Teen Wolf season 4 episode 1 review: The Dark Moon

Russell Mulcahy's direction impresses in Teen Wolf's season four opener. Here's Ron's review...

This review contains spoilers.

4.1 The Dark Moon

Lots of California teenagers sneak across the border to Mexico for underage drinking and partying, but very rarely do teenagers sneak across the border to infiltrate a cadre of dangerous killers and hunt down their missing friend/mentor. Such problems are relatively rare for the average teen, but not so much for Scott McCall, Stiles, Lydia, and new friends Kira and Malia. The teens of Teen Wolf get involved in some crazy shenanigans, and it looks like those shenanigans aren’t getting any less crazy as the show enters its fourth season.

Derek is missing, and as the show suggested last season, the primary culprits are a group of hunters from Mexico known as the Calaveras. Or so Scott and company think. As it turns out, the mystery is much deeper than that, and it involves Aztec mythology, a returning Kate Argent, and yet another new wrinkle in the world of the supernatural. For a show ostensibly about werewolves, Teen Wolf is all about were-everything these days, and each new additional were critter seems to come with its own special abilities and complications.

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Whenever Russell Mulcahy gets behind the camera on Teen Wolf, there’s always something extra that he brings to the production that the show’s other capable directors don’t really offer. Not that Tim Andrew et al aren’t great at what they do, because they are, but Mulcahy always seems to find some kind of clever little trick or a place to insert a little extra style in with his substance. For example, during a scene where Scott and company are trying to figure out if Derek Hale is or is not an ex-parrot, they give Lydia a container full of bullet casings. Lydia runs her fingers through the shells, scoops up a bunch of them, and then she lets them fall from her fingertips to the desk as she receives some sort of weird banshee vision.

Rather than simply a slow-motion shot of the engraved shells, as the shells fall (in slow motion), they hit the table and the rattle sound is foleyed to sound like gunshots, with the shells glittering in the light like a JJ Abrams wet dream. There’s also a great scene later in which Scott and everyone’s favorite Teen Wolf mercenary, Braeden (Meagan Tandy), ride through the desert to a deserted church in the middle of town ruined by an earthquake. It’s a simple matter of a shot from the back of a truck and a couple of crane shots, but it ends up looking great, and it helps the show rise above the budgetary limitations of television simply by using some simple tricks to look expansive. The CGI on the ruined town looks awesome, and the settings—from the Mexican rave to the bowels of an ancient Aztec temple—end up looking very creepy.

It feels as though, speaking of ancient Aztecs, that the new big-bad on the show is going to be a were-jaguar, powered by the vengeful mind of one Kate Argent. There’s a lot made of the Mexican setting of the show, from the Calaveras to the shape shifting legends the nagual, with people being able to take the form of anything from turkeys to jaguars and pumas. As much fun as a were-turkey would be, I have no doubt that Teen Wolf will be going the jaguar route with Kate Argent. Indeed, in Mezoamerican folklore the nagual uses his or her powers according to his or her own personality. Scott makes sure to mention that people in the Teen Wolf universe don’t simply change into whatever bit them, but they can occasionally change into something according to their personality (Jackson the Kanima, for example). I don’t think the reasons why matter all that much to Jeff David, so long as he gets to work in more cool mythology to his show’s bursting supernatural seams while occasionally sneaking in knowledge about real animal behavior.

That is probably one of the funniest elements in Davis’s script for The Dark Moon. The addition of Malia Tate (Hale?) to the crew seems like a good addition, and Davis gets a lot of comedy out of the tendencies of coyotes and Malia’s feral behavior and attitude towards everything (ditto Kira’s bad dancing). The addition of the Calaveras (particularly Ivonne Coll as Araya) fill an antagonist gap for the Teen Wolf crew that they’ve been missing since the Argents began disappearing in season one. She’s no Mama Argent, but she’s her own particular brand of uncharacteristically creepy that feels like it’s going to work with this season’s Mexican vibe; she’s like a violent grandmother in the best way possible, and I dig the way she’s interfering with the group.

Of course, just how much of a problem the Calaveras prove to be undoubtedly depends on just how kill-crazy Kate Argent has gotten since returning to life as a werewolf or were-jaguar. As far as setting up for the fourth season goes, The Dark Moon is a good step in the right direction for an unusually strong television show. The return episode doesn’t blow minds, but there are plenty of surprises to be mined for drama in episodes to come.

Read Ron’s review of the season three finale, The Divine Move, here.

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US Correspondent Ron Hogan can only wonder if Teen Wolf is going to do another two-part season any time soon. I guess it all depends on the tax breaks from California. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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