This review contains spoilers.
3.21 The Fox And The Wolf
It’s odd to see Teen Wolf tackling a topic like the Japanese internment camps of World War II, if only because Teen Wolf doesn’t seem like a particularly topical or historically-oriented show. There’s an emphasis on mythology to be sure, but it’s not like werewolves are a real thing (as far as I know) and it’s not like people really suffer from the effects of lycanthropy like actual Japanese-Americans suffered during internment. However, this week’s Teen Wolf spent more time at the internment camp than it has at the high school, and it’s kind of beneficial to the show.
The show opens in 1943, with soldiers dumping bodies into a pit. However from the pit rises the illustrious nogitsune, and he’s not too happy about being dumped and left for dead. He kills one of the soldiers, using the man’s own gun against him after absorbing a couple of bullets, and then he has a riddle for the other soldier: what’s got a neck, but no head? Spoiler alert: it’s that soldier, after the nogitsune rips his head off in an impressively-shot, graphic-but-not-too-graphic beheading sequence.
As it turns out, the 1943 stuff turns out to be really important, because it’s all part of the origin story of the nogitsune. How would a Japanese fox demon end up in Beacon Hills? As it turns out, it’s all because of Noshiko Yukimura, the mother of one Kira, who just happens to be 900 years old (and it has to be said she looks great for her age). She, along with the rest of her community, was rounded up and forced into the Oak Hills internment camp, where she both manages to find love and uncover corruption in the US Army. She also provokes a riot when she’s not busy stealing supplies to take care of her interned friends.
There’s a lot going on in this episode, and it puts a great deal on the shoulders of Arden Cho. Not only does she play Kira as normal, she also takes on the role of her own mother in the flashback sequences. That makes it essentially an all Arden Cho episode, as she’s both the centerpiece of the present-day sequences and the main agent in the historical setting. To her credit, she’s able to pull off the double role without much sweat. Kira remains a pretty fun teenage girl, while younger Noshiko is much more serious, albeit with a bit of a playful gleam in her eye. Noshiko has a lot of responsibility, and a lot of power, and she uses it poorly; this is really communicated well by Tamlyn Tomita in the current scenes and by Cho herself in the flashbacks.
One of the things I liked most about the episode was the way Tim Andrew handled the cold opening. The nogitsune works great as a kind of Jason-style unstoppable bandaged killing machine, and Aaron Hendry, the man behind the burn mask, is really good at being physically menacing. It’s one of the less-flashy episodes of the show, aside from the big riot, and most of it is presented pretty straightforward, aside from a few shifty film angles and some clever use of light. The CGI burning scene is a bit dodgy, but I get that Teen Wolf doesn’t want to hire a stuntman willing to do a man-on-fire scene, and it’s something that can be ignored for the sale of good television.
I do like that it was a werewolf who hurled the murderous Molotov, which would explain why Noshiko isn’t a big fan of werewolves (she can join the club started by Chris Argent). On the whole, the script from Ian Stokes is pretty sharp, and the present-day stuff is a lot more interesting, to me, than the past. I enjoy the novelty of the setting, but it felt like it was kind of padding—in a sense—to talk more about the nogitsune, reveal its back story, tell why it has a particular hate-on for Beacon Hills, and all that. It’s all needed information, but to fill the bulk of an episode with it and deprive us of Evil Stiles (aside from two really creepy appearances) this late in the season is kind of a tough sell.
Of course, I would prefer explanation over mystery, and it seemed to tie in really well with the show’s established mythology in the process, so I can’t complain too much. I’d just rather have more time with Sheriff Stilinski and Allison, or Derek and Chris Argent’s budding bromance, than World War II-era racism and military corruption. It seems like a random digression from the main plot at this stage in the game, but like the chess board in Stiles’ room, I know that it’s pieces being moved into place and that most of the information we learned tonight will be important for the future. I just have to give Jeff Davis time enough to make it all happen.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Echo House, here.
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