This review contains spoilers.
There’s something to be said for assembling a great cast for a television show. If you can get the right people in front of the camera, it seems like everything else falls into place. Teen Wolf, whatever else you might say about it, has done a great job of assembling a core fivesome in Scott, Stiles, Allison, Lydia, and Derek. Of course, no cast can stay static forever, hence sometimes Derek will be the fifth wheel, sometimes it will be Isaac, sometimes it was Jackson, and so on. It seems that the larger the cast grows, the more interesting it becomes, and every new addition seems to bring something different to the Teen Wolf alchemy.
Kira and her family have been one of the more amusing additions to the Teen Wolf family, if only for one major reason. After three seasons of craziness, Scott and Stiles are pretty much adults in the sense that they’ve been through a lot of awful things with Peter, Gerard, Deucalion and the Alpha Pack, the Darach, and so on. Kira… has been through none of these things; indeed, she’s even less damaged than the average Beacon Hills teenager because she’s so new in town, she hasn’t yet found out just how short the average lifespan is in that city due to all the supernatural monsters. Hence, her character—at least for now—has been remarkably… normal, for lack of a better description.
Kira feels, and acts, like a teenager, which is a true credit to the quality of the writing staff and Arden Cho’s acting chops. Realistic teenage behaviour on-screen is really difficult to get right, and Kira is impressively naturalistic. Much like the relationship between the men of the Stilinski clan, Kira and her father feels very much like a parent/child relationship, albeit it a different one than Stiles and Scott have with their respective parents. All three parent/child relationships work really well, and they don’t need a lot of screen time to communicate that bond, as we see this week with all three sets of parents/children getting involved in the action. There’s a good shorthand between parents and kids, and Teen Wolf is able to communicate in that language no matter who writes the particular episode (this week’s script is credited to someone named Eoghan O’Donnell, who I can find absolutely nothing about).
While Kira gets to revel in her innocence for a few episodes, that doesn’t seem to last long thanks to the arrival of everyone’s favorite gangly maniac, Doug Jones. From scene one, William Barrow is probably the most frightening villain on Teen Wolf since Mama Argent was glowering at Scott with her evil eyes and trying to kill him via asthma attack. He brings such potent menace to every scene he’s involved in, from the bedside interview with Melissa McCall before his surgery to his inevitable escape to the way he played the cat-and-mouse game with the searching teenagers at the school, that it’s hard not to see him and be unnerved, and that’s before the show deigns to make him look even creepier by having him hide behind library stacks, skulk around in a darkened office while stapling himself shut, and slinking around in a red-lit basement while hiding from the authorities.
Kudos to director Robert Hall, whose background in special effects really shows through this week in the way he uses the camera and frames shots. There’s not a lot of active camerawork, aside from a really good tracking shot from Barrow’s room to the nurse’s station leading into the opening credits, but he does enough to keep the episode visually appealing thanks to a solid sense of how to use imagery. Hall is one of the founders of Almost Human Inc., who did special effects for Teen Wolf and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, among other programmes. The sushi Kira’s parents put down looks delicious; Doug Jones looks even scarier than usual, and his surgery scenes are convincingly depicted. The way Barrow would just show up where he wasn’t wanted, crowbar in hand, was a great way to provoke jump scares without being cheap; no need to sacrifice tension.
It’s a credit to both the director, writer, producers, and actors that the show turned out to be so phenomenal this week without anything too flashy. It’s solidly done, solidly shot, very well executed, and written with surprising cleverness. Barrow is creepy, which is what you want from your monster of the week. The dialogue, particularly involving Kira, is clever and energetic. Coach is back to provide comic relief (and Chris Argent gets a hilarious moment this week as well, just in case things were getting either too tense or too make-outy).
To walk the dividing line between comedy and horror is practically impossible, yet Teen Wolf is able to balance the dangerous and the silly. Even within individual episodes, it seems that there’s just enough of the funny stuff to make the villain that much more of a thorn in the sides of Scott et al. Here’s hoping we haven’t see the last of Doug Jones.
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