This review contains spoilers.
The promise was that the awakening of the Nemeton in season three would serve as a beacon to supernatural creatures, with Scott’s own reputation as a True Alpha only adding to the appeal of Beacon Hills. We’ve seen a lot of monsters come out of the woodwork since then, and a lot of new creatures added to the Teen Wolf mythology in the process. It’s been an interesting experience, both for Scott and for the viewers at home, because we’ve been thrown a lot of new creatures in a short time without a ton of introduction.
That trend continues in the fifth season opener. There’s plenty of cast turnover behind the scenes; Coach isn’t returning for the fifth season, thanks to Orny Adams wanting to concentrate more on his comedy. Tyler Hoechlin’s dreamy Derek Hale is getting downgraded to series regular, owing to an urge to pursue movies. The fates of Peter Hale and Kate Argent are as yet unknown. However, Peter’s cellmate, Dr. Valack (Steven Brand) is still around, and he’s going to be making his trepanating presence felt this season, if this episode is to be believed. Of course, he may not be the primary villain; the cast is so expansive that evil team-ups are often necessary to effectively menace all the show’s regulars.
It’s a credit to Jeff Davis that every season gets creative with its villains. We’ve had single monsters, we’ve had group monsters, we’ve had human antagonists, and now it looks like we have some sort of steampunk mad scientists to contend with. The three villains, billed only as The Surgeon, The Geneticist, and The Pathologist, have some sort of underground lair full of evil science equipment like human-sized beakers with ominous bodies floating in them, and spectacularly creepy masks. As scary monsters go, this is a significant upgrade over last year’s Berserkers, as anyone in a metal mask and leather apron is rightfully terrifying. I don’t know what they’re doing exactly, but they have a problem with Scott McCall and their first attempt at taking him down—the wolf with the glowing soul-stealing claws—failed miserably, only managing to stab Scott (and Parrish) ineffectually.
Given that this is the season premiere, “Creatures Of The Night” is more about setting up the new season and putting the previous season to rest. The main point is mostly about pulling everyone together again after a summer spent either planning their future, cramming in summer school, or making summer trips. This of course has made Stiles a wreck, and it’s a credit to Davis and company that they’re able to write about teenage feelings without trivializing them, or looking down on them from the distance afforded by adulthood. There’s a time in your life that your high school friends are the most important friends you’ll ever have, and the process of letting go of those old ties is traumatic even under the best of circumstances, and being chased by a glowing-clawed werewolf isn’t the best of circumstances. There’s the instability of teenage relationships, the overflowing make-out hormones, and painful reminders of those who have gone well before their time. All of that, concealed beneath a red-eyed metal mask or behind the bars of a vaguely gothic haunted asylum.
That’s one of the beautiful things about horror in all its forms. It’s tapping into something deep and primal that goes beyond things that go bump in the night. Most classic horror stories are about growing up anyway, from Frankenstein learning to control his body in a world that doesn’t understand him to The Creature From The Black Lagoon’s take on teenage lusts. Russell Mulcahy is more than capable of showing terrifying images—witness Lydia’s beautifully-shot catatonic float through the halls of Eichen—while not stepping on the more emotional moments—witness Scott adding Allison’s initials to the bookcase during the Senior Scribe ritual.
Teen Wolf, at its worst, is messy and chaotic, but it’s also able to remain interesting despite, or because of, the chaos. There’s a lot going on in Beacon Hills during our return, and like most season premieres, this one seems to be in a hurry to get lots of things happening, rushing around like our teenage heroes after a caffeine binge. That’s fine by me; I’d rather the show have too much energy and too many ideas than not enough of either.