This review contains spoilers.
3.14 More Bad Than Good
Teen Wolf has proven that it can do psychological horror effectively, both in last week’s head-tripping return to television (for season 3B) and over the course of its history. That’s what makes the show so interesting; it’s a good use of the werewolf as a stand-in for teenage angst and puberty, but it’s also a good psychological exploration of just what it would mean to go from being a normal teenager in a normal teenage world to someone capable of ripping the average human in half like a phone book, or worse, to be living in a world where every supernatural nightmare creature from folk lore just might end up being true.
Certainly, some people have a harder time handling the transition than others. Stiles might have made the leap easily, since Scott’s his best friend, but Jackson went a little mad with the desire for power, while Sheriff Stilinski is still looking for rational explanations for irrational events. Of course, when the deranged father (Todd Stashwick) of suspected missing girl Malia Tate (Shelley Hennig) starts putting hundreds of bear traps in the forest and bringing guns into the high school, looking for the rational behind the irrational makes a little more sense. Meanwhile, Scott, Stiles, and Allison continue to struggle with the fall-out from their literal deaths while trying to keep others from suffering the same fate, minus the return to life.
Once again, the focus is on the slow unravelling of our main characters while they still try, despite all odds, to do good things for the very unlucky community of Beacon Hills. From the rogue alpha werewolf Peter Hale in season one to the man-lizard of season two and the alpha pack of season three, Beacon Hills is some kind of magnet for crazed, violent, dysfunctional critters who also happen to be high school students when they’re not sprouting fangs and claws and creeping through one of Beacon Hills’ many nature preserves. Jeff Davis has turned in a pair of cracking scripts to bring Teen Wolf back for the second half of season 3, with equal parts scary and funny, along with a healthy dose of the melodrama that feeds the Teen Wolf Tumblr audience.
Dylan O’Brien might not get to do all the cool stunts or show off his biceps, but he’s the stand-out actor (and he has the stand-out character) on the series. Given the fact that the only way to show Stiles’ issues stemming from the near-death experience is for Dylan O’Brien to have psychological meltdowns, it has to be difficult work, but he pulls it off spectacularly. When he has an anxiety attack, it’s uncomfortable to watch, especially if you’ve ever had a panic attack. Kudos to Tim Andrew, who directed this week’s episode. He uses a mish-mash of film speeds, shot selection, camera twitches/shakes, and general herky-jerky tricks to communicate how Stiles is seeing the world, and it’s really effective.
Tim Andrew has a good grasp of how to communicate visually, not only in Stiles’ story, but in general. Scott and Stiles running through the woods should be getting old at this point, but every time the show goes back to that well, it continues to be suspenseful because, well… anything can happen there, especially when being pursued or pursuing. Ditto creeping around the locker room when newcomer Kira (Arden Cho) tries in vain to hide from the hunting werecoyote that’s coming after the contents of Stiles’ backpack. It’s a setting they’ve used a bunch because it works (and Scott’s handling of that situation was decidedly amusing).
However, Andrew’s best touch as a director is his ability to really use gore. There are always horror elements in Teen Wolf, particularly last week, but there’s not a whole lot of gore. It’s used sparingly, but when it’s deployed, it’s very effective. Allison’s nightmare scene was spectacularly messy (and it’s great to have Jill Wagner back as the deliciously evil ghost/memory of Kate Argent), and the torture porn-type scenes with Derek and Peter are also well-done, thanks in no small part to the brilliant shot of Peter’s finger embedded in the floorboard by its wolfy fingernail and the use of the chainsaw as a broadsword replacement (no doubt to show is that the Argents are honorable hunters, Gerard aside, and that not all hunters are as well-intentioned or charitable to their furry enemies).
Given the resolution of certain story lines, and the show’s hesitance to kill off any major villains—or to bring them back when Jeff Davis realizes how funny the actor is in the case of Peter Hale—it’s only natural to assume that the Hispanic hunters and their quest for the female wolf will come back into play later on. Perhaps they mean Malia the coyote? Maybe it has something to do with Scott’s new love interest? Maybe all the people who have crossed Scott in various evil ways, from Gerard to Jennifer, are all working together on some grand revenge plot?
That’s both a blessing and a curse for Jeff Davis. If he wants to dust off Gerard and use him as an antagonist, he’s there. If he wants to bring back the mystery girl that saved Isaac early in Season 3 despite my assumption she was dead? She’s there, gunning down suckers and saving Hale bacon. Deucalion is still around somewhere. Nobody’s dead until they’re really, really dead. Even then, you never know. Rather than distracting or detracting, the growing cast of occasional characters serves only to reward the longtime viewer with flashes of familiar faces and the potential for some really twisted character arcs.
I have a sneaking suspicion that things are going to get twisted.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Anchors, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan would not like to get his foot caught in a bear trap. He broke a toe falling down stairs once and that was the worst thing imaginable. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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