This review contains spoilers.
3.19 Letharia Vulpira
You can usually tell when Jeff Davis takes over the writing for an episode, because A) it’s always a great episode, B) he seems to have a lot of fun writing Peter Hale, and C) it’s always very complex. Letharia Vulpira is no exception, with the episode having more twists and turns than a poisoned fox’s digestive tract. However, the episode is organized in as clear and logical a way as possible, so that while each twist plays out, it never becomes too much for the audience to follow. Things make sense, from the cold opening all the way to the very end, which ends on a pretty clever bookend moment.
It’s a good thing everything is plotted out so meticulously and organized so well, because there’s a lot of stuff happening in Beacon Hills. Granted, there’s normally a lot of stuff happening in Beacon Hills, but that business has actually increased during the second half of the third season and the arrival of the nogitsune. Just in case you thought evil druids were a compilation, they’ve got nothing on the influx of yakuza, demons, and serial bombers that come along hand-in-tails with the influx of Japanese mythology to the show.
Indeed, this may be the first episode of the show to give every single character on the show screen time in the same episode. The twins show up and rough up Stiles alongside Scott; Danny shows up to get outraced by Kira and sign a card at the urging of Coach. Kira’s parents show up at Beacon Hills High School during a bomb scare (which features a new character in the form of a sheriff’s deputy who apparently is going to be noteworthy, and also Lydia’s mother is around). Derek and Chris Argent get a bonding moment after being detained by Agent McCall while Allison and Lydia go to pay a visit to everyone’s favorite sassmaster, Peter Hale. Also Scott’s mom goes to the hospital to see her foundling werewolf adoptee, Isaac gets electrocuted, and the only person who doesn’t show up is Greenberg, because he may be a figment of Coach’s imagination.
Given there’s so much going on, the episode decides to keep things fairly clean from a structural standpoint. We open and close with Dr Deaton showing off his mad skills as both a vet and a druid and a general all-around awesome guy, both matching wits with yakuza and matching wits with a nogitsune by turns. To have the episode open and close with him works out really well, because it both opens with some impressive heroism and closes with an equal display of awesomeness, as well as giving a through line to follow. The hospital scenes also stay bunched fairly close together, picking up with Kira showing off her powers, following through Isaac’s injury, and then through to the next day when Scott and Allison and Melissa all meet up at the hospital to really kick the episode’s plots into high gear.
The A plot features Scott prominently—he’s the Teen Wolf of the title, after all—and the conflict between Beacon Hills and the evil Japanese fox demon currently inhabiting/infesting everyone’s favorite sidekick-turned-adversary. The B plot features everyone’s favorite adversary-turned-sidekick, Peter Hale, and his good friends Lydia and Allison. Both threads yield very interesting results. I’m naturally interested in the kitsune and the oni, if only because Kira’s the new love interest, the new big-bad, and a new mythological wrinkle for Jeff Davis and company to play with. As for the B plot, I love Peter Hale unabashedly, and to have him and Lydia snarking back and forth is always a treat. The knowledge that he’s not just an uncle is also kind of fun, and I look forward to seeing where that goes and how that is going to come back around to involve Derek again.
In a lot of ways, dividing the episode up into trickster versus trickster is a very clever choice. Some tricksters are born, while others are made. Peter Hale was probably born into a trickster who thrives on chaos, while Stiles was obviously made into a trickster thanks to the possessive spirit within him (and that spirit was probably born a trickster). Both adversaries appear far less dangerous than they actually are (and what a great twist to make Stiles play turncoat this week, brilliantly executed by Dylan O’Brien and cleverly revealed at the end montage via reaction shots), but are definitely not to be trifled with as evidenced by the way Peter Hale terrorized the town once upon a time—coming back from the dead—and the way Stiles casually endangers everyone’s second-favorite character Coach only to blow up the police department and potentially kill his own father.
Well, I guess technically Stiles didn’t blow anyone up, that’s the dark kitsune spirit who did that. Still, Peter Hale has some competition for trickiest bad guy now, and it’ll be fun to see if these two clever fellows end up working together or betraying one another before this season is over. The fact that we can no longer trust Stiles to be Stiles just adds another layer of anxiety to the proceedings; here I thought it was bad when we didn’t know if characters were awake or asleep, and now we may or may not have someone feeding off pain and confusion versus someone actually undergoing pain and confusion.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Riddled, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is glad to see Peter and Lydia getting along so well once again. Here’s hoping Stiles and his new brainmate the nogitsune can get along half as well. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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