This review contains spoilers.
3.6 Motel California
Teen Wolf continues to wear its love of creepiness on its sleeve, and this week’s episode is a good example of how well the show can do menacing when it’s not preoccupied with eye candy. Motel California is a pretty effective locked room horror, what with the kids being stranded at a creepy motel and all. The motel itself feels very California, which makes sense since the show is being shot in LA this season, rather than last season’s central Georgia. It contributes to the Psycho feel of this week’s episode, which features various cast members in peril throughout the episode in a variety of cheap motel rooms via a variety of interesting means.
This information is mostly conferred via various werewolf characters mumbling along to ADR or Lydia looking concerned by things that only she can hear. However, when Teen Wolf did show us the various methods of possible wolfy suicide, the results were pretty good. It was a bit like Final Destination, albeit without the gore. There was never any real danger, but there was a successful creation of tension thanks to director and writer Christian Taylor (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Six Feet Under). He doesn’t have many directing credits to his name, but clearly he’s been paying attention, because he makes good use of his camera this week.
Pretty much every scene where a werewolf has a break with reality looked great (even the gay twin’s mystery stomach-face thing worked well in a cheesy sort of way). Very creative use of the camera, some clever movements, and great scene construction as per usual. Teen Wolf can be a very dumb show, but it’s usually really good-looking (kind of like the actors in that regard; they may not be the best but they’re all really good-looking). There were no real stand-out moments, but Scott’s peril was the most well-executed and gave off the strongest Final Destination vibe, right down to the awesome shot of the rolling flare heading towards the puddle of gasoline.
The speech that Stiles shares with Scott, and their whole moment of potential immolation, was a great moment for those two characters. As usual, Dylan O’Brien is proving himself to be the show’s best player in both the comedy and dramatic moments. Tyler Posey’s speech isn’t the best-executed thing on the programme – though he is under the influence of some sort of malevolent mind control – but O’Brien really makes it work and the two work much better together than they do apart. A close second for episode MVP might be Holland Roden, who has really become one of the show’s better actors, thanks to her incredibly expressive eyes, and inhabits what might be the show’s second-best character. It was nice to see Teen Wolf get some mileage out of Lydia’s… suggestibility when it comes to supernatural things, and it suggests that her weakness might end up being her strength after all.
Allison has her combat skills, Stiles has his detective skills, Lydia has her spirit powers, and everyone else is a werewolf, apparently. All Derek and his new English teacher girlfriend have are a desire to make out despite Derek nearly being dead for the bulk of the episode. I like that the teacher brings up his supposed death as a strength (giving me Lone Ranger flashbacks in the process), but the pairing seemed a little pointless, at least for this week. Their coupling did nothing for me aside from occasionally make me chuckle, and I would have much rather spent that time with the A plot of the Teen Wolf kids trapped in the creepy hotel room (even if we did get entirely too much making out between Danny and Ethan to go with the entirely too much making out between Derek and Jennifer).
All in all, for a self-contained episode, it was a fine edition of Teen Wolf. Not without its flaws, but nothing bad enough to damage the show’s surprisingly good reputation. When it worked, it was brilliant, and for most of the episode, Teen Wolf was pretty great as a TV horror experience. The romance might be a little clunky in season three, but the frightening stuff is on point.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Frayed, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan hasn’t seen this many road flares used in a single hour of entertainment programming since the fictional Road Flare Theatre went off the air. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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