This review contains spoilers.
Not long ago, I praised Teen Wolf for its cast. The longer a show stays on the air, the more connections you begin to see among cast members. For example, Sheriff Stilinski, aka Linden Ashby, isn’t in this week’s episode. However, a new character—the titular Silverfinger—is in the episode, played with typical style by Cary-Hiroyuke Tagawa. Tagawa is a veteran character actor, but I bring up Linden Ashby for a reason. Linden Ashby was Johnny Cage in the Mortal Kombat movie, alongside Cary-Hiroyuke Tagawa as Shang Tsung and one Christopher Lambert as Raiden. Christopher Lambert is the star of Highlander, which was directed by… Russell Mulcahy, who has been one of the leading figures in Teen Wolf‘s television renaissance.
Unfortunately, this week’s episode of Teen Wolf wasn’t directed by Russell Mulcahy, which would’ve made those factoids even more fitting. However, it was directed by Jennifer Lynch, aka the director of the good-bad movie classic Boxing Helena and the daughter of David Lynch. Given the family legacy of unnerving audiences, it’s a given that she knows how to make skin crawl, which she does multiple times during this episode of Teen Wolf. The fact that they wear those creepy black oni masks is enough to make them terrifying, but when they appear out of the darkness and suddenly surround our beloved supernaturals, with their glowing yellow eyes and synchronized movements, they get even creepier.
As we find out courtesy of the silver-fingered Yakuza under-boss, who has a history with Chris Argent detailed in the cold opening of the episode, those oni aren’t just creepy and dangerous, they’re also unstoppable in the sense that they cannot be killed by mortal weapons. Whether supernatural claws count as mortal weapons is another story, though it’s pretty clear that the werewolves aren’t up to the task of fighting off these monsters when Scott’s clever idea of using mountain ash to seal themselves inside the McCall house after a well-executed fight scene with some surprising entrants arrives. For awhile, it works, setting up a sort of Rio Bravo with hormonal teenage werewolves fighting off Japanese ghosts, but when the oni eventually break the barrier, it’s pretty clear that Scott is dealing with something beyond his understanding and that even Deaton in his infinite wisdom might not be much help.
There’s a really skillful moment in which Lynch and writer Moira McMahon Leeper work together to great effectiveness. As Argent, Isaac, and Allison get the story of the mysterious demons from Silverfinger, the ersatz werewolf pack finds out just how dangerous said ghosts are. As the mission of the ghosts is explored, the teens discover some of Kira’s hidden secrets, like the fact that she’s a kitsune (or werefox), and that there’s such a thing as a null kitsune, or void kitsune, that’s basically a demon on wheels looking for souls to eat, or something else equally as nefarious and dangerous. That’s, apparently, what the demons were after when Argent first came into contact with them, but might not be what they’re after now, given the fact they’re looking for someone possessed and that doesn’t seem to fit the dark kitsune bill.
Of course, I could be wrong about that. I’m not Jeff Davis, and I’m not sure where he’s going with the addition of Japanese mythology to the show’s European mythology background. The show has done an admirable job of marrying its folklore sources to the folklore of the show’s world, and I’ve got no doubt that they’ll do a great job both with the oni and the kitsune myth. Druids, nemetons, the kanima, werewolves, mountain ash, the alpha pack… every step the show has taken to add diversity to its myth has ended up being an improvement, and I think that the fearlessness to bring in demons, werefoxes, and the spiritual aspect of the supernatural world will only keep the show from becoming stagnant—assuming they don’t go to the well once too often when it comes to important crazy characters from other folk traditions (like the Krampus).
Given the emphasis on possession by the oni, and the fact that the show is pushing pretty hard in the direction of Stiles being possessed by something nefarious given his actions last week, it seems a little strange for him not to be involved in most of the episode. Then again, when he is involved, it’s spectacular stuff. First, there’s the brilliantly handled unraveling of Stiles in front of Scott as he explains what happened at the end of last episode, and that only gets worse when Stiles finally goes to the doctor and talks to Mama McCall about what’s going on with his life.
Dylan O’Brien is a brilliant actor, and as the humour starts to fade from Stiles and he opens up to Melissa as to how he’s actually feeling – only to grab her hand and call her mom as he drifts off to a drug-induced sleep? It’s heart-breakingly unfair. Stiles doesn’t get much screen time, but when he shows up, he’s used to blistering effect in every scene. So many feels, as they say on Tumblr. Dylan O’Brien might be the best young actor working, and he’s the true secret to the show’s success and its original breakout character.
The more we learn about Stiles, the better that character becomes. That’s rare, especially as comic sidekicks go. No matter what mystery critters they add to the bestiary, so long as they don’t burn us out on Stiles, Teen Wolf will always have an emotional core.
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