This review contains spoilers.
4.12 Smoke And Mirrors
I’ve been unwell recently so have spent a lot of time on the couch (when not going to the doctor, having coughing fits, or taking pills). One of the movies I’ve been meaning to watch for awhile is Highlander, which remains the big, defining movie of Teen Wolf director/producer/visual genius Russell Mulcahy’s career. I was watching mostly to remind myself how awesome it is when you set beheadings to Queen songs, but it also ended up informing me quite a bit about Teen Wolf in the process.
There’s a visual similarity between the two properties. Highlander is two Immortals in the neon-lit darkness, bathed in harsh spotlights and deep shadows, battling to the death. Teen Wolf is the same, except replace sword-wielding Scotsmen with suburban teenagers. The battle scenes are stylized to the point of being ballet; even when it’s Peter Hale versus his teenage Beta-turned-nemesis Scott McCall beating the crap out of one another in a dusty old church (“Holy *ground*, Highlander! Remember what Ramirez taught you.”) with the helpful illumination of what look like floodlights on the outside of the building.
I think the thing that unites Highlander and Teen Wolf is the fact that both properties really depend on the gaze of the outsider. In the first season of Teen Wolf, we watch as Scott learns his new power. In the second season we have Isaac as the outsider, with Scott taking on the Ramirez role of the person welcoming him into this new world and teaching him the ground rules, while learning the ground rules himself. Repeat this process as necessary until we get to this season and Liam (and Sheriff Stilinski, and Parrish for that matter).
Liam is this season’s window into the world of Teen Wolf, and he’s a very effective window. He’s struggling with his new-found abilities, like Kira, but he’s also struggling with a lot of inner anger that gives him a unique inability to keep himself under control. He doesn’t have that anchor like Scott did with Allison or Malia does with Stiles; Liam just has himself to depend on. Everyone else it seems, from Kate to Peter, has a partner in their schemes, but Liam’s just got Scott, and he doesn’t even have Scott thanks to Kate kidnapping him and turning him into a Berserker. That’ll usually put a downer on your hang-time.
So it’s up to all the werewolf teenagers (and friends and parents) to carpool down to Mexico to skulk around in a creepy abandoned town while Kate Argent and her newest Berserker go on a rampage. (Except for Sheriff Stilinski; he’s back home in Beacon Hills saving Lydia and Mason from a different Berserker who has them kidnapped at the school). Fortunately for them, they brought along Peter Hale. Unfortunately for them, Peter Hale’s a megalomaniac who is looking to end the life of Scott McCall and used Kate Argent’s help to set that up while simultaneously betraying Kate. However, one thing Peter didn’t count on—aside from the power of friendship and Scott being smarter than he looks—is a gang of Mexican hunters with automatic weapons showing up to ruin the party and shoot a bunch of holes in Kate and her Berserker.
The finale episode is jam-packed with a season’s worth of plot threads being tied off. Some will string on through to next season, and some appear to be knotted off for good. Kate Argent has been subdued thanks to some killer yellow wolfs bane in a bullet, but Chris and the Calaveras appear to be off tracking her down for the fifth season. Peter Hale’s villainous plot was upended, and thanks to a serious amount of wolfs bane, the arch-villain finds himself imprisoned in Eichen House with none other than the creepy third eye guy from a couple of weeks ago, though if Eichen is anything like Arkham Peter won’t be stuck there long. Liam makes peace with who he is, Derek has somehow gained his wolf powers back (with cool new black wolf form), Lydia might have a new best friend in Mason, and Kira has finally started learning how to tap her powers for something other than parlor tricks.
There is a lot of stuff happening at once in the final episode, but it never feels rushed, just a bit hectic. Russell Mulcahy has a great style for getting a lot of stuff squeezed into an hour of television, knowing how to express things without making the screen feel cluttered. Even in the big fight between Kate and the Berserker and the Calaveras, it doesn’t feel cluttered, just energetic. The individual fight scenes, particularly Peter and Scott’s throw-down, are very well executed and stand out as being impressively brutal. The pacing is equally accomplished, knowing when to let scenes breathe versus powering through a subplot with expedience.
Still, Jeff Davis just can’t let his villains go, because Kate and Chris go off on a merry desert chase (presumably) and Peter ends up in Eichen with the three-eyed Hannibal Lecter who I can only hope is next season’s bad guy, because he’s super creepy and Peter would make a great co-villain, like in Batman when Penguin and Two Face team up to get Batman (or in this case, Teen Wolf). It seems as though Davis has learned a lesson or two from previous open-ended finales, because this one definitely ends on solid footing. Scott doesn’t kill, and Peter and Kate are both definitely not dead this time around.
A chapter feels closed, but the book continues. Teen Wolf, like Derek, continues to evolve without ever losing the core of craziness that makes it worth watching, and the unpredictable way it subverts audience expectations while still playing with the volatile feels of the Tumblrverse. Season four wasn’t the most well-executed season, but I’d rather a show overreach and try to do too much than try to stretch out too little into a full season. Keep bringing the crazy, Jeff Davis.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan feels that Teen Wolf has another good season or two in its premise before everyone starts to get too old or famous to keep going. Also, make sure you go check out The Maze Runner, if only to support Dylan O’Brien as our next Ryan Reynolds. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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