifies him. Allison is haunted by the spectre of her late aunt, Kate Argent; Allison is scared of her power to kill and her family heritage of werewolf elimination. Scott's nightmare is a waking one; he's afraid of what he is, and what he can do, hence Scott is haunted by his own power, which is increased beyond his ability to control it.
A lot of shows couch horror elements in nightmare terminology. Teen Wolf, as a whole, is a masterful example of just how good horror can be on television. There are some spectacular special effects tonight, particularly in Allison's initial hallucination of dear old dead aunt Kate in a brilliant combination of CGI and practical work to make the lovely Jill Wagner look very scary. However, the scariest moments aren't made by special effects gurus, but good old-fashioned weirdness.
The elements of the Stiles storyline, particularly his inability to tell whether or not he's asleep or awake, work really well thanks to the choices made by director Russell Mulcahy. At certain points, particularly when an entire classroom stares at Stiles and does the same sign language motions, it's borderline Twin Peaks to the show's benefit. Stiles can't tell if he's asleep or awake, and we can't tell either. Simple decisions, like the use of garbled writing, or the way Stiles scribbled 'wake up' dozens of times in his notebook during one of his waking sleep fugues, ends up being very creepy. It's simple to do, but really well-shot and well-executed.
There's a very distinct look to Teen Wolf that differentiates it from the rest of the shows on MTV. For one, it's actually scripted. Two, they spend money on it (not a great deal of money, but enough). Three, everything in Beacon Hills is wet, lit through windows, or otherwise shrouded in fog. It looks like an 80s music video in the best way possible (thanks again to Mulcahy). Even when it's not trying to be scary, it still looks great and you still get some creative camera movements, some fun sequences (like when Scott is stalked by his werewolf shadow), and lots of cheesecake shots.
As for the return to Beacon Hills, it's a good point to pick the story up. Some time has elapsed since the three kids returned from the dead, so to speak, but the series' return from suspended animation flows smoothly with no real lag. We don't have to catch up, because it still feels fairly fresh from when the show departed for its fall break. The Alpha pack has been broken, but the dealing with the fallout is what will power Season 3B, and it seems like it's going to be a pretty interesting mystery.
The powering of the Nemeton and the potential for new supernatural creatures is a great wrinkle for the show, which has already strayed pretty far from werewolves into banshees and druids and whatever Kira (Arden Cho, joining the cast as Scott's obvious love interest) might be. That part's a bit hammy, but her introduction is done really well by Jeff Davis, who wrote tonight's episode. There's some good child/parent dynamics happening this week, from Kira and her new teacher father to the Stiles family, and especially Melissa McCall and her two teenage werewolves. Ms. McCall's parenting style was equal parts funny, reminding her adopted son/biological son that her house doesn't supernaturally repair itself, and touching, telling Scott that the pain of young love is quickly replaced by the joy of new young love and that without himself, he'll have nothing.
I'm sure that those moral lessons will be buried in yet another love affair, but it's nice that Melissa McCall gets to actually make that point at all. Jeff Davis has these character relationships down pat, and it's nice to see some realism between television parents and television teenagers; the Stiles family continues to crush the father-son dynamic, and the McCalls are not far behind thanks to episodes like this.
Teen Wolf is a great TV show, no fooling. While the mythology grows, the storytelling remains relatable, interesting, and uncomplicated, making sure to exposition away any sticky discussions about Tibetan philosophy or shapeshifting lizard men. Add to that an impressive visual style, and you've got the makings for a great TV experience. It's nice to see that the show has plenty of ideas to fill 24 episodes.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is really glad to have Teen Wolf back, if only so he can find renewed faith in a teen supernatural drama's ability to look good. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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