This review contains spoilers.
3.11 Alpha Pact
One of the more surprising elements of Teen Wolf is the way the show seems to remember its history. For example, Peter and Lydia have a long history together, and rather than having them dismiss their entanglements, they do what normal people do when put into an embarrassing situation that reminds them of past misdeeds – they ignore it awkwardly. That’s one of many interesting connections this week on Teen Wolf, which seems to believe that its obsessed core audience is one capable of remembering a lot of the show’s minutiae from season to season. The Peter/Lydia callback, Stiles and Lydia remembering their hinted attraction to one another, the mystery black girl from the beginning of the season who saved Isaac from the Doublemint Alpha… Teen Wolf expects you to remember things, and rewards you for doing so without rubbing your nose in it too much if you forget a detail here or there.
This week’s episode moves at a breakneck pace, which is fitting because it’s the second-to-last episode of the season (technically, the show is split into two twelve-episode half-seasons, but that’s just semantics). There’s a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time in which to do it, so Teen Wolf throws everything at the wall this week while keeping its characters separated. There’s not a whole lot of Alpha Pack, Jennifer Blake, or even Scott this week, but the show makes up for it by focusing on its more interesting characters (and also a lot of Derek and Cora, but that’s offset by the greatness that is Peter Hale). The family Argent, the adults who aren’t Coach, Stiles and Lydia, Stiles and a mysterious FBI agent who may be more connected to the gang than we expect, a minimum amount of the show’s villains… Teen Wolf really highlights its strengths this week, and the appearance of the Alpha pack later in the episode feels more important because we haven’t had too much of them this week.
One of the show’s strengths is the creative mind of Jeff Davis. Early in the third season, I had reservations about the idea of an alpha pack of werewolves, but now as the show expands its mythology to include super-powered druids and apparently banshees, the idea that Davis and company may soon get new monsters to do battle with is kind of a thrilling one. The show is pushing hard that the nemeton is something capable of great power – it has already saved a dying Jennifer thanks to the death of Derek’s cellist teenage girlfriend – and surely feeding the tree the powers of a hunter and a true alpha werewolf will only make that beacon stronger. The show’s creative team usually does a great jog with its supernatural combat scenes, and the idea of having more of them streaming into Beacon Hills is a tantalizing one.
Davis’ script tonight is also a thing of beauty. The scene with Stiles applying his tongue-twisting skills on the straight-laced FBI agent to confuse him and obfuscate Isaac and the Argents trail was a very solid one, but Davis scores the most points with two particular scenes. One of them involves the imprisoned parents, specifically Sheriff Stilinski telling the story of the night his wife died, and the other point-scoring scene is at the very end of the episode, when the three kids offer themselves up as sacrifices to track down Jennifer’s root cellar. The show plays with several pairings, as the sacrifice needs to be assisted by someone they have a strong emotional connection to. Cleverly, the emphasis is one of the original couples in the programme, and completely ignores another original pair in favor of a more recent ship. Jeff Davis knows his fan base, and takes great delight in tormenting them. He’s in rare form this week, and is in rare form for this season as a whole.
Credit also goes to Tim Andrew, the show’s director tonight, for having enough skill with visual trickery to pull off an effective facsimile of a panic attack using his camera, and for the clever series of simultaneous intercutting scenes at the end of the episode when the kids are being lowered into the tubs of icy water. It’s another very good episode from Andrew, who is definitely one of the show’s unsung (or less-sung) heroes in the director chair.
Of course, Teen Wolf does leave off on a cliffhanger this week, with next week’s episode serving as both a finish to this week’s story and leading us into the show’s return in January. Given its success thus far, I’m fairly sure it’s a balancing act the show is capable of making. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Darach hangs around even after next episode, if only because the show has a history of keeping its villains around in reduced roles or as reluctant assistants to Scott, Derek, and company.
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